Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Phantasies, A Case for Vision, Remembrance

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume XII, Issue XXVIII

By George Macdonald, Chapter 22

No one has my form but the I."
~ Schoppe, in Jean Pau's "Titan".

Joy's a subtil elf.
I think man's happiest when he forgets himself."
~ Cyril Tourneur, "The Revenger's Tragedy".

On the third day of my journey, I was riding gently along a road, apparently little frequented, to judge from the grass that grew upon it. I was approaching a forest. Everywhere in Fairy Land forests are the places where one may most certainly expect adventures. As I drew near, a youth, unarmed, gentle, and beautiful, who had just cut a branch from a yew growing on the skirts of the wood, evidently to make himself a bow, met me, and thus accosted me:

Sir knight, be careful as thou ridest through this forest; for it is said to be strangely enchanted, in a sort which even those who have been witnesses of its enchantment can hardly describe."

I thanked him for his advice, which I promised to follow, and rode on. But the moment I entered the wood, it seemed to me that, if enchantment there was, it must be of a good kind; for the Shadow, which had been more than usually dark and distressing, since I had set out on this journey, suddenly disappeared. I felt a wonderful elevation of spirits, and began to reflect on my past life, and especially on my combat with the giants, with such satisfaction, that I had actually to remind myself, that I had only killed one of them; and that, but for the brothers, I should never have had the idea of attacking them, not to mention the smallest power of standing to it. Still I rejoiced, and counted myself amongst the glorious knights of old; having even the unspeakable presumption--my shame and self- condemnation at the memory of it are such, that I write it as the only and sorest penance I can perform--to think of myself (will the world believe it?) as side by side with Sir Galahad! Scarcely had the thought been born in my mind, when, approaching me from the left, through the trees, I espied a resplendent knight, of mighty size, whose armour seemed to shine of itself, without the sun. When he drew near, I was astonished to see that this armour was like my own; nay, I could trace, line for line, the correspondence of the inlaid silver to the device on my own. His horse, too, was like mine in colour, form, and motion; save that, like his rider, he was greater and fiercer than his counterpart. The knight rode with beaver up. As he halted right opposite to me in the narrow path, barring my way, I saw the reflection of my countenance in the centre plate of shining steel on his breastplate. Above it rose the same face--his face--only, as I have said, larger and fiercer. I was bewildered. I could not help feeling some admiration of him, but it was mingled with a dim conviction that he was evil, and that I ought to fight with him.

Let me pass," I said.

When I will," he replied.

Something within me said: "Spear in rest, and ride at him! else thou art for ever a slave."

I tried, but my arm trembled so much, that I could not couch my lance. To tell the truth, I, who had overcome the giant, shook like a coward before this knight. He gave a scornful laugh, that echoed through the wood, turned his horse, and said, without looking round, "Follow me."

I obeyed, abashed and stupefied. How long he led, and how long I followed, I cannot tell. "I never knew misery before," I said to myself. "Would that I had at least struck him, and had had my death-blow in return! Why, then, do I not call to him to wheel and defend himself? Alas! I know not why, but I cannot. One look from him would cow me like a beaten hound." I followed, and was silent.

At length we came to a dreary square tower, in the middle of a dense forest. It looked as if scarce a tree had been cut down to make room for it. Across the very door, diagonally, grew the stem of a tree, so large that there was just room to squeeze past it in order to enter. One miserable square hole in the roof was the only visible suggestion of a window. Turret or battlement, or projecting masonry of any kind, it had none. Clear and smooth and massy, it rose from its base, and ended with a line straight and unbroken. The roof, carried to a centre from each of the four walls, rose slightly to the point where the rafters met. Round the base lay several little heaps of either bits of broken branches, withered and peeled, or half-whitened bones; I could not distinguish which. As I approached, the ground sounded hollow beneath my horse's hoofs. The knight took a great key from his pocket, and reaching past the stem of the tree, with some difficulty opened the door. "Dismount," he commanded. I obeyed. He turned my horse's head away from the tower, gave him a terrible blow with the flat side of his sword, and sent him madly tearing through the forest.

Now," said he, "enter, and take your companion with you."

I looked round: knight and horse had vanished, and behind me lay the horrible shadow. I entered, for I could not help myself; and the shadow followed me. I had a terrible conviction that the knight and he were one. The door closed behind me.

Now I was indeed in pitiful plight. There was literally nothing in the tower but my shadow and me. The walls rose right up to the roof; in which, as I had seen from without, there was one little square opening. This I now knew to be the only window the tower possessed. I sat down on the floor, in listless wretchedness. I think I must have fallen asleep, and have slept for hours; for I suddenly became aware of existence, in observing that the moon was shining through the hole in the roof. As she rose higher and higher, her light crept down the wall over me, till at last it shone right upon my head. Instantaneously the walls of the tower seemed to vanish away like a mist. I sat beneath a beech, on the edge of a forest, and the open country lay, in the moonlight, for miles and miles around me, spotted with glimmering houses and spires and towers. I thought with myself, "Oh, joy! it was only a dream; the horrible narrow waste is gone, and I wake beneath a beech-tree, perhaps one that loves me, and I can go where I will." I rose, as I thought, and walked about, and did what I would, but ever kept near the tree; for always, and, of course, since my meeting with the woman of the beech-tree far more than ever, I loved that tree. So the night wore on. I waited for the sun to rise, before I could venture to renew my journey. But as soon as the first faint light of the dawn appeared, instead of shining upon me from the eye of the morning, it stole like a fainting ghost through the little square hole above my head; and the walls came out as the light grew, and the glorious night was swallowed up of the hateful day. The long dreary day passed. My shadow lay black on the floor. I felt no hunger, no need of food. The night came. The moon shone. I watched her light slowly descending the wall, as I might have watched, adown the sky, the long, swift approach of a helping angel. Her rays touched me, and I was free. Thus night after night passed away. I should have died but for this. Every night the conviction returned, that I was free. Every morning I sat wretchedly disconsolate. At length, when the course of the moon no longer permitted her beams to touch me, the night was dreary as the day.

When I slept, I was somewhat consoled by my dreams; but all the time I dreamed, I knew that I was only dreaming. But one night, at length, the moon, a mere shred of pallor, scattered a few thin ghostly rays upon me; and I think I fell asleep and dreamed. I sat in an autumn night before the vintage, on a hill overlooking my own castle. My heart sprang with joy. Oh, to be a child again, innocent, fearless, without shame or desire! I walked down to the castle. All were in consternation at my absence. My sisters were weeping for my loss. They sprang up and clung to me, with incoherent cries, as I entered. My old friends came flocking round me. A gray light shone on the roof of the hall. It was the light of the dawn shining through the square window of my tower. More earnestly than ever, I longed for freedom after this dream; more drearily than ever, crept on the next wretched day. I measured by the sunbeams, caught through the little window in the trap of my tower, how it went by, waiting only for the dreams of the night.

About noon, I started as if something foreign to all my senses and all my experience, had suddenly invaded me; yet it was only the voice of a woman singing. My whole frame quivered with joy, surprise, and the sensation of the unforeseen. Like a living soul, like an incarnation of Nature, the song entered my prison-house. Each tone folded its wings, and laid itself, like a caressing bird, upon my heart. It bathed me like a sea; inwrapt me like an odorous vapour; entered my soul like a long draught of clear spring-water; shone upon me like essential sunlight; soothed me like a mother's voice and hand. Yet, as the clearest forest-well tastes sometimes of the bitterness of decayed leaves, so to my weary, prisoned heart, its cheerfulness had a sting of cold, and its tenderness unmanned me with the faintness of long-departed joys. I wept half-bitterly, half-luxuriously; but not long. I dashed away the tears, ashamed of a weakness which I thought I had abandoned. Ere I knew, I had walked to the door, and seated myself with my ears against it, in order to catch every syllable of the revelation from the unseen outer world. And now I heard each word distinctly. The singer seemed to be standing or sitting near the tower, for the sounds indicated no change of place. The song was something like this:

The sun, like a golden knot on high,
Gathers the glories of the sky,
And binds them into a shining tent,
Roofing the world with the firmament.
And through the pavilion the rich winds blow,
And through the pavilion the waters go.
And the birds for joy, and the trees for prayer,
Bowing their heads in the sunny air,
And for thoughts, the gently talking springs,
That come from the centre with secret things--
All make a music, gentle and strong,
Bound by the heart into one sweet song.
And amidst them all, the mother Earth
Sits with the children of her birth;
She tendeth them all, as a mother hen
Her little ones round her, twelve or ten:
Oft she sitteth, with hands on knee,
Idle with love for her family.
Go forth to her from the dark and the dust,
And weep beside her, if weep thou must;
If she may not hold thee to her breast,
Like a weary infant, that cries for rest
At least she will press thee to her knee,
And tell a low, sweet tale to thee,
Till the hue to thy cheeky and the light to thine eye,
Strength to thy limbs, and courage high
To thy fainting heart, return amain,
And away to work thou goest again.
From the narrow desert, O man of pride,
Come into the house, so high and wide.

Hardly knowing what I did, I opened the door. Why had I not done so before? I do not know.

At first I could see no one; but when I had forced myself past the tree which grew across the entrance, I saw, seated on the ground, and leaning against the tree, with her back to my prison, a beautiful woman. Her countenance seemed known to me, and yet unknown. She looked at me and smiled, when I made my appearance.

Ah! were you the prisoner there? I am very glad I have wiled you out."

Do you know me then?"

Do you not know me? But you hurt me, and that, I suppose, makes it easy for a man to forget. You broke my globe. Yet I thank you. Perhaps I owe you many thanks for breaking it. I took the pieces, all black, and wet with crying over them, to the Fairy Queen. There was no music and no light in them now. But she took them from me, and laid them aside; and made me go to sleep in a great hall of white, with black pillars, and many red curtains. When I woke in the morning, I went to her, hoping to have my globe again, whole and sound; but she sent me away without it, and I have not seen it since. Nor do I care for it now. I have something so much better. I do not need the globe to play to me; for I can sing. I could not sing at all before. Now I go about everywhere through Fairy Land, singing till my heart is like to break, just like my globe, for very joy at my own songs. And wherever I go, my songs do good, and deliver people. And now I have delivered you, and I am so happy."

She ceased, and the tears came into her eyes.

All this time, I had been gazing at her; and now fully recognised the face of the child, glorified in the countenance of the woman.

I was ashamed and humbled before her; but a great weight was lifted from my thoughts. I knelt before her, and thanked her, and begged her to forgive me.

Rise, rise," she said; "I have nothing to forgive; I thank you. But now I must be gone, for I do not know how many may be waiting for me, here and there, through the dark forests; and they cannot come out till I come."

She rose, and with a smile and a farewell, turned and left me. I dared not ask her to stay; in fact, I could hardly speak to her. Between her and me, there was a great gulf. She was uplifted, by sorrow and well-doing, into a region I could hardly hope ever to enter. I watched her departure, as one watches a sunset. She went like a radiance through the dark wood, which was henceforth bright to me, from simply knowing that such a creature was in it.

She was bearing the sun to the unsunned spots. The light and the music of her broken globe were now in her heart and her brain. As she went, she sang; and I caught these few words of her song; and the tones seemed to linger and wind about the trees after she had disappeared:

Thou goest thine, and I go mine--
Many ways we wend;
Many days, and many ways,
Ending in one end.

Many a wrong, and its curing song;
Many a road, and many an inn;
Room to roam, but only one home
For all the world to win.

And so she vanished. With a sad heart, soothed by humility, and the knowledge of her peace and gladness, I bethought me what now I should do. First, I must leave the tower far behind me, lest, in some evil moment, I might be once more caged within its horrible walls. But it was ill walking in my heavy armour; and besides I had now no right to the golden spurs and the resplendent mail, fitly dulled with long neglect. I might do for a squire; but I honoured knighthood too highly, to call myself any longer one of the noble brotherhood. I stripped off all my armour, piled it under the tree, just where the lady had been seated, and took my unknown way, eastward through the woods. Of all my weapons, I carried only a short axe in my hand.

Then first I knew the delight of being lowly; of saying to myself, "I am what I am, nothing more." "I have failed," I said, "I have lost myself--would it had been my shadow." I looked round: the shadow was nowhere to be seen. Ere long, I learned that it was not myself, but only my shadow, that I had lost. I learned that it is better, a thousand-fold, for a proud man to fall and be humbled, than to hold up his head in his pride and fancied innocence. I learned that he that will be a hero, will barely be a man; that he that will be nothing but a doer of his work, is sure of his manhood. In nothing was my ideal lowered, or dimmed, or grown less precious; I only saw it too plainly, to set myself for a moment beside it. Indeed, my ideal soon became my life; whereas, formerly, my life had consisted in a vain attempt to behold, if not my ideal in myself, at least myself in my ideal. Now, however, I took, at first, what perhaps was a mistaken pleasure, in despising and degrading myself. Another self seemed to arise, like a white spirit from a dead man, from the dumb and trampled self of the past. Doubtless, this self must again die and be buried, and again, from its tomb, spring a winged child; but of this my history as yet bears not the record.

Self will come to life even in the slaying of self; but there is ever something deeper and stronger than it, which will emerge at last from the unknown abysses of the soul: will it be as a solemn gloom, burning with eyes? or a clear morning after the rain? or a smiling child, that finds itself nowhere, and everywhere?
(to be continued)

Stones of Remembrance
Short Story by Bob Kirchman

Did I ever tell you the story about my Great Grandfather?” Rupert Zimmerman said casually to Pastor Jon Greene as they sat in Green’s office in the little chapel on Big Diomede.

The two often talked regularly now after the events on the great Bering Strait Bridge that had taken a driver’s life and had cemented Zimmerman’s decision to put his faith in one far greater than himself. The way the story was often retold by Zimmerman’s descendants, the transformation had been a complete and sudden one. Again, the real story moves a lot slower. Zimmerman himself had moved on from frequent dinner guest to disciple. In Jon Greene’s wildest dreams he never thought that the business of multiplying faithful followers of Jesus Christ would include the ruthless builder of bridges, but that it did. Healing Zimmerman’s war wounds took a long time. The battle of Anchorage and a kidnapping on the Taiga had left raw open wounds in the man that Zimmerman himself thought impossible to heal.

But at Greene’s insistence, Rupert opened doors he feared to open. It was there that he met his own Great Grandfather who would become a part of his own journey.

My Great Grandfather Tolbert Saunders Dalton was born in Robertson County, Tennessee, close to Nashville. He was seventeen When the War between the States started. He joined the 49th Regiment of Tennessee Volunteers and had a long and distinguished career as a soldier. He saw many battles, some of them quite fierce, and the sight and sound of men dying around him led him to preach the Gospel. By the light of many a campfire, my Great Grandfather shared the simple message of redemption in Christ.

He served under General Nathan B. Forrest and saw action in some of the battles for control of the Mississippi. When Union troops advanced on Memphis, preparing to attack at dawn the next day, General Forrest was outnumbered ten to one. He did not have the artillery to protect the city, but he did have at his disposal a fair number of farm wagons and many willing workers like young Dalton, who had lied about his age to join the army. All night long, the boys hollowed out the ends of tree trunks and blacked them to look like cannon. Then each ‘cannon’ was positioned on a set of wagon wheels. The faux cannon were positioned for maximum effect along the banks of the river and then General Forrest demanded surrender! In a dangerous bluff Forrest’s 300 men captured 3,000 would-be attackers.

Tolbert Dalton was later assigned to spy duty. He once carried a message to General Forrest through enemy lines by pretending to be a deaf and dumb farm boy. Seeing an unexpected checkpoint, he quickly stuffed the message in his mouth and made signs to the soldiers. He was quick-minded enough to sign for clarification when one of the soldiers said “go ahead.”

Wounded in action, Dalton spent several months out of action and then joined the Seventh Kentucky Volunteers. In one battle the flag was shot down and young Tolbert rose to replant it in the breastworks. When it was shot down again, Dalton rallied the troops by standing to hold the flag in place. Enemy fire ripped his shirt but miraculously he was unscathed. His courage under fire earned him the rank of Major. The experience affirmed G-d’s calling in the young soldier’s heart. When the war was over, Dalton went to Medical School and became a doctor but the needs of men’s souls called him to the work that had begun around the campfires of his regiment. Preaching became Dalton’s sole vocation and he eventually settled in the town of Stanley in Page County, Virginia. One of my most treasured possessions is a copy of Wilmore’s New Analytical Reference Bible that my Grandfather once used.

I kept it solely as a connection point to my past, but after my discipleship began, it became so much more. After the war, Dalton sought to bind the nation’s wounds, but his journey took him beyond physical healing to the spiritual. Reading his war experiences and his subsequent “Life and Labors of a Poor Sinner,” I saw how his Citizenship had been transferred again. He was now not longer a Tennessean or a Virginian, or a Confederate, but a man of the Kingdom of Heaven. That is what propelled the best season of the man’s life.

But there was more to Dalton’s life than one might imagine. He became a minister of G-d and raised eight children! Probably the most interesting of these was his son, Tolbert Percy Dalton, known as ‘Jack’ who played professional baseball in Detroit from 1910 to 1916. He mysteriously vanished on July 4, 1948, from Catonsville, Maryland, while walking to a church service. Speculation abounded as to what happened to him. We all suspected that he had gone to Alaska to seek his fortune or something like that. “G-d has no Grandchildren,” and I suspect it was too much to follow in the old man’s footsteps. Years later we learned that he had died of a heart attack in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania two years after he disappeared.” Rupert went on to examine how a life that G-d used was not always something that read as a beautiful novel. Life did not always make sense… but the comfort was always that there was more to life… always, than what you could see.

It was growing late. The work of two great bridge builders pressed upon them. The man who brought together continents embraced the man who brought together men and the Kingdom. The conversation would be continued.


A powerful scene alludes to an even more powerful reality.

The Doctor: Between you and me, in a hundred words, where do you think Van Gogh rates in the history of art?

Curator: Well... um... big question, but, to me Van Gogh is the finest painter of them all. Certainly the most popular, great painter of all time. The most beloved, his command of colour most magnificent. He transformed the pain of his tormented life into ecstatic beauty. Pain is easy to portray, but to use your passion and pain to portray the ecstasy and joy and magnificence of our world, no one had ever done it before. Perhaps no one ever will again. To my mind, that strange, wild man who roamed the fields of Provence was not only the world's greatest artist, but also one of the greatest men who ever lived.

And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.”
-- Revelation 21:3-5

Worldview is everything. In Christ we have the one who actually transforms the pain and torment of this life into something beautiful. Here is a great truth that is beyond our understanding, yet the Divine Himself is the Master who completes the tapestries of our lives… inverting them to reveal His beautiful hand. This is a beautiful story, but may I suggest that it is beautiful because we yearn for what the Doctor and Amy were able to show Vincent and it is beautiful because Christ promises to show us the same. From C. S. Lewis and George MacDonald we learn that great story conveys great truth. Lewis shows us that those longings in us that this world cannot fulfill point to the fact that we were created for a better world.

History is not quite kind to Van Gogh, in fact the brief version often leaves you the memory of his madness. Yet here are some thoughts from the man himself. I think he is worthy of some study:

I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.”

If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”

Love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is done well.”

I wanted to know more, and in researching this I discovered William Havlicek, Ph. D , who wrote “Van Gogh’s Untold Journey” (Creative Storytellers). I knew that Van Gogh had some Faith because I had used a quote of his about church steeples a while ago. What I didn’t realize was the depth of his Faith.

Havlicek points out that the current drive by the academy toward secularization makes Van Gogh’s Faith practically unknown. Yet the man himself sought to serve God with his art: “…to try to understand the real significance of what the great artists, the serious masters, tell us in their masterpieces, that leads to God. One man wrote or told it in a book, another in a picture.” 

And about his relationship with prostitute, Sien Hoornik, consider the man’s own writing: “I met a pregnant woman, deserted by the man whose child she carried. A pregnant woman who had to walk the streets in winter, had to earn her bread, you understand how, I took this woman for a model and have worked with her all winter. I could not pay her the full wages of a model, but that did not prevent my paying her rent, and, thank God, so far I have been able to protect her and her child from hunger and cold by sharing my own bread with her.”

Van Gogh struggled to support himself, but he was generous to a fault.

And about that suicide, Havlicek says that there is strong evidence that some boys were target shooting nearby and accidentally hit him. That he would not accuse them was entirely in line with his character. “He had a very sacrificial aspect to his personality. There were several times in his life when he took the blame for someone else.”

He loved Christ enormously at the end of his life,” Havlicek says. “He said Christ alone among all the magi and wise men offered men eternal life. In spite of a broken life, something glorious emerged.”

Vincent van Gogh’s Unappreciated
Journey with Christ
By Mark Ellis

[click to read]

A record 1.2 million visitors came to the giant retrospective of Van Gogh’s work in Amsterdam in 1990, which coincided with the 100th anniversary of the Dutch post-Impressionist’s death. What visitors did not see at that major exhibition were van Gogh’s Christian-themed paintings, which were left in the basement of the museum. (read more)

The Red Vineyards near Arles is an oil painting by the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, executed on a privately primed Toile de 30 piece of burlap in early November 1888. It is reported to be the only piece sold by the artist while he was alive. Savhanna Herndon

“I don’t hide from you that I don’t detest the countryside — having been brought up there, snatches of memories from past times, yearnings for that infinite of which the Sower, the sheaf, are the symbols, still enchant me as before.” (Letter 628 to his friend and painter Émile Bernard, on or about June 19, 1888).

Vincent Van Gogh, Le semeur (The Sower), Mid-June 1888. Oil on canvas, 64 x 80,5 cm. Kröller-Müller Museum,The Netherlands

Blue Spruce in Snow. Photo by Bob Kirchman

A Case for Vision IX
© 2017 The Kirchman Studio.

So why do nations fail? While a case can be made for institutional integrity, it is also clear that simply transplanting working institutions (such as the U. S. Constitution) into other societies does not necessarily guarantee success. Post-Colonial Africa testifies starkly to this, as do the wreckages of a succession of Socialist Utopia/Dystopias. If better institutions can be constructed, what are they to be made of? Acemoglu and Robinson argue for good institutions, but cannot tell us what the foundations should be. Even those who would argue that the "American" solution is the right one need to confont the reality of America today. America is in Decline. As her leaders saddle her with $17 Trillion in debt, she becomes increasingly weaker as an agent for providing for the basic security of the society. Her leaders are content to entrust our energy production to unfriendly regimes in the Middle-East, our financial and manufacturing security to unfriendly regimes in Asia and our physical security to a despot-heavy United Nations. How did we get to this point? In this conclusion to the series: A Case for Vision, we will look at some possible reasons.

As America grew increasingly secure in its prosperity, it turned its energies increasingly towards a 'consumer mentality.' Note that this is in stark contrast to the earlier mindset that America was to be a blessing to the rest of the world. The drive to send missionaries, provide clean water and cure disease took a back seat to building bigger houses and bigger televisions. Now we could outsource our manufacturing, enjoying more and cheaper goods. No longer would we have to live next to 'dirty' old factories. They could be converted into trendy botiques, lofts and coffee shops. Sadly, those jobs they created went away too! No worry!, everyone can go to college now. The problem is that the Professional sector grows only insofar as it is the supportive branch of the creation of real productivity. No problem. After college you can work/hang out in the trendy coffee shop. Gratification became a larger motivating force than the securing of Faith and Freedom. The Mall and the Multiplex Theater replaced the church and the armory at the center of the commons. Manufacturing centers could be re-purposed as shopping areas too. Religion diminished as a force for living everyday life, becoming an inspirational hour for refreshment rather than a challenge to be lived throughout the week. Hillary Clinton carefully crafted her own description of Religious Freedom to narrowly define it as the 'private practice of Faith.' Her description actually perscribes its exclusion from the public square! [1.]

Next came a sense of 'entitlement.' How else do you explain unmarried Georgetown University student Sandra Fluke DEMANDING that her school, a Faith institution run by the Jesuits, provide HER with recreational contraceptives? [2.] That she was invited to speak at the Democrat Convention and now is exploring a run for Congress speaks volumes to this new sense of 'entitlement!' There is something fundamentally wrong here... far more than the economic reality that she, as a law student, can anticipate far more income than I will ever see. She does not NEED Georgetown University to provide her with recreational contraceptives. The real travesty is that while the church is being told that it has no place in the commons, those in the commons are all to eager to place such limitations and demands on the house of Faith! A major retailer, a major furniture manufacturer and a chicken sandwich restaurant who seek to live their faith in the marketplace are all under attack. This is not an accident. The inclination of mankind towards morality has been repackaged in electric cars, cloth grocery bags and tilting at the windmill of 'Global Warming.' Stewardship of the earth, a noble thing in and of itself, can attain the status of civil Religion. Traditional Religion can get out of the way of our pursuit of Hedonism. Why should we cry out to G-d if we can make government our provider?

Finally, there is a wrongly placed national pride. This is the arrogant assertion that we somehow no longer need to rely on Divine Providence, humbly petitioning Heaven for our daily bread. We can do it all ourselves if we somehow correctly organize the commons. Thus we eschew the functions of Faith and Defense rightly performed in the commons as the commons takes upon itself to do the work of G-d! But what is the result? May I suggest it is nothing but a high-tech serfdom. Because 'we' can change the climate, we will do so by strangling the very engines of industry and ingenuity that have actually improved man's stewardship of the world (actually we've simply placed our manufacturing offshore. Our 'clean' Priuses receiving toxic batteries from a Chinese factory that would not meet the standards of our own EPA). [3.] We come to the conclusion that 'we' must alone end Acquired Immune Deficiency and balance the temperature of the planet. We will pay carbon taxes to despot regimes while stifling the energy production that will free us to advance to the next generation of propulsion! We forget the wisdom of Samuel Morse, who telegraphed: "What hath G-d Wrought?" upon the successful operation of the telegraph. We forget humility.

And yet, if you are reading this, you might realize that we might indeed pursue a better course. We might look to Bless future generations rather than feather our own nests. We might pursue our science with humble faith as opposed to arrogance, looking to a G-d who I believe is all too eager to reveal new secrets to trustworthy men and women. We might, as we realize the roots of our prosperity, seek to share those roots with our fellow man. We will not kick against Constitutions that limit institutions, seeing that the limitless resource of Divine Revelation can indeed fuel our aspirations. What drew me to Asmus and Gruden's work was their optimism in presenting a universally implementable strategy for improving the human condition. What compelled me to write this series was the burning sense that I was holding in my hands a map, if you will, showing the location of treasure far greater than the Count of Monte Cristo's map to the lost treasure of Sparta. Like the old priest, I want to press it into the hands of someone who will use it for good.

Crocus 1
Spring Crocus. Photo by Bob Kirchman.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Phantasies, A Case for Vision, Bay Bridge Tunnel

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume XII, Issue XXVII

By George MacDonald, Chapter 21

I put my life in my hands."
--The Book of Judges.

At length, with much toil and equal delight, our armour was finished. We armed each other, and tested the strength of the defence, with many blows of loving force. I was inferior in strength to both my brothers, but a little more agile than either; and upon this agility, joined to precision in hitting with the point of my weapon, I grounded my hopes of success in the ensuing combat. I likewise laboured to develop yet more the keenness of sight with which I was naturally gifted; and, from the remarks of my companions, I soon learned that my endeavours were not in vain.

The morning arrived on which we had determined to make the attempt, and succeed or perish--perhaps both. We had resolved to fight on foot; knowing that the mishap of many of the knights who had made the attempt, had resulted from the fright of their horses at the appearance of the giants; and believing with Sir Gawain, that, though mare's sons might be false to us, the earth would never prove a traitor. But most of our preparations were, in their immediate aim at least, frustrated.

We rose, that fatal morning, by daybreak. We had rested from all labour the day before, and now were fresh as the lark. We bathed in cold spring water, and dressed ourselves in clean garments, with a sense of preparation, as for a solemn festivity. When we had broken our fast, I took an old lyre, which I had found in the tower and had myself repaired, and sung for the last time the two ballads of which I have said so much already. I followed them with this, for a closing song:

Oh, well for him who breaks his dream
With the blow that ends the strife
And, waking, knows the peace that flows
Around the pain of life!

We are dead, my brothers! Our bodies clasp,
As an armour, our souls about;
This hand is the battle-axe I grasp,
And this my hammer stout.

Fear not, my brothers, for we are dead;
No noise can break our rest;
The calm of the grave is about the head,
And the heart heaves not the breast.

And our life we throw to our people back,
To live with, a further store;
We leave it them, that there be no lack
In the land where we live no more.

Oh, well for him who breaks his dream
With the blow that ends the strife
And, waking, knows the peace that flows
Around the noise of life!

As the last few tones of the instrument were following, like a dirge, the death of the song, we all sprang to our feet. For, through one of the little windows of the tower, towards which I had looked as I sang, I saw, suddenly rising over the edge of the slope on which our tower stood, three enormous heads. The brothers knew at once, by my looks, what caused my sudden movement. We were utterly unarmed, and there was no time to arm.

But we seemed to adopt the same resolution simultaneously; for each caught up his favourite weapon, and, leaving his defence behind, sprang to the door. I snatched up a long rapier, abruptly, but very finely pointed, in my sword-hand, and in the other a sabre; the elder brother seized his heavy battle-axe; and the younger, a great, two-handed sword, which he wielded in one hand like a feather. We had just time to get clear of the tower, embrace and say good-bye, and part to some little distance, that we might not encumber each other's motions, ere the triple giant-brotherhood drew near to attack us. They were about twice our height, and armed to the teeth. Through the visors of their helmets their monstrous eyes shone with a horrible ferocity. I was in the middle position, and the middle giant approached me. My eyes were busy with his armour, and I was not a moment in settling my mode of attack. I saw that his body-armour was somewhat clumsily made, and that the overlappings in the lower part had more play than necessary; and I hoped that, in a fortunate moment, some joint would open a little, in a visible and accessible part. I stood till he came near enough to aim a blow at me with the mace, which has been, in all ages, the favourite weapon of giants, when, of course, I leaped aside, and let the blow fall upon the spot where I had been standing. I expected this would strain the joints of his armour yet more. Full of fury, he made at me again; but I kept him busy, constantly eluding his blows, and hoping thus to fatigue him. He did not seem to fear any assault from me, and I attempted none as yet; but while I watched his motions in order to avoid his blows, I, at the same time, kept equal watch upon those joints of his armour, through some one of which I hoped to reach his life. At length, as if somewhat fatigued, he paused a moment, and drew himself slightly up; I bounded forward, foot and hand, ran my rapier right through to the armour of his back, let go the hilt, and passing under his right arm, turned as he fell, and flew at him with my sabre. At one happy blow I divided the band of his helmet, which fell off, and allowed me, with a second cut across the eyes, to blind him quite; after which I clove his head, and turned, uninjured, to see how my brothers had fared. Both the giants were down, but so were my brothers. I flew first to the one and then to the other couple. Both pairs of combatants were dead, and yet locked together, as in the death-struggle. The elder had buried his battle-axe in the body of his foe, and had fallen beneath him as he fell. The giant had strangled him in his own death-agonies. The younger had nearly hewn off the left leg of his enemy; and, grappled with in the act, had, while they rolled together on the earth, found for his dagger a passage betwixt the gorget and cuirass of the giant, and stabbed him mortally in the throat. The blood from the giant's throat was yet pouring over the hand of his foe, which still grasped the hilt of the dagger sheathed in the wound. They lay silent. I, the least worthy, remained the sole survivor in the lists.

As I stood exhausted amidst the dead, after the first worthy deed of my life, I suddenly looked behind me, and there lay the Shadow, black in the sunshine. I went into the lonely tower, and there lay the useless armour of the noble youths--supine as they.

Ah, how sad it looked! It was a glorious death, but it was death. My songs could not comfort me now. I was almost ashamed that I was alive, when they, the true-hearted, were no more. And yet I breathed freer to think that I had gone through the trial, and had not failed. And perhaps I may be forgiven, if some feelings of pride arose in my bosom, when I looked down on the mighty form that lay dead by my hand.

After all, however," I said to myself, and my heart sank, "it was only skill. Your giant was but a blunderer."

I left the bodies of friends and foes, peaceful enough when the death-fight was over, and, hastening to the country below, roused the peasants. They came with shouting and gladness, bringing waggons to carry the bodies. I resolved to take the princes home to their father, each as he lay, in the arms of his country's foe. But first I searched the giants, and found the keys of their castle, to which I repaired, followed by a great company of the people. It was a place of wonderful strength. I released the prisoners, knights and ladies, all in a sad condition, from the cruelties and neglects of the giants. It humbled me to see them crowding round me with thanks, when in truth the glorious brothers, lying dead by their lonely tower, were those to whom the thanks belonged. I had but aided in carrying out the thought born in their brain, and uttered in visible form before ever I laid hold thereupon. Yet I did count myself happy to have been chosen for their brother in this great dead.

After a few hours spent in refreshing and clothing the prisoners, we all commenced our journey towards the capital. This was slow at first; but, as the strength and spirits of the prisoners returned, it became more rapid; and in three days we reached the palace of the king. As we entered the city gates, with the huge bulks lying each on a waggon drawn by horses, and two of them inextricably intertwined with the dead bodies of their princes, the people raised a shout and then a cry, and followed in multitudes the solemn procession.

I will not attempt to describe the behaviour of the grand old king. Joy and pride in his sons overcame his sorrow at their loss. On me he heaped every kindness that heart could devise or hand execute. He used to sit and question me, night after night, about everything that was in any way connected with them and their preparations. Our mode of life, and relation to each other, during the time we spent together, was a constant theme. He entered into the minutest details of the construction of the armour, even to a peculiar mode of riveting some of the plates, with unwearying interest. This armour I had intended to beg of the king, as my sole memorials of the contest; but, when I saw the delight he took in contemplating it, and the consolation it appeared to afford him in his sorrow, I could not ask for it; but, at his request, left my own, weapons and all, to be joined with theirs in a trophy, erected in the grand square of the palace. The king, with gorgeous ceremony, dubbed me knight with his own old hand, in which trembled the sword of his youth.

During the short time I remained, my company was, naturally, much courted by the young nobles. I was in a constant round of gaiety and diversion, notwithstanding that the court was in mourning. For the country was so rejoiced at the death of the giants, and so many of their lost friends had been restored to the nobility and men of wealth, that the gladness surpassed the grief. "Ye have indeed left your lives to your people, my great brothers!" I said.

But I was ever and ever haunted by the old shadow, which I had not seen all the time that I was at work in the tower. Even in the society of the ladies of the court, who seemed to think it only their duty to make my stay there as pleasant to me as possible, I could not help being conscious of its presence, although it might not be annoying me at the time. At length, somewhat weary of uninterrupted pleasure, and nowise strengthened thereby, either in body or mind, I put on a splendid suit of armour of steel inlaid with silver, which the old king had given me, and, mounting the horse on which it had been brought to me, took my leave of the palace, to visit the distant city in which the lady dwelt, whom the elder prince had loved. I anticipated a sore task, in conveying to her the news of his glorious fate: but this trial was spared me, in a manner as strange as anything that had happened to me in Fairy Land.
(to be continued)

The Zero Milestone
Washington DC

Washington Adventure
Photo by Bob Kirchman

In 1791 the Washington Zero Meridian was established by Andrew Ellicott (1754-1820) in laying out the streets and lots of the City of Washington in the District of Columbia according to the plan of Pierre L'Enfant. The Washington prime meridian (0° 0') is drawn through the site of the proposed Capitol, 77° 00' 33".533 west of Greenwich, England. An east-west line, also passing through the Capitol, was established at the same time.

In 1804, a new Washington meridian was established through the center of the White House that extends north on contemporary 16th Street (source of the names for Meridian Hill and Meridian House, headquarters of the Association of American Geographers). The intersection of this second Washington meridian and Ellicott's east-west baseline is delineated with a stone marker. Although the original marker is subsequently altered, the Jefferson Pier, as it comes to be known, continues to delineate the site today. It serves as a Federal Base Network point (the geodetic control point with the highest level of accuracy in the District of Columbia) and is located 371 feet west and 123 feet north of the center of the Washington Monument. The location of this second Washington meridian is also delineated by The Zero Milestone located between the White House and the Washington Monument, which is established in the 1920s to serve as the point from which highway distances from Washington, D.C. are measured. It provides a contemporary rendering of the Itinerary Column originally proposed by Pierre L'Enfant to measure distances from the capital city to other portions of the continent. The White House-centered meridian, along with a third one established in the 1840s at the Old Naval Observatory, serve as zero meridians for numerous American maps throughout the first half of the nineteenth century. Zero meridian lines are established for mapping purposes elsewhere in the United States-Boston, Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Charlestown, South Carolina among other locales. The United States Congress on September 28, 1850 officially adopted the Old Naval Observatory as the national meridian for astronomical purposes and well-known meridian at Greenwich, England for nautical purposes. (see International Prime Meridian Conference entry at 1884) [Joseph Hyde Pratt. American Prime Meridians. Geographical Review 32 (1942): 233-244; Matthew H. Edney. Cartographic Culture and Nationalism in the Early United States: Benjamin Vaughan and the Choice for a Prime Meridian. Journal of Historical Geography 4 (1994): 384-395.

Documented History (by the NGS)

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel
Building a Modern Wonder
[Click to Read More]



This unique engineering marvel employed some new and unusual construction techniques. (read more)

The San Francisco Bay Bridge
 Earthquake-proofing the World's Busiest Bridge

A Floral Legacy II
The Springhill Hollyhocks


If we learn something, we change our own life. When we teach something, we change another’s life, but when we teach people to teach, we change the world.” --Jim Stovall, The Gift of a Legacy




Photos by Bob Kirchman

The Springhill Hollyhocks [click to read] are a wonderful legacy that return every year to brighten a busy street corner.

Staunton Colour
Paintings Capture a European Flair

Flowers at Ox Eye
'Flowers at Ox Eye,' Painting by Savhanna Herndon

Red Chairs
'Red Chairs,' Painting by Bob Kirchman

Staunton, Virginia is a small city with an unusually rich architectural heritage. Here painters Savhanna Herndon and Bob Kirchman capture the almost European flavor of the Ox Eye Vineyards Tasting Room. These are quick paintings that were done at a Plein Air event in the city.

The Church in Auvers sur Oise
View from the Chevet, Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh

Next week, THYME will take a look at the life and work of this amazing painter. Be sure to look for 'The Van Gogh You Don't Know!'

This 1" = 500' model is of a major ski resort.

A Case for Vision VIII
© 2017 The Kirchman Studio.

What model best advances a society? What will propel us to new frontiers in creativity and to meet the needs of humankind most effectively? Again, history provides examples to learn from. We know intuitively that the American Revolution didn't happen in a vacuum. We know that John Locke's writings provided a model for Jefferson, but like any great work there is more to its creation than first meets the eye. If one takes a magnifying glass and looks closely, what might we learn? Before Bristol could revitalize itself, before the good of eliminating slavery could be accomplished that would necessitate Bristol's revitalization, there was profound societal change that would usher it in. In their book The Poverty of Nations [click to read] Wayne Grudem and Barry Asmus present the story behind the story, as it were. In 1688 England experienced its Glorious Revolution, where leaders of Parliament asked William of Orange to invade England and take the throne from James II. With an army of fifteen thousand Dutch soldiers, William overthrew James II who did not even resist his removal. The Glorious Revolution had the effect of limiting the king's power while vesting the power to govern in Parliament. Here we have a representative body assume real power and a firm check against absolute monarchy. The result was a greater pluralism in representation and what Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson hail as: "the world's first set of inclusive political institutions" in their book: Why Nations Fail. [1.]

William of Orange had been schooled in the thought of the Reformation. That Revolution, though many think of it as 'merely' spiritual, actually caused a paradigm shift in the culture as men and women were encouraged to pursue relationship with the Divine through each one's reading of the Scripture. The result was that personal literacy was encouraged, education flourished and everyone in the society was now able to work with new ideas. Jewish culture already encouraged such individual study and those cities in Europe who encouraged their Jewish communities rather than surpress them enjoyed the fruits of inventiveness and industry as well. Conversely, those who's cultures maintained the creative sector in the hands of a powerful few often surpressed this wonderful culture of creativity. The pograms of Czarist Russia and the Inquisition of Spain ultimately had the effect of squelching the healthy freedom of inquiry and exchange of ideas that propelled Post-reformation Northern Europe forward. Religious Freedom was a necessary byproduct of Reformation. It did come into being in at least limited form in some countries of Northern Europe. The desire for Religious Freedom spurred a number of diverse Faith communities to come to the new world. New England's Pilgrims and Maryland's Catholics sought it. The Anabaptists and the Presbyterians who crossed Virginia's Blue Ridge did as well. [2.]

The advancement of human freedoms seen in the Eighteenth Century might well be seen in the light of the quest for Religious Freedom. The First Amendment of our Constitution, if you read it in its entirety (not just, as some do, for the 'Establishment' clause), places Religious Freedom as a basic right and prohibits government from infringing upon it. It is a 'Negative Liberty' to be sure, but an essential one. The First Amendment also protects thought and speech from government 'oversight.' That is why the recent selective enforcement actions of the Internal Revenue Service are so unconstitutional. In surpressing Conservative and Religious speech they have become an agency of the government to trample on a hard-won expression of a basic human right! [3.]

Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children. And let the beauty of the Lord our G-d be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it." -- Psalm 94:16, 17

In 1776, more than a hundred years after the Glorious Revolution, Adam Smith wrote in An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations: "That security, which the laws of Great Britian give to every man that he shall enjoy the fruits of his own labor, is alone sufficient to make any country flourish. The natural effort of every individual to better his own condition, when suffered to exert itself with freedom and security, is so powerful a principle, that it alone, and without any assistance, not only is capable of carrying on the society of wealth and prosperity but of surmounting a hundred impertinent obstructions with which the folly of human laws too often encumbers its operations; though the effect of these obstructions is always more or less either to encroach upon its freedom or to diminish its security. In Great Britain industry is perfectly secure; and though it is far from being perfectly free, it is as free or freer than in any other part of Europe."  [4.] The Eighteenth Century saw the results of mankind loosed from the bonds of serfdom where he toiled under the oversight of a Lord for protection and also loosed from the constraints of the 'Divine Right of Kings,' also a supposed provider of protection. The grim reality was that such 'protection' included the obligation to fight in the king's wars, be they righteous or capricious. Meno Simonsz had resisted this policy and he and his followers endured much persecution for it. [5.]

The American Experiment owes much to the migration of persecuted Religious people to her shores. The Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts and proceeded to build their community. At first they held all things in the commons, no doubt seeing it necesary to be unified in carving out a new life in the frontier, but after a disasterous start this changed. William Bradford assigned each family their own plot of ground and since everyone 'owned' his productivity; productivity soared. The starvation and lackluster participation of some citizens in the common agriculture was changed as each man pushed his own farm to thrive. [6.] The new model, seen in the Jamestown colony as well, placed the armory in the commons but placed industry in private hands. Now a man had incentive to learn better methods, since he and his family would literally reap the benefits. This was not so much 'rugged individualism' as modern writers often surmise, but a cooperation of free individuals each pursuing their own industry, but coming together to protect themselves from common threats and coming together to bring in their bountiful harvests. Next to the armory, in the center of the commons, was the church. Faith was even more essential than dry powder for the security of the community.

When the Moravians setled in the Piedmont of North Carolina to peacefully farm, they built the town of Bethabara. At the center of Bethabara was the Gemeinhaus, where the Moravians met for worship. There was a bell that was rung several times a day to remind the faithful to pray. Bethabara was never attacked by Native Americans and in fact developed good relationships with the surrounding tribes. They later learned that hostile factions in those tribes had indeed organized a number of attacks on Bethabara in its earlier days. Sneaking up on the little community they had assumed they had been scouted out when they heard the ringing of the village bell and they rapidly reatreated! The Moravians, in fact, long enjoyed good relations with nations like the Cherokee, since single Moravians lived as a longhouse people, much as the Native Americans. There was, in fact, a large Moravian Cherokee settlement in the pre-removal era. Sadly, they were massacred in the buildup to the Cherokee Removal. The Moravians became for a time a major force in world evangelism, living the promise of the Gospel among people around the globe. [7.]

Acemoglu and Robinson note that some institutions produce great freedom and advancement while others do not. They seem to argue that institutions can be perfected but are at a loss as to how this actually happens. In the Nineteen-sixties nations around the world seemed poised to participate in the American Experiment. Colonialism was coming to an end. In African nations freed from colonialism. Beautiful African delegates in traditional robes met in gleaming new assembly halls as they proudly presided over an entire Continent emerging from Colonialism. The U. S. Constitution was frequently used as a model as these nations set a new course. National Geographic photos and articles from the period paint the picture of a bright future emerging. But as Uganda, once the 'Pearl of Africa' sank into horrible despotism; tribalism intermixed with 'anticolonial' Marxist politics resulting in the wholesale slaughter of millions; much of Africa descended into a new Post-Colonial period of darkness. Hutus and Tutsis warred in a costly conflict that destroyed their society. What happened? The models were good. But something was lacking in the foundation. Acemoglu and Robinson have no explaination as to why some institutions succeed and other, similar institutions fail. Asmus and Gruden present a compelling case that the whole model includes soundness in the culture, a soundness rooted in faith. (to be continued)



Scale model of Massanutten Resort by the Kirchman Studio.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Phantasies, C. S. Lewis, George MacDonald

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume XII, Issue XXVI

By George MacDonald, Chapter 20

Thou hadst no fame; that which thou didst like good
Was but thy appetite that swayed thy blood
For that time to the best; for as a blast
That through a house comes, usually doth cast
Things out of order, yet by chance may come
And blow some one thing to his proper room,
So did thy appetite, and not thy zeal,
Sway thee by chance to do some one thing well."
~ from John Fletcher's "Faithful Shepherdess".

The noble hart that harbours vertuous thought
And is with childe of glorious great intent,
Can never rest, until it forth have brought
Th' eternall brood of glorie excellent."
~ from Edmund Spenser's "The Faerie Queene".

I had not gone very far before I felt that the turf beneath my feet was soaked with the rising waters. But I reached the isthmus in safety. It was rocky, and so much higher than the level of the peninsula, that I had plenty of time to cross. I saw on each side of me the water rising rapidly, altogether without wind, or violent motion, or broken waves, but as if a slow strong fire were glowing beneath it. Ascending a steep acclivity, I found myself at last in an open, rocky country. After travelling for some hours, as nearly in a straight line as I could, I arrived at a lonely tower, built on the top of a little hill, which overlooked the whole neighbouring country. As I approached, I heard the clang of an anvil; and so rapid were the blows, that I despaired of making myself heard till a pause in the work should ensue. It was some minutes before a cessation took place; but when it did, I knocked loudly, and had not long to wait; for, a moment after, the door was partly opened by a noble-looking youth, half-undressed, glowing with heat, and begrimed with the blackness of the forge. In one hand he held a sword, so lately from the furnace that it yet shone with a dull fire. As soon as he saw me, he threw the door wide open, and standing aside, invited me very cordially to enter. I did so; when he shut and bolted the door most carefully, and then led the way inwards. He brought me into a rude hall, which seemed to occupy almost the whole of the ground floor of the little tower, and which I saw was now being used as a workshop. A huge fire roared on the hearth, beside which was an anvil. By the anvil stood, in similar undress, and in a waiting attitude, hammer in hand, a second youth, tall as the former, but far more slightly built. Reversing the usual course of perception in such meetings, I thought them, at first sight, very unlike; and at the second glance, knew that they were brothers. The former, and apparently the elder, was muscular and dark, with curling hair, and large hazel eyes, which sometimes grew wondrously soft. The second was slender and fair, yet with a countenance like an eagle, and an eye which, though pale blue, shone with an almost fierce expression. He stood erect, as if looking from a lofty mountain crag, over a vast plain outstretched below. As soon as we entered the hall, the elder turned to me, and I saw that a glow of satisfaction shone on both their faces. To my surprise and great pleasure, he addressed me thus:

Brother, will you sit by the fire and rest, till we finish this part of our work?"

I signified my assent; and, resolved to await any disclosure they might be inclined to make, seated myself in silence near the hearth.

The elder brother then laid the sword in the fire, covered it well over, and when it had attained a sufficient degree of heat, drew it out and laid it on the anvil, moving it carefully about, while the younger, with a succession of quick smart blows, appeared either to be welding it, or hammering one part of it to a consenting shape with the rest. Having finished, they laid it carefully in the fire; and, when it was very hot indeed, plunged it into a vessel full of some liquid, whence a blue flame sprang upwards, as the glowing steel entered.

There they left it; and drawing two stools to the fire, sat down, one on each side of me.

We are very glad to see you, brother. We have been expecting you for some days," said the dark-haired youth.

I am proud to be called your brother," I rejoined; "and you will not think I refuse the name, if I desire to know why you honour me with it?"

Ah! then he does not know about it," said the younger. "We thought you had known of the bond betwixt us, and the work we have to do together. You must tell him, brother, from the first."

So the elder began:

Our father is king of this country. Before we were born, three giant brothers had appeared in the land. No one knew exactly when, and no one had the least idea whence they came. They took possession of a ruined castle that had stood unchanged and unoccupied within the memory of any of the country people. The vaults of this castle had remained uninjured by time, and these, I presume, they made use of at first. They were rarely seen, and never offered the least injury to any one; so that they were regarded in the neighbourhood as at least perfectly harmless, if not rather benevolent beings. But it began to be observed, that the old castle had assumed somehow or other, no one knew when or how, a somewhat different look from what it used to have. Not only were several breaches in the lower part of the walls built up, but actually some of the battlements which yet stood, had been repaired, apparently to prevent them from falling into worse decay, while the more important parts were being restored. Of course, every one supposed the giants must have a hand in the work, but no one ever saw them engaged in it. The peasants became yet more uneasy, after one, who had concealed himself, and watched all night, in the neighbourhood of the castle, reported that he had seen, in full moonlight, the three huge giants working with might and main, all night long, restoring to their former position some massive stones, formerly steps of a grand turnpike stair, a great portion of which had long since fallen, along with part of the wall of the round tower in which it had been built. This wall they were completing, foot by foot, along with the stair. But the people said they had no just pretext for interfering: although the real reason for letting the giants alone was, that everybody was far too much afraid of them to interrupt them.

At length, with the help of a neighbouring quarry, the whole of the external wall of the castle was finished. And now the country folks were in greater fear than before. But for several years the giants remained very peaceful. The reason of this was afterwards supposed to be the fact, that they were distantly related to several good people in the country; for, as long as these lived, they remained quiet; but as soon as they were all dead the real nature of the giants broke out. Having completed the outside of their castle, they proceeded, by spoiling the country houses around them, to make a quiet luxurious provision for their comfort within. Affairs reached such a pass, that the news of their robberies came to my father's ears; but he, alas! was so crippled in his resources, by a war he was carrying on with a neighbouring prince, that he could only spare a very few men, to attempt the capture of their stronghold. Upon these the giants issued in the night, and slew every man of them. And now, grown bolder by success and impunity, they no longer confined their depredations to property, but began to seize the persons of their distinguished neighbours, knights and ladies, and hold them in durance, the misery of which was heightened by all manner of indignity, until they were redeemed by their friends, at an exorbitant ransom. Many knights have adventured their overthrow, but to their own instead; for they have all been slain, or captured, or forced to make a hasty retreat. To crown their enormities, if any man now attempts their destruction, they, immediately upon his defeat, put one or more of their captives to a shameful death, on a turret in sight of all passers-by; so that they have been much less molested of late; and we, although we have burned, for years, to attack these demons and destroy them, dared not, for the sake of their captives, risk the adventure, before we should have reached at least our earliest manhood. Now, however, we are preparing for the attempt; and the grounds of this preparation are these. Having only the resolution, and not the experience necessary for the undertaking, we went and consulted a lonely woman of wisdom, who lives not very far from here, in the direction of the quarter from which you have come. She received us most kindly, and gave us what seems to us the best of advice. She first inquired what experience we had had in arms. We told her we had been well exercised from our boyhood, and for some years had kept ourselves in constant practice, with a view to this necessity.

But you have not actually fought for life and death?' said she.

We were forced to confess we had not.

So much the better in some respects,' she replied. 'Now listen to me. Go first and work with an armourer, for as long time as you find needful to obtain a knowledge of his craft; which will not be long, seeing your hearts will be all in the work. Then go to some lonely tower, you two alone. Receive no visits from man or woman. There forge for yourselves every piece of armour that you wish to wear, or to use, in your coming encounter. And keep up your exercises.

As, however, two of you can be no match for the three giants, I will find you, if I can, a third brother, who will take on himself the third share of the fight, and the preparation. Indeed, I have already seen one who will, I think, be the very man for your fellowship, but it will be some time before he comes to me. He is wandering now without an aim. I will show him to you in a glass, and, when he comes, you will know him at once. If he will share your endeavours, you must teach him all you know, and he will repay you well, in present song, and in future deeds.'

She opened the door of a curious old cabinet that stood in the room. On the inside of this door was an oval convex mirror. Looking in it for some time, we at length saw reflected the place where we stood, and the old dame seated in her chair. Our forms were not reflected. But at the feet of the dame lay a young man, yourself, weeping.

Surely this youth will not serve our ends,' said I, 'for he weeps.'

The old woman smiled. 'Past tears are present strength,' said she.

Oh!' said my brother, 'I saw you weep once over an eagle you shot.'

That was because it was so like you, brother,' I replied; 'but indeed, this youth may have better cause for tears than that--I was wrong.'

Wait a while,' said the woman; 'if I mistake not, he will make you weep till your tears are dry for ever. Tears are the only cure for weeping. And you may have need of the cure, before you go forth to fight the giants. You must wait for him, in your tower, till he comes.' 

Now if you will join us, we will soon teach you to make your armour; and we will fight together, and work together, and love each other as never three loved before. And you will sing to us, will you not?"

That I will, when I can," I answered; "but it is only at times that the power of song comes upon me. For that I must wait; but I have a feeling that if I work well, song will not be far off to enliven the labour."

This was all the compact made: the brothers required nothing more, and I did not think of giving anything more. I rose, and threw off my upper garments.

I know the uses of the sword," I said. "I am ashamed of my white hands beside yours so nobly soiled and hard; but that shame will soon be wiped away."

No, no; we will not work to-day. Rest is as needful as toil. Bring the wine, brother; it is your turn to serve to-day."

The younger brother soon covered a table with rough viands, but good wine; and we ate and drank heartily, beside our work. Before the meal was over, I had learned all their story. Each had something in his heart which made the conviction, that he would victoriously perish in the coming conflict, a real sorrow to him. Otherwise they thought they would have lived enough. The causes of their trouble were respectively these:

While they wrought with an armourer, in a city famed for workmanship in steel and silver, the elder had fallen in love with a lady as far beneath him in real rank, as she was above the station he had as apprentice to an armourer. Nor did he seek to further his suit by discovering himself; but there was simply so much manhood about him, that no one ever thought of rank when in his company. This is what his brother said about it. The lady could not help loving him in return. He told her when he left her, that he had a perilous adventure before him, and that when it was achieved, she would either see him return to claim her, or hear that he had died with honour. The younger brother's grief arose from the fact, that, if they were both slain, his old father, the king, would be childless. His love for his father was so exceeding, that to one unable to sympathise with it, it would have appeared extravagant. Both loved him equally at heart; but the love of the younger had been more developed, because his thoughts and anxieties had not been otherwise occupied. When at home, he had been his constant companion; and, of late, had ministered to the infirmities of his growing age. The youth was never weary of listening to the tales of his sire's youthful adventures; and had not yet in the smallest degree lost the conviction, that his father was the greatest man in the world. The grandest triumph possible to his conception was, to return to his father, laden with the spoils of one of the hated giants. But they both were in some dread, lest the thought of the loneliness of these two might occur to them, in the moment when decision was most necessary, and disturb, in some degree, the self-possession requisite for the success of their attempt. For, as I have said, they were yet untried in actual conflict. "Now," thought I, "I see to what the powers of my gift must minister." For my own part, I did not dread death, for I had nothing to care to live for; but I dreaded the encounter because of the responsibility connected with it. I resolved however to work hard, and thus grow cool, and quick, and forceful.

The time passed away in work and song, in talk and ramble, in friendly fight and brotherly aid. I would not forge for myself armour of heavy mail like theirs, for I was not so powerful as they, and depended more for any success I might secure, upon nimbleness of motion, certainty of eye, and ready response of hand. Therefore I began to make for myself a shirt of steel plates and rings; which work, while more troublesome, was better suited to me than the heavier labour. Much assistance did the brothers give me, even after, by their instructions, I was able to make some progress alone. Their work was in a moment abandoned, to render any required aid to mine. As the old woman had promised, I tried to repay them with song; and many were the tears they both shed over my ballads and dirges. The songs they liked best to hear were two which I made for them. They were not half so good as many others I knew, especially some I had learned from the wise woman in the cottage; but what comes nearest to our needs we like the best.


The king sat on his throne
Glowing in gold and red;
The crown in his right hand shone,
And the gray hairs crowned his head.

His only son walks in,
And in walls of steel he stands:
Make me, O father, strong to win,
With the blessing of holy hands."

He knelt before his sire,
Who blessed him with feeble smile
His eyes shone out with a kingly fire,
But his old lips quivered the while.

Go to the fight, my son,
Bring back the giant's head; 
And the crown with which my brows have done,
Shall glitter on thine instead."

My father, I seek no crowns,
But unspoken praise from thee;
For thy people's good, and thy renown,
I will die to set them free."

The king sat down and waited there,
And rose not, night nor day;
Till a sound of shouting filled the air,
And cries of a sore dismay.

Then like a king he sat once more,
With the crown upon his head;
And up to the throne the people bore
A mighty giant dead.

And up to the throne the people bore
A pale and lifeless boy.
The king rose up like a prophet of yore,
In a lofty, deathlike joy.

He put the crown on the chilly brow:
"Thou should'st have reigned with me
But Death is the king of both, and now
I go to obey with thee.

Surely some good in me there lay,
To beget the noble one."
The old man smiled like a winter day,
And fell beside his son.


O lady, thy lover is dead," they cried;
"He is dead, but hath slain the foe;
He hath left his name to be magnified
In a song of wonder and woe."

Alas! I am well repaid," said she,
With a pain that stings like joy:
For I feared, from his tenderness to me,
That he was but a feeble boy.

Now I shall hold my head on high,
The queen among my kind;
If ye hear a sound, 'tis only a sigh
For a glory left behind."

The first three times I sang these songs they both wept passionately. But after the third time, they wept no more. Their eyes shone, and their faces grew pale, but they never wept at any of my songs again.
(to be continued)

Le Château de St. Albain
Photos by Bob Kirchman

The Tower. Photo by Bob Kirchman.

Archer Slit. Photo by Bob Kirchman.

Outer Wall. Photo by Bob Kirchman.

The tower and some of the walls survived the French Revolution and the Schweitzer family once lived here, including the grandparents and the mother of French philosopher, playwright, novelist, political activist, biographer, and literary critic Jean Paul Sartre.

Himeji 姫路市
Photos by Bob Kirchman


Photos by Bob Kirchman.

In 1333, Akamatsu Norimura first built a fort on top of Himeyama hill. The fort was dismantled and rebuilt as Himeyama Castle in 1346, and then remodeled into Himeji Castle two centuries later. Himeji Castle was then significantly remodeled in 1581 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who added a three-story castle keep. In 1600, Tokugawa Ieyasu awarded the castle to Ikeda Terumasa for his help in the Battle of Sekigahara, and Ikeda completely rebuilt the castle from 1601 to 1609, expanding it into a large castle complex. Several buildings were later added to the castle complex by Honda Tadamasa from 1617 to 1618. For over 400 years, Himeji Castle has remained intact, even throughout the extensive bombing of Himeji in World War II, and natural disasters such as the 1995 Great Hanshin earthquake.

C. S. Lewis's Timely Message

Lewis has a powerful message for our time.

Many of us are quite frustrated as we try to convey the notion that there are greater realities. There are those who stand in solidarity on this and there are those who pretty much see 'truth' as a matter of what they believe about something, saying: "That may be right for you, but what I believe is right for me." Absent from the discussion is the notion that a position might be guided by higher... even DIVINE principles. Might it surprise you that this assault on the notion of 'absolute truth' is not new? What if we find that it influenced the thinkers and textbook writers decades ago... even the work of journalists such as H. L. Mencken, who pretty much eviscerated the victory of William Jennings Bryan in the Scopes Trial.

Hillsdale College in Michigan presents a fascinating series of lectures on the work and vision of C. S. Lewis. All of us who wish to speak of deeper realities into our culture need to avail ourselves of this great resource!


Dr. Larry Arrn, President of Hillsdale College, begins the series with a talk on two of Lewis's works, The Abolition of Man and That Hideous Strength.


Blue Ridge Parkway Stonework
Photos by Bob Kirchman

Blue Ridge Parkway Bridge
The Bridge over Route 60.

Parkway Walls
Italian and Spanish stonemasons built these walls and bridges...

Parkway Walls
...which are often incorrectly attributed to CCC workers.

Parkway Walls
Photos by Bob Kirchman.

C. S. Lewis and MacDonald

I was brought back… (from atheism to Christianity) by the strong influence of two writers, the Presbyterian George MacDonald and the Roman Catholic G. K. Chesterton.” – C. S. Lewis

In his novel, The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis describes an fictional trip to Heaven where George MacDonald serves as his guide: “I tried, trembling, to tell this man all that his writing had done for me. I tried to tell how a certain frosty afternoon at Leatherhead Station when I first bought a copy of Phantasies (being then about sixteen years old) had been to me what the first sight of Beatrice had been to Dante: Here begins the New Life. I tried to confess how long that life had delayed in the region of imagination merely: how slowly and reluctantly I had come to admit that his Christendom had more than an accidental connection with it, how hard I had tried not to see that the true name of this quality which first met me in his books is Holiness.”

This week’s excerpt from Phantasies and next week’s impress me most particularly as being the type of writing that must have stirred something in young Lewis that would not be satisfied until it found its completeness in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That MacDonald could dig so deeply into essential humanness is worthy of reflection. That he stirred that awakening in a man who is arguably the Twentieth Century’s greatest apologist is worthy of serious study. Before Marianne Wright compiled her excellent collection of MacDonald excerpts, Lewis published a collection of MacDonald excerpts as well. In introduction Lewis wrote: “In making this collection I was discharging a debt of justice. I have never concealed the fact that I regarded him as my master; indeed I fancy I have never written a book in which I did not quote from him. But it has not seemed to me that those who have received my books kindly take even now sufficient notice of the affiliation. Honesty drives me to emphasize it.”

Vincent van Gogh
The Man You Don't Know

The Good Samaritan, Vincent van Gogh, 1890

Be clearly aware of the stars and infinity on high. Then life seems almost enchanted after all.”
― Vincent van Gogh

Most of us know something of the story of the great Post-impressionist. In the June 28 issue of THYME, we will explore his life and discover some surprising things about the man!

Sherando Lake. Photo by Bob Kirchman.

A Case for Vision VII
© 2017 The Kirchman Studio.

Our nation is in need of an I. K. Brunel's vision today.  Our situation is no less dire than that of Bristol in the Nineteenth Century and we need to find direction, both in spirit and economically, if we are to emerge successfully. [1.] Looking at what is happening in North Dakota it is imperative that we find similar opportunity for people in every state of the union. Where shall we look for a vision of the future? Certainly not to an administration that sees massive unemployment and underemployment as a good thing! Many of us have seen our hopes and dreams take a serious hit from the policies of this administration. The marketplace has less resources available to support the creative endeavors we are now supposedly 'free' to pursue. Just ask anyone actually selling fine art these days. People need to be making money in order to spend it! If you are looking to the National Endowment for the Arts to fund your work, guess what? Diminishing tax revenues means less money to fund 'public' art. In fact, the government will be hard pressed to meet obligations such as Social Security and Medicare.

The last administration had no intention of encouraging the true creative sector in this country. In fact, it has became quite clear that they WANTED us discouraged. Our discouragement was essential for them to implement their 'fundamental change' to the country we live in. That is why we must not succumb. I would like to, in the spirit of Theodor Herzl's Aultneuland, give you reason for hope and reason to stay in the fight as well! Herzl was a man with a vision. In Altneuland he was spot-on in describing the nation that was born, or reborn, if you will in the creation of modern day Israel. When Herzl wrote his novel the land was securely in the hands of the Ottoman Empire. In 1917 England's foreign secretary Arthur Balfour wrote a declaration stating that this land should indeed be given as a homeland to the people who had inhabited it since ancient times. World War I saw the end of the empire and British control. It wasn't until 1947 that Israel was truly 'reborn' in the wake of that terrible war.

So, it is essential for us in our time to keep the vision alive that created our own republic. We need to teach our young people, instructing them in the Faith and values that are the true foundation of America's remarkable story. Just like Bristol, England in the Nineteenth Century, we need to look beyond our immediate boundaries and see new possibilities. I believe that ultimately the unseen hand of creativity and human ingenuity can prevail. Will we live to see new wonders? I believe in G-d. I believe in inspiration, and I believe in Imago Dei... the knowledge that in creation G-d did indeed give mankind a small spark of His own creative energy. When Samuel Morse telegraphed: "What hath G-d wrought?" he was correct in his attribution even as he worked with his own hands to make the device. Now we need to be open to the same sort of inspiration. There are things we can make again (or for the first time)!

Consider the more recent story of R. G. LeTourneau, who's company had been awarded a contract to build a machine to lift airplanes by the government during the great war. No one had ever built such a machine before, and the engineers were stumped. Wednesday evening rolled around and LeTourneau announced to his stunned team that he was going to a prayer meeting. "But, sir,... We've got a deadline on this thing!" The great industrialist replied: "But I have a deadline with G-d." LeTourneau went to the prayer meeting. He sang praises and poured out his heart in earnest prayer. He said that walking back to his office from the prayer meeting, he 'saw' the design he was seeking for the machine clearly in his head! What if a modern-day Brunel were indeed to create new dorways for American commerce, as American ingenuity continues to finds new sources for energy to power that commerce. Just think, new geothermal resources powering new frontiers in American inventiveness.

I, for one, refuse to believe that the age of inspiration is past. I do believe that it is essential that we return to the roots of Faith and freedom that have given birth to the American experiment and sustained it. It is not enough to be brilliant in business if we squander the return it gives us in a false sense of entitlement: "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required." -- Luke 12:8 So, come with me, in the spirit of Aultneuland, to an America not too far in the distant future. Let us visit a land where a greater vision prevails than simply profit or personal reward. In my youth we once rode the train into Philadelphia from Baltimore. At the time, when you entered into Pennsylvania from Delaware, you were greeted by a large sign that read: "What Chester Makes Makes Chester." The city of Chester was at the time a center of manufacturing and it indeed saw itself in terms of its contributions to the world.

Would that we would see ourselves as contributors to the world once more! If Herzl were to step into his beloved Zion today, he would be amazed to see the center of advanced technology she has become. He would wonder at technologies being developed there that might one day give sight to the blind! Though he forsaw them, the modern cities such as Tel Aviv would still astound him! He would see the amazing works of irrigation that have made Israel the garden state of the world. The flowers we had at our wedding in 1980 came in boxes that proudly proclaimed that they were grown in Israel. Abraham the Patriarch was given the promise in Genesis 22:18: "And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice." What wonderful contributions might we as a people make to the world if we will ourselves heed the voice of the One who created creativity itself?

The waterfront of Chester, Pennsylvania in 1875.