Archive for the ‘Literature’ category

Lighting Out for the Wild West

August 23, 2013

chicago-skyline-from-indiana-sunset-across-water


A number of personal “revelations” mark my way in life. Among them is one that occurred in college during a combined history/literature class. Among the books we read were the Pioneers by James Fenimoore Cooper and Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. The books we read explored the line between wilderness and civilization, the tension between man’s indomitable quest to conquer nature and the longing to be free of modern complexities and problems.

Cooper wrote the Pioneers in 1823. It was fiction but likely described life at the “western frontier” of the time in the upstate New York Cooperstown area. The main character, the Leatherstocking, Natty Bumpo, was a grizzled old man who was more comfortable with the Indians on the other side of the lake than “his” people. His people were recklessly intent on taming the wilderness. He had more of a kinship with the Indians who respected nature and did not have an itching need to tame it.

Cooper was among the earliest environmentalists, concerned about preserving the wilderness, though he would not have been called an environmentalist at the time. In one of the most memorable segments of the book, he described the wanton abandon with which the pioneers heartily shot the flocks of slow Passenger Pigeons, leaving the entire flock dead on the ground at the end. The Passenger Pigeon has since gone extinct due to that kind of behavior.

Bumpo was not comfortable with his own crowd, and the book ends with him heading west to find less populated and untamed land.

Huckleberry Finn, of course, is a story of a young man cut out of a similar cloth, but set at a slightly later time, around 1845. We barely left Natty Bumpo heading west, and just twenty something years after the Leatherstocking left upstate New York to find less civilized country, Huckleberry Finn was struggling to conform with the “civilized” society of Hannibal, Missouri.

Huck had no more affection for the polite society of Hannibal than the Leatherstocking had for his kind. At the end of the book we find Huck lighting out for the west as he found the wilderness of the Mississippi becoming too civilized for his tastes. These books stirred a similar longing in me.  (more…)

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Who Wrote the Gospels?

July 27, 2013
Dr. Peter Williams 2

From a Lecture – Dr Peter Williams – New Evidences the Gospels were Based on Eyewitness Accounts

The Bible is ubiquitous in our society. More people have an opinion on the Bible than people who have read it, or at least much of it. The text was written over a period of 1500 years by about 40 some different people. As a literary text, I was struck when I first read it (for a class in college) by how complex, yet harmonious the Bible is. There was an internal authenticity that spoke to me.

While our society tends to view the Bible as just another book, a piece of our history and common culture, something that people tend to like (the most read book), but nothing to be taken terribly seriously, people of faith view it as the Word of God, sent from heaven, a revelation of God’s purpose and design for mankind. Few people really study the Bible in-depth and detail from an “objective” view. Maybe no one does. We come to it with our preconceived notions, and we look for support for what we already believe is true.

I have a great deal of doubt in the human ability to be objective. Scientists who live by the scientific method, in my opinion, can be as guilty of bias as the common man, and are all the more culpable for claiming it is science. But that is the subject of another discussion.

At the same time, there are stories of people who set out to disprove the Bible who come to believe it is true. Many of them in fact.

I did not approach the Bible initially like that; rather I approached it as I approached everything in my life during my search-for-truth-phase: I assumed there was truth in the Bible like there was truth in the Bhagavad gita, the Quran, Khalil Gibran, Aristotle, Plato and all of the philosophers, and Emerson, Shakespeare and all of the great writers. I still believe there is truth to that assumption. Truth is truth no matter where it is found. If truth is attainable and knowable, people from all over the world should have some grasp of it.

As a much older person, I have also come to believe firmly in the human capacity to ignore, overlook and dismiss the truth. There is so much at stake, chiefly our own pride and self-esteem. We commit to principles quickly sometimes, and we hold fast in the face of contrary evidence because we do not want to be wrong, especially once we have invested ourselves in those principles. We have fears and insecurities that we try to cover, and we try to protect ourselves from being exposed. There are probably hundreds of reasons, big and small, that we miss the truth – big truths and little truths. It takes a lot of energy to be on the lookout for truth, and many of us do not have that energy or the time in our fast-paced, busy lives to be that vigilant.

Much has been made about inconsistencies and contradictions in the Bible and lack of archaeological and historical evidence. The inconsistencies and contradictions that I have checked out are largely due to to lack of knowledge, misunderstanding or purposeful attempts to miscast the text. Archaeological and historical claims are based more on lack of evidence than contradictory evidence. Modern discoveries do more to substantiate the Biblical text than to disprove it. Still, there may be no absolute proof of the veracity of the Biblical text this side of heaven.

As intelligent, or capable of intelligence, we are as human beings, none of us can claim to be all-knowing, all-seeing or to have a corner on ultimate truth – at least none of us can claim it with a straight face or a sound mind.

With that said, I have found no reasons not to discount the Bible as the authentic revelation of God in the 30 years since I came to be a believer. In that time, I have found even more reasons to accept it.

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Revisiting King Henry VIII

June 3, 2013

Lessons from King Henry VIII.

Revisiting King Henry VIII

June 2, 2013
Henry VIII King of England

Depositphotos Image ID: 5598102 Copyright: georgios

I recently saw Shakespeare’s King Henry VIII at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. The play, Shakespeare’s last one performed at the Globe Theater approximately 400 years ago, was very well done. The story line is not as compelling as most of Shakespeare’s works, but the interrelationship of church and state theme struck a chord with me, albeit a discordant one.

King Henry the VIII was born into aristocracy. Young Henry was appointed Constable of Dover Castle at age two, Earl Marshal of England and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland at age three, inducted into the Order of the Bath soon after, and a day later he was made the Duke of York. A month or so after that, he was made the Warden of the Scottish Marches. He had the best education available from the best tutors, was fluent in Latin and French and was familiar with Italian.

For all of his privilege, he was not expected to become king. His brother, Arthur, Prince of Wales, was the first born and heir to the throne, but Arthur died only 20 months after marrying Catherine of Aragon (daughter of the King and Queen of Spain). Henry VIII was only 10. (Wikipedia)

Henry became the Duke of Cornwall and assumed other figurehead duties. His father, the King Henry VII, made sure young Henry was strictly supervised, did not appear in public and was insulated from real authority. Henry VII quickly made a treaty with the King of Spain that included the marriage of his daughter, Catherine, to young Henry – yes the widow of recently deceased brother Arthur. (Wikipedia)

From this point begins a history of manipulation, abuse of power, shameless excess and rationalizations twisting biblical and religious notions to serve the king’s self-interest. This is a story that parallels the “marriage” of State and Church. The two are intertwined in an adulterous affair of blasphemous indiscretions.

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