Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Yes, audacious traveller - it is the 28th of June - but alas, I am not in Iceland to begin that greatest journey of all science fiction - the Journey to the Center of the Earth.

It is well worth our fixing this day in our calendars - there are plenty of science fiction stories, plenty of mysteries. People may recall March 25 as a most holy and grand day, the day of the downfall of the Powers of Darkness - the day the Ring went into the fires of Orodruin - Oh, you mean that date is Something Else too, celebrating an even greater triumph of an even smaller person over an even greater darkness? Why yes, that is the day on which the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity came to dwell among us as a single-celled human male cell, and over time grow into adulthood. (For only God can make Adam's "No" as fruitful as Frodo's.)

Or they may recall the birthday of the famous Boy Who Lived, July 31, which is also the great feast day of the "Fire Man" of the Faith: the soldier of Loyola who gave up - not his soldiering, but his entire life - for the Greater Glory of God.

Yes, there are plenty of important dates in fiction - though too many science fiction stories use French-Devolution style dates, which no one could possibly celebrate. When's the 10th of Messidor, anyway? Or Stardate 5762.6? It's "Once Upon a Time" or "Long long ago in a Galaxy far far away". At least some of us know what A.U.C. means, or A.M., or even A.H., if one sets one's calendars by such markers. From my studies, it appears we're not too sure about the starting date for the Long Count of the Maya, a detail I've taken advantage of by using as part X of From Darkness Into Light. (That's part of my Saga, if you really want to know.)

Really, it's fine to have alternative calendars. One of Chesterton's more insightful lines was in connection with such things:
A feeling touching the nature of things does not only make men feel that there are certain proper things to say; it makes them feel that there are certain proper things to do. The more agreeable of these consist of dancing, building temples, and shouting very loud; the less agreeable, of wearing green carnations and burning other philosophers alive. But everywhere the religious dance came before the religious hymn, and man was a ritualist before he could speak. If Comtism had spread the world would have been converted, not by the Comtist philosophy, but by the Comtist calendar. By discouraging what they conceive to be the weakness of their master, the English Positivists have broken the strength of their religion. A man who has faith must be prepared not only to be a martyr, but to be a fool. It is absurd to say that a man is ready to toil and die for his convictions when he is not even ready to wear a wreath round his head for them. I myself, to take a corpus vile, am very certain that I would not read the works of Comte through for any consideration whatever. But I can easily imagine myself with the greatest enthusiasm lighting a bonfire on Darwin Day.
[GKC Heretics CW1:87]
More on this some other time.

Fiction is a handy tool, and never more handy when the reference books give you convenient details all ripe and ready to combine... It was too tidy when I read this:
Whoever put in order this computation of katuns, if it was the devil, he did it, as he usually does, ordaining it for his own glory.
[Friar Diego de Landa, first bishop of Mérida, quoted in Von Hagen, World of the Maya 169]
And we know how Dante put his journey to the center of the spherical earth to culminate on the night of Holy Saturday of 1300. (Yeah, he was writing in 1320 or so, demonstrating that people knew this truth long before Columbus. Actually the Greeks knew; sometimes I think it's the Media who don't know.)

A personal aside. Like Dante, I saw the Southern Cross at midnight between Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday... it was a profoundly moving moment.

But while we do not know exactly where Dante descended - and few may wish to follow him where he led, despite the far better 2/3s of his work which follows his Hell - we DO know where Arne Sakneussemm descended, and the date, which was June 28... and we ought to recall it as a great day, and celebrate with appropriate festivities. (For more on Verne's story, see here.)

June 28 is also Frances Blogg's birthday - the dear wife of G. K. Chesterton - she of course was his favourite Blogg, which accounts for... for something. And it was also the day they got married, so perhaps it is suitable to think about difficult journeys and great real-life adventures which are stranger than fiction.

Finally, tomorrow is the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul - on which we shall begin our special novena, which ends on the Nones of July. Please join us in prayer, as there are many needs and difficulties and turmoils in our world, and we need to unite in prayer, whether we work in the depths of the earth or interstellar space...

As Hans the guide said: Forüt!!! Forward! Let us be audax - audacious - for our life is an adventure, and with prayer we may hope for a great and good ending.


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