Q: My territory which is part of a large metro is uninterested and apathetic. Middle class suburbs that accomplished the American dream

Karen, you never know. Recently my wife and friend approached people at the service station. Her friend’s first contact was dismissive. So was my wife’s first contact. But the second person her friend spoke with said, “I think you must have been sent to me.” He spoke of his  16-year-old daughter who is trying to help a friend and it is starting to take a toll on her. “Well, we do have a website that offers a lot of practical help and...” my wife’s friend began and showed the magazine online Is Life Worth Living, which greatly interested the man. It turned out that my wife had a paper copy (they were working separately) and the friend sent her niece (they were a threesome) back to see if the fellow wanted it. (He did) “I know how hard it is to be 16,” the 16-year old niece said. 

The day prior my wife was making return visits with another sister who didn’t have any so my wife was pulling out all the stops. Being right in the area, she stopped in where a once seemingly interested woman had told her not to return because the boyfriend was opposed. “Maybe the creepy boyfriend has moved out,” my wife said. She spoke with the woman who answered the door, and got a puzzled expression on her face, and my wife realized that both of them had moved out and this was someone new. So she explained what she had been doing and the woman told her that her husband’s friend had just taken his life. This, too, made the magazine Is Life Worth Living? just the right food at the right time. 

These experiences are many. Don’t assume that the fancy suburbs are immune to them. They are not. The facades just hide the problems inside.  Do what you are doing, friendly as can be. If it is safe, work alone from time to time, with a companion just within sight, or even all by yourself—it helps you think of your ministry and nothing else. Don’t worry about English being your second language. If anyone puts you down for not being polished, agree with them. It is ordinary people that make up the congregations. It always has been. “For you behold his calling of you, brothers,” the apostle wrote at 1 Corinthians 1:26, “that not many wise in a fleshly way were called, not many powerful, not many of noble birth.” Say to whoever you must: “It would be nice to have sent someone smoother, but they are not available, so you are stuck with me.” :)

What does the greater world have to offer on these matters? What might it reply? That there are agencies? That there are anti-depressants? People routinely fall through the cracks of sieve-like agencies, and they do not necessarily help long term (and sometimes even short) even when they are firing on all cylinders. What people need is a fresh way of thinking to help them cope, and a source of power greater than themselves. They may or may not grab hold of what we offer, but it is certainly well to offer it.

The JW year text for the present year is Isaiah 41:10: “Do not be anxious, for I am your God.” The year text of the greater world? So far as I can tell, it is “S**t happens. Maybe we can hold someone accountable and make them take responsibility.” I like ours better.

Last year it was “S**t happens. Maybe we can vote out these current turkeys and vote in a new crop of politicians who will fix things.” I forget what the JW one was for last year, but I do remember that I liked  it better.

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photo: Saburovo interiors, by Ruslan Goldman

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Unified But Not Uniform - Critical of the Presentations?

Q: Tom, we need to follow the organisation with Jesus taking the lead, this is what we are a part of. We may think we know better but we do not.

It’s a good thing to be called on.

I have blogged long enough that it can be seen that I am an advocate for following the lead. Often the friends will get into some sort of a minor squabble over this or that, and I will say “Look, it is not that big of a deal—just do it” For example, saving seats at the convention or sitting for the music. Not saving seats has been the counsel for decades and many of the friends continue to save seats (beyond the parameters of what is allowed). So much so that the organization eventually gave up, and now lets the oldsters in ahead of anyone else so they can easily find convenient seats.

Or staying only at the recommended lodgings. That counsel is ignored so frequently that the brothers have at times found it difficult to negotiate rates. “What should I cut you a deal?” this or that manager will say, “when I know that you will stay with me anyway because it is convenient?”

(With regard to sitting in time for the start of the music, I had some fun with this in ‘Tom Irregardless and Me’ telling of a brother - it might have been Tom Oxgoad - who told everyone how one of the attendants carrying a ‘Please Be Seated’ sign was beaten up by a group of brothers determined to stand. This evil report spread throughout the circuit and even beyond, put eventually truth got its pants on and people discovered the source. Nobody batted an eye. “Oh. Well—you know Oxgoad—he says things like that.” The experience I just made up, but there was a brother who would say some of the loopiest things and the brothers just learned to roll with it.)

So I do understand the value of obedience. A favorite secular line of mine is from Nathanial Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. “It is remarkable that persons who speculate the most boldly often conform with the most perfect quietude to the external regulations of society.” Nobody thinks thoughts more bold than Jehovah’s Witnesses, and nobody can conform (for the most part) with the external regulations of their society more than they.

But that doesn’t mean that everything that comes from the organization is a directive that must be applied, otherwise we are not following headship. These presentations are suggestions, not directives. Nobody says that one must use them. Sometimes we praise anything coming down the pipe as exactly the right blessing presented at exactly the right time, and then it is quietly discarded a short time afterwards and we never hear of it again. I think they are just putting up trial balloons—suggestions that some will find helpful—with the encouragement to try them out but no requirement that anyone do so. Please do not think I am critical of them. To take the “workmen” that are most of Jehovah’s Witnesses—most of whom once said that they would never ever ever preach—and to make them willing and effective preachers is an amazing accomplishment, for which the Bethel brothers deserve nothing but credit. Almost never do new ones initially have the gift of gab, or a way with words, such as I now have but once did not, and they have molded them into ‘Jehovah’s army!’ It’s incredible.

I didn’t say that the suggested presentations are no good, much less that they are wrong. I said that I do not like most of them. I gave my reason—that they do not work for me. I gave my reason for being so bold (admittedly, I have been) as to put it out here on the forum—that I see many having difficulty implementing them. That’s is not to say that anyone who wants to should not work with them. For some persons, and in some circumstances, they will work very well indeed.

The Bethel brothers have taken on an extremely difficult assignment, and I try to be nothing of supportive of them. It is very difficult to find just the right mix in leading a large group of people. One person will say, “Thanks for the new RULE!” and his companion will say “Huh—did you say something?” I think that the Bethel brothers do not want to find themselves in the position of Lot, whose sons-in-law thought he was joking. On the other hand, from time to time they remind us: “Not that we are the masters over your faith, but we are fellow workers for your joy.” (1 Corinthians 1:24) am They are not our masters and do not want to be thought of that way. They want us to be united, but not uniform It is the greater world that stuffs people into uniforms and sends them off to put their lives on the line over this cause or that.

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photo by Dan Pupek

 
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The New European Data Law as it Applies to Jehovah’s Witnesses - My Take

Yikes! No “data-gathering” according to the new privacy law. What to do?

As far as I am concerned, this is a blessing in disguise. Jehovah’s people will adapt. They always do. 

I even think it will be beneficial for us, overall. We have some people who become obsessed over records, the way some people do with regard to records of any sort. We have some who call back repeatedly if the householder does so much as give them the time of day—training them not to, in my opinion. Working with this new European law will force more discernment and maturity, though initially inconvenient in some respects. I wouldn’t mind if it spread to here in the States.

This law will alter the logistics of the Matthew 28:19-20 aspect of Christianity— “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, (Mathew 28:19) but it will not impact the Matthew 24:14 aspect at all: “And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) It will probably even enhance it. 

The more I think about it, the more I like it.

Most of the suggested field service presentations I don’t like. I don’t like them because they do not work for me. Of course, it is “different strokes for different folks,” but from what I have seen, they don’t work that well for others, either. They are incremental in approach, and many, when implemented by anyone less than an expert, come off as passive-aggressive. Sometimes I wonder where they come from, because they do not necessarily dovetail with each other. Probably they are the products of various full-time evangelizers who are brainstorming. Since many start with floating a question that will seldom be on the typical person’s mind, such as “Where are the dead?” you pretty much have to record the response and hope that you have laid the foundation for furthering it or starting another topic. All that requires you write stuff down, which is now illegal unless the person has authorized it.

Better—or at least it works better for me—to bring up something more all-encompassing. The circuit overseer last visit made much of the 1-minute (and six seconds) video “Would You Like Good News?” Invite people to hear it—it only is one minute (and it is good to say literally one minute) The video ends with a plug for the Good News from God brochure and that brochure has a table of contents:

“Which topic interests you most?” It says. They include

Who Is God?,

Who Is Jesus Christ?,

What Is God’s Purpose for the Earth?,

What Hope Is There for the Dead?,

What Is God’s Kingdom?,

Why Does God Allow Evil and Suffering?,

How Can Your Family Be Happy?, and

How Can You Draw Close to God?

The video is here:

If the person registers any interest, you can set up something then and there. If not, off you go with a sincere thanks for their time—after all, we call without appointment, which is becoming a rarety in the West, nobody is required to listen to what we have to say, so whenever someone does, I thank them for their time.

Some all-encompassing verses that also work for starters—just offer to read a verse, give a brief statement as to why you read it, ask what the person thinks about it, and then offer to disappear. Such as:

Jeremiah 29:11 - “For I myself well know the thoughts that I am thinking toward you,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘thoughts of peace, and not of calamity, to give you a future and a hope.” (The reason I like the verse is because some people think God is out to rake us over, or judging from the current state of things, that there is no God, and this verse says not only that there is, but he thinks good thoughts towards us.)

Or Matthew 5:3 - “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need, since the kingdom of the heavens belongs to them.” (The reason I like the verse is because we all have a spiritual need, but we are not necessarily conscious of it—it is more like vitamins, that if neglected, may lead to sickness and we never know quite why.)

There are no end of verses that can be used. It just takes adjusting to the idea. All work except for the verse Tom Pearlsandswine latched onto in my first book, ‘Tom Irregardless and Me’: Revelation 21:8: “But as for the cowards and those without faith and those who are disgusting in their filth and murderers and fornicators and those practicing spiritism and idolaters and all the liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur. This means the second death.” “The reason I like that verse,” he would say, “is that it shows sinners are going down and you’d better shape up.” He is such an idiot. 

With a flat response to any chosen verse other than his, off you go. With a favorable one, you can even go to a longer video, with the intro that I find works well, “This video runs almost four minutes, but you don’t have to listen to it all. The minute it gets boring, hand it back.” It puts the control in the householder’s hands and defuses any impression of being pushy. I hate being pushy and try hard not to give that impression. There are few people in the world easier to get rid of than me.

None of these presentations require the use of memory-jogging records. If the response if favorable, there is no difficulty in exchanging contact information if desired.

As for keeping track of who is not-at-home—JWs do this—I even know one person who writes down every address beforehand and crosses them out as she finds them home, completely reversing how it is intended to be done—one might respond by forgetting all about it. Put the angels in charge of that one. Call when the majority of persons are likely to be home in the first place, which we do not always do.

As for keeping records of those who have requested we not call on them again—well, I don’t know. Tell them we’d love to comply but the new law is screwing us up.

Not to mention that we have long been moving in that direction anyway. That’s what the mobile cart witnessing is all about. That’s what the website is all about. They are two forms of advertising the good news without going to anyone’s door at all. On the home page of jw.org is a new Bible study feature. A series of studies that are multimedia, self-guided at one’s own pace, and require no registration or entry of info—“I’ll never know if you do it or not,” I tell people. In fact, I am looking forward to the time—the timing and circumstances will have to be just right, you wouldn’t do it just with anyone—when I tell someone, “I don’t want to study the Bible with you. Do it yourself.” We spoon-feed people too much, and it is hardly necessary with the majority. I even think being constantly obsessed over presentation of the very basics keeps us from pressing on to maturity, in some respects.

They have done us a favor with their new law, is my take.

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Photo: DSC00212 by gauge opinion

 

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Sex and the Two-Mile Strand of Spaghetti

Scientists identify four fundamental forces of nature: the strong and weak nuclear force, gravity, and the electromagnetic force. For 99.9% of the earth’s population, these are irrelevant and there is only a fifth that must be understood: the force of sexual attraction. God didn’t want to revisit Adam and Eve after a few hundred years, discover them on a barren planet, and hear them say “Oh, we were supposed to do that? I guess we plumb forgot. Sorry.”

Sexual attraction is the most crucial force to understand, even if it is not of the Four. Pursue the four if you like—and it is good for human knowledge that some do. However, the typical youngster will never approach a black hole of outer space to see the four forces interact.

He or she will approach the black hole of sexual attraction that his seemingly overcautious parents have probably told him about. Intrigued by an awakening of desire, he gingerly approaches. All seems inviting, tantalizing—what is this fuss that the old people have carried on about? He edges closer and closer until its sudden irresistible pull grabs and stretches him into a two-mile strand of spaghetti.

From Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah's Witnesses Write Russia

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photo: "spaghetti" by Rene something something

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Misrepresenting JW Child Abuse Policy

“After hearing a rather generic announcement that someone has been "reproved," without knowing the actual reason for that reproof, how would congregants know to keep their children away from them? Another congregant might assume that a person being reproved was caught smoking or fornicating with an adult; child sexual abuse might be the last thing they would consider when they hear of someone having been reproved!” So says Alexandra.

All one need to do blow this silly thing out of the water is to read the relevant portion (point 11) of the JW downloadable child abuse policy:

“If it is determined that one guilty of child sexual abuse is repentant and will remain in the congregation, restrictions are imposed on the individual’s congregation activities. The individual will be specifically admonished by the elders not to be alone in the company of children, not to cultivate friendships with children, or display any affection for children. In addition, elders will inform parents of minors within the congregation of the need to monitor their children’s interaction with the individual.” [Bolded mine]

In the special case of child sexual abuse, these are the steps that go above and beyond handling other forms of wrongdoing. Alexandra’s entire complaint is based upon something that is factually incorrect. Whether or not the published policy addresses every conceivable scenario or whether it is foolproof is another matter entirely. She has stated that there is none. There is. And it would be hard to put it in a more obvious place—the online and downloadable WT policy on child sexual abuse.

It is clear that Alexandra spends too much time pouring over confidential material intended for others and insufficient time reading what is right under her nose. Moreover, had she come by the elders’ guidebook honestly, rather than pilfering it off the internet, put there from some like anti-JW activist, she would have been there to hear the “Brothers, make sure you consult the online CSA policy, for the special circumstance of when the wrong repented over involves child abuse.”

Is it nothing? Some of these activists have huge audiences who uncritically lap up every word, and here is a major complaint that is undeniably bogus. By advancing it, when she really ought to know better, she contributes to the hysteria of anticultism that less freedom-loving nations use as a pretext for physically assaulting and jailing upright people.

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“Despite Whatever Way This Trial May End, Christensen is the Winner”

"Despite whatever way this trial may end, Christensen is the winner. He has not renounced his own ideas, even while being imprisoned for the course of two years. And he will continue to express them in the future, including in today's debates." (Anton Bogdanov)

“The whole essence of the case comes down to the following: a local religious organization was liquidated and believers continued to meet together. Believers are forbidden to meet and the local religious organization is liquidated," (Irina Krasnikova)

[Both of the above are attorneys representing Dennis Christensen on his appeal]

Finally, Christensen himself spoke, through an interpreter:

"'The more often a lie is repeated, the more it is believed.' This sentence was spoken many years ago by one horrible person. I thought that in the 21st century such a thing is now impossible. However these methods are again being used against me and other Jehovah's Witnesses. In my case, the lie is the continuation of the activity of a local religious organization....I am often asked why they try to take Jehovah's Witnesses for extremists. My answer is: I do not know. I also did not hear an answer to this question in the court.”

[I did not hear it either. That is why I decided to supply them myself, along with how they might be defended, when I wrote ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia.’ Later, noting that the same lie about Witnesses being extremists is told in the West—and not for the same reasons—I decided to detail them and their rebuttal as well, in ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

Both are free in ebook version:

Dear Mr. Putin is also available in extremist-free version. Few quotations in the original ebook are from Watchtower sources—even the house Bible translation has been changed to the New American Bible - Revised Edition, a Catholic translation. The two Mr. Putin ebooks are exactly the same, save for when a quote is taken from a Watchtower source. In the “safe” version, even if the words will be as innocuous as ‘God is love,’ I rip them out with the stern warning that they pose danger to the reader and have therefore been redacted.

Pay attention to which version of the book you read. You do not want to spend time in the hoosegow.]

(Excerpts taken from Orlovskie Novosti.  (May 16, 2019) https://www2.stetson.edu/~psteeves/relnews/190516a.html)

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Considered an Imposter, When I am True

It’s a good description of the Christian ministry here in 2 Corinthians 4. I like it:

“Since we have this ministry according to the mercy that was shown us, we do not give up... vs 1

“If, now, the good news we declare is in fact veiled, it is veiled among those who are perishing,  among whom the god of this system of things has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, that the illumination of the glorious good news about the Christ, who is the image of God, might not shine through... vs 3-4

“However, we have this treasure [the ministry] in earthen vessels [us], that the power beyond what is normal may be God’s and not that out of ourselves.” vs 7

And in chapter 6:

“In every way we recommend ourselves as God’s ministers...through glory and dishonor, through bad report and good report; as deceivers and yet truthful.”...vs 1,8 .....

“as deceivers and yet truthful.” NWT (1986)

“as deceivers, and yet true” - KJV

“genuine, yet regarded as imposters” - NIV

“regarded as deceivers and yet true” - NASB

“regarded as imposters, and yet true” - NET

“as ‘deceivers’ and yet true” - OJB

“We are regarded as deceivers and yet we are truthful” - NWT (revised 2013)

“We are treated as liars, and yet we speak the truth” - GNB

”considered an imposter, when I am true” - An American Translation (cover)

Here are two versions of reality. Which one is true and which one is false? Is there a God or isn’t there? Does he have a purpose for the earth or doesn’t he? Will we but stumble from one crisis to another through all time or won’t we. Is the real life of 1 Timothy 6:20 really the real life or is it the false one?

“as being unknown and yet being recognized...as disciplined and yet not delivered to death, as sorrowing but ever rejoicing, as poor but making many rich, as having nothing and yet possessing all things.” vs 8-10

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“Rochester, I Think We’ve Got This”

“Rochester, I think we’ve got this,” said Eli Paperboy Reed, venturing opinion at the onset of rain that would drench his listeners while he stayed dry. As though to show him that the city had more to offer than rain, his mike went dead. But he didn’t miss a beat, belting his soul out as the sound tech fixed it. He is a must-see artist who deserved more than the handful of weather-proof diehards that he got. One of them hollered that he must come back, for the weather is not always like this. What had he been smoking?

Actually, it was not like this last year. The ten-day Lilac Festival was picture-perfect almost every day. What are the chances of that happening two years in a row? I had heard Rochestarians grumbling all way from god-awful 90 degrees muggy Florida the prior week, and I had said “No worries. It will all clear out in time for the festival.” What had I been smoking?

I was there, all right, for I had come prepared with blue raincoat to slip over a warm grey jacket, which also wasn’t needed when I arrived after 4. When he waved everyone in close for the final number or two, I was close enough to get a decent photo or two, even with the crummy phone camera. Mrs. Harley doesn’t come to the Lilac Festival when the weather looks surly, so I was on my own.

It took him the entire set—I mean, he really must work on timely delivery—but at show’s end, the sun did indeed begin to pierce the gloom. A half hour later, it was full sunshine for the next group, who probably didn’t even thank him. I’d never heard of they or Eli, but that is only because I don’t keep up. The devoted fan next to me was aghast at my ignorance.

Garnering attention over the last decade, Eli was named Breakthough Artist of the Year by the MOJO awards people in 2009. Anyone who savors R & B must not miss this fellow when he comes to town, enhanced by a phenomenal backup band. How can you go wrong with someone who starts his set with ‘Go Tell That Long Tongued Liar’?

http://www.elipaperboyreed.com

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Traveling - A Day in the Life of the Florida Sun

There were at least 12 pots of coffee on the Seven Eleven burners at 6 AM and I said that it was too much. The clerk—maybe it was too early for him or maybe he was not all that bright—took my remark as chastisement. I hadn’t meant it that way. I meant it the way it was said to my 4-year old son, after he completed a presentation at the door years ago and the householder had said: “You’re too much!” He hadn’t understood it, either. “Why did that lady say that there was too much of me?” he asked.

On the contrary, I told the clerk that he had done it just right—doubtless he would pour out every drop of the stuff and have to make some more. What was too much was that it should be necessary. There was barely a sign of life at the moment, but very soon the floodgates would open and everyone would want their cup or two.

We grabbed ours and headed out to the island turnoff to watch the sunrise over the bay, due at 6:51. Let’s see, how does this work? Land heats up quicker than water so the air over it also heats up quicker so it rises which means air over the cooler water rushes in to take its place; in the summer there is always a cooling breeze from the water. Check. That was happening. There was a good stiff breeze. During winter the situation reverses.

Mike and his crew came along presently. I had thought he would. When vacationing in this part of Florida, which he does every year, he so dependably rousts himself to watch the sunrise that I assigned him the task last year of putting the blazing ball up, much as the custodian might be assigned the job of running up the flag each day. On cloudy days I would glance over his way at the timeshare pool and frown, as though to reproach him for not doing it right.

The egrets that had been flitting about settled in for the show.

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Mike scrutinized the horizon and ventured that the upcoming sunrise would only be so-so, not so spectacular as yesterday’s. There were low clouds on the horizon, or maybe it was just a blanket of thick atmosphere viewed sideways. Better if it wasn’t there. There would be but a pink glow until the sun scaled over them, but the instant it did—just the tiniest peak of the orb was blinding. You wouldn’t look directly at it. Maybe your gaze would fall on its reflection coming straight at you over the waters. Brothers at the Kingdom Hall probably overuse it as a talk illustration, but it really is true that you never see a sunrise or setset and say: “god, that was ugly!”

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Job done, the disk launched, Mike and crew declared they would make their way to Ft Myers Beach pier—parking is free until 9 AM—and we decided to meet him there. Soon enough we spotted him and his wife chatting up whoever was at hand. Pelicans dived unpredictably for food. Dolphins rummaged about as well and you waited for them to break surface, which, as mammals, they must do. Manatees are rarely found this time of year, the grizzled and stocky old guy said to my wife. He hadn’t cut his hair in years, and his head was topped with a sailor’s hat, giving him the appearance of a jaunty old salt native, but it turned out that he was only ten years here after 30 in Illinois. It almost seems that you meet more out-of-state people than in-state.

As for the manatees, they gather around during winter months in the warm waters just outside a shoreside power station, but in the warmer months they are dispersed in the Gulf and all the way up to South Carolina—so said the transported Illinois man. “Everyone wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die,” he added when commenting at how wildlife is greatly diminished from the past and it is no doubt due to overbuilding on account of the “almighty dollar.” The expression didn’t really make any sense as he applied it, but it came close enough that I knew where he was coming from. It was a refrain heard elsewhere—that wildlife was more plentiful just a few short years ago, and absolutely overwhelming a few decades ago.

Bright pastel colors form the motif for the area. Even the bridge to the mainland is colorful. Exactly how that came to be I do not know, but in Charleston the guide said it evolved so that drunken sailors could find their way back to quarters.

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It is too early in the day to be concerned with sunscreen, and if you are not fair-skinned, you may forsake it even later. People are sauntering, walking, and even jogging along the shore, but the swimmers flitting between the water and the baking sand have not yet made their appearance. Later when they are in the water, dolphins and such will swim right past and even brush against them, unafraid of their presence. Pretty women in swimware, some outfits quite skimpy, will soon appear, too. Of course, I instantly blush and avert my eyes upon spotting one, but it is not easy because they are everywhere and you just turn away from one to see another.

If you are fair-skinned, you do not ignore sunscreen as the day heats up. Sometimes you will spy some newbie bright red as a lobster and it occurs to you to warn him, but you know it is already too late. Besides, there are some people who just will not learn, like Gary from years ago who the first week of camping would be cavorting shirtless in the blazing sun on the volleyball court and his wife would plead with him to put on a shirt—remember last year—and he would ignore her all day long. 24 hours later he would groan and almost cry in agony. “Never, never never again!” But the next year it would be just the same.

I swore that I would never return to this god-forsaken place after that sun broiled me years ago and furthermore that I would saw the state off at the Georgia line and shove it off into the sea, but I relented. It had sort of been my own fault. Our stay had only been three days, and sunscreen hadn’t been handy. Why buy some for just a few spritz’s. Staying in the shade would suffice. But the sun is a crafty devil and it is able to ricochet its rays off the sand and around corners to fry you no matter where you are. Family members own a time share in the area and the allure of an economical vacation is not easily resisted. But it hadn’t helped that on the return trip to reasonable-climated New York, when I just wanted to get home and the quicker the better, the connect flight to Rochester was canceled for some stupid reason and we had to wait for one to Syracuse, and from there catch some silly little puddle-jumper to Rochester. It wasn’t even large enough to run entry ramp to! We had to walk over the tarmac, just like barbarians, and climb the makeshift steps, assisted by a crew member who looked like Tarzan.

At day’s end, I crossed the road from the timeshare, walked the pathway, skirted the estuary to walk along the western gulf shore, and there Mike was again! hobnobbing with another chum—he’s been coming here forever and he knows everyone. He apprised me that sunset wouldn’t be much tonight, just as sunrise had not earlier on. It had turned heavily overcast and there was even occasional lightning way off in the other direction. I walked the shore, expecting no more than the dull pink that he had pointed to behind an oppressive layer of cloud. At the last moment, however, the disk broke free, just long enough to show its entirety before sinking into the sea. Half of you expects the sea to sizzle when it does that, but the other half finds you reminding yourself that it is really the same sun that broiled you just a few hours before. It’s power was clearly spent and you could gaze at it directly without strain. Carl Jung wrote about that once—how it is full of promise at the start, establishes its reign, but then begins its slow descent and ultimate disappearance—and he thought it was a good metaphor for individual life.

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Tribute to an Historian - R M de Vienne

From her sickbed, Rachael de Vienne stirred herself to tell me, through her daughter, that I was wrong. It was just on a tiny supporting fact of a book I was working on and I had only put the fact in so as to give her book a plug. I wasn’t even wrong on the fact—I was wrong on the inference I took from it, she said. I wasn’t even wrong on that, in my opinion. But that’s just it—it was my opinion. ‘Keep your opinions separate from the facts,’ she would have said. ‘There is nothing wrong with drawing inferences, conclusions, and educated guesses. Just label them as such.’ THAT is the kind of historian she was. Sigh—I changed the passage just to suit her, and it probably didn’t.

She wouldn’t review my first book, either, or any of the other ones, though I just asked her to do the first, Tom Irregardless and Me. I mean, I had written a nice review for her book. Finally, with some nagging, she said that she might review mine and asked how I intended to submit it. ‘It’s not done that way,’ she retorted, when I told her. Tweeting with a co-blogger about it, as though on a private phone connection and not a social media platform broadcast to the whole wide world, the co-blogger told her that he wasn’t going to review it, either—‘the first chapter is about Prince, and then in places it is a little “preachy”—not pure fact at all.’ It was too much. I tweeted: “YOU GET ON THAT KEYBOARD AND REVIEW IT RIGHT NOW!” but then had second thoughts and deleted the tweet. See what sort of historians she hung out with?

During her final few months, she interspersed regular tweets with some detailing her illness, at times getting quite graphic, caring not about revealing the personal humiliation you must experience as your own body is betraying you. Imagine—chronicling your own suffering that way—true to her calling to the last. See what sort of an historian she was?

The book that she co-authored with the unwieldy title—as though to make clear that it is scholarly and not a specimen of pop writing—A Separate Identity—Organizational Identity Among Readers of Zion’s Watchtower: 1870-1887’: I admit, I skimmed it. Not through lack of interest—you will never find a more thorough history of non-mainstream events—but through lack of time. I wanted to write a decent and coherent review. I agreed with her (explicitly labeled) speculation that the the reason the Watchtower Society received her completed book without comment after being semi-cooperative in providing source material is that “they are incurious as to their own history.” Yeah. I agree. They are. So am I—I mean, I (and they) am not uninterested—it is just that I am interested in other things more. The ‘Society’ is not rooted in anything, I don’t think. They are progressive. They move on.

Separate Identity is the not the only book that she wrote, and I look forward to curling up to it and others when (more likely if) I ever find the time, because it is excellent, universally praised, except occasionally by some hothead Jehovah’s Witnesses themselves because it does not adhere to the party line—it goes where it goes without regard to who has later been christened hero or villain.

She co-authored a book about Nelson Barbour, too, and this should interest me even more because I once lived about a hundred yards from where he did (also a hundred years). I had written a blog post about Barbour, a well-known “get-outer” preacher of the late 1800s that Charles Taze Russell for a time partnered with, and I observed that there must have been some relationship between he and a well-known Rochester Presbyterian preacher of the same surname, whose wife Elizabeth is listed as ‘excommunicated and expunged’ or words to that effect. Rachael told me that I was wrong on that, too—the two families were entirely separate.

I am not even sure that she liked me, really, but we followed each other on Twitter, and she would occasionally respond to my tweets and even more occasionally initiate some to me. My non-religious semi-serious historical work she let pass with minimal comment. Maybe she was more like my 7th grade social studies teacher, who made everyone literally start every essay paragraph with the phrase in parentheses: “who, what, where, why, how,” so that we would learn to write with substance, and who would say things like ‘Don’t write “In my opinion.” Of course it’s your opinion—you wrote it!’ This doesn’t entirely square with Rachael’s urging, which just goes to show why you mull over all input, but each one must ultimately develop his or her own style.

I always liked it that she found such great comfort from her family, to offset her many years of illness—lifelong, it seems. I miss her. Here is her obit, and the blog lives on in other hands, I believe. You will never find a more rigorous example of niche history, digging up letters, notes, minutia and photos 100 years old.

https://truthhistory.blogspot.com/2019/03/our-princess.html

Let’s end with a review of Separate Identity that says it all. It is reproduced at truthhistory.

“Histories of the early Watch Tower movement tend to fall into two extremes, hagiography and polemic. This is because they are usually written from a range of widely differing theological perspectives, not that of a strict historian. Additionally, they tend to concentrate on the figure of Charles Taze Russell to the virtual exclusion of his contemporaries. This volume redresses that balance, written by two historians with an almost fanatical attention to detail as demonstrated by the voluminous footnotes. They appear to strive hard to keep any personal views out of the picture and go where the evidence takes them. The result is a detailed, even-handed history of Russell and his contemporaries - crucially in the context of their times. Many writers on this subject seem to try and graft 21st century attitudes onto 19th century people, not recognising that the beliefs of Russell and others in the second half of the nineteenth century were often far more mainstream than a modern reader might imagine. Even if one has no direct interest in Russell and what came later from his ministry, several groups today count people like Henry Grew, George Storrs, and John Thomas in their antecedents. These men all feature in this book and, certainly in the case of Storrs, you are unlikely to find as much detailed information on his life and work anywhere else. The writers have previously published a volume on Nelson Barbour: The Millennium’s Forgotten Prophet. That too is well worth reading, although the present volume (that takes history up to 1879) is a stand-alone book.”

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