Sunday, June 12, 2005

Flapdoodle Freudian

A Book Review
Title: Sister Amiee
Author: Daniel Mark Epstein

This late afternoon, I was reading Daniel Mark Epstein's biography of Aimee Semple McPherson, entitled "Sister Aimee", published back in 1993 by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, which I had checked out from the nearby library. (Yes, we are literate and have libraries here in Land-In-Between.) Epstein's biography appears to be well researched, and the book has an extensive bibliography. So far I don't have many complaints about the book, but it is clear that Epstein will interpret his materials within the framework of his secularistic categories of thought. That he does this wasn't at all surprising or unexpected for me. It's just that occasionally the results can get a little ludicrous. For example, after retelling McPherson's childhood account of her escaping a dangerous encounter with an irate bull, Epstein concludes by saying:
But we can read this story, with its vivid details — the girl in the white frock with red moons, the bucket of kindling, the polled bull — as an elegant and precise sexual allegory.
This is pish-posh. But I am sure the perverts editors at Harcourt Brace Jovanovich probably liked it for its quasi-freudian insight. But then again, probably not many editors in NYC have ever grown up on farms. Livestock can be a little dangerous to be around if they're in a surly or unhappy mood; even a seemingly docile cow can throw around many hundredweight's worth of mass, enough to break some bones if you happen to be in the way, and therefore you always have to be careful around livestock. All this is just a simple everyday fact of farming life — Aimee grew up on a farm in Canada — and people who've lived on farms can tell many stories about farming life. And I guess modern biographers in turn will never fail to dream up flapdoodle freudian interpretations for these stories. But inspite of Epstein's occasional flights of inventiveness, he does keep the narrative mostly on course.

I understand of course Epstein's predicament as a biographer. He doesn't have any personal faith in the Gospel — at least none that can be discerned in his book — and furthermore, to get his book even published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, he necessarily has to approach his subject — the life of a flamboyant woman evangelist who was very emphatically a believer — purely from the viewpoint of a contemporary secularism that is acceptable to the educated elites, the foundation of this secularism being its unspoken confidence in its own intellectual superiority to xtians such as Aimee. Yet, even though Epstein confidently supposes he can always explain Aimee better than herself, there are some aspects of her life that necessarily will remain completely and forever opaque to him. And, of course, if Aimee were still around today, she herself would probably disagree with many of Epstein's interpretations of what was happening in her own life, maybe going as far as to denounce them vigorously. Nevertheless, Aimee is such a fascinating personality that, in various places in Epstein's book, she somehow still manages to explain herself fairly well, even stealing the show from her own biographer, despite his best attempts to do the explaining for her.

I've always wanted to read a complete biography on Aimee Semple McPherson, especially considering that she has had, howbeit remotely, a great influence on my life. On several occasions, many years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Angelus Temple, back in SoCal, but that is a long story. Anyhow, I did take a peek at the ending of the Epstein's biography where I found out that Aimee had died on September 27th, 1944, from an accidental overdose of a prescribed sleeping medication.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Podunk City

Yesterday was rather eventful. First of all, my aged mother moved to her new home in Podunk City, here in Land-In-Between. She had been living on her five acre property, out five miles north of town in the forest, which she greatly enjoyed. She had a large, beautiful garden; grew raspberries, strawberries, and all manner of flowering plants; fed the quail until they grew to be the fattest quail ever, and other wild birds nested all around the place; ran her snow-blower in the winter (it gets to be three feet deep where she lived); and chopped the wood for the wood-burning stove. But taking care of five acres of property grew to be a little too much for her; therefore, she thought it was time to sell it and move to a smaller place.

We were out yesterday at my Mom's place to help her move to her new home. Moving all her furniture and belongings certainly would have been an all-day and very exhausting task. Yet, without my Mom asking anybody for help, about a half-dozen men, and several ladies, from her Podunk Backwoods Bible Church came out to help her. (The middle of Podunk City is where she is going now.) They brought their big redneck trucks, towing big redneck trailers. Some of them were brawny, plain looking men who work hard and don't talk much. One of them reminded me of my grandfather, although with his long grayish beard, he looked as if he could have been someone in the blues band ZZ Top. But I guess they all would be considered the sort of Bible-clinging nekkies that would give Anderson Cooper nightmares, that would cause, just by thinking about them, Rachel Maddow to break out in a cold sweat; the mere sight of them probably would cause George Will to go into convulsions; and the haut monde of Academe would tartly curl their lips in disdain, dismissing them as ignorant and unwashed. (They are washed in the Blood of the Lamb, however, the only washing that really counts.) Yet these were just some ordinary people here in the fly-over country of Land-In-Between, people whom the CMEs (Coastal Media Elites) don't know much about and wouldn't want as friends anyway. And it was these ordinary people who came out to help my aged mother get moved.

And I was thankful and more than glad to have them on my side. They helped us to load up the big U-haul truck my mother had rented. The piano alone, it seemed, weighed as much as a block of granite from the Great Pyramid of Giza, yet we managed to get it into the U-haul with little difficulty. Besides loading the U-haul, they loaded up their trailers with all the miscellaneous overflow items. And so what would have been a nearly impossible, exhausting, and all-day ordeal was finished before the morning was over. We prayed with them, the people from my Mom's Podunk Backwoods Bible Church, and thanked them for their help.

The task was done so quickly that we had enough time for my Mom to be able to take us out for lunch in a small cafe, named Granny's, across the street from the main Burlington Santa Fe railroad track that cuts through Podunk City. But just before this, however, a funny thing happened: For we had loaded the U-haul truck with the dolly and the folded-up moving blankets, stacked neatly near the back edge. But somehow we forgot to completely shut and lock the door on the back. While my Mom and I drove the U-haul to return it to the rental in nearby town of Bogwater, My wife was following in the pickup so as to give us a ride back, and she noticed that the counterweight spring had pulled the door wide open on the back of the U-haul. She tried honking to alert us to the situation, but unfortunately we didn't hear her. When the U-haul went over a railroad crossing on the highway, there was enough of a bump to cause about half of the blankets to jump out and fall out onto the road. Consequently, she had to pull over to retrieve the blankets, being careful to dodge any traffic. It was a good thing the dolly hadn’t fallen out, because that could have caused a serious accident on the thoroughfare. When we reached the U-haul rental, I was puzzled to see that the door open on the truck and some of the blankets missing. My wife caught up with us after a few minutes and explained what had happened.

There was enough time left in the day for us to help my mother unpack a few of her things, to get some living room furniture arranged, and to get her bedroom set up. One of my brothers, who has been staying with her, would be returning that evening from work to help with the rest of the other details. Later, my mother told us that she woke up at three o'clock this morning thinking over all the multitude of things that needed to be unpacked and stowed. Her new house is beautiful and quite large and located in a nice neighborhood in Podunk City. It has a large fireplace, a spacious kitchen, along with gas-heating, and large insulated garage. Although her front and back yards are very much smaller than her previous property, she has several very large ponderosa pine trees. Her beautiful backyard has an assortment of bird feeders that were set up by the previous owner.

But the move was a sad occasion for me. My father had died of leukemia in the previous house. And I have the feeling that this will be the last place where my Mom will be living.