|Box from the past|
A short tale on the passing of time and of how time steals the memories of our ancestors. While the heroes of the ages may pass from factual memories to become legends and then perhaps even myths, most people’s lives unravel and fade into the mists of the past.
My great grandfather’s brother was a heretic. In Norway. He was a schoolteacher and also held the office of the bell ringer in a protestant church north of Oslo; jobs he would loose because of his nefarious interests in things mystical. Now, literature on these matters was hardly available in provincial Norway at the closing of the 19th century unless they were sanctioned by the church. However that may have been, his interests seems to have been directed specifically towards Swedenborg.
This was of course before my own conscious interest in such matters. I had on rare occasions as a child heard him be mentioned in family settings as a man of the enlightenment. Later, at least on one occasion my mother had showed me a short text he had written about Swedenborg and his grand work of a vast metaphysical order. Unfortunately, when I later, and before my mother died, had the opportunity to examine the few pages they proved virtually impossible to read on account of the tiny letters in faded ink and carefully handwritten in the old style. It could only be deduced that the content of the pages in question was not very profound. All in all it would seem that these few pages hardly would have contained reasons for removing him from his prestigious positions. As the text’s whereabouts are now unknown to me, most likely they lie forgotten in some uninterested relative’s loft (which could be my own), I can of course not at the present time investigate that matter any further.
Nevertheless, he was of some threat to the church and state and now the fact of this hidden text merely confirm his interests and corroborate the fact of his dismissals.
Apparently he did not recant.
That is all I know of him except that he carried the name of the male line on my mother’s side: Pedersen. The man himself… a relative, and the only one in my family records with whom I seem to share some proclivity towards heresy has slowly bit by bit, been disappearing from view.
Time, as we know, like Jupiter the god, seems to eat its offspring. It is experienced as fact. Knowledge about lives bygone fragments and disappears. Only some headlines from the chapters of their lost stories survive. In his case not even that. Just the hearsay of a local parish scandal and these few crumbs still not lost survive. The rest is gone along with the memories carried by those family members who lived in the time space between him and me. They were perhaps too embarrassed to even cultivate his memory beyond the scandalous bits.
Time conspire against memory and is without any need of a theory. And memories told of things past are, in themselves, feeble attempt to conquer times passing. The stories we tell, big and small are bulwarks against this deep black well. Strangely, Swedenborg’s big tome which had caught Mr. Pedersen’s interest, was in itself an attempt at synthesizing our collective self remembering. These metaphysical codices where I perhaps could find paths to myself, can though on this side of the veil of mysteries, lead to none other of flesh and bone.
And yet…..there are some items, a fine box of lacquered walnut with a smooth Biedermeier rounded lid and brass hinges. It measures 19 x 13 cm and is 17 cm high. Inside there are now two small leather bound books. Both books being psalters and set in Gothic type, both published in Christiania by Cappelen in 1870, but they are different in appearance.
One has a gold inlaid crucifix set in rose ornaments on the front and a chalice on the back, the gold now half worn away. Along the edges of the leather covering there are brass protections and a beautifully shaped brass snap keeping the covers firmly together. This one must have been the luxury version of the same publication and seemingly suitable as a gift for a special occasion, as the name Henrik Hansen, October 2 1870, is printed in gold on the front free end paper, the same year as the book was published and thus brand new. The next and blank page reveals a dedication by a Madame Christine Berg to the said Henrik Hansen. Perhaps a confirmation present?
The other book, with exactly the same content, though more plain, also has embossed leather, but no gold and now with Jesus on the cross front and back. It is much more tarnished and brittle by dedicated use. There is written with pencil at the top of the title page ‘Pedersen’ and below, mid page in the same hand, ‘Hansen’.
Now, how all this figures I cannot tell. I know Pedersen, but who this Fredrik Hansen was is now completely lost. However, what I seem to recall is the that my mother took the pages Pedersen wrote out of this box when she first shoved them to me.
The lacquered box is still in good shape and standing on my desk with the books inside this moment. They are not much, but the one with his name inside is still some kind of surface membranes between him and me. I can touch what he must have touched.
He becomes confirmed with these items, - more than flimsy and partially unreadable words presented inside an equally flimsy memory.
There is yet one more item, and one of a more sensory sort. It is a pipe, or rather, the end of a pipe. The mouthpiece is gone. Most likely it was one of those curved ones, like an upside down letter J. The pipe’s head would have suited one of those. The head itself is of fine burl and with a hinge and a bent silver lid still stuck in the scorched wood at the top. The varnish is worn off at the bottom where the bulbous head would rest in an open hand.
When I remember back, at the beginning of a new year I fill up his burl pipe head, -though I don’t smoke - and imagine myself spending an intimate time with him. Perhaps even some of the old residue in there heats up and mixes in with smoke I inhale. And thus I feel I commune with him though both pipe and memories are fragments. This is as close as I now can get to this partner ‘familias’ in heresy. It is not much, but it is more than I get out of handling his psalters, which I hardly ever do.
With the pages gone for now and the psalters being of a more dubious providence, I have made up my mind this year to remove the psalters and install the pipe in the walnut box
Before I do this again tomorrow we are counting 2017 and I realize that more than in a very long time we will be leaving behind, not just last year’s days and events, but a whole age. Our new generations will not comprehend what will be gone forever. We are at a threshold of a new and grim world which we do not yet know. I think we all know this somewhere in our quiet desperation.
And as it is with threshholds of time: There is no going back. This destructive longing is a large part of our problem. “Make America great again,” …. and Britain, ….and Turkey, …. etc. etc. We all know it will not work. “Make Humanity great”, is what we need.
What we must safeguard and seek to bring over this threshold is Science, Art and Spirit so that we can nourish our personal and collective imagination. So we can tell our stories still and prepare ourselves and our communities to remember our past, and to remember what an individual is and how we may become one. This we can still do, we have the faculties.
Everything else will be gone forever. Like Egypt.
May the God–Spirit within you bless you and prepare you for Anno Domini 2017
And keep an Eye on what is becoming more and more known about what Consciousness truly is, and know I AM.