Unlike some employers, my current one sees the wisdom in arriving early for a major conference. The American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature is meeting in San Diego this year, and for those of us in the New York area, it’s about as long a flight as you can have in the lower 48. Having arrived in good time, and not knowing much to do in San Diego (I don’t know of any famous writers from this area whose childhood homes I might haunt), I ended up walking to the USS Midway. I’ve never been on an aircraft carrier before, and, on the eve of a religion conference, it was a strangely moving experience. Maybe it was the recognition that I was standing on a floating city on which many people had died in various wars. Perhaps it was the fact that this was a massive piece of machinery designed for its destructive potential. Or it might have been the sheer determination that appeared in every placard: this was a cause we had to win.
No doubt, the Second World War was a just cause. The force of destruction had to stop and the aircraft carriers that enabled the war effort were a huge feature in the “Pacific theater.” Staring at these massive jets, the finest technology of their day, I knew that our greatest efforts had been poured into violence. These were not mere deterrents. Yes, people had died here, but those launched from these decks also killed. War makes claims that way. As I pondered these sobering thoughts, I came to the chapel. Obviously I had to see. An eerie recording of “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” came over the speakers as I walked in. Yes, those on a warship are in peril on the sea. If they are successful, others will have died.
A little further along the corridor (or is it “hatchway”?), I came upon the chaplain’s room, along with my first Bibles of the trip. (I knew they would be here.) A mannequin of the chaplain, cookie in one hand, Bible in the other, sat, apparently, preparing a sermon. What does one say to those going to war? God is on our side, obviously. But what more? The Bible does not forbid warfare. It was a way of life in the centuries during which it was composed. We like to think we may have advanced since then. But as I prepared to exit back onto deck in the warm California air, I passed a display of aircraft carriers past and present. More sophisticated, more deadly weapons continue to be built. And in this day of nones, I wonder who their chaplain might be.
Posted in Bible, Posts, Religious Violence, Science, Travel
Tagged AAR/SBL, aircraft carrier, California, Religious Violence, San Diego, USS Midway, war
Did you remember to set your clock back? Depending on where you are (and this presumes there are any people reading this at all) it might have been a mistake. When I worked with Routledge, we had weekly trans-Atlantic meetings via conference calls. I remember the general confusion of what time it was where, and how that effected meeting times. The UK sets its clocks back at a different time then many states do this side of the ocean. As much as it is nice to have an extra hour of sleep (next weekend for most Americans, this morning for the British Isles) it really never seems worth the disruption on the other end of “standard time.” In the spring it will take several weeks to adjust to disrupted sleep patterns after long winter naps—for those who are able to sleep in, in any case. I’ve long thought it is time to do away with this practice: if daylight savings time is a good idea, why don’t we just keep it that way all year around? Greenwich Mean Time, however, could never admit to being wrong.
I was always told daylight savings time was because of concerns for children walking to school in the dark. An article in The Guardian, however, gives the real reason. It was war. During the First World War (which impacted so many aspects of life that we’re still sorting them all out), Germany implemented daylight savings time to conserve fuel to support the war effort. Squeezing a few more minutes of daylight from a slumbering public meant more resources for the engines of destruction. Other nations soon followed and when we turn our clocks ahead in the spring and yawn wicked yawns all day at work and stumble about for lack of sleep, we wonder if that extra hour’s snooze in the fall was really worth it. Because of my commute, I rise early. If everyone awoke around 4 a.m., daylight savings time would quickly become moot. It does nothing to help. I already catch the bus in the dark and arrive home after dark, as I will until well into spring. It is a holiday with no meaning.
Religions have been, historically, the clock keepers of humanity. Our hours were regulated for prayer, our weeks divided up for a day of worship or rest, our years punctured by holy days. All of this was done for the sake of religion. In our secular world, there would be no reason beyond the recognition that people are more productive when they can rest to give them one day off in a week. Seven days corresponds to no natural division of time, unless you consider a quarter of the moon’s phases for 28-day months to be significant. Religions have been our time-keepers. Daylight savings time, however, was the child of war. This week our UK colleagues will be well rested and content. Next weekend the US will join them. But the second horseman of the apocalypse has sanctioned this unholy day, and when the spring rolls around, he will exact his toll. We’d better rest up in the meanwhile, and I, for one, say let’s banish the horseman all together.
I am on a boat—maybe it’s the Titanic. Far from land. For some reason, vaguely unclear, the ship is sinking. There’s panic—people are running and flailing, trying to save themselves. I’m frozen with terror as the icy water encroaches. I can’t swim. I prepare to die. So goes a nightmare I had several times in association with a former place of employment. Nashotah House felt traumatic to me with forced liturgies and daily reminders of my inferior status. The terror of the nightmares was very real, and the day I was fired did nothing to improve them. As a child I was plagued with phobias and frequently experienced horrific nightmares. They still come once in a while, but since I’ve left the employment of the church, they have become, gradually, less frequent. Nightmares are just dreams gone bad, and I’ve always been a dreamer.
Last month Time ran a story on nightmares. The subject of nightmares has now caught the attention of the military because of cases of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. When the military decides to show its humane side, it doesn’t fear backing it with big bucks. Soldiers confess to frequent nightmares after witnessing the atrocities of war. (One psychologist said that many at Nashotah House seemed to be suffering from a similar phenomenon.) Theorists now suggest that nightmares might lead to mental illness, and sleep deprivation, as we all know, can lead to bad judgment. Not a good thing on the battlefield. Or behind the wheel of a car. Or, in a recent real-life nightmare, while flying a jet.
In many ways nightmares seem like minor annoyances—they don’t physically hurt anyone, and they end when you wake. Time probably wouldn’t have reported on them if it hadn’t been for the military angle. This seems a paradigmatic situation. A common problem goes ignored until it affects the military, then it is deemed worth research funded by tax-payers. I am well acquainted with nightmares. As a child they became part of my identity. I am heartened that serious research is considered worthy of federal money. It seems, however, that perhaps a better way to end battle-induced nightmares would be to stop the horrors of warfare. When war ends, some nightmares will cease. Of course, I’ve always been a dreamer.
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?