“The Innocents Abroad” in 2013

“The Innocents Abroad” in 2013

© David Burton 2013

Dewey Defeats Truman Headline

     I have just completed reading of Mark Twain’s classic book, The Innocents Abroad or The new Pilgrim’s Progress. What struck me as I was reading and laughing my way through the book was its timelessness. Remember, Twain published this book in 1869, nearly a century-and-a-half ago. What he observed and wrote about in the 19th century is, in many ways, as relevant in today’s 21st century as then.

     The Innocents Abroad describes a 5-month cruise aboard a side-wheel steamship, the Quaker City, taken by Twain, commencing in June 1867, to the Azores, North Africa, Europe, the Mid-East, and Palestine. Contained herein are excerpts from Mark Twain’s observations as recorded in his book along with my corresponding “updates” for our “modern” times. My references to the original Mark Twain writings are taken from:

Mark Twain: The Innocents Abroad
Published by Signet Classics, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First Signet Classics Printing (Meyer Introduction), April 2007.

The Journalist

     Have you been on a multi-day trip, cruise, or tour with someone who spends the preponderance of his time keeping a journal of the event? Or, perhaps you have run across someone who starts the trip with the enviable objective of detailing all the events of the trip in a literary masterpiece, but, soon gives up the attempt. Good intentions quickly give way to the tedium of having to devote time each and every day to keeping up a journal. Let’s see what Mark Twain had to write about such an individual on his cruise.

     At the commencement of the cruise, “some twenty or thirty gentlemen and ladies sat them down under the swaying lamps and for two or three hours wrote diligently in their journals. Alas that journals so voluminously begun should come to so lame and impotent a conclusion as most of them did! I doubt if there is a single pilgrim of all that host but can show a hundred fair pages of journal concerning the first twenty days’ voyaging in the Quaker City, and I am morally certain that not ten of the party can show twenty pages of journal for the succeeding twenty thousand miles of voyaging!” (Page 22)

     Twain goes on to describe the initially enthusiastic efforts of Jack to maintain a journal of his travels. At the start of the cruise, Jack “used to report progress every morning in the most glowing and spirited way, and say:
     “’Oh, I’m coming along bully!’ (He was a little given to slang in his happier moods.) ‘I wrote ten pages in my journal last night – and you know I wrote nine the night before and twelve the night before that. Why it’s only fun!’ “
(Page 23)

     “But it shortly became a most lamentable ‘slouch of a journal.’  . . . {In Paris, Jack said,} 'I think I won’t run that journal anymore. It is awful tedious. Do you know – I reckon I’m as much as four thousand pages behindhand.  . . . Oh, I don’t think a journal’s any use – do you? They’re only a bother, ain’t they?'
     “His experience was only the experience of the majority of that industrious night school in the cabin. If you wish to inflict a heartless and malignant punishment upon a young person, pledge him to keep a journal a year.”
(Page 24)

The All-knowing Blowhard

     We all know one of these. Start a conversation with someone and, if this blowhard is nearby, he will immediately jump in and tell both of you all about the topic that you were previously discussing. You won’t be able to get a word in while he pontificates and extolls his perspicacity, knowledge and understanding of the issue, no matter what the issue is. He will spout unsubstantiated facts, numbers, and statistics to prove his point. He drones on endlessly while you and your friend try to avoid falling asleep from his ongoing harangue. If you dare to try to interject a comment, interrupt him, or oppose his views, he raises the volume of his speech so as to drown you out.

     During his cruise, Mark Twain describes his recurrent interaction with an 1860’s blowhard. His description of the pompous ass is as follows: He “never uses a one-syllable word when he can think of a longer one, and never by any possible chance knows the meaning of any long word he uses or ever gets it in the right place; yet he will serenely venture an opinion on the most abstruse subject and back it up complacently with quotations from authors who never existed, and finally when cornered will slide to the other side of the question, say he has been there all the time, and come back at you with your own spoken arguments, only with the big words all tangled, and play them in your very teeth as original with himself.” (Pages 45-46)

The Erudite Traveler

     Have you ever been accosted by the erudite traveler? He is the person who travels to some foreign destination, spends all of a day or part of a day there and then returns to tell you everything that you were never interested in regarding his destination, to show you that he has acquired a complete understanding of the locale to which he travelled, and that he now fully understands the politics, economics, demographics, geography, climate, etc., etc., etc., of the place has visited and will present all of this information to you. Would that our state department could find and employ persons of such outstanding intelligence and the innate ability to become completely knowledgeable about all facets of a foreign country in such a short span of time.

     Mark Twain met such people during his travels. He described one such individual as follows: “He reads a chapter in the guidebooks, mixes up the facts all up, with his bad memory, and then goes off to inflict the whole mess on somebody as wisdom which has been festering in his brain for years.” (Page 46) Later, Twain says of this traveler: “He was always persecuting the passengers with abstruse propositions framed in language that no man could understand, and they endured the exquisite torture a minute or two and then abandoned the field. A triumph like this over a half dozen antagonists was sufficient for one day.” (Page 62)

     Later, Twain again tells of these erudite travelers, this time referring to them as the “Old Travelers – those delightful parrots who have ‘been there before’. They are the ones who “prate and drivel and lie. We can tell them the moment we see them. They always throw out a few feelers; they never cast themselves adrift till they have sounded every individual and know that he has not traveled. Then they open their throttle valves, and how they do brag, and sneer, and swell, and soar, and blaspheme the sacred name of Truth! Their central idea, their grand aim, is to subjugate you, to keep you down, make you feel insignificant and humble in the blaze of their cosmopolitan glory! They will not let you know anything. They sneer at your most inoffensive suggestions; they laugh unfeelingly at your treasured dreams of foreign lands; they brand the statements of your traveled aunts and uncles as the stupidest absurdities; they deride your most trusted authors and demolish the fair images they have set up for your willing worship with the pitiless ferocity of the fanatic iconoclast! But still I love the Old Travelers. I love them for their witless platitudes, for their supernatural ability to bore, for their delightful asinine vanity, for their luxuriant fertility of imagination, for their startling, their brilliant, their overwhelming mendacity!” [Emphasis mine] (Page 77)

The Ugly American Tourist

     There have been times I have been in a foreign country when I was embarrassed at being an American. Such occasions were the result of unforgivably bad behavior on the part of a quintessential “ugly American tourist.” Mark Twain encountered just such ugly Americans on his five-month “pleasure cruise”. He wrote:

     “We were troubled a little at dinner today by the conduct of an American, who talked very loudly and coarsely and laughed boisterously where all others were so quiet and well behaved. He ordered wine with a royal flourish and said: ‘I never dine without wine, sir’ (which was a pitiful falsehood), and looked around upon the company to bask in the admiration he expected to find in their faces. All these airs in a land where they would as soon expect to leave the soup out of the bill of fare as the wine! – in a land where wine is nearly as common among all the ranks as water! This fellow said: ‘I am a freeborn sovereign, sir, an American, sir, and I want everybody to know it!’ He did not mention that he was a lineal descendant of Balaam’s ass, but everybody knew that without his telling it.” [Emphasis mine] (Page 69)

     “It is not pleasant to see an American thrusting his nationality forward obtrusively in a foreign land.” (Page 171)

     Some of Twain’s “ugly American tourist” traveling companions repeatedly insisted in breaking off pieces of antiquities to bring home as souvenirs. At one location in Palestine, these ugly American tourists “broke specimens from the foundation walls, though they had to touch and even step upon the ‘praying carpets’ {of a few old Arabs} to do it. It was almost the same as breaking pieces from the hearts of these old Arabs. To step rudely upon the sacred praying mats with booted feet – a thing not done by any Arab – was to inflict pain upon men who had not offended us in any way. Suppose a party of armed foreigners were to enter a village church in America and break ornaments from the altar railings for curiosities, and climb up and walk upon the Bible and the pulpit cushions? However, the cases are different. One is the profanation of a temple of our faith – the other only the profanation of a pagan one.” (Page 419)

Kilroy Was Here

     Wherever one turns these days, it seems that we are continually confronted with Graffiti. Whether it’s urban art or someone’s name, or a “John loves Mary” inscription, or the ever-popular “Kilroy was here”, walls, structures and sidewalks are covered with these ubiquitous messages. So it was in Mark Twain’s time and probably as long as writing instruments existed along with the walls upon which to inscribe these messages. Coming into a chapel in which there was a large rock upon which Jesus’s disciples are said to have rested. Twain wrote the following:

     “Our pilgrims would have liked very well to get out their lamp black and stencil plates and paint their names on that rock, together with the names of the villages they hail from in America. But the priests permit nothing of that kind.” (Page 408)

The Art and Antiquities Expert

     Have you run across an old painting, faded with age, not particularly appealing, and with barely perceivable features? As you get ready to move on to seek out something more artistic and more appealing, that inestimable art expert approaches and breathlessly expounds on the beauty, the inner meaning, and the artistic merit of this decrepit canvas. He prattles on about the brilliant colors (that may once have been there but are no longer present). He marvels at the finesse of the unobservable brush strokes and explains with total certainty the unexplainable – the message the artist was attempting to convey in his painting. May the good Lord shield us from these all-knowing self-proclaimed art experts.

     As Mark Twain wound his way through Europe in the nineteenth century, he had multiple opportunities to view paintings similar to the ones I have just described. And, unfortunately, he encountered the type of art critic and expert that I have described. Here is Mark Twain’s description of one such encounter:

     In Milan, Italy, Twain viewed The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. “We are not infallible judges of pictures, but of course, we went there to see this wonderful painting, once so beautiful, always so worshipped by masters in art, and forever to be famous in song and story.  . . . ‘The Last Supper’ is painted on the dilapidated wall of and discolored with what was a little chapel attached to the main church at ancient times, I suppose. It is battered and scarred in every direction, and stained and discolored by time . . . The colors are dimmed with age; the countenances are scaled and marred, and nearly all expression is gone from them; the hair is a dead blur upon the wall, and there is no life in the eyes.” (Pages 136-137)

     Still, in spite of all this, the venerable art experts came and raptured over the painting. Twain continues: “

     People come here from all parts of the world and glory at this masterpiece. They stand entranced before it with bated breath and parted lips, and when they speak, it is only in the catchy ejaculations of rapture:

     ‘Oh, wonderful!’
     ‘Such expression!’
     ‘Such grace of attitude!’
     ‘Such dignity!’
     ‘Such faultless drawing!’
     ‘Such matchless coloringl!’
     ‘Such feeling!’
     ‘What delicacy of touch!’
     “What sublimity of conception!”
     “A vision! A vision!”

     “I only envy these people; I envy them their honest admiration, if it be honest – their delight, if they feel delight. I harbor no animosity toward any of them. But at the same time the thought will intrude itself upon me: How can they see what is not visible? What would you think of a man who looked at some decayed, blind, toothless, pock-marked Cleopatra and said: “What matchless beauty! What soul! What expression!’ What of a man who gazed upon a dingy, foggy sunset and said: ‘What sublimity! What feeling! What richness of coloring!’ What would you think of a man who stared in ecstasy upon a desert of stumps and said: ‘Oh, my soul, my beating heart, what a noble forest is here!’
     “You would think that those men had an astonishing talent for seeing things that had already passed away. It was what I thought when I stood there before ’The Last Supper’ and heard men apostrophizing wonders and beauties and perfections which had faded out of the picture and gone a hundred years before they were born.
         - - -
     “It vexes me to hear people talk so glibly of ‘feeling,’ ‘expression,’ ‘tone,’ and those other easily acquired and inexpensive technicalities of art that make such a fine show in conversations concerning pictures. There is not one man in seventy-five hundred that can tell what a pictured face is intended to express.
” (Pages 137-139)

Government Finances

     These days, there are those among us who lament the sad state of the American economy – the trillions owed, the spending that far exceeds the revenues, the ballooning interest on the debt, the confiscatory tendencies of the administration in power. Such is neither unique in today's world, nor was it unheard of in the time of Mark Twain. In Italy in 1867, Twain wrote:

     “There are a good many things about this Italy which I do not understand – and more especially I cannot understand how a bankrupt government can have such palatial railroad depots and such marvels of turnpikes.
     “This country is bankrupt. There is no real foundation for these great works. The prosperity they would seem to indicate is a pretense. There is no money in the treasury, and so they enfeeble her instead of strengthening. Italy has achieved the dearest wish of her heart and become an independent state – and in so doing has drawn an elephant in the political lottery. She has nothing to feed it on. Inexperienced in government, she plunged into all manner of useless expenditure and swamped her treasury almost in a day.
” (Page 186 ) Does this bear an uncanny resemblance to some of the bitter rhetoric attending the political debate in America over the past four years?

     “But it is an ill wind that blows nobody good. A year ago, when Italy saw utter ruin staring her in the face and her greenbacks hardly worth the paper they were printed on, her Parliament ventured upon a coup de main that would have appalled the stoutest of her statesman under less desperate circumstances. They, in a manner, confiscated the domains of the Church!  . . . They do not call it confiscating the church property. That would sound too harshly yet. But it amounts to that.” (Page 187)

     Today, here in the United States, some might rephrase Twain’s last sentences to read as follows: The government is attempting to confiscate the money of the wealthy by raising the tax rates on them. The government does not call it confiscation. That would sound too harsh. But it amounts to that. Instead, the government demands that the wealthy pay “their fair share.”

The Public Employee

     Throughout the world, there are civil servants and people who are employed by the government that spend the majority of their working life “just getting by.” They do the bare minimum needed to keep their jobs. They have no real concern for the people they are supposed to be serving. Their sole objective is to put in the minimum effort needed to reach retirement. The people they are supposed to be serving are nothing more than a hindrance and an annoyance on the path to obtaining this objective. Every one of us has his or her story to tell about the frustration of having to deal with these “servants of the people.”

     Mark Twain described such public employees of the Italian city of Pompeii – “street commissioners” - whose responsibility it was to keep the streets in repair and to keep them clean:

     “in the great, chief thoroughfares (Merchant Street and the Street of Fortune) have I not seen with my own eyes how for two hundred years at least the pavements were not repaired! – how ruts five and even ten inches deep were worn into the thick flagstones by the chariot wheels of generations of swindled taxpayers? And do I not know by these signs that street commissioners of Pompeii never attended to their business, and that if they ever mended the pavements they never cleaned them? And besides, is it not the inborn nature of street commissioners to avoid their duty whenever they get a chance? I wish I knew the name of the last one that held office in Pompeii so I could give him a blast. I speak with feeling on this subject, because I caught my foot in one of those ruts, and the sadness that came over me when I saw the first skeleton, with ashes and lava sticking to it, was tempered by the reflection that maybe that party was the street commissioner.” (Page 246)

Public Works Contracts and Contractors

     Here in Massachusetts, we let a contract to depress Interstate 95 beneath the streets of Boston, thereby eliminating the elevated highway that was viewed as a blight and an eyesore. The project was labeled the “big dig.” The original contract for the "big dig" was let for a cost of under $5 billion. Interestingly, the agreement between Massachusetts and the federal government for the “big dig” required the government to pay for 80% of the project, no matter how much the cost escalated over the original estimate. Can you imagine any private company agreeing to pay 80% of the cost of something with no limit on the total cost?

     Well, the project was completed years behind schedule at a cost that had escalated to nearly $15 billion. The enormous cost overrun was initially not of great concern to Massachusetts, since the state only had to pay 20% of the overrun. Those suckers in the other 49 states were on the hook for the other 80%. But, even 20% of the $10 billion overrun finally became too much for the good citizens of the Bay State and a public clamor arose that terminated the spending fiasco.

     With the project finally completed, one would think that the story had ended. But such was not the case. A few years after project completion, hundreds of leaks were found in the tunnel and costly repairs were required, with still more repairs and expensive maintenance likely needed indefinitely. Then, ceiling panels fell off the roof of the tunnel, killing a passenger in a car. Serious structural deterioration was found to be the cause of the panel collapse. Still later, wall panels came loose from tunnels connecting to the big dig – the cause was found to be more corrosion.

     Is this a story of only modern incompetence and malfeasance, or do similar stories occur throughout history? Mark Twain believed the latter to be the case.

     “Within the Hellespont we saw where the original first shoddy contract mentioned in history was carried out, and the ‘parties of the second part’ gently rebuked by Xerxes. I speak of the famous bridge of boats which Xerxes ordered to be built over the narrowest part of the Hellespont (where it is only two or three miles wide). A moderate gale destroyed the flimsy structure, and the King, thinking that to publically rebuke the contractors might have a good effect on the next set, called them out before the army and had them beheaded. In the next ten minutes he let a new contract for the bridge. It has been observed by ancient writers that the second bridge was a very good bridge. Xerxes crossed his host of five millions of men on it, and if it had not been purposely destroyed, it would probably have been there yet. If our government would rebuke some of our shoddy contractors occasionally, it might work much good.” (Page 268)

High Public Regard for members of Congress

     It’s been said that, today, the American public holds members of Congress in less regard than Root canals, head lice, cockroaches, Donald Trump, Adolph Hitler and Ghengis Khan. The whole fiscal cliff fiasco, sequestration and the failure of Congress to pass a federal budget have all contributed to the decidedly low opinion in which members of Congress are held. It has been reported that some 82 percent of Americans now disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job. Somewhat surprisingly, this low regard for Congress in not something new.

     Quoting from “an edition of 1621 of the Apocryphal New Testament, Twain repeats one verse that “so evidently prophetically refers to the general run of Congresses of the United States:

             They carry themselves high, and as prudent
             men; and though they are fools, yet would seem to
             be teachers.

                           (Page 415)

The Privileges of the Rich

     Being rich in America today has its rewards. So too in Mark Twain’s day in Europe. He wrote:

     “If a man be rich he is greatly honored, and can become a legislator, a governor, a general, a senator, no matter how ignorant an ass he is. nbsp;. . . the nobles hold all the great places, even though sometimes they are born noble idiots. ” (Page 197 )

The Super Bowl – Today and Yesteryear

     Each year in late January, the Super Bowl is played at some large stadium in one of America’s cities. For weeks preceding the event, the airwaves and print media are filled with announcements of the great event and urging all to either come to the game or to watch it on television. Following the game, there are more stories written and spoken of the great plays, the great and not-so-great players, and the magnificence and pageantry that accompanied the actual playing of the game.

     It may not have been much different in ancient times. Mark Twain conjured up an imaginary playbill that announced the coming of one of the great spectacles that took place in the Coliseum in Rome and another poster that critiqued the event. His descriptions of these two imaginary posters are much too long to be presented here. I would, however, strongly urge the reading of Twain’s versions of these posters in their entirety. They are hilarious in a morbid way. His wit is as relevant today as it was then. As one very short example, consider the following from his imaginary announcement:

     “The performance will commence this evening with a - GRAND BROADSWORD COMBAT! - between two young and promising amateurs and a celebrated Parthian gladiator who has just arrived a prisoner from the Camp of Verus.
     “This will be followed by a grand mortal - BATTLE-AX ENGAGEMENT! – between the renowned Valerian (with one hand tied behind him) and two savages from Britain.
     “After which the renowned Valerian (if he survive) will fight with the broadsword – LEFT HANDED! - against six sophomores and a freshman from the Gladiatorial College!
(Page 207 )

     For the entire text on the subject, read Pages 205 through 212 of his book.

Middle-East Tyranny:

     The Mid-east and the Arab world are in turmoil these days as long-reigning regimes are under assault, are falling or have been toppled. The outcomes of all of these have been very disappointing to those who had hoped to see these despotic regimes replaced by more moderate, tolerant and democratic institutions. Instead, the old despotic regimes are being replaced by less democratic, less moderate, theocratic dictatorships that threaten to further entrench aggressively jihadist governments that would continue to enslave their peoples and threaten the peace and security of the rest of the world. But, the real losers in all of this turmoil continue to be the average citizens in these countries. They are the ones that bear the brunt of all the intolerance, poverty and killings. Too long the peoples in the region have suffered under the likes of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah, Fatah, Hamas, the PLO, Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Hosni Mubarak, the Iranian Ayatollahs, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the royal Saudi family, Bashar Assad and still other regional tyrants and regimes. Their replacements do not appear to be better. The average citizen of these countries probably wishes for peace and security like the rest of us; they look to the rest of the world to help achieve these goals, but the Islamic extremists and despots frustrate their wishes. Such has been the lot of the Arab/Muslim population of the Middle-east for centuries. Even a hundred-and-fifty years ago, this was evident to Mark Twain. He wrote:

     “If ever an oppressed race existed, it is this one we see fettered around us under the inhuman tyranny of the Ottoman empire. I wish Europe would let Russia annihilate Turkey a little – not much, but enough to make it difficult to find the place again without a divining rod or a diving bell. The Syrians are very poor, and yet they are ground down by a system of taxation that would drive any other nation frantic.  . . . It is a most outrageous state of things.
     “These people are naturally goodhearted and intelligent, and with education and liberty would be a happy and contented race. They often appeal to the stranger to know if the great world will not someday come to their relief and save them.
Pages 336-337)

Islam, the Arabs and Christianity

     Mark Twain’s first contact with Muslims and Arabs took place when his paddlewheel steamer stopped at the North African port city of Tangiers in Morocco. Paraphrasing his remarks about these Muslim Arabs to bring them into our 21st century context, we have:

     “These are a people by nature and training brutish, ignorant, unprogressive and superstitious. The Three Graces of the leaders of radical Islam are Tyranny, Rapacity, and Blood. As a result, the first century greets the twenty first! {In other words, they have not progressed beyond the first century.} These leaders of radical Islam are the geniuses of Ignorance, Bigotry, and indolence.” ( Pages 89-91;)

     Twain noticed and railed against Muslim intolerance toward Christians and all other “non-believers”. Talking about the intolerance of the Muslims towards Christians that he observed in the Arab city of Tangiers, he wrote:

     “Some years ago the clock in the tower of the mosque got out of order.” They had no Muslim mechanic capable of repairing the clock. “A patriarch arose and said:
     “Oh, children of the Prophet, it is known unto you that a Portugee dog of a Christian clock mender pollutes the city of Tangier with his presence. Ye know, also, that when mosques are builded, asses bear the stones and the cement, and cross the sacred threshold {of the mosque}. Now, therefore, send the Christian dog on all fours, and barefoot, into the holy place to mend the clock, and let him go as an ass!
” ( Page 56;)

     Moving further east, Twain later wrote:

     “. . . in Damascus, they so hate the very sight of a foreign Christian that they want no intercourse whatever with him; only a year or two ago his person was not always safe in Damascus streets. - - - ” ( Page 350)

     “We went out toward the north end of the city to see the place where the disciples let Paul down over the Damascus wall at dead of night – for he preached Christ so fearlessly in Damascus that the people sought to kill him, just as they would today for the same offense, and he had to escape and flee to Jerusalem.
     “- - - five thousand Christians . . . were massacred in Damascus in 1861 by the Turks. They say those narrow streets ran blood for several days, and that men, women, and children were butchered indiscriminately and left to rot all through the Christian quarter;  . . . The thirst for blood extended to Lebanon, and in a short time twenty-five thousand more Christians were massacred and their possessions laid waste. How they hate a Christian in Damascus!  . . . I never disliked a Chinaman as I do these degraded Turks and Arabs, and when Russia is ready to war with them again, I hope England and France will not find it good breeding or good judgment to interfere.
” ( Pages 352-353)

     Nothing has changed since these words were written in the late 1860’s and, realistically, nothing has changed since the time of Mohammed around 600 AD.

Religious Intolerance:

     Extremism exists in nearly all religions. These ultra-religious zealots are convinced they, and only they, have a direct line to the Almighty and that consequently they, and only they, have the right and the authority to impose their views upon everyone else. Anyone who doesn’t conform to their version of “the true religion” is to be despised, subjugated, enslaved, ignored or eliminated. We see this attitude in Muslim jihadists, in Jewish ultra-orthodox haredi, and in many other fundamentalist religious groups. Within these ultra-religious groups, there is such a rigidity of belief that the fundamental tenets of the religion are completely obscured and ignored. Christ taught forgiveness and love of one’s neighbor – teachings that were forgotten/ignored in the Crusades and the Inquisition; fundamental Judaism teaches tolerance and respect for all – teachings that are today forgotten when a haredi Jew spits on an 8-year old girls because he thinks she is not dressed appropriately. All too often throughout history, the underlying humanity of a religion is forgotten or ignored and replaced with rote, dogmatic actions that are supposed to maintain religious adherence and conformity, but which thwart the objectives of the religion. One such example is written about by Twain. He tells of traveling on horseback on the way to Palestine. He and others on the trip wanted to reach the Holy Land the following week at a pace that that would not tax the horses. Others in his group did not want to travel on the Sabbath, but still wanted to reach the Holy Land the next week. To do so, would require cruelly pushing their horses to make the 3-day journey in 2- days.

     “Properly, with the sorry relics we bestrode, it was a three days’ journey to Damascus. It was necessary that we should do it in less than two. It was necessary because our three pilgrims would not travel on the Sabbath day. We were all perfectly willing to keep the Sabbath day, but there are times when to keep the letter of a sacred law whose spirit is righteous becomes a sin, and this was a case in point. We pleaded for the tired, ill-treated horses, and tried to show that their faithful service deserved kindness in return and their hard lot compassion. But when did ever self-righteousness know the sentiment of pity?  . . . We said the Savior, who pitied dumb beasts and taught that the ox must be rescued from the mire even on the Sabbath day, would not have counseled forced march like this.  . . . Nothing could move the pilgrims. They must press on. Men might die, horses might die, but they must enter upon holy soil next week with no Sabbath-breaking stain upon them. Thus they were willing to commit a sin against the spirit of religious law in order that they might preserve the letter of it.” ( Pages 341-342)

     There is more, much more, to be learned and enjoyed in Mark Twain's story of this historic pleasure cruise. I strongly urge those who have not yet read The Innocents Abroad to buy or borrow a copy, to read it, and to enjoy and learn.


  21 March 2013 {Article 159; Undecided_27}    
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