Tempus Fugit: Is it time to make books?

Over the last four years, in a book, articles, blogs, texts, and emails, I wrote 2,198,152 words. That is roughly the number of words in 27 novels. I think this serves as a wake-up call.

This morning I “enrolled” in a 30-day productivity program offered by a Canadian newsletter author I follow (https://productivityist.com/). I am wary about subscribing to this sort of thing because I end up reading instead of writing. I am also careful during the holiday season because I do not allow time to do the requirements properly. Add to this that I have a glut of accumulated advice (http://liamatchison.com/contact-dr-liam/sage-advice-about-writing/). My thirty days correspond to the entire month of December. Subscribing seems really risky.

Will it be worth the risk? I may not say I wrote twenty-four books in four years, but I will settle for four to six! More to come (books I, hope)!

Shelby Miller on Unsplash

What’s this? Ale for Easter?

Every Anglophilic fan of Miss Marple knows about the church jumble sale phenomenon. To raise funds for the parish, a church may collect donated used goods and sell them as a special event. One might ask why this communal yard sale flourished in England. And the answer seems to be that this cultural commonplace came about because of urbanization and industrialization. Cities had larger consumer pools. Industrialization spawned piles of castoff manufactured goods. More importantly, what preceded jumble sales in history, and what does it have to do with Easter?

The Church Ale

In early modern (1450-1750) England, it was not unusual for a local congregation to hold a “Church Ale” on Easter Sunday. Preparation for this event took about a week. Proud locals would offer favorite recipes from barley or malt mixed with water, yeast, and spices. Homemade ale was warm, dark, thick, and spoiled quickly. Ale was an essential accompaniment to the other outdoor social activities and entertainments that made up Easter weekend. It may have been a significant draw to church services! The reformer German Martin Luther (1483-1546) understood the demand for a good drink in the sixteenth century:

When a good beer is available at a certain place, everybody runs there without delay, knowing that the supply will not last long. This commodity is not to be had every day; therefore, people get it while it is to be had. If it could be obtained for a long period of time, our appetite would become surfeited, and the beer would not be prized. (Luther, Works, Vol. 23, p. 262).

Church Ales managed to survive the English Reformation. They faded into oblivion with the industrial revolution when tavern-goers left brewing to specialists who supplied busy city-dwellers. Because we tend to see the Protestant church’s social behavior through the filter of eighteenth-century Pietism, this is surprising. Later in America, through the influence of pietistic Methodists and Baptists, teetotaling became the mark of the Christian.

Church Ales. Could it be that the time has come to bring back this old idea? This is only a pondering. You didn’t hear me suggest it.

Of ale, taxes, and the gospel.

Two final notes. First, a loyal subject of the monarch (who was the Supreme Head of the Church of England) would prefer ale. The hopelessly xenophobic Renaissance hobbits considered beer to be a suspicious foreign concoction. The inclusion of (Egad!) hops sullied beer’s reputation. They considered hops a “wicked and pernicious weed” (Unger, Beer, (2004), p. 100) even though their Protestant counterparts in Germany preferred beer because the pope did not tax hops. They could drink their fill without supporting the Roman church! Second: Luther’s quote above illustrates the preaching of the gospel. He says the gospel of grace is a limited-time offer (like the excellent beer). We should not become complacent, thinking it will always be available!

Could the time have come to bring back Church Ales? This is only a pondering. You didn’t hear me suggest it.

Mad George and the Avuncular Roman Candle

For phonophobes, July 4 is the light version—thanks to Big Brother—of Bonfire night, with George III as the “guy.”

Fifty years ago Independence Day was observed more in keeping with John Adams’ vision of the day. In small-town Kansas, where I grew up, explosions began a week early and continued unimpeded through the holiday.

Photo by Alejo Storni on Unsplash

Relatives from states where fireworks were prohibited would visit to experience the ear-popping glory of it all. My Florida uncle chased my cousins and me around the house with a live Roman candle in hand, his whooping and laughter mingling with our screams as the fireballs narrowly missed our heads. My mother saved us by issuing a sharp rebuke to the adult who should have known better. We all felt pity for him when with stooped shoulders and head held low he slinked into the house.

He returned with his Roman candles the next year and the year after that until fireworks were banned in our town as well. Too many roof fires and scorched children filled emergency rooms in the land of the free.

I am sure mad old King George would be happy that our fear of risk would finally spoil Adams’ celebration. Let them pick on Guy Fawkes instead. But some of us will light our Roman candles in secret and remember that imminent risk is cheek and jowl with exquisite joy.