We’re back. Got back last Saturday, with no issues. I’m very slowly but definitely surely blogging my way through the trip. Hey, I’m up to the evening of the second day. Go me!
The Devil’s Golf Course in Death Valley. Those are dried, hard, sharp salt formations.
Back to the podcasts. This week, I have started catching up with my BBC radio podcasts once again. The first I cracked open was an excellent program on Matteo Ricci – if you go here and scroll down to April 16, you’ll find the downloadable version.
It was balanced in a way that you so rarely find in either American media or among Catholics in discussing figures like Ricci, who would most of the time be placed in either a contemporary black or white hat, his missionary techniques evaluated in terms of modern ideologies and sensibilities. This program doesn’t fall into that trap, and as a result, was quite illuminating. In short, people who don’t know much might fling about Ricci’s story as a model for Excellence in Inculturating Missionaries, but when you look at the whole picture…perhaps not. He did what he did for his own reasons, and they weren’t terrible reasons, but he actually wasn’t as radical as is often implied and there were legitimate questions about his angle that aren’t simply about “fear” or Latin-centric bigotry.
I also listened to a program on the California Gold Rush (scroll down to April 2), which meshed well with one of this week’s reads – The Rush by Edward Dolnick. So yes, I learned a lot about the California Gold Rush this week, thanks much.
The book is an easy, absorbing read. It’s a history told mostly through focusing on first-person narratives left by gold seekers themselves, so don’t go to it looking for a comprehensive economic, political and social history – although all the important points are certainly covered. As in the best books of this kind, there are delightful surprises, as in the story of Jennie Megquier, who left Maine with her husband in response to the Call of Gold, leaving three (not tiny, but still) children behind with friends and family. They took the sea route, sailing down to Panama, crossing the isthmus, then waiting for another ship to take them up to California. Unlike many others who found the Panamanian element of the journey horrific, she loved it and gleefully reported each monkey and snake sighting, each odd meal, in letters to her children back in Maine.
Other stories of the journey – those going overland – are filled with much more hardship and tragedy. And yes, foolishness, but, in the context of the time, understandable foolishness.
It’s a fascinating story, this tale of Gold Fever. It drew people from all over the world, including China, Hawaii, Ireland and Australia. It created the myth of California. The Gold Rush impacted California’s statehood, voted on just two years after the territory had been wrested from Mexico, and the course, in the future, of the Civil War, as it broke the then-balance and was voted in as a free state. The environmental impact was devastating, as noted even at the time, as were the consequences for Native Americans.
A picky note, though. The California Gold Rush wasn’t the first in the history of the United States. Preceding it by twenty years was a smaller, but still powerful rush for gold in the lower Appalachian mountains, especially in Georgia – Dahlonega and Villa Rica both claim “first, ” although I think the former has the stronger claim. Thousands came to mine, and a branch of the US Mint was even established in Dahlonega, aBut nd it was there that many of the California miners who returned East brought their gold before the San Francisco mint was opened. I thought of this because Dolnick writes, in relation to California mining, of the innovation of assaulting hillsides with water in attempts to wash out gold, but this was attempted several years before in Georgia, as well.
But moving on from that regionally-motivated nitpicking, it’s a good read and a useful reminder that human nature doesn’t change. It’s just that our times magnify and enable the worst parts of us. Thanks, technology!
One book that I will be writing about at length next week – hey, I even took notes – was a sort-of “lost” 19th century novel called The Damnation of Theron Ware – you can get started by reading Jonathan Yardley’s column on it here. It’s a startlingly contemporary-reading novel about a young Methodist minister who loses his faith. I have said before that one reason I enjoy reading older fiction is that through it, I can get a “contemporary” glimpse into worlds in which I’m interested unfiltered by academic historians’ choices and biases. So in this novel, a crucial element in his loss of faith is his first real encounter with Catholics and Catholicism. It’s pretty interesting and surprising. But more on that next week.
Another good thing about these older novels? Free. Go the Internet Archive, and you can download it and read away. I download it in Kindle format and read it on the app on my Ipad.
Planning for your parish for 2015-16?
And really thinking ahead….Adventures in Assisi for October? Bambinelli Sunday for Christmas?
Back in business.
I figure since he’s slaving away, learning it, I should learn it, too. I’m only going to be able to keep up this charade for another year or so, I fear. He’s moving pretty quickly – ten years old, about to start his third year of piano instruction, and this is where he is? Yeah, I’ll soon be left in the dust.
Read this obituary of a local man who passed away this week. John Wright, Jr. was one of the first people I remember really speaking with here – that first fall, Mike and I did several adult ed sessions at our parish, and he was one of the coordinators and often taught classes himself, usually on some aspect of social justice. He had a magnificent voice (he did quite a bit of acting), a huge heart, and, as I said, a passion for justice which lead him on such paths as moving his family to Selma for a time in the 60’s, researching and bringing into brighter light the story of Fr.James Coyle, shot in 1921 on the Cathedral rectory steps for marrying the daughter of a Klansman-minister to a Puerto Rican man , and, this past year, as he lost the ability to drive, coming into the public eye a strong advocate for public transportation.
Requiescat in pace…
For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!