Some Q&A for Friends

Recently I was asked by my friend and fellow-blogger Scottie a question about history and historical fables, more specifically comparisons of historical-religious fables. His question was:

About the whole virgin-birth story before Jesus thing. Ark hinted it was an issue. I read online where it is true. But [Pastoral Apologist] claims they have all been debunked. When I first started talking with  [Pastoral Apologist] about it, he made statements that made me think the virgin birth idea was very unknown at the time. Then I find websites saying it was very common. I was wondering if you had any studies this before or had some ideas of where I should concentrate my study of it. I know Aron Ra has said that there are similarities between the Jesus story and other myths, but I didn’t realize he was talking virgin-births. To me that is a total game changer on that story if it was a common god-idea. Hugs

Initially I was planning to address Scottie’s question(s) right there in the comments of Jim’s blog-post “How to Separate the Facts from the Myths?” However, after some discussion Jim and I decided that if we placed it in the comments it would soon be eternally buried within the cyber-sphere’s archiving. We both thought this was too important to be so quickly lost. Hence, he convinced me to post it here where it won’t get as buried. Hahaha. So here we go…
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My Response

Scottie, very often Christian apologists/pastors like to portray their foundational doctrines/theology as incomparable, as dissimilar to any other religious or spiritual constructs. This is unequivocally slight-of-hand. Skeptics are not claiming the virgin stories and legends are identical, or verbatim. Every culture has its own unique twists to trade wind exchanges. As a terrestrial or seafaring example, the Silk Road trade routes (c. 500 BCE until 542 CE with the Bubonic Plague) provided some early means for religious-cultural exchanges well before Jesus’ time and beyond. At the pinnacle of Rome’s influence around the Mediterranean, they were wealthy not only because of their great war-machines, generals, legions, and tactics against other empires and hordes, but also because of their 1.9 million-mile sphere-of-influence in commerce by 117 CE. Over that time the cultural identities and exchanges mixed and transformed into new versions, not unlike the United States is sometimes referred to as The Melting Pot of the World. Christianity, in its current Greco-Roman styled canon, does mimic in numerous forms other older Persian, Arabian, Egyptian, and Greek divinity traditions.

To your question, I will address it in two ways: 1) the popular historical records of virgin-mothers and virgin-born Gods prior to Jesus, and 2) the 4th and 5th century CE Greco-Roman Christian theological one-upping.

Known histories of virgin-mothers and births before Jesus:
It must be remembered that skeptics are not claiming that ancient stories of virgin-mothers and virgin-born Gods are verbatim-identical to the well-known Jesus virgin-mother and virgin-birth story. What most are claiming are the numerous similarities that cannot be denied. Here are several that were known throughout the ancient world BEFORE Jesus. This is not an exhaustive list.

  • Marduk by Damkina/Enki — Sumerian-Mesopotamian mythology c. 4500 – c. 1900 BCE.
  • Horace by Isis/Osiris — Egyptian mythology c. 3150 – c. 2615 BCE.
  • Amenhotep III by Mutemwiya/Amun — Egyptian mythology c. 1388 – c. 1200 BCE.
  • Isaac by Sarah/Abraham — Jewish tradition/mythology c. 2000 – c. 1000 BCE.
  • Melchizedek by Sopanima/Nir — Jewish tradition/mythology c. 500 – C. 400 BCE.
  • Zarathustra by Dughdova/Shaft of light — Persian mythology c. 1375 – c. 330 BCE.
  • Erechtheus by Gaia/Hephaestus — Greek mythology c. 500 – c. 285 BCE.
  • Dionysus by Semele/Zeus — Greek mythology c. 1500 – c. 1100 BCE.
  • Romulus-Remus by Rhea Silvia/Mars — Roman mythology c. 700 BCE – 220 CE.

Ancient fables of divine births and intervention were exchanged by traders and teachers/sages all throughout the vast Roman Empire. Those stories were passed from generation to generation. Due to several sociopolitical (including wars and genocide) and socioeconomic factors, some gained popularity, others faded. Historians not only see this in the archaeological and paleographical evidence, they accept and superimpose this template of evolution on their studies and theories. Christian apologists/pastors prefer not to, at least not cumulatively.

It is worthy to note that according to the College of Pontiffs and Indigitamenta there are no records or evidence from the early 1st-century that a divine god or demigod was newly born of a virgin during Augustus’ reign in the Roman Province of Palestina. However, by the late 2nd century CE the Christian Church Fathers systematically sought to discredit Roman deities and worship.

The Greco-Roman Christian theological one-upping:
The first mention in manuscripts of Jesus’ virgin-birth is about 80 – 90 CE in order to connect him as the Christian Messiah in Isaiah 7:14. Because the Apostle Paul, or Saul of Tarsus, was a Hellenistic educated Jewish Pharisee prior to his paranormal experience on the Road to Damascus (c. 35 CE?), and he was proselytizing to Gentiles unfamiliar with ancient Jewish Messianism, early controversy and confusion about Original Sin and Final Atonement (hereafter called OS/FA) began to pop-up in many Synagogues — official Christian churches didn’t arrive until much later. Many earliest “The Way” followers were Jewish-reformers, later becoming Judeo-Christians. This unpopular history is critical to understand because no matter how hard post-5th century CE Christianity to modern-day Christians want to distinguish themselves away from Jewish Messianism, it is utterly impossible. If they want to have their Messianic Christ, they must embrace (hijack?) true historical Jewish Messianism in its entirety.

The Epistle to the Hebrews, written c. 64 CE, gives us one of the very first indications of the OS/FA controversy among earliest Believers:

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:11-12)

For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to all the people according to the Law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God commanded you.” And in the same way he sprinkled both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry with the blood. And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. (Hebrews 9:19-23)

In other words, if 2nd – 3rd century CE Christianity is going to legitimately lay claim to Jewish Messianism, and Jesus is both an Earthly born Messiah as well as a sinless holy God, how did the Apostolic Fathers reconcile this dilemma? The author of Hebrews explains a Jewish version of a virgin-mother birthing a virgin-son of God and eventual “better sacrifice” — an early attempt laden with Jewish priestly Messianism.

However, as the new religion spread with the fading and literal wiping-out of Sectarian Judaism (Jewish reformers and first Judeo-Christians) around the Roman Empire, e.g. the Great Revolts of Judea, more unknowing Gentiles asked challenging questions reflecting the confusion. The letter to the Hebrews was still not enough. And there is still the gnawing problems presented by deadly revolts and chronology. Did Jesus himself ever teach he was born by a virgin? No. Did the Apostle Paul ever teach Jesus was born by a virgin-mother? No. This strongly suggests that the OS/FA controversy began developing among first Judeo-Christians prior to 64 CE, but not widespread enough by 67 CE when Paul wrote his very last letter 2 Timothy from Rome. The OS/FA obscurity during this time-period can be contributed to the Roman “X-Fretensis” Legion, “V-Macedonica”  Legion, “XII-Fulminata” Legion, and “XV-Apollinarus” Legion wiping-out many sectarian-reformed Jews in the Great Revolts of Judea. This created the void for Gentile-favored Greco-Roman (Hellenistic) theology to be further established by the 1st and 2nd generation Church Fathers.

Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and Eusebius of Caesarea
Clement of Alexandria lived between c. 150 – c. 215 in Athens, Asia Minor, Jerusalem, and Alexandria, Egypt. He is considered one of the Church Fathers. In his work called Paedagogus, Clement explains that Christ (the Greek-Hellenistic name) is sinless and born in the impeccable image of God through the virgin Mary.

Tertullian lived between c. 150 – c. 225 in Carthage in the Roman Province of Africa. Tertullian is famous for two reasons:  1) his coining of the word Trinity which made its way into the early Church’s Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed and/or the Athanasian Creed, and 2) his fiery temperament and forceful convictions that eventually radicalized him into Montanist heresy. Both of these Trinitarian theologies were derived from Stoic philosophy and Clement of Alexandria and less so from the author of Hebrews.

Eusebius of Caesarea lived from c. 263 – c. 340 in Caesarea Maritima in Roman Palestine. In his work Historia Ecclesiae, Eusebius points out two types of Jewish sectarian Ebionites. One denied the virgin-birth and virgin-mother, and the other did not. But he labeled both groups of Ebionites as heretical. Because Eusebius draws distinctions between these two Ebionite groups, his knowledge of them clearly comes from Irenaeus, Origen, and Hippolytus using apocryphal sources.

What should be cumulatively noted here is the evolving heavy influence and retro-fitting of Hellenistic, or Greco-Roman philosophy/theology in the roots of the 4th century New Testament canon and 5th century CE Christian Church. It was having to address long-standing conflicting, confusing teachings and questions that were not addressed adequately in the time of Paul’s letters and life, nor answered by the heir apparent Jesus/Christós — at the time, the questions were completely unnecessary and non-existent! Why? If Jesus and Paul never addressed the controversies of the virgin-birth by a virgin-mother in the arena of the later OS/FA debates, does that suggest the Greco-Roman Church — which is the ancestral majority of modern Christian churches and seminaries, many with very contrasting doctrines — did not understand, or did not favor, or intentionally distorted true Jewish Messianism to serve their man-made sociopolitical agenda?

I believe so, for the overwhelming reason that the anti-Semitism motive fits near perfectly into historical Greco-Roman-Hellenistic sociopolitical and religious traditions. The later Christian Church wants to separate itself as much as possible from Judaism.

∼ ∼ ∼ ∼ § ∼ ∼ ∼ ∼

Scottie, I hope this post helps despite its very hasty composure. As I mentioned, I also want to give a source for you to better understand the earliest transitions from true Jewish Messianism to sectarian Judeo-reformers and finally into the monster of Greco-Roman Christology. I would start with Robert Eisenman at his website. Be sure to checkout his Articles page. And if you can gain access to two of his books, Dead Sea Scrolls & The First Christians and The New Testament Code: The Cup of the Lord, the Damascus Covenant, and the Blood of Christyou will be well on your way to an extensive, intimate knowledge of exactly when and how Greco-Roman Christology, that is propagandizing and erroneously taught today, went wrong and subsequently setup its minefield of a never-ending fracturing, disunited religion.

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Excursion to Perversions – III

This continued blog-journey from Part II was inspired by and liberally borrowed from a classic book and well-known 19th century American writer you may recognize. I’ve added some modernized twists.

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Pilgrim Life, Amusements, and Opinions At Sea

For a week or so there were no conflicts of jurisdiction between the many various captains onboard, surprisingly on such a pleasure ship at sea. However, there was as much sameness as there was intrigue. Many pilgrims began acquiring sailor terminology:

“Half-past six was no longer half-past six to these pilgrims from New England, the South, and the Mississippi Valley, it was “seven bells”; eight, twelve, and four o’clock were “eight bells”; the captain did not take the longitude at nine o’clock, but at “two bells.” They spoke glibly of the “after cabin,” the “for’rard cabin,” “port and starboard” and the “fo’castle.””

I feared we’d soon have as many Ensigns as we had Captains and most were still miserably seasick. Where is the pleasure in that? Many found various games to play such as dominoes and identifying distant ships through opera-glasses. One very popular game was “Horse-billiards,” though popular I suppose only if winning or as a casual spectator. Horse-billiards “affords good, active exercise, hilarity, and consuming excitement. It is a mixture of “hop-scotch” and shuffleboard played with a crutch.” What makes the game so entertaining is scientific timing and calculations. With a long gangly crutch players vigorously thrust their wooden disks forward — right, not what you’re thinking — for different points in different squares; no points if your disk stops on a line. You must cross the line or stop short of the line. Easy, right?

starlight dancingNo. One must account for the reeling of the ship starboard, port, fore, or aft. Many a scientific calculation resulted in a disk going off the entire hopscotch board, down a gangway, or worse slip back to where you thrusted… or apparently not. The ladies seemed to enjoy this mishap the most.

By half-past 7 o’clock when the bell tolled for… prayers, we pilgrims would promenade to the handsome saloon, otherwise known as the “Synagogue” by the unregenerated. Our “hymns were accompanied by parlor-organ music when the sea was smooth enough to allow a performer to sit at the instrument without being lashed to his chair.” Not too unlike those twitchers in front of long-winded ministers I suppose.

“Several times the photographer of the expedition brought out his transparent pictures and gave us a handsome magic-lantern exhibition. His views were nearly all of foreign scenes, but there were one or two home pictures among them. He advertised that he would “open his performance in the after cabin at ‘two bells’ (nine P.M.) and show the passengers where they shall eventually arrive”—which was all very well, but by a funny accident the first picture that flamed out upon the canvas was a view of Greenwood Cemetery!”

On the upper deck we performed what should appear as ballroom dancing underneath the canvas awnings with rows of lanterns hung from the ship’s deck-posts. But with all the brilliant lighting underneath the glittering stars, the dancing was not so brilliant nor graceful.

“Our music consisted of the well-mixed strains of a melodeon which was a little asthmatic and apt to catch its breath where it ought to come out strong, a clarinet which was a little unreliable on the high keys and rather melancholy on the low ones, and a disreputable accordion that had a leak somewhere and breathed louder than it squawked—a more elegant term does not occur to me just now. However, the dancing was infinitely worse than the music. When the ship rolled to starboard the whole platoon of dancers came charging down to starboard with it, and brought up in mass at the rail; and when it rolled to port they went floundering down to port with the same unanimity of sentiment. Waltzers spun around precariously for a matter of fifteen seconds and then went scurrying down to the rail as if they meant to go overboard.”

In order to save some level of dignity, we gave up dancing.

It seemed quite appropriate that what should follow our meager attempts of ballroom music and dancing would be a mock trial. Naval tradition dictates a dummy crime, law-enforcement, an accuser and defendant, a courtroom, a judge, and of course witnesses. Witnesses that are unsure of what they witnessed which makes for gripping amusement onboard a presently mundane pleasure excursion on the high seas. The judge hammers his gavel.

“The purser was accused of stealing an overcoat from stateroom No. 10. A judge was appointed; also clerks, a crier of the court, constables, sheriffs; counsel for the State and for the defendant; witnesses were subpoenaed, and a jury empaneled after much challenging. The witnesses were stupid and unreliable and contradictory, as witnesses always are. The counsel were eloquent, argumentative, and vindictively abusive of each other, as was characteristic and proper. The case was at last submitted and duly finished by the judge with an absurd decision and a ridiculous sentence.”

mock trialShortly after the guilty purser was catapulted overboard for his overcoat crime, a debate club was formed to argue the benefits of human catapults. But it failed. It was no less successful than the evening’s dancing, for there were no oratorical talents to be found anywhere on the ship. Perhaps the fear of being catapulted into the raging sea for lack of oratory skill or grasp of an elementary vocabulary — reminiscent of an American President who can’t read a teleprompter — dashed their ambitions.

Had the debate club been successfully created, the first issue addressed would most certainly be the singing. There are some passengers that question the quality of song, myself included, and its consequences during our precarious voyage. Many a superstitious sailor and unregenerated passengers would attribute our strong head-winds to unhappy muses of Apollo. Should this mockery of song and dance continue, there could be retribution to pay:

“There were those who said openly that it was taking chances enough to have such ghastly music going on, even when it was at its best; and that to exaggerate the crime by letting George help was simply flying in the face of Providence. These said that the choir would keep up their lacerating attempts at melody until they would bring down a storm some day that would sink the ship.

There were even grumblers at the prayers. The executive officer said the pilgrims had no charity: “There they are, down there every night at eight bells, praying for fair winds—when they know as well as I do that this is the only ship going east this time of the year, but there’s a thousand coming west—what’s a fair wind for us is a head wind to them—the Almighty’s blowing a fair wind for a thousand vessels, and this tribe wants him to turn it clear around so as to accommodate one—and she a steamship at that! It ain’t good sense, it ain’t good reason, it ain’t good Christianity, it ain’t common human charity. Avast with such nonsense!””

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Land-Hoh, Sketchy Mathematics, and Cheer Restored

The twenty-four hundred nautical miles from New York Harbor to the Azores was in good naval terms:  by and large pleasant. Yes, disgruntled sea gods blew unfavorable head-winds upon our vessel and asthmatic singing. Yes, well over half our passenger manifest were seasick from the Quaker City being thrown to and fro — which ironically enough helped with our ballroom dancing. But for the most part, the first leg of our journey had temperate summer days and finer evenings under starlit heavens with a full moon that followed us at the same hour every night. “It was becoming an old moon to the friends we had left behind us, but to us Joshuas it stood still in the same place and remained always the same.” This caused quite the stir to some unknowing gazers as if we had the celestial white balloon tethered to our mast.

Then the trip’s charm ended at a most unfortunate hour.

“At three o’clock on the morning of the twenty-first of June, we were awakened and notified that the Azores islands were in sight. I said I did not take any interest in islands at three o’clock in the morning. But another persecutor came, and then another and another, and finally believing that the general enthusiasm would permit no one to slumber in peace, I got up and went sleepily on deck. It was five and a half o’clock now, and a raw, blustering morning. The passengers were huddled about the smoke-stacks and fortified behind ventilators, and all were wrapped in wintry costumes and looking sleepy and unhappy in the pitiless gale and the drenching spray.”

Why a mound of mud in the water was such a sight to sacrifice sweet slumber, I can only guess. Perhaps the fine entertainment on our tossing and turning ship had been enough to find hope and relief on land? For the unregenerated, sleep can easily serve the same purpose.

scetchy mathWe pilgrims soon moved on to the island of San Miguel and Fayal. Mr. Blucher was so overjoyed that we were finally on firm, unmoving ground that he proposed a grand feast with fine food and flowing spirits.

[Blucher] had heard it was a cheap land, and he was bound to have a grand banquet. He invited nine of us, and we ate an excellent dinner at the principal hotel. In the midst of the jollity produced by good cigars, good wine, and passable anecdotes, the landlord presented his bill. Blucher glanced at it and his countenance fell. He took another look to assure himself that his senses had not deceived him and then read the items aloud, in a faltering voice, while the roses in his cheeks turned to ashes:

“‘Ten dinners, at 600 reis, 6,000 reis!’ Ruin and desolation!
“‘Twenty-five cigars, at 100 reis, 2,500 reis!’ Oh, my sainted mother!
“‘Eleven bottles of wine, at 1,200 reis, 13,200 reis!’ Be with us all!

“‘TOTAL, TWENTY-ONE THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED REIS!’ The suffering Moses! There ain’t money enough in the ship to pay that bill! Go—leave me to my misery, boys, I am a ruined community.””

All seemed lost for the Blucher lad. What prison cell awaits this pilgrim? As the clichés go, a dropped pin could be heard or a mouse sniffing in the corner the silence was so deafening. Blank stares everywhere at one another, wine glasses slowly returned to the table-top, their paletted beauty untasted. Fingers no longer held their cigars dropped into their smoke-trays. There seemed no looks of hope or encouragement about, only thoughts and glances of a quick escape, scatterment through the nearest exits. Blucher stood up and exclaimed loudly:

“Landlord, this is a low, mean swindle, and I’ll never, never stand it. Here’s a hundred and fifty dollars, Sir, and it’s all you’ll get—I’ll swim in blood before I’ll pay a cent more.”

Our spirits rose and the landlord’s fell—at least we thought so; he was confused, at any rate, notwithstanding he had not understood a word that had been said. He glanced from the little pile of gold pieces to Blucher several times and then went out. He must have visited an American, for when he returned, he brought back his bill translated into a language that a Christian could understand—thus:

10 dinners, 6,000 reis, or $6.00
25 cigars, 2,500 reis, or $2.50
11 bottles wine, 13,200 reis, or $13.20

Total 21,700 reis, or $21.70

Though one might wonder in bafflement the mechanisms of Christian mathematics, and that foreign exchange rates serve a particular purpose, and that it is indeed wise to have at least a basic understanding of these global concepts, happiness and frolicking returned to Blucher’s party and another round of drink was ordered!

Three cheers for native math and ignorant travellers! Hip-hip… HOORAY!

Now for my modern version of fine Victorian ballroom dancing as our pilgrims progress to Paris… “Giuchie, Giuchie, ya ya dada.”

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To be continued…

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Excursion to Perversions – II

This continued blog-journey from Part I was inspired by and liberally borrowed from a classic book and well-known 19th century American writer you may recognize. I’ve added some modernized twists.

EtP_divider

Pleasuring and Measuring Sea, Passengers, and Crew

All day and night our ship was anchored in the Upper Bay. Yes, our great pleasure excursion had traversed a full two (2 I say!) nautical miles so that we may take in the rain-drenched shores of Brooklyn to the portside, New Jersey to starboard. Ahead of us beyond the Lower Bay and out to sea the storm was not yet finished with its mayhem. Waves churned up hills of sud and seafoam at the harbor’s mouth, beyond there only the bold and daring would ascertain. Thus, with no quarrels from one single passenger it was “unanimously” decided the Quaker City’s second departure would begin the following day should the sea and weather accomodate.

stormy seas

Our Sunday view from our quaint restless cabin port

This idleness allowed for more heavenly prayer and church hymns making us all more idealy situated should any misfortune befall our voyage. Up at first light I briskly made my way to breakfast and with good reason.

“I felt a perfectly natural desire to have a good, long, unprejudiced look at the passengers at a time when they should be free from self-consciousness—which is at breakfast, when such a moment occurs in the lives of human beings at all.

I was greatly surprised to see so many elderly people—I might almost say, so many venerable people. A glance at the long lines of heads was apt to make one think it was all gray. But it was not. There was a tolerably fair sprinkling of young folks, and another fair sprinkling of gentlemen and ladies who were non-committal as to age, being neither actually old or absolutely young.”

As hoped, a day later we heaved anchor and set out to sea, the storm less than mighty than the day before, yet unwilling to subside entirely. It appeared we elustrious passengers would be “tested” first to measure what fibers we had during the self-conscious hours and the ruckus sea would oblige. Finally departing there was a cheerful sigh on deck:  we were headed eastward and the American coastline began to fade. The broad and rolling ocean ahead had a different sort of welcome in mind.

“One could not promenade without risking his neck; at one moment the bowsprit was taking a deadly aim at the sun in midheaven, and at the next it was trying to harpoon a shark in the bottom of the ocean. What a weird sensation it is to feel the stern of a ship sinking swiftly from under you and see the bow climbing high away among the clouds! One’s safest course that day was to clasp a railing and hang on; walking was too precarious a pastime.”

However, should you have in your possession a mess-hall serving tray and a bar of deck soap, given the present seas you could easily travel from one end of the ship’s corridor in the stern straight to the bow (almost) in a most expeditious and harrowing manner — if timed just right with the troughs and crests. But fair warning, ill-timed starts would result in ill-timed endings. One’s most astute calculus is recommended, for the safety of self, property, and select others targeted.

To my pleasant surprise and good fortune I was not seasick. I found great joy in their gastronomic state and my lack of — for I had not always been so lucky.

“If there is one thing in the world that will make a man peculiarly and insufferably self-conceited, it is to have his stomach behave itself, the first day at sea, when nearly all his comrades are seasick.”

Good morning SirIt was about that moment, while outside near the after deck-house door, that one of our esteemed travelers of some age and great wisdom, heavily wrapped like a mummy from chin to toe, lunged out with the ship’s downward plunge right into my arms:

Good-morning, Sir. It is a fine day.”

He put his hand on his stomach and said, “Oh, my!” and then staggered away and fell over the coop of a skylight.

Presently another old gentleman was projected from the same door with great violence. I said:

“Calm yourself, Sir—There is no hurry. It is a fine day, Sir.”

He, also, put his hand on his stomach and said “Oh, my!” and reeled away.

In a little while another veteran was discharged abruptly from the same door, clawing at the air for a saving support. I said:

“Good morning, Sir. It is a fine day for pleasuring. You were about to say—”

“Oh, my!”

I thought so. I anticipated him, anyhow. I stayed there and was bombarded with old gentlemen for an hour, perhaps; and all I got out of any of them was “Oh, my!”

I went away then in a thoughtful mood. I said, this is a good pleasure excursion. I like it. The passengers are not garrulous, but still they are sociable. I like those old people, but somehow they all seem to have the “Oh, my” rather bad.

While climbing up the stairs to the quarter-deck from the many rushing and thrown to the side rails to share the day’s meals with the sea, the bow of the vessel reaching up to the sky, I took a big puff of my cigar feeling quite bold that Poseidon kindly favored me rather than our geriatric Oh-my’ers, when someone shouted:  “Come, now, that won’t answer. Read the sign up there—NO SMOKING ABAFT THE WHEEL!” It was Captain Duncan, the excursion’s chief. I damped out my tasty tobacco, nodded in acknowledgement, and continued my way forward. In a pursuit to discover and understand ways of naval travel, I found a spyglass in an upper-deck state-room behind the pilot-house. Ah, another ship off the horizon. Then another shout:  “Ah, ah—hands off! Come out of that!” I exited as commanded, found a lowly deck-sweep and inquired:

“Who is that overgrown pirate with the whiskers and the discordant voice?”

“It’s Captain Bursley—executive officer—sailing master.”

I loitered about awhile, and then, for want of something better to do, fell to carving a railing with my knife. Somebody said, in an insinuating, admonitory voice:

“Now, say—my friend—don’t you know any better than to be whittling the ship all to pieces that way? You ought to know better than that.”

I went back and found the deck sweep.

“Who is that smooth-faced, animated outrage yonder in the fine clothes?”

“That’s Captain L****, the owner of the ship—he’s one of the main bosses.”

Wise deck-sweepRealizing that the port side of the Quaker City was overcrowded with more Don’ts than Do’s, I took my curiosity starboard. There on that side of the pilot-house lay a sextant on the bench asking for my close examination. I told myself, they look to the sun as such, and I had hoped to relocate that ship in the distance. With my eye and hands on the instrument no more than three innocent seconds, a tap on the shoulder followed by yet another detesting voice:

“I’ll have to get you to give that to me, Sir. If there’s anything you’d like to know about taking the sun, I’d as soon tell you as not—but I don’t like to trust anybody with that instrument. If you want any figuring done—Aye, aye, sir!”

I began deducing there was apparently very little a paying passenger could tinker with save your cabin’s lavatory toilet-tissue and soap, and perhaps there too one required first a full naval inquiry. I ventured to find the deck-sweep once more for more future Don’ts.

“Who is that spider-legged gorilla yonder with the sanctimonious countenance?”

“It’s Captain Jones, sir—the chief mate.”

“Well. This goes clear away ahead of anything I ever heard of before. Do you—now I ask you as a man and a brother—do you think I could venture to throw a rock here in any given direction without hitting a captain of this ship?”

The wise sailor advised against given that the Captain of the Watch — a vessel’s sheriff if you will — was standing just over there quite interested in my probing curiosity. With my tour of investigating dashed…

“I went below—meditating and a little downhearted. I thought, if five cooks can spoil a broth, what may not five captains do with a pleasure excursion.”

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Aristippus of Cyrene once said “The vice [of pleasure] lies not in entering the bordello, but in not coming out.” Let us hope there are not so many captains disembarking at our destinations. As a wise Irish friend once told me, some cause happiness wherever they go, and others whenever they go.

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To be continued…

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