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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 14 Dec 2004 08:03:21 -0600
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    Thanks for the thoughtful response.

Susan Dorman wrote:
 >> i think MT was a true seeker--not that he thot he had the answers.
he satirized the trappings of faith elsewhere, too, but here he shows
anger /in belief/ about the state of things in the earth, the nature of
humankind, God's pinnacle of creation. he's hurling a vitriolic
challenge to the creator for blowing it, imo, but i haven't read
everything of T's. his letter to the earth was brilliant, and he was
speaking /God's/ truth there.  <<

    I think MT was a true & OPEN seeker.  A few years ago I turned a
very close friend of mine onto MT.  He had recently opened up, after 30
years, from being a closed fundamentalist.  I saw it happen right before
my eyes!  It was a wonder to see!  And even more of a wonder to see him
begin opening up to the world thru literature other than the Bible.
Afterwards, he became an insatiable reader, and since he knew I was an
avid reader, for awhile, he asked me for advice on books to read.
    Among other writers, I turned him on to MT, whom he absolutely
loved.   I waited for a time, to give him time for growth, and when I
thought he was ready, I turned him on to "Letters from Earth".  But I
misjudged his readiness, and when he had finished reading LFE, I asked
him what he thought.  He was livid with MT, and accused him of being
intellectually dishonest.  Then he stated that he hated MT, and wouldn't
ever read another thing written by him again after that.
    Apparently, he had opened up, but hadn't completely let go of his
old paradigm, -- the caricature of God in the Bible, -- and couldn't
separate this old image of God, whom Twain mocks and attacks, from the
new one he was in the process of discovering and developing.  Moreover,
his old closed-minded fundamentalism reared its ugly head again,
whereupon he became irrational, and impossible to talk to about MT and
his radical views on the God of the Bible.  I knew then, that he
required more time to grow, and more time to find a new conception of
God, based less upon "The Book", and more upon his own observation and
direct  experience; a conception not of a "secondhand God", but one
develop from independent open thinking, and therefore firsthand, and
self conceptualized.
    The world is suffering from fundamentalism, and from people taking
scriptures literally and not figuratively.  Letters from Earth can speak
to this, but more likely, it could caused the outbreak of WWIII, by
reaction to the work from the ranks of fundamentalists world around.
Salmon Rushdie suffered banishment from his satirizing of the Koran, in
his book Satanic Verses, because of a bounty put on his head by the
followers of Khomeini, who condemned the book as blasphemy against Islam
& Mohammad.  And if MT were alive today, he would probably suffer a
similar fate from the likes of fundamentalists world around because of
Letters from Earth.
    Letters from Earth is a powerful work by MT.  Sure, I think it
reflects MT bitterness in his older age; bitterness at the harshness of
life, because of the deep losses he suffered thruout his life; and
bitterness at God for it.  MT could do this, and write such things,
because he was a very open seeker and thinker.  As Horn has pointed out,
MT did believe in God.  But not the one depicted in the Bible.  He must
have believed more in a "Cosmic God", reflected in his love for the
expanse of outer space, which is reflected and satirized in the opening
of Letters from Earth:

    "The Creator sat upon the throne, thinking. Behind him stretched the
illimitable continent of heaven, steeped in a glory of light and color;
before him rose the black night of Space, like a wall. His mighty bulk
towered rugged and mountain-like into the zenith, and His divine head
blazed there like a distant sun. At His feet stood three colossal
figures, diminished to extinction, almost, by contrast  -- archangels
-- their heads level with His ankle-bone." ~ MT - LFE

    MT, as exemplified by Huck Finn, embraced all peoples, (making joke
and poking fun at the French was not a prejudice), this I think reflects
his expanded OPEN view of God.  My fundamentalist friend experienced a
second-birth, he was born-again again, and has since opened up to the
views of all others around the world; even these days attending a
Buddhist gathering; a far cry from his closed fundamentalist days.  And
he has since come to understand MT in Letters from Earth, and  has let
go of the Biblical caricature of the evil Warrior/King/God depicted in
the Bible.  It took time for Letters from Earth to worm their way into
his noggin.

    May we all learn from Mark Twain, this kind of expanded view of
God.  A view that expands the heart was well, to include all peoples.

     (Is that better Horn?)