A Prophecy from Freestone About the End Times

I like very much this piece by Freestone.

"what I will intend to do, for the next few years that I am permitted to live here, is to *try* to not be "negative" and get caught up into people's reactivities around me and where I then re-pass this anger back out as some imagination about, like, "oh a volcano will erupt and take out such-and-such city"! or even just to get angry with these people, where this anger is not my own, if i make it my own, i add to the collective problem."

A vision of Divine Mercy.


Bible Stories

Found in the library recycling bin: Bible Stories, by Robbie Trent, illustrations by Lois Maloy, (Whitman Publishing Co.; Racine, Wisconsin; 1947).

The Good Shepherd in the Eternal Pasture.

Noah's Ark and the Great Flood.

Samuel hears God call his name.

David and Goliath.

Pharoah's daughter finds baby Moses in the bulrushes.

Agnus Dei, the Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world.


Poor Folks Online

It is midsummer, when I look at the calendar to see when the children will go back to school. Monday, always busy, since our branch libraries are now closed due to budget cuts, this week must have set a record in terms of demand for Internet access. Most of the day, waits for Internet PC's ranged from thirty to sixty minutes. It wasn't much better on Tuesday. Today demand eased up a bit.

After a big push this year to motivate people to get library cards for Internet access, it feels like there is a hard core of users that can't or won't get them. With a card, they can have two one-hour sessions per day and have some choice where they sit. As a "guest", they get one, randomly assigned session.

Many of our guests have run the gauntlet of "Do you have a Library card?" often enough to have a ready explanation for why they do not. It is a catalog of hardship. They live at the homeless shelter, or with family or friends. They have just moved here and can't verify their address yet. They have "lost their card", or have "left it at home". They have a fine that they cannot afford to pay, (though delinquent cards are still good for Internet access). They live in an outlying county. And I think that many poor people are reluctant to reveal themselves to a government agency, (which the library is, though their accounts are confidential). There may be outstanding warrants on a family member, or they may have skipped out on their rent, or be illegal aliens, who knows?

I try to sell the card. Not only would they get two sessions a day, but they could choose where they sit, make their own reservation without having to ask us, AND be able to check out our books, CD's, DVD's, AND have access to all our cool online databases. And it's FREE!

Most of the time they just wait patiently for me to finish and give them their guest pass. But sometimes I actually connect. I can see them sort of perk up and look at me. What do they have to do? Just fill out a little form and verify their address. Takes five minutes. Here's your pass, and stop by the information desk for your card when you leave.

It is as though we have two discrete groups of users: public access Internet users and our traditional library "patrons". The former, if they could afford to buy a computer and pay for Internet access at home, would rarely come to the library. The latter use their library cards to borrow materials, but don't need public access Internet unless their own PC's are broken. If one were to make a Venn diagram, how much would they overlap?

There is a scene in John Ford's film of Steinbeck's, The Grapes of Wrath, where the Joads, broke and out of gas on their trek to California, happen upon a New Deal CCC camp, if I recall, where they are made welcome and refreshed. For once, they are not treated like dirt.

Serve the People, Serve the People, Serve the People. Put yourself at their disposal. Help them, even when they are difficult, and you are sick of them. You may earn the greatest reward of all, "I'm so glad I came to the library!"


More on the Baptists

The Independent Baptists were on my mind because one of our callers to the reference desk, Mr. L., a dealer in church furnishings, had sent us a letter asking for the addresses and phone numbers for the Florida offices of a number of the larger church denominations. Most of them were easily found, for the several kinds of Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans and Anglicans. But I could not find a regional office for the Independent Baptists. They do not regard themselves as a "denomination". They do have regional "fellowships" where like-minded pastors gather for mutual support, but these bodies would not serve the needs of commerce. I don't think that they would, for example, want Mr. L. to set up a booth at their gatherings.

One of the major topics of discussion among them is the status of the King James Version of the Bible, (KJV). Some hold that only the 1611 edition of the KJV is acceptable for use, though if the organ of that faction, The Sword of the Lord, is to be believed, its translators are not actually regarded as divinely inspired. They might be likened to O'Brian's "backwards S" Sethians. Some go so far as to place greater confidence in editions in the original gothic blackletter type face. Others have moved on to more contemporary translations, such as the New King James Version.

My grandmother gave me a KJV Bible when I was about ten, bound in simulated black leather, simulated gilt-edging, and with the words of Our Lord in red ink. And I read it. The Ten Commandments, with Charlton Heston playing Moses, had made a great impression on me, and when Billy Graham invited me to walk up to the television set and give my life to Jesus, I did. I wish that I still had it.

Catholics are different about the Bible. They are widely believed to be discouraged from reading it on their own, and there is evidence that this was so before the Vatican II Council in the 1960's. I have only very rarely, in my twenty years as a Catholic, seen anyone bring a Bible to Mass. It used to be common to bring a Missal when the Mass was in Latin, to be able to follow along in English, but these days we have "Missalettes", seasonal guides changed out through the year, provided in the pews, so it is not really necessary. Anyway, I like to hear the Mass, and reading along is for me a distraction, unless my attention wanders or I mishear the readings.

My own text for study is the Ignatius Study Bible, a Catholic edition of the Revised Standard Version, a plain hardback with no red ink at all. But I still have a soft spot for the KJV. I've heard the joke more than once about KJV adherents, that, "If it was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me." Yes, it's an unlettered sentiment, but I admire it for it's reluctance to abandon what has been handed down. It was the KJV that I used in my post below about Corpus Christi.


Strange Aeons

About halfway through the twelfth of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin novels, I was surprised to find myself on familiar ground with an episode wherein Captain Aubrey returns to his ship in Shelmerston harbor, The Surprise, to find seven of his best seamen suspended from duty and liable to be charged with mutiny for having painted the name, "Seth", on the ship's side, and for refusing to remove it. Nor will any others of the ship's crew remove it, fearing bad luck.

Lieutenant Davidge, faced with the situation in Aubrey's absence, understands that the men are Sethians, "Oh, a kind of Ranters or Methodies, I believe , sir". Aubrey turns to his friend, Dr. Maturin and his surgeon's mate, Mr. Martin, (an unemployed Anglican pastor), for enlightenment.

Martin replies, "Well, sir, they descend from the Valentinian Gnostics, but the descent is so long, remote and obscure that there would be little point in tracing it. In their present form they are small independent communities with I believe no governing body; but it is difficult to be sure of that, since they were in danger of persecution as heretics for so long that they are naturally reserved; and there is still something of the air of a secret society about them. They believe that Cain and Abel were brought into being by angels, whereas Seth, who, as you will recall, was born after Abel's murder, was the Almighty's direct pure creation, and not only the ancestor of Abraham and all men now living, but the prototype of our Lord. They have the utmost veneration for him, and believe that he watches over Sethians with particular care.

"It is odd that I should never even have heard of them.", says Aubrey, "Do they often go to sea?

"I imagine not.", says Martin, "Most of the few I have come across or heard of live in small scattered groups in remote inland parts of the West Country. They sometimes carve the name Seth on their houses; and they fall into two schools, mutually hostile, the old school that writes the S backwards and the new that writes it as we do. Apart from that and an unwillingness to pay tithes, they have a reputation for holding together and for being honest, sober and reliable, not unlike the Quakers. Yet unlike the Quakers, they have no dislike for warfare... In any event, these people have left the gnosis of Valentinus infinitely far behind: it is quite forgotten. Their holy books are ours. I believe we may certainly call them Christians, though somewhat heterodox on certain points of doctrine."

As far as I can tell, O'Brian's English Sethians are a fabrication. But his tale has a quality that excites my imagination; not exactly Lovecraftian, since the Sethians are not at all sinister, like the Dagon worshippers of Innsmouth; maybe more M. R. Jamesian. In a remote country village, practices survive that have been handed down from remote antiquity. I remember experiencing a similar reverie upon reading Margaret Murray's The Witch Cult in Western Europe long ago, and Thomas Tryon's Harvest Home.

A small sect, ostensibly Christian, now tolerated, but holding only themselves to be, in fact, saved. It put me in mind of the Yezidis, an obscure Kurdish sect of so-called "devil worshippers". I laughed when right after the episode of the Sethians, Captain Aubrey's new cook Adi, turns out to be a Yezidi, astonishing Mr. Martin. Such a wag you are, Patrick O'Brian.

"Honest, sober and reliable, not unlike the Quakers." The description fits my own ancestors, originally Mennonites or Anabaptists from the Rhineland who emigrated to Pennsylvania, "Pennsylvania Dutch". I pictured their plain mid-nineteenth century Baptist meeting house in the hills of Alabama. It is commonly believed by many, though not all Baptists, that they have always existed since the days of the Apostles, persecuted independent communities that never owed allegiance to councils of the Church, but only to the Bible and the Holy Spirit. My father, who has not practiced his childhood faith, nevertheless made this assertion. Even the churches of the Reformation, in their view, are tainted by the fact that they hived off from the Roman Catholic Church. They do not own the name, "Protestant".


Rubber and Revolution

I finished reading Where the Rainbow Ends, (1987), a novel by Christopher Hudson about the Japanese attack on British-ruled Ceylon in April 1942, following the disastrous fall of Singapore, (jokingly named afterward the "pregnable fortress"). I already had the background on Singapore from reading Singapore Grip, the final volume of J. G. Farrell's Empire Trilogy.

But I felt I'd been here more than once before, isolated European planters on South Asian rubber and tea plantations, their way of life threatened by war and change. I recalled several books and films I'd enjoyed with this theme.

Thunder at Sunset, (1954), by John Masters, has a British army officer fighting rebels in a fictional, Malaya-like state, as Labour Party types back home seek to undermine him. Masters was a senior British officer in the WWII Burma campaign before he turned to writing. He wrote a very fine memoir of his life in a Gurkha regiment, Bugles and a Tiger, and his novel, Bhowani Junction, about the partition of India, was made into a film starring Ava Gardner and Stewart Granger.

The 7th Dawn, (1964), a film starring William Holden and Susannah York, adapted from The Durian Tree, by Michael Keon, has a soldier of fortune turned Malayan rubber planter after the Japanese defeat, while his former Asian comrade-in-arms now leads the Communist insurgents. Military aircraft connoisseurs get a rare treat at the end, when several de Havilland Vampire jets blast the Reds' jungle hideout.

Bernard Knight, author of the Crowner John series of medieval mysteries, wrote a standalone novel, Dead in the Dog, (2012), drawing on his experience in the Royal Army Medical Corps in Malaya in the 1950's.

The Consul's File, (1972), by Paul Theroux, is a collection of short stories set in post-colonial Malaysia that owes something to Somerset Maugham.

I found a fine BBC documentary about the Malayan Emergency, Malaya:  The Undeclared War, (1998), narrated by Ben Kingsley, with interviews of principals on both sides.

The stunning Indochine, (1992), a French film starring Catherine Deneuve, is set in Vietnam in the 1930's. As always, the plot centers around colonial oppression, class and race.

This year has seen the release of Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City , by Greg Grandin, about Henry Ford's ill-fated attempt to establish a rubber-growing colony in Brazil to supply his automobiles.

Ok, so what's the deal with rubber? As a reference librarian, I had to look it up. The 18th century English scientist, Joseph Priestley, gave rubber its name when he found that it was ideal for erasing pencil markings. "It jolly well rubs 'em completely away, by Jove!", he might have said.

Rubber Pavillion, Empire Exhibition of 1938, Glasgow.

I had the impression that Asian movements for self-determination and the invention of synthetic rubber had finished the rubber plantations. I was wrong. Natural rubber continues to be a vital industry. Almost half of the 20+ million tons of rubber produced annually comes from rubber trees, mostly from Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Your wellies and galoshes, your rubber bands, your erasers, seals in automobiles and space shuttles, adhesives, glues, are still made of natural rubber, which has beneficial properties that cannot be reproduced in synthetic, petroleum-based rubber.

Wikipedia article
Nicely illustrated article by Indian scholar


Viewing Earth From Space

I remember sitting with my family in awe as we watched the Apollo astronauts on the Moon on television in 1969 in our darkened living room. Yet it wasn't so much the Moon that captured us, but rather seeing our own planet from far away. You've seen the image, the one on the cover of The Whole Earth Catalog.

Some years later, my father gave me a book of LandSat pictures for my birthday, which I loved. I have always been fascinated by maps and geography.

Now there is Google Earth. It just astonishes me. It doesn't cost a penny.

I had read in the New York Times an article by Graham Bowley about the perils of writing a book about last year's disastrous climb of the Himalayan peak, K2. Off I went with Google Earth, to the "Roof of the World".

I used to read about a mythical hidden city, Shambala, somewhere in the vast and uninhabitable wilderness of northern Tibet. Even in Google Earth, you will not find many uploaded pictures or YouTube videos in this region. Here are a few images of this forbidding terrain of sand and salt.

I feel like Methuselah, the Ancient of Days, or Dave Bowman in 2001: A Space Odyssey. When I was a boy, we played with sticks and dirt. Surely we are approaching the End Time. Or not.