IMAGINING ETERNITY

DECEMBER 16 2017

IMAGINING ETERNITY – Part 3

I picked up a book last week. Its foreword said,

I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge-
That myth is more powerful than history.
I believe that dreams are more potent than facts-
That hope always triumphs over experience.

Below is shown a chapter of my DAY WITHOUT END – available from Lulu.com-Bert Hielema.
In it I show that imagination is stronger than knowledge, that dreams are more potent than facts. There I express my hopes for eternity, my vision for a NEW WORLD where the COVENANT between God, Creation and Humanity is fully implemented.

A few words of clarification.

An introduction is needed, because I suddenly jump more than half-way the book, which starts with me meeting my Guardian Angel, whom I called Cornelius. He was there when I awoke, welcomed me into the New Creation, and guided me into this perfect world. Later he introduced me to a small group of people from different countries and periods.

The section I chose illustrates how we need the experience of others to learn how to have a diet from nature based on gathering edibles. Especially we latter day saints need that knowledge.

In the book’s beginning I picture a huge rally where the words of Matthew 26: 29 are fulfilled. There Jesus says, “I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s Kingdom”.

That day has arrived and the gathered saints, safely ensconced in the Father’s Kingdom, his New Creation, enjoy perfect communion with the Resurrected Christ, and drink real wine of the same quality Jesus made in Cana, his first miracle, wine that gladdens the heart (Psalm 104: 15) especially in the Father’s Kingdom.

The book is written from a personal perspective, the main character being Novissimus, the newest person around.

In this particular episode Novissimus is accompanied by Arctica, a woman – you guessed it – from the Arctic, an Inuit, and Initia, a former ruler in China, some 1,000 years ago who learned about Christ from her tutor, a Greek scholar, who had brought with him a Greek New Testament.

Our guardian angels provided us with a device that made it possible to read the history of the places they travel in.
Our three-some had decided to travel first to the Middle East, the cradle of civilization.

So here I go, imagining eternity!

CHAPTER TWENTY

We find ourselves in a fertile valley, what had once been the country of Iraq. The deserts, the vast seas of sand, are gone.
I tell my companions of the Oil Wars that took place there during my life time. Setting our history-recorders to the late twentieth century, we see the massive smoke columns caused by the retreating Iraqi armies when they had ignited some 700 oil wells in Kuwait, the country they wanted to annex.
We see how some years later this was followed by a much longer conflict, now caused by a combination of oil and religion. This prolonged struggle proved disastrous for the world economy and was the beginning of the end, as the entire world became embroiled when the need for oil, mostly stored in this region, pitted the ‘Christian’ Western world against the mostly Arab and Muslim countries, on whose territory the oil reserves were located.
In the end the majority of the oil wells were ignited by nuclear bombs. The resulting fires destroyed the ozone layer, that protective shield which had guarded us humans from being burned by the sun, speeded up Global Warming and Climate Change, all of which combined to make the Final Conflagration a fact.
I talk about all this to my companions as we walk. Initia compares this war to wars she is familiar with. “I thought that our wars were cruel and senseless, but they were nothing compared to the disasters the people in your time created. And all for those silly sand hills and the polluting oil?”

In the distance we see such a patch of desert, a mere sandbox in the vast lush surroundings. I imagine the Lord left it there as a reminder of the former situation. The oasis in the centre of it is almost a relic of the past. Actually it is not an oasis. After all, an oasis is a haven of wholeness in the desert of nothingness, amidst solid seas of sand. Here there is no such nothingness. Even the small stretch of desert serves to accentuate the fullness of the present landscape. Yet it is different. The area has a well. The palm trees are beautiful and lush in the ever-glowing light of God’s presence. A small pond near the well bubbles with water, creating a water mist in the air and painting a glorious rainbow there.
Beside the pond, lazily lying in the lush grass is a figure, his head covered with a colourful, bright orange cloth. Without removing his cover he greets us, motioning us to sit down. We do, curious to find out more.
Though I can’t see his face, his Bedouin clothing suggests that he is a desert-dweller, savouring his return to his native land.

He yawns unceremoniously. With another yawn he sits up, removes his head covering, and rubs his eyes. Upon seeing us-two women and a man-he makes an unfruitful attempt to fashion his wild beard and flatten his somewhat thinning hair.
He grins. We respond in kind. “Didn’t expect company,” he says, “I am Jethro.” He again stifles a yawn and says, “Excuse me. I must have dozed off. One of my daughters married Moses. It was at this well that my seven daughters saw him first. I am just treasuring this moment, which was also a turning point in my life. At one time I was also known as Reuel, Friend of God. Make yourself comfortable and have a drink of this excellent water.”

While we get a drink, he continues to talk.
“For forty years Moses lived in this area. This place, this oasis, was much smaller then, and the desert was certainly less fertile than it is now. I was thinking about going back to sheep tending for a while, but this time I will do it differently. Even in my days I saw this area becoming less and less productive as the desert expanded. I warned my people that their grazing pattern was to blame for this, but they wouldn’t listen. They raised more and more sheep and goats, all wanting to outdo each other and become rich. In the end we hardly had enough to feed ourselves.

“You are the first persons to come this way since the Day has begun. I only arrived here a short while ago. Moses dropped me off here. But, I am forgetting my duties as host. Who are you? I can see that you are not native to this area.”

His face looks young. I imagine that we all look young, though I have not seen myself in a mirror. I guess we look young because we feel young and sense ourselves to be in the prime of our lives.
Somehow, because he had been the father-in-law of Moses, I had expected an older man and certainly a more solemn person. After all, he also had been a priest.

This fellow is a real character. A character? On second thought, he is right in character, perfectly at home here. He is where none of us have been yet, right where he was born and raised.

Arctica introduces us. Pointing to our name badges, something Jethro does not have, she says: “This is Initia, he is Novissimus and I am Arctica. We are on our way to explore the world. We are very pleased to meet you. What can you tell us about the area here? Of course, we know about Moses and I think that I faintly recall something about you.”

“A great man, my son-in-law,” says Jethro. “Yes, forty years is a long time. Each day we were in touch and I taught him a great deal. A quick learner he was, too. A bit rash, with a touch of arrogance at first, but the desert and its people soon cured him of that.

“The ways of the desert! There is no better school to learn self-reliance. I knew it as no other. I taught him all I knew. I remember telling Moses, when he was leading the people of Israel through the desert, to keep the column of people and animals as narrow as possible to keep the surface largely undisturbed. Of course they did not know this, but the Lord God smoothed the entire trail after them. I learned about this because I lived in the very area where they traveled for forty years and saw the terrain a few days after they had left their camp. Not a trace could be found.

“Moses gave me a briefing on the happenings in my area since I died. He showed me visions of the two desert wars. Unbelievable. It seemed to me that in this general area human civilization began and also ended. For centuries nothing but camels had traveled here and I was curious how it all had changed. I guess you know all about this.”

Again I nod. An interesting man he is. Perhaps having been alone for a while has made him a bit more talkative? No, he just loves the desert. He loves this area and feels in his guts that this land of his also has suffered greatly. He had known the way of the desert as Arctica had known the way of her region. It had hurt him to the core of his being to have seen the havoc caused by the destruction of modern warfare.

“I am glad you came,” he continues. “I was getting a bit lonely and my being here reminded me of my days in the desert, when it was just me and my herd and God. Now things have changed. God has not changed, but I have changed and the desert has changed. It is now like a paradise, green as”–he is groping for a word–“green as an oasis, as trees in the spring. It is so beautiful. When I first saw it, I cried.

“So you are touring the world? I will offer you something you have never had before. I have a desert special here. Let’s have a feast.”
Jethro is certainly not what I had expected an ancient priest to be like, a man specially chosen by God to teach Moses a thing or two.
I look at Initia, who is faintly shaking her head and just slightly raising an eyebrow, having similar thoughts.

Jethro is now walking around with Arctica following him. He is directing her to a special tree with curiously shaped fruit, sort of banana-like but coloured a deep red, like a very hot pepper. They pick about eight of these and then go to another tree which has a peach-like fruit. There, too, they pick eight, making sure that each fruit is quite ripe. Jethro gently squeezes them and also looks at their colour. He shows Arctica how to detach them from the tree, with a quick twist. He has a particular, very gentle way with them. “Listen,” I say to Initia, “he is talking to the trees!”

I move closer to find out. I hear him ask the tree to allow the sacrifice, to help us with the fruit of their making. And the tree responds! I see a definite movement in the tree, as if agreeing with the request.
I see Jethro look around, going past numerous other trees, until we–I have now joined them–reach a small, shrub-like vine. It bears fruit in clusters of a bright green. To me they look inedible but Jethro, going through the same ritual with this vine, picks four clusters. He gives them to me to carry.
Back at the well, Jethro motions Arctica and me to give him the fruit. He most certainly acts his part as a priest, raising the fruit to heaven and saying words in a language I don’t understand. Arctica, upon hearing his words, responds in a similar fashion. Has she been a priestess as well? Arctica continues to surprise me.

Solemnly Jethro divides the fruits between us. He gives each of us two red bananas, two of the yellow, golden peach-like fruits, and a cluster of the ones that look like green grapes. I place them on my lap and so do the others, expecting to hear another incantation.

Jethro also sits down, pauses and looks at each of us as if he is evaluating us. I am becoming more curious but wait patiently. In my former life, I would have been a bit irritated, but now, serenely, trustingly, I accept his deliberate ways.

“I discovered this fruit,” he says, holding up the red-pepper-coloured banana, “in a very remote oasis. It grew on a tree with treacherous thorns on it and was very difficult to get at. The thorns not only stung, but, when I touched one by accident, it also poisoned my skin. I had learned about this fruit from a Bedouin whom I had met at another oasis. Thirsty and hungry, he had eaten one. He felt better immediately. He had never seen the fruit before and called it ‘fire fruit.’ Curious to find out more about it, I traveled to that oasis, but when I found it, the tree had died. There was only one dried-out fruit left with some seed left in it. I tried to propagate a tree here, where I lived, but it never took hold. Somehow the remains of that seed must have been revived in the re- awakening of creation after the great clean-up the Lord Creator did. Since I have been here, I have practically lived on them. The thorns are gone and so is the poison but its medicinal and nutritional characteristics are still there. When you leave here, I recommend that you take some along; they keep well.

“This peach-like fruit is like a nectar, sweet, juicy, refreshing. It is a common oasis fruit, belonging to the pomegranate family. It also stores well and is a feast to look at and to savour.” He holds it up for us to have a close look. “Then there is the green grape, the fruit of the vine.

“I think since the Day the quality of these fruits has improved: they are even more fragrant and tasty than before. Here, just smell them!” He holds a bunch in front of my nose. “I think that only one or two of them give nourishment for a long time. They keep well, too. The Lord certainly had us desert rats in mind when He created them. Please, eat all of it.”

“Thank you,” I say, grateful for his explanations. We eat the fruits in silence, feeling immeasurably strengthened by them, also spiritually. I am reminded that eating is a sacrament, a holy act. We all are lost in our thoughts for a short while.

My thoughts go back to my own apple and pear trees, the struggles I had trying to keep them alive through changing weather patterns: first freezing, then a disastrous warm spell, causing tremendous stress on their ability to cope. Here they grow, infinitely superior in health, strength and fruit bearing.
The fruits are certainly a feast, and so is the encounter with Jethro. He is a brilliant talker.
I ask him what his reaction had been when Moses had so unexpectedly shown up.
Jethro scratches his beard, now much more flowing and orderly. He smiles, recalling the details.
We settle in for a long story, slowly relishing more of the fruits.

“It all started,” he begins, “one day when my daughters-I had seven of them and I loved each one of them- came home from their chores. They talked and giggled and I immediately noticed their different behaviour. They were unusually early. I asked them, why are you home already? You’re never here before sundown and here it is the middle of the afternoon.”
“‘When we came to the well,’ they told me, all at the same time, “there was a man, a stranger. We were at the well early to let the sheep drink, and when the other men with their herds pushed us away, that man came and helped us to go first. He even helped us to draw water and feed the flock.’
“‘And you left him there?’ I thundered. ‘Go and get him so that we can repay his kindness.’

“Zipporah, one of my daughters, literally ran out of the door. Soon he came and my wife prepared a special dish. His clothes, his manners, his speech, all portrayed an educated man, a man of great culture. After the meal we had some wine and he told his life story. He was very open and candid. A man after my heart. He stayed with us and soon married my daughter Zipporah.

“Moses had taken considerable treasure with him, which gave him a degree of independence.
“He bought a camel and gave me one, too, and together we traveled and explored and learned a lot; I from him and he from me. He also joined other caravans that frequented our oasis. He had a keen interest in the history of these nomadic people. He questioned them on their religion, their traditions. He also visited the cities, and talked to the ruling and religious dignitaries.

“He kept a careful record of all he had learned. He visited Ur, where Abraham had originated, and he talked to the patriarch’s distant relatives there. He met a priest there and from him he learned a lot about the stars and also about the God-Creator. He visited Babel twice, if I recall correctly. Sometimes he was gone for months and once even for over a year.
“He really matured here and it was no surprise to me when the Lord Creator appeared to him and informed him of his mission. The rest you know.”

What a man Jethro is. Arctica, in particular, enjoys his company. Both were born and raised in the desert, one frozen, one hot. She has immediately taken to Jethro and he to her, recognizing in him her nomadic nature, the love of the land.

Jethro and Arctica continue quietly talking, while Initia and I are walking around. The oasis certainly is a little paradise. I can well picture Adam and Eve here. That reminds me of animals. I go back to Jethro, who is still in deep conversation with Arctica.

“Jethro,” I say, “where are the meat-eating animals? There is lush growth here, plenty of water. Where are the lions and leopards? Don’t they belong here?”
“The animals,” Jethro repeats as if the whole matter had never entered his mind, “the animals. Yes, I asked Moses about it, since they had been so much part of my former life.

“You know what he told me? He said, `The Lord Creator has held them back for a little while.
“‘First we have to learn to live with each other in a proper way before they can join us. We have to learn to live without the flesh of animals. We have to learn without them sacrificing their lives for us constantly. And the animals have to learn to live in peace with each other as well.'”
“You mean a complete new way of living is in store for the animals as well?” asks Arctica, for whom meat often had been the only diet.
“Yes,” continues Jethro. “Not only do we have to learn to live without eating them, but also animals have to learn to live without eating each other. The wolf has to learn to dwell with the lamb. The lion has to learn to live with the wild beasts of the field and not lording over them.

“We have seen a lot of birds, we heard frogs, we noticed the smaller animals, the rabbits, the squirrels, fishes and turtles,” I say. “I have seen deer. Are only the larger animals, the carnivores missing?

Jethro nods. “They need a fundamental re-orientation to life, treating all fellow animals in a new respectful way, acknowledging each other’s right to exist. The animals have to learn to live at a different level, with a spiritual dimension and with new intellectual and learning powers, almost bordering on the human. Just as we moved up a step, becoming equal to our brother Jesus Christ, so they too take up a step on the ladder of development. Our God Creator wants us to assist him in this matter.”

He turns to Arctica. “Arctica.” (He pronounces her name with his peculiar, singing accent.) “In your region there were animals I never imagined to exist. Tell me a bit more about them.”
While Arctica recalls some of the animals that she has seen, Initia and I compare notes on animals we have known and in what way their world would have to change to be able to fit in this new order.

“I have seen tigers and leopards and they lived exclusively on the meat of other animals. Would a tiger then not be a tiger any more?” Initia wonders aloud. “How will they feed themselves? On grasses and berries and nuts and other fruits? What about their claws, their digestive systems, so geared to raw meat? How about their nature, to hunt, to stalk their prey? Should we ask the trees?”

“The trees?” I ask, a little taken aback.
“Yes, I think that trees are the key to this,” she answers. “I don’t know why, but this is my gut feeling.”
“Well, perhaps you are right,” I say, “but how do we talk to a tree and what sort of tree shall we talk to?
While discussing this, we are already walking toward the trees. No time is wasted when Initia is involved, I discover.

Of course, I had seen Adam and Eve talk to trees and had noticed Jethro doing this also. We also have noticed how trees now are very sensitive to what happens around and with them. But for me to talk to them? I am inclined to scratch my head, perplexed. I had never before talked to trees, nor had they ever expressed their opinion to me, except here, of course. However, we aren’t puzzled for long. As we wander among the trees, not quite knowing how to start a discussion with them, we hear a voice, somewhat raspy, perhaps a bit too affected. It certainly is a booming voice, echoing through the forest.

“So you think there is a problem here,” and then there follows a belly laugh that makes the earth shake. All the surrounding trees join in, so that the peal of laughter sounds more like thunder, not the low, rumbling kind of thunder, but an octave or so higher, with the occasional shrieking whistling sound, probably coming from the younger trees.

This is followed by a rhythmic pounding, similar to what I have heard at public gatherings. Now I know: the trees are clapping their hands and, on cue, as if it is the most normal thing in the world, animals emerge. The unbelievable scene reminds me of a song I know:
“The animals come out two by two, hurrah, hurrah!
The animals come out two by two, hurrah, hurrah!”

It looks as if the Ark is being emptied. Our question has been answered. The God Creator has provided. Again.

And the animals? There is only a certain kind. Earlier I already had seen deer and herbivores, but no carnivorous animals. Missing were the lions and tigers and panthers and any of the large or small catlike creatures. Now they are here, purring like kittens. It sounds as if hundreds of bees are buzzing by. The air is filled with their feelings of felicity.

There is reason for them to celebrate, too. Their pain, their anxiety, is gone, dissolved in the re-birth of creation. Gone, too, is their shyness and their reluctance to encounter humans. They look at us. They brush against us. Yet they are different. They must be. No longer can they be meat-eating creatures. Or can they be? How will they survive?

Some of the animals, a few of which I have never seen before, graze lazily. I suspect that they have been omnivorous creatures, Others, former meat-eating animals, single out certain trees, trees totally foreign to me. Without touching the trees, the animals give a certain sound while looking up into the trees. Then they curtsy, animal fashion, inclining their heads and the trees, in reply, stately bow a bit and release the desired fruit.
What a beautiful ceremony: so polite, so cultured, so totally different.

Initia and I approach one of those special trees and we follow the animals’ example. We curtsy, we bow and then the tree shudders for a brief second as if touched by a sudden waft of wind, one branch in particular vibrating and a kind of coconut falls. It has a very hard shell. We give it to a cougar, who pounds on it with his claws, and, after some considerable effort, opens it and eagerly eats the contents. I pick up another fruit that has fallen on the ground and hit it several times on a sharp, pointed rock until it splits in two. I offer one half to a nearby animal and together Initia and I examine the contents of the other half, which smells like fresh meat and has essentially the same texture as a pure, uncooked, warm-blooded animal body.

So there lies the secret. The animals’ anatomy has not changed: special trees, with special fruits, provide the carnivores with their needed nourishment.

More surprises await us.

Next week a Christmas bonus:
A ball game: unrivalled ever.

Chapter 22 of
DAY WITHOUT END.

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