I Become a Delandist

Margaret Deland 1857-1945
Since October, I’ve bought fifty books by or about Margaret Deland, most of them first-editions. I’ve never taken such an intense interest in either an author or in old books, but I’m finding it immensely gratifying to hold in my hands that which previous generations enjoyed and held in their hands. I’m also head-over-heels in love with what these people wrote in their books, inscriptions such as, For my dear little girl, Christmas 1915,” and Geo, this was Little Mamma’s book.” Then there are the beautiful old names of the books’ owners: Grace, Clara, Effie, Fanny, Alice, Lillian, Cordelia, and Adelphia.

Prior to coming across Deland’s novel, John Ward, Preacher (1888), in a St. Vincent de Paul store, I assumed that the remembrance of brilliant writers was insured, and that the world’s best reading could be found simply by seeking-out authors whose work has survived the decades if not the centuries. How fortunate I am to have come across someone who is practically forgotten but who struggled with the same issues I face, issues that people tend to dismiss with, “You think too much,” or, “You take things too seriously.”

It’s not only Deland whom I’ve discovered, but through her my clearest window into the place and era that interests me most, America during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The forgotten dead speak to me so strongly that it’s a shock to suddenly recall that they are dead, and that the brevity of their lives is being mirrored in our own. I have also been forced to conclude that the educated people of the late 19th century were far better educated than ourselves in regard to scope, profundity, and the ability of even non-writers to express themselves
with depth and perception. It is so easy to dismiss past generations as somehow less-than, but my studies have convinced me that in regard to the era about which I am most interested, they were not only less-than, they were more-than.

Phillips Brooks 1835-1893
I so wish I could have known some of them, for example the psychologist William James and the Episcopal priest Phillips Brooks who was the only clergyman from whom Margaret sought counsel. When she confessed to him that she considered the Apostles’ Creed nothing more than “a beautiful, antique edifice of words,” and asked if she should continue taking communion, he wrote:

 “…I do believe that any, even the least, sense of Him gives you the right to come to Him, at any rate, to come to where He is and try to find Him. I cannot tell you how anxiously I write. But what I have written, I solemnly believe. May the great Wisdom and Love bless you and lead you.”


Brooks’ exchange with Margaret reminded me of the one I had with (Father) Brent. The fact that I, a nonbeliever in regard to the supernatural, find meaning in communion has caused both believers and nonbelievers to assure me that I need to choose one path or the other and be done with the matter. To find in Margaret a reflection of my inability to let go of that which I can not intellectually accept yet have an unwavering need to accept—by which I mean a belief in immortality that would enable me to think of life as other than tragic—is more rewarding than I can say. As she put it,

“My feeling was not just an academic perplexity about doctrines; it was a shuddering of my heart at the significance of Love in the same world with Death! ... I knew that what I wanted was a certain word, either written or spoken, which would make me sure of...immortality.”

But the problem goes beyond mortality and into the meaning of a life built upon inescapable ignorance and inadequacy, failings that the intervening providence of a sympathetic supreme being would overcome. Without such a being, we founder in weakness, desire, and loss for perhaps eight decades, and then we die. Does this not constitute a valid objection to having lived at all?

As did Margaret—who died at 87—I have long since come to feel that my most central issue is mine alone to bear, and while others have brought me hurt and alienation, no one but Brent has tried to make me feel welcome in a
“house of worship without expecting that I change. Since anything short of acceptance would constitute rejection, Brent represents my only tie to organized religion. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have any more evidence of an intervening providence or immortality than I. When Margaret asked Phillips Brooks whether he knew that we would live forever, he was silent for some time before answering:

“It must be true; life would be too terrible if it were not.”

Brooks’ admission of the baselessness of what he wanted so much to believe was admirable, but hardly more satisfying than the certainty of those who put their trust in the imagined authority of church and Bible. This leaves me, as it did Margaret, very much alone because there is no meaningful reassurance regarding that which no one can prove.

When her husband died, Margaret went the way of Conan Doyle who became a spiritualist after his son died, although she avoided the embarrassing public credulity of Doyle who became so  delusional as to believe in fairies. The post-World War I era saw millions seeking contact with their beloved dead, and her eventual acceptance of the proposition that we are all a part of the divine consciousness and therefore incapable of death is alien to me, but her questions are not, and, as did mine, they started during her fundamentalist Christian upbringing and brought her the
reprobation of those to whom she turned for answers.

Katherine Mansfield, 1888-1923
Yet, Margaret was not the first author with whom I experienced such a strong personal connection that I could not accept that she was dead. For that, I must point to New Zealander Katherine Mansfield who wrote,

“Oh, God, the sky is filled with the sun, and the sun is like music. Music comes streaming down these great beams. The wind touches the trees, shakes little jets of music. The shape of every flower is like a sound. My hands open like five petals…”

Perhaps there are those who can cheerfully accept that such beauty of spirit can appear out of frigid nothingness like a warming spark only to immediately and eternally fall back into the same, but I am not among them, and I never will be. Of all the supposed truths that there exists something more, the only one that resonates with me is my inability to accept the alternative, but I don
’t know if this suggests need or insight.

One day, while walking in the desert, I felt that Mansfield was with me, so I asked for proof of her presence. I immediately saw a painted and bejeweled stick several feet away in the sagebrush, and even a skeptical Peggy commented that I walked to it as though led. I kept the stick in my closet for years before discarding it as a teaser rather than an answer. If asked what would constitute an answer I could but say that it would have to be something that couldn
’t be explained through ordinary means, “...a certain word, either written or spoken, which would make me sure of...immortality.” 

As did my atheist father when old age robbed him of his strength, Margaret believed that she had found such a word. In the second of her two autobiographies (one about her childhood and the other about her marriage) she wrote:

Recognizing a Conscious and Infinite Universe, we know that in It we live, and move, and have our being. We are workers together with It. We are sharers in Its immortality. Oneness with Its will is Peace, and we can endure. We call It God.

I can’t know whether her courage to endure a world without hope finally failed her, or whether her decades of study and reflection provided her with a vision that is of little use to anyone but herself. I don’t believe that anyone can fairly stand in judgment. John Lennon wrote, Whatever gets you through the night, it’s alright, it’s alright,” by which I think he meant that the final test of what constitutes ultimate reality cannot be demonstrable truth because that is unattainable. Rather the final test is whether ones belief is hardening or opening, and in Magaret’s case, it was most certainly the latter. I could never put so much time and energy into a writer of whose goodness I was not completely convinced, and so it is that I put my faith in Margaret.

37 comments:

Elephant's Child said...

I am very glad that you have found a kindred soul - and mourn that you cannot know her.
Your search is not mine (as you know) but I respect your continuing quest.

Stephen Hayes said...

I haven't heard from you much since I returned from vacation and I'm glad that you've returned. As for your post, it is perplexing that humans have evolved (or were designed) to contemplate the tragic finite nature of our existence.It might be that we've been cursed with a design flaw that makes us focus on answering unanswerable questions: Why are we here? Are we alone in the universe? Was our creation intentional? What happens after we're no longer connected to this reality? In spite of those philosophers who claim "happiness" is the goal of existence, it seems like massive obstacles have been placed in our path. As a writer/artist I try to create things that will live after I'm gone, but at times I struggle with the futility of it all. I know you struggle as well.

BBC said...

I like westerns, lots of good lessons and advice in them.

billy pilgrim said...

when ever i look at photos of people in the depression or earlier they almost always look much leaner and self sufficient than people today. i would imagine that it's our pathetic diet of corn syrup and empty carbs combined with a lack of exercise that wreaks havoc with our bodies but it's more than that. we've become over sanitized both physically and mentally. we bask in disinfectants and antibiotics to the point where our auto immune systems are running amok in the face of their redundancy.

mentally, we have the attention span of a gnat. years ago people stuck with a problem or concept for years, now we've become a society spoon fed 15 second sound bites and misleading headlines. how many people read entire news articles these days? we glance at the headlines and move on.

as for god:

"There is only one god, and his name is Death. And there is only one thing we say to Death: 'Not today'."

Tom Sightings said...

I dunno, Snowbrush, after reading this and some other of your posts I find it hard to believe that you are a "nonbeliever in regard to the supernatural." But either way, your thoughts are always interesting and provocative, so thanks for the reflection.

PhilipH said...

Dear Snowy, your quest continues. I have the answer, and it's 42.

Yes, it's a simple answer to the meaning of Life. We are indebted to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and, in my opinion, it is as valid as any learned essays, books and writings that are available for us to peruse.

It takes courage to 'believe' in a life after our earthly existence comes to its final moment if one has strayed from the straight and narrow. A lady in Blogland writes about her mother, a firm and faithful believer, who became terrified of dying because of some 'bad' thing(s) she had done in her life. Perhaps she feared going to Hell, living in fiery pain forever? I don't know, of course.

I have read quite a lot of Katherine Mansfield over the years. I love her stories, short and beautiful as are the ones I adore. She had a short and generally unhappy life but she remains alive through her writing. Perhaps that is how one becomes immortal? It's a thought. I love one short story she wrote, which I re-read every so often: "A Dill Pickle". It tells of her meeting, by chance, a former lover or boyfriend. It rings so true that I'm almost sure it's part of her life-story. Find a PDF version here: http://bit.ly/1QCzlWe

Well Snowy, you must have an extensive library; I honestly hope that you one day find the answer you seek, but I shan't hold my breath!

Oh, by the way; you use the word 'reprodation' which, I assume, is a typo and you mean 'reprobation'.

Charles Gramlich said...

I have not heard of her. Will have to do some looking into it. That piece you quote from Mansfield is incredibly beautiful.

Snowbrush said...

I see that I mucked-up the last two paragraphs so I just redid them. It’s astounding how much work I can put into a post and find new mistakes and typos every time I look at it.

“I am very glad that you have found a kindred soul - and mourn that you cannot know her.”

I don’t assume we would be friends. For one thing, she brought up my prejudices against people who grew-up “upper class” because I grew up decidedly “lower class” and hated the upper class kids at school who looked down on everyone else, were catered to by teachers, and stayed rigidly within their own wealthy cliques. Deland, I imagine, would have been one of those kids. I think Deland would have also been a private person in conversation due to her upper class background because upper class people were looked down upon for discussing personal problems even with their best friends because it was considered a low class weakness to have such problems. But, Child, although Deland wasn’t a suffragist, she ran charities devoted to helping women achieve financial independence from men because, in the upper class especially, if you should, due to the death of your husband for example, find yourself with little money, you had a big problem because it was unthinkable that “a lady” would work and you had no job skills anyway. This meant that you were humiliatingly dependent upon the crumbs that were begrudgingly tossed to you by others in your class. From her early teens, Deland lived her life in opposition to female financial dependency, much to the horror of her family because when she first started trying to make her own money by selling needlework, it was assumed by others that her father was having such severe financial problems that his fifteen year old daughter was forced to help him out. Deland also took unwed mothers (some of whom were pregnant at a very young age due to having been raped) into her home, a good deed that wasn’t applauded by others in her class but was instead harshly reproved, the assumption being that these women didn’t deserve help and that for a “lady” to even associate with them put her at risk of losing her morality. It was commonplace at the time for such women to be disowned by their families and friends, which in some cases forced them into a life of prostitution. Deland was an amazingly strong and good person in many ways, but I wouldn’t necessarily see her as approachable on a deep level.

“I haven't heard from you much since I returned from vacation”

Stephen, I’ve thought of all of you but haven’t been visiting blogs much lately. It’s the longest such “break” I’ve ever taken.

“As a writer/artist I try to create things that will live after I'm gone”

Yes, when one’s legacy is a blog, it’s a pretty lame legacy, but I just can’t seem to get it together to go beyond that.

Snowbrush said...

“I like westerns, lots of good lessons and advice in them.”

I’ve read a lot of Westerns, and some were good enough that I remember them, but I wouldn’t rate them high in terms of advice. I also read L’Amour’s autobiography and think you would probably enjoy it.

“mentally, we have the attention span of a gnat.”

I have a friend who has no interest in my blog, but very much wants me to carry a cellphone so that we can text-message. Well, what’s the limit to that—fifty characters, is it? Why should I want our friendship to be defined to a large extent by fifty characters? I’ve no doubt that many people will, upon seeing this post, go the bottom to see how long it is, and wonder why the hell I should imagine that anyone would want to read such a long post. The Net is a very good thing in many ways, but it and cellphones and news reports that only touch the surface of profound and multi-faceted problems do appear to have a limiting effect on how we see the world.

“There is only one god, and his name is Death.”

I can’t personally separate God from worship, and I don’t worship death, but I also believe that God is simply that which we define as God. I have a gray cat named Ollie in my lap right now, and I could do worse than to define him as God because he’s beautiful, affectionate, happy, playful, resourceful, strong, and agile. I adore that cat, and adoration is a word that applies to worship, so you might truthfully say that I worship him, not for himself alone, but for what he brings out in me… I’m completely unable to take one thing, call it alone God, and put everything else in a lesser category.

“I honestly hope that you one day find the answer you seek, but I shan't hold my breath!”

I anticipate dying without an answer unless I go the way of my father and become so delusional that I hear God talking to me every night, and then interrupt church services to tell the congregation that God told him to tell them that their worship is displeasing.

“I find it hard to believe that you are a "nonbeliever in regard to the supernatural.”

The trouble with the word supernatural is that it doesn’t constitute an answer but is instead ignorance masquerading as knowledge. This habit of using indefinable words as a substitute for answers is partly why it is so easy to attack religious belief. I think that the only thing that keeps religion going is that so many people believe in it that it assumes a respectability that it doesn’t deserve. It is currently on the decline in the Western world, and I’m happy for this.

“We are indebted to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy”

I’ve heard the answer (meaning 42), but I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know what the answer means—you might say that I need an answer to the answer—but I suppose it means that there is no answer. I think this is probably true in an objective sense. “I honestly hope that you one day find the answer you seek, but I shan't hold my breath!”

“you use the word 'reprodation' which, I assume, is a typo and you mean ‘reprobation’."

Change made. I wish more people would correct me as you have. I just want to kiss you right now because you have so blessed me by telling me of my error.

“That piece you quote from Mansfield is incredibly beautiful.”

I sometimes reflect that just one piece of music (Pachebel’s Canon in D, for example) or one paragraph of writing would justify a person’s entire existence.

Sparkling Red said...

The quotes by Brooks demonstrate such empathy and kindness; they warm my heart.

I have settled for not choosing between skepticism and faith. I am content to exist in a rather grey area, in which both have their place. In my psychotherapy course they called this choosing "both and" rather than "either or".

I have asked for signs and received what could be taken as clear responses many times during my life. They could also all be written off as coincidences. I find their cumulative weight is significant, and I wouldn't feel right discounting them entirely, even in my most skeptical moods.

rhymeswithplague said...

I thought he meant repudiation...

rhymeswithplague said...

Snow, a text can be as long as you want it to be. I have composed some rather lengthy texts myself. I think you have confused texting with tweeting, which is what people do on Twitter. The limit there is 140 characters. But texting you can do to your heart's content. (Someone correct me if I'm wrong.)

uthman saheed said...

Hmmmm!Its wonderful you are privileged to read all of these books. Our world has changed and no youth is ready to bury his head on a book for too long not to talk of buying up to 50 books within two months.

From tone of this post, I can perceive the value you attached to most of these great writers. But am sorry this is no longer in our time. Majority are only interested in celebrities gossip or entertainment.

How are you doing?

kylie said...

it is, indeed, possible to compose a lengthy text but the nature of the medium means that it is still not a wonderful way to discuss anything in depth.
Texting is marvellous for keeping a friendship alive though. Used correctly it is a convenient, fast way to have moments of connection at any time.

billy pilgrim said...

as valentine smith said, "thou art god."

taking it one step further, i art god, you art god we all art god. we're all the center of our own universes therefore we are all the gods of our own universe.

to me religion is comedy science fiction and it's a real head scratcher how so many people in the year 2015 have 100% faith in the document that was negotiated at the council of nicea.

i art heretic, i art infidel. i art not subject to the fear of god.

Snowbrush said...

“I have asked for signs and received what could be taken as clear responses many times during my life.”

Except for that stick, I can’t think of anything. I’ve had very deep and warm feelings both in the Episcopal mass and in nature, but nothing that I wouldn’t think it likely was psychologically or physiologically based rather than theistically based. It comes back to Ockham’s Razor by which the simplest explanation is likely to be the correct explanation. Still, I can’t let go, and being criticized for my inability to let go is simply meaningless. I used to get it a lot on this blog, but those who did it have either gone away or given up. My interest in Deland is that she lifts me in a way that I hadn’t previously experienced. She was both brilliant and insightful, and the fact that her books are so typically oriented toward the rights of women in no way lessens what I get from them because, in the deepest sense, it’s not about women’s right, it’s about human rights. I only wish I could bring her back into the mainstream, but my first problem would be a lack of availability of her books. The old ones are fragile, and the new ones are, for reasons I can’t understand, horribly overpriced.

“I think you have confused texting with tweeting, which is what people do on Twitter.”

Maybe. I certainly don’t know enough to say you’re wrong.

“But am sorry this is no longer in our time. Majority are only interested in celebrities gossip or entertainment.”

I assume that triviality has always characterized most members of our species. There’s a line from “The Raven” (a poem by Edgar Allan Poe) that goes: “In there stepped a stately raven from the saintly days of yore,” and it’s most appealing to think that there were such days because this means that they might come again. Yet, the more I read, the more I’m surprised by how similar things are now to how they used to be, including all manner of insignificant details that I never even thought about. For instance, that people 100 years ago liked to mix cinnamon with sugar and put it on their waffles, or that buggies had both a hood and a dashboard, or that husbands referred to their wives as their “better halves.” Because you’re Nigerian, I’m afraid some of these things might not make sense to you because you might not know the words or because they involve colloquialisms, and I’m sorry for that. But it also points to why, in my own reading, I want to stick to the America—and, sometimes, England, Canada, of about 80 to 150 years ago. I want to know the similarities and differences, and I want to understand the forces which produced the identity of myself and my country as it is today, and Deland’s writings are very good for these things even though they’re about life in Pennsylvania (mostly) and in New England.

Snowbrush said...

“Texting is marvellous for keeping a friendship alive though.”

First off, please don’t any of this personally. What I see in cellphones are people whose primary interest is in places they’re not in and in people they’re not with. It doesn’t matter what’s happening, when they get a text, they’re going to pick up their phones and leave the people they’re with waiting for them to answer it. I have frequently seen people ignore their children in favor of their cellphones, and I’ve frequently seen as many as four people walking along, every one of them on their phone. Most of all, people on their phones are not in their environment. They walk into things (or run into things if they’re in a car or on a bike), other people have to get out of their way; they might as well be drunk out of their minds; they never speak to or make eye contact with people they pass on the sidewalk. Yes, one can stay in constant touch, but isn’t that to make a cellphone into one of those hoses that people in space rely on when they step out of their spaceship? I think cellphones are addictive, and I don’t mean this lightly because people who have them appear to be on them more often than not.

“taking it one step further, i art god, you art god we all art god. we're all the center of our own universes”

At its best, I think the religious impulse seeks to move us beyond self in the sense of seeing self as a part of a greater whole. Religion is like sex in that it can be sweet or it be horrific, and in the case of authoritarian religion, the latter is too often true. What I don’t know about Deland was whether she continued attending church after the early death of Phillips Brooks or the death of her devout husband some 20-years after Brooks. Although her most memorable character is an Episcopal priest (Dr. Lavender), she thought poorly of ministers and recognized no religious authority. Her books are very much centered around religion, morality, and the rights of women, which is probably why I own very few—and maybe none—that were formerly owned by men. Although she did much to overturn tradition, she was horrified by some of the results of that and never did become a suffragist. It’s odd to be that I would be so attracted to an author who was so very much unlike me, but I’ve just had to let go of worrying about that because her writings are holy to me, and I mean that very seriously. They touch me where I’ve never been touched before, and no matter how different and even antagonistic I might feel toward her as a person, I have the sense that she will always be a big part of my life.

“to me religion is comedy science fiction and it's a real head scratcher how so many people in the year 2015 have 100% faith in the document that was negotiated at the council of nicea.”

I can but wish it were funny, but how many people will die today, the last thing they hear being some asshole screaming, “God is great!” Or how many people in this country will know that if they say they don’t believe, they’ll put their careers, their schooling, their homes and cars, and even their physical safety at risk? I don’t know if any force has harmed so many so badly as religion, and I fully believe that some of the present candidates for president would put this country at risk of enormous oppression and division in the name of what they would call “religious freedom.” In polls here, atheists are at the very bottom of the barrel when it comes to respect. People say that had rather their children marry a devout Moslem than an atheist, and that’s quite a statement for most Americans.

kylie said...

You are right about phones. They are a good friend, an absolutely horrible master.

All Consuming said...

I'm with Philip - "I have the answer, and it's 42." - It's a great set of books, and 42 makes much more sense than that which a great deal of other folks come out with.

Enjoy tomorrow (or today if it is with you already), I shall be raising a glass to you both this evening and sending warm thought over the sea sweetie Xxx

Joseph Pulikotil said...

Hello, wonderful post packed with knowledge and information.

Life will be simple and easy if we accept the belief that we have come from God or whatever you might call God, for a temporary sojourn on this earth and then go back to HIM. This makes us understand that the happiness in this earth as also the trials and tribulation are for a short period and nothing will last forever. Death only means that we have successfully completed our trial period on this earth and we will go back to God and live in eternal peace and happiness.

It will be difficult to accept what I write for those who think deep about life,for those who want proof and logic to accept anything. I read an interesting quote in the face book ==== PEOPLE ARE NOT WILLING TO BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED TWO THOUSAND YEARS AGO BUT THEY ARE READY TO BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED FOUR MILLIONS YEAR AGO.

It is good to think deep about God, whether He exists or not but just believing in God make life easier and helps us get on with the business of life with confidence and cheer.

I am fascinated that you bought about fifty books of Margaret Deland and trying to understand and enrich your knowledge with the vast knowledge contained in these books. This is a tremendous effort on your part worthy of appreciation and as far as I am concerned it is a herculean task which I will shudder to undertake.

HAPPY NEW YEAR

Snowbrush said...

“Enjoy tomorrow (or today if it is with you already), I shall be raising a glass to you both this evening and sending warm thought over the sea sweetie Xxx”

Ah, the old sea-sweetie, I’ve heard of that. If I recall correctly, iIt’s an English cocktail that contains eight kinds of liquor and is loaded with cayenne, nutmeg, vanilla, soy sauce, and marshmallows. I’ve heard it said that even the toughest American can’t stand within ten feet of it, although frail old ladies in England put it on their cornflakes each morning, making it undeniable proof of English superiority. I salute you too, my Love.

“Life will be simple and easy if we accept the belief that we have come from God”

I do not know if life is to some extent easier for those who believe in God, although it makes sense that it would be if the God they believe is good rather than punitive, but what I have observed is that what appears to make life easy or hard is a combination of circumstance and disposition, this without regard to belief. I’ve known many believers and many nonbelievers, and I cannot say that the one is happier than the other. I do not fit into either camp so I would not have you take me as representative of anything but myself. In other words, I can never be a “good” atheist or a “good” believer in the sense of intellectual and emotional acceptance.

“This makes us understand that the happiness in this earth as also the trials and tribulation are for a short period and nothing will last forever.”

Nonbelievers realize this too.

“PEOPLE ARE NOT WILLING TO BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED TWO THOUSAND YEARS AGO BUT THEY ARE READY TO BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED FOUR MILLIONS YEAR AGO.”

Joseph! What can I say to this but that it is the kind of statement that I associate with literalistic believers and that leaves me aghast because it is so impressive to them (you put it in caps) while being far worse than meaningless to me. Nonbelievers try to frame their beliefs in consistence with the evidence and without regard for how long ago an event occurred, and, so far as I’m aware, there’s no evidence that Christ even lived (or that, if he did live, his life was anything like it is portrayed in the Bible), whereas there’s a great deal of evidence that all manner of other beings lived (and events occurred) both 2,000 years ago and 4-million years ago. Does it not seem odd to you that no one outside of the Bible noticed that, when Christ died, the earth shook, the sky turned black, and dead people walked the streets, or do you think there was a conspiracy to cover these things up? Of course, it’s not, as you appear to frame belief, really a choice between belief in Christ and non-belief in Christ as belief means many things to many people.

“I am fascinated that you bought about fifty books of Margaret Deland…it is a herculean task which I will shudder to undertake.”

I have 41 on my shelf, another twelve or so on order, and I order a few more books every week. Her first book appeared in 1886 and her last in 1941, but even after such a long career, she didn’t write nearly as many books as I already have. I’ve simply bought multiple copies of some books as I try to upgrade my collection, and it’s also true that I’m a sucker for a good price. Reading these books is not a task but a joy. Researching her life and era is not a task either because I love doing it.

Joseph Pulikotil said...

It is true that we, living in the world at present, have not witnessed the events which happened at the time of Christ but four authors, MATHEW,MARK,LUKE AND JOHN, who wrote the Bible and also St. Paul wrote volumes about the miracles which Christ performed cannot be wrong. All of them could not have colluded to cook up Christ.

Numerous people gave up their lives as witnesses for Christ. I have not come across anyone who is ready to give up his life for some one else. Even the Roman emperor, Constantine the Great became a Christian. If we cannot believe all this then what are we going to believe.

MOTHER TERESA who worked tirelessly for the glory of Christ is a modern day example.

We can strive all our life looking for truth but in the end we find that the truth is elusive. This is going on and on for generations and generations and nothing concrete has been achieved.

Needless to say, man being inquisitive should continue to look for truth and many other elusive things which are beyond his comprehension. We should also keep in mind at the same time that we are only picking pebbles on the seashore.

In the meanwhile let us get on with the business of life with its ups and downs, success and failures, twists and turns,happiness and sadness in the hope that something good will happen after life ends here on earth.

I admit your thoughts in your post needs careful study and deliberation.

Best wishes

Snowbrush said...

When I was a young teen and losing my “faith,” I heard a preacher say that there was more evidence that Jesus rose from the dead than that Abraham Lincoln was president, his proof being all those whom the Bible reported as having seen him. The difference is that Lincoln’s presidency can be verified by thousands of named sources, whereas Jesus resurrection can only be “verified” by the anonymous writers of the Bible, a book that, as I later learned, contained writings that were written decades after Christ’s death and the compilation of which reflected the beliefs of the power-structure 300 years after Christ. I don’t believe any of it, Joseph, and I never will in the absence of a personal revelation, and I would have to even question the validity of that.

“I have not come across anyone who is ready to give up his life for some one else.”

I’ve heard of hundreds of instances, and I myself would unhesitatingly do it for Peggy, partly because I wouldn’t want to live without her and partly because protecting her is my duty as her husband, and this would make it impossible for me to live with myself if I failed to fulfill that duty. I also would strongly suspect that almost any parent would die for his or her child. I’m not a booster for the human race, but perhaps I hold it in higher esteem than you do.

BBC said...

I would kill to protect someone I care about in a heartbeat.

Snowbrush said...

“I would kill to protect someone I care about in a heartbeat.”

If I thought I could avoid legal hassles, I would unhesitatingly kill to protect almost anyone who I didn’t hate so much that I wanted to see them dead, but when it comes to dying for someone, that’s a whole other matter, and with the exception of Peggy, I can’t really say what I would do unless I was in that situation. I do know that my reluctance to die for someone would partly be based upon my knowledge of how hard my death would be for her. Otherwise, I should think I would die for the child next door, for example, her being a little sweetheart, and me being 66 and on the downhill slope health-wise. I think that most of us would feel the responsibility to go to the wall for a child even if he or she didn't know the child, and is this partly why Joseph's statement surprised me.

billy pilgrim said...

people don't give up their lives for jesus, they give up their lives to gain entry into heaven.

they're making a business decision, give up 30 years on earth for thousands, if not millions of years in paradise. in short, they're acting out of self-interest. or they're total idiots. flip a coin.

as for killing to protect a better person, i'd be more apt to kill for revenge. (just like god)

Joseph Pulikotil said...

Just as you said that you are ready to give up your life for Peggy, many disciples gave up their lives readily for Jesus. Just as Peggy is a living person, so also Jesus lived and performed miracles which we are not ready to believe at present. We want proof. People who lived during the time of Jesus did not believe HIM, so I don't expect people living in the present to believe him too.

I would like to know your views on Constantine the Great who became a Christian and also Mother Teresa of Calcutta who is expected to become a saint next year and her world wide organization called SISTERS OF CHARITY.

Best wishes

Snowbrush said...

“people don't give up their lives for jesus, they give up their lives to gain entry into heaven.”

Not to mention their money. Southern Baptists and Mormons both tithe, so if it’s a requirement to give 10% of your income to the church in order to please God, it’s hardly charity. But even in churches where no specific amount is required, people know that God is watching to see how much they give, and this makes their motive for giving suspect.

“Just as you said that you are ready to give up your life for Peggy, many disciples gave up their lives readily for Jesus.”

Absolutely, but I have two thoughts. One is that most of those people were killed by other Christians, most notably the Catholic Church, which even encouraged the killing of cats during the Bubonic Plague right when it needed them the most. The second is that people are dying for Mohammed everyday, so the mere fact of dying doesn’t for a religious leader has nothing to do with the goodness of the cause.

“I would like to know your views on Constantine the Great who became a Christian and also Mother Teresa of Calcutta…”

I know little about either, but what I do know isn’t good. For example, Constantine failed to mention his vision until years or decades after it occurred, and his late mention coincided with a time when he was intent on consolidating his power by befriending the church. I also know that what went into the canonization of the Bible was what he agreed could go into the canonization of the Bible, his power over the church councils being immense and not about piety but about favoring those theologians who were under this thumb. He also continued to worship pagan gods after he became a Christian. I can’t give you sources for any of this because they’re things I learned over the years, and I really don’t care enough about the man to run references. I’ll just say that much of my knowledge came from American public television, which I consider an impartial source for all kinds of reporting.

As to Mother Teresa, I did run one reference because I knew it would so easy. The following is from “The Guardian” (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2007/aug/24/wasmotherteresaanatheist), and it contains two paragraphs by the reporter and another two in which he quotes from her letters:

“I will always be grateful to Mother Teresa because, the only time I met her, she said something so monumentally silly as to release me from all reverence for saints. She clasped my hand and looked up at me with her bright blue eyes, in which the sincerity was cranked up to 11, and said: "Please tell your readers ... that contraception murders love."

“Now we have learned that the world-changing sincerity felt fake from the inside, too: even as she was receiving the Nobel prize, she asked her confessor to pray for her because she could feel nothing when she prayed herself and no longer had any experience of God. In a letter, written to Jesus at her confessor's request, she sounds like an adolescent Dawkins:

“‘I call, I cling, I want ... and there is no One to answer ... no One on Whom I can cling ... no, No One. Alone ... Where is my Faith ... even deep down right in there is nothing, but emptiness & darkness ... My God ... how painful is this unknown pain ... I have no Faith ... I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd in my heart ... & make me suffer untold agony.

“‘So many unanswered questions live within me afraid to uncover them ... because of the blasphemy ... If there be God ... please forgive me ... When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives & hurt my very soul. I am told God loves me ... and yet the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul.’”

I can forgive her her pretense of faith, but forgiving her for her opposition to birth control is another matter.

Snowbrush said...

I’ll just add, Joseph, that I find Teresa’s words as eloquent as they are tragic, and I don’t in any way regard her as a hypocrite in the sense of an Elmer Gantry or a Jimmy Swaggart, preachers who used religion as a vehicle to “the good life” i.e. money and women. Mother Teresa instead fought to believe just I fight to believe, but as she could not pretend within herself, so can I not pretend within myself. Had she gone public with her doubts, it might have destroyed the very ministry that she spent her life building, so I don’t fault her for keeping her doubts to herself. I do find it odd that the church would reject someone like me while embracing her, my only explanation being that she was more useful to the church, and therefore more important to the church. Truly, the church does not see as God sees but as men see, and it therefore embraces some and rejects others on the basis of whom better serves its purpose.

rhymeswithplague said...

Having lived in Florida for many years, I could never be a Delandist. I lean more toward being a DaytonaBeachist.

uthman saheed said...

Good day! And I hope you are going great.... Below is one of the blog addresses I wanted to recommend for you in response to your demand.

http://thenationonlineng.net/this-mysterious-world/

Snowbrush said...

I understand that if you ship a lot of stuff, you’re not going to have much extra cardboard, but I collect and cherish Deland’s books, and when I receive one that was loved and protected by generations of people for well over 100 years, and it gets damaged in the few days that it takes to reach me, I’m not a happy camper.

“I could never be a Delandist. I lean more toward being a DaytonaBeachist.”

And I thought you were one of those pesky Christians! Deland did a travel book about Florida entitled “Florida Days.” It and her writings about running a canteen in WWI France were her only efforts at describing her travels, although a sense of place—including vegetation and weather—is always a strong element in her writings.

I must share with you my joy. I JUST bought the first edition of her first book. It came out in 1886 and is entitled “The Old Garden and Other Poems.” I’ve never even seen it in its first edition, and the much later editions I’ve found cost a lot more (with shipping, I only paid $25 for the one I just bought). Deland’s books mark the only time in my life that I remember spending money with such abandon, but even at that, I suspect that I’m still under $1,000, and this includes a signed presentation copy of “The Kays” of which only 250 copies were printed. I also have signed copies of a few of her other books. It’s funny that her autograph is relatively cheap when it comes in a book, but often runs into the hundreds when it stands alone. I have no idea who if anyone would pay $500 or even $800 for it, but I’ve not infrequently seen such prices, although I can’t, of course, attest to their genuineness. I just know that I’m not much interested in them anyway. Besides, the advantage of getting them in a book is that the signed books cost little if any more than the unsigned copies ($5 to $20) making it unlikely that anyone would forge her signature without the incentive of additional money).

“Below is one of the blog addresses I wanted to recommend for you in response to your demand.”

Uthman, I'm now going to talk about you with you listening in, so I hope you won't think me rude... For those who don’t know, Uthman is from Nigeria, making him and Joseph—from India— my only regular commenters who aren’t from the US, Canada, England, or Australia (if I’m missing a country, I hope I’ll be corrected so I can apologize). I won’t give her name, but my wife was aghast that I have become friends with someone from a country that is only known to most Americans for its spam. I was equally aghast that she was aghast because while I’m prejudiced toward a great many groups, I make an effort to get beyond it in my relationships with individuals, plus I very much want people in my life whose nationality guarantees that their experiences—if not their values—are extremely different from my own. Also, Uthman is 27, and this too makes him interesting to me.

billy pilgrim said...

happy new year snow.

i picked up an edgar wallace book at the library and i'm thoroughly enjoying it. almost the same era as deland but he probably looked at life from an entirely different point of view than deland.

possum said...

This post smacks of reincarnation remembrances, Snowy, my friend. How often many of us are "touched" by writings of another time or place that reaches deep into some hidden memory that I can't explain. I'm not nearly as erudite as you! But it explains your longing for something you don't quite understand in the Church in spite of who you are today, and your feelings for Deland's books.

Snowbrush said...

“Edgar Wallace…probably looked at life from an entirely different point of view than deland.”

Could you say more, please, as I would really like to know how you see him and how you envision Deland? I find that Deland’s books center on relationships, morality, religious belief and nonbelief, people’s struggles to overcome frailty, what they gain from those struggles, and the changes brought about by age. I am reading every one of them, and they all have a very different flavor, her novels being written about different people in different situations, and in different periods of her life, although many of her short stories feature the local priest, and most of her books are set in the fictionalized town of Old Chester (now, North Pittsburgh) or in the real town of Mercer (also in Pennsylvania). If you’re interested in what it was like to live in a steel town in the late 1800s, “The Iron Woman” is for you. I’m currently reading “The Kays,” which thus far centers on the life of a pacifist during America’s Civil War. Deland’s books seem to have several important characters, but they're no soap operish in the least, and there aren’t so many characters that the reader feels lost.

“How often many of us are "touched" by writings of another time or place that reaches deep into some hidden memory that I can't explain.”

Oh, yes, my friend, you’re a Buddhist, so let me ask you, was reincarnation part of the Buddha’s teachings, or did they come later? I feel little connection to Deland as a person, but am in awe of her creative intelligence and her path in regard to morality and spirituality. I learn from few people, and few people stimulate me to think much less challenge my long-held convictions, and Deland does both. I don’t find her physically attractive, so that doesn’t cloud the waters—as it did with Mansfield—I just find her mind to be incredible. So often, I wish to god I could sit down and talk with her about her beliefs regarding thing or another. I feel as if I could spend years pondering individual sentences in her books, and still not reach the end of my meditations. I’m even tempted to devoting my life to promoting her writings, which have been so nearly and so tragically lost.

Myrna R. said...

I'm so glad to have read this, so beautifully and honestly woven. Your words make me want to read and know Margaret. Perhpas I will look her up. But, I'm so glad to know you and the depth of your search.

fiftyodd said...

I love your long, provoking posts - I read every word (and most of the comments) in one session - just to prove to myself that I don't have the concentration span of a gnat. I get a bit 'bouleverse′' (the French say it best,) on the subject of religion so I gave up on that topic.