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Recently I have been reading G.K. Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man, his refutation of evolutionary materlialism in general, and the writings of Chesterton’s contemporary H.G. Wells in particular.

Well, trying to read it, anyway.  My copy, issued this year by the Feather Trail Press, is printed in such small typeface as to make study of it extremely difficult.

Anyhoo, I was interested to read this passage in GKC’s discussion of paganism, and his sense that pagans have always focused their conscious thought on a kind of lower strata of deities, while tacitly acknowledging a general guiding force above such characters:

“They [i.e., primative pagan belief systems] all testify to the unmistakable psychology of a thing taken for granted, as distinct from talked about.   There is a striking example in a tale taken down word for word from a Red Indian in California which starts out with hearty legendary and literary relish: “The sun is the father and ruler of the heavens.  He is the big chief.  The moon is his wife and the stars are their children”; and so on through a most ingenious and complicated story, in the middle of which is a sudden parenthesis saying that the sun and moon have to do something because “It is ordered that way by the Great Spirit Who lives above the place of all.”  That is exactly the attitude of most paganism towards God.  He is something assumed and forgotten and remembered by accident; a habit possibly not peculiar to pagans.   Sometimes the higher deity is remembered in the highest moral grades and is sort of mystery.  But always, it has been truly said, the savage is talkative about his mythology and taciturn about his religion.

In all this, I understand that GKC is setting up a kind of stratified awareness, a suggestion that pagans, for whatever reason, have always acknowledged monotheism as such without, well, embracing it, as it were, preferring to live their lives in accordance with a set of much homier local deities.

Well, fine.  For all I know of the various pagan cults of the savages, GKC may be right.  Except that his mention of Indians in particular reminded me of something I had read elsewhere.  Specifically, and although I’m too lazy to look it up at the moment,  I distinctly remember the assertion of Francis Parkman, that great recorder of early North American exploration and colonization, that the natives, in fact, possessed no concept of an overarching, unifying deity until after their contact with Europeans in general, and the Jesuit missionaries in particular.  In other words, the “Great Spirit” referenced by Chesterton and many others is nothing more than a hazy interpretation of Christian doctrine and is not native to the, er, native view of spirituality in North America.

Now I am neither a historian nor a theologian.  But I’d be willing to bet dollars against doughnuts that Parkman has a better bead on the thoughts of Indians than does Chesterton.  Whether this hinders or actually emphasizes Chesterton’s general point about the human approach to God, I don’t know.  But I thought it interesting nonetheless.

Some years ago, during a telephone conversation about some other matter, I was badgered by a representative of American Express to enroll in their User Awards program, or whatever it’s called.  I finally gave in just to shut the fellah up, and promptly forgot about the whole business almost before I hung up the phone.

And so time passed.

Recently, Mrs. Robbo was examining our Amex statement and noted the rayther large number of user points we had racked up over the years.  After doing a bit of on-line research, she also noted that we could, if we so chose, redeem those points for a big ol’ plasma flat-screen teevee.


Our current teevee is  a hand-me-down.  It’s 36 inches across and has a great picture, so long as we’re talking mid-80’s standards.   Also, it’s been marked – apparently indelibly – by various child-sized smudges over the years.

Thus, I felt, since a new, larger, whizzbang screen would not really cost anything, why shouldn’t we go for it?  And after all, almost the only things I watch are old movies, operas and baseball games.

Well, again.  Merry Christmas to us!

The thing was delivered today.  Upon receiving the news, I went online and started reading various websites and user threads concerning its installation and performance.

Jesus, Mary, Joseph.

In the first place, these people are using a language completely alien to me, full of acronyms and slang that may as well be Tagalog.   Or perhaps Linear B.

Secondly, they’re talking about settings and adjustments and trial runs at a level of detail I would normally expect to be reserved to Cheyennne Mountain.

I tell you truly that I am now almost afraid to open the box.

My one hope is that the sort of people who write in on internet threads of the kind I read are of the same level of uber-geekiness as those who get all worked up over stereos, or perhaps high-performance car engines, and that for the ordinary folk such as self, the process and tinkering are relatively simple.  I would be delighted if it turns out that all I need to do is connect a couple wires in order to get a picture and sound that are Good Enough.

I’m not optimistic.  On the other hand, as with Pandora’s Box, I’m counting on Hope being buried somewhere in the packing material…..


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November 2009