In yesterday's entry I presented one of my first photographs--taken in 1989--and my most recent photograph, taken perhaps a couple months ago. One reason I did that, is to obviate the knee-jerk assumption that I am self-deluded. When someone says he co-authored "A Christmas Carol" and authored "The Raven" in his past life; and that he is married to a spirit; then two explanations immediately come to mind. Either he is perpetrating an elaborate hoax, or he is self-deluded.
If I have been perpetrating a hoax since 2012, when I first published my e-book, I certainly haven't been getting much return for it. That leaves self-delusion.
Now, a self-deluded person could, conceivably, achieve a level of mastery in a field like photography. But he is no dummy. That means he is obviously not deluding himself as regards his skills and intelligence. Right? I suppose I could be an idiot/savant--hopelessly self-deluded in all areas except photography. But, wait--there are blog entries, here, accessible through the Archives link at the bottom of the page, going back at least a couple of years, now. Almost daily entries--and each one is a passable essay, if I say so, myself. And they do not evince a deluded state, aside from the shock value of the claims, themselves (I am in a position to say that, having a master's in counseling). That means I have demonstrated advanced abilities in two fields, i.e., writing, and photography.
So, logically, the likelihood that I am a self-deluded dimwit diminishes with each exceptional skill I can demostrate.
Where it all ends, is, you are in a state of delusion, not me. Even though the claim to have written two classics in a past life seems ludicrous.
One must not judge a book by its cover, nor make snap judgments based on what one's society tells one is normal. Because Society is abysmally ignorant, and always has been, at least in this Kali Yuga.
Now, some entries back I indicated that I might reproduce, here, the second of Mathew Franklin Whittier's "man in the moon" series. Writing under "Peter Pendergrass," a typical pseudonym for Mathew, he has begun with the premise that when people die, they go to one of the heavenly bodies in the solar system. The back-story of this, again, is that his future wife, Abby, four years younger than himself, is tutoring him in the classics--and she takes the opportunity try to teach him esoteric subjects, as well. But some of her ideas, as a young teenager, are flaky--and these, he skeptically pounces upon. You know how it is--when you want to ridicule someone's ideas, you jump on their weakest links.
So this gives Mathew the idea to create a letter series. Peter Pendergrass, as a mortal (physical) man, is the first to visit the moon and report back to earth regarding its inhabitants. There were later series of moon stories--first, as I read the history, in a rival paper, the "Sun," and then one by Edgar Allan Poe. This one was cartoonish--Mathew made no serious attempt to render it scientifically plausible. He was, rather, after social commentary. I am quite sure he was heavily influenced by "Gulliver's Travels" in this effort.* But I, personally, do not know of any prior story having to do with traveling to the moon. So this may be the first. (Feel free to correct me if you know of an earlier one.)
This is the second letter in the series, wherein I think Mathew has gotten his sea legs, so to speak, and is writing up to his highest level. It is April, 1831, and he is 18 years old. Mathew is a natural sociologist, having been raised Quaker (which automatically made him something of an outsider), and on top of that he didn't really fit in as a Quaker, either. Abby is the same way--they are birds of a feather in this regard (and in many other respects). Further, Mathew, raised in rural Massachusetts, is now living in New York City, providing a further contrast. So this is an allegory for how absurdly arbitrary the fashions of social custom--especially in the big city--seem, to him. And it is also a deeper commentary on the root causes of social strife, i.e., the absurd tendency to separate into opposing groups on the most trivial bases.
It may all look like light-hearted fun, but it is more radical than it appears. This is Mathew at roughly the age when he would have been writing this material:
This story was written two years before Charles Dickens began publishing sketches in the British newspapers. As regards the pseudonym, there is no question that it is his work. He used double-P names on many occasions throughout his career, such as "Patty Pumple," "Peter Pumple," "Peter Ppeiff," and "Paul Pickle," as well as just the initials "P.P." There is an additional "signature" in the word "sublunary," which was one of Mathew's favorites--a quick digital search through his works just yielded 13 instances. (Oddly enough, the first four instances occur the previous year in other contexts, so it appears the word just took his fancy.) Here is Mathew's second letter as the character "Peter Pendergrass," reporting from the moon regarding their society:
The New York "Constellation"
April 2, 1831
Fumfum, The Moon, 22d Glimdong,
Sir,—You will doubtless recollect I mentioned in my last, that one of the daughters of the Man in the Moon had died of a sonnet, which an earthly editor had cruelly and ungallantly refused an insertion in his poet's corner. She has since obligingly furnished me with a copy, which I herewith send you for perusal.
"SONNET TO THE MOON.
O beauteous Moon,
Thou queen of night,
Who rid'st aboon
In thy own sweet light,
In pity look down
From thy lofty sphere,
Nor coldly frown
On us lovers here;
Thy influence lend,
And forever be
The unfailing friend
Of Muggins and me.
Hear us, Lady moon,
While thou rid'st aboon."
The fair author informed me that these lines were lately published in the Lunar Gazette, with very high encomiums by the editor of that paper; and declared, with no little bitterness of feeling, that there was neither taste nor gallantry among the editorial corps on your stupid sublunary planet; and that the editor of the Lunar Gazette has more of the gentleman in a single hair of his moustachies, than is to be found in the entire body of the earthly corps editorial, whiskers and all.
It is curious to note the difference in manners and costume of the various nations on the globe, but those of the Lunar inhabitants differ from all others. The mode of salutation among the gentlemen when they meet is, to leap up and strike the soles of their feet together; a mode, which however elegant it may be when skilfully performed, is apt to endanger a fall backwards, especially to one who has not the most perfect command of his feet. And hence, instead of saying "how do you do?" when meeting, they merely say "how is your understanding?" But this meeting of the soles of the feet is exceedingly tiresome to a man who has a large number of guests to receive; and I have more than once seen his Potency, the Man in the Moon, obliged to rest between whiles, when receiving company at his levees. But such is the tyranny of etiquette, that even the Man in the Moon, with all his power, dare not omit one tittle of the ceremony.
As for the ladies, they make pretty nearly the same use of their hands in salutation, that the gentlemen do of their feet--that is to say, they strike the palms together, somewhat in the same fashion as children do among you, when they amuse themselves at the play called tom-fool. But the salutation of a gentleman and a lady is different from either. It consists in the gentleman's embracing the tip of the lady's nose between the first and second fingers of his right hand; while she honors the nose of the gentleman by performing the same operation with the second and third fingers of her left hand.
Such I am assured have been the modes of salutation among the people of the Moon from time immemorial; but the modes of dress, as with you, change with the times. The petticoats of the ladies at present are in the shape of an inverted cone. Being distended by a large hoop round the hips, and contracted to a very small circumference round the ankles. This gives them a rather confined, but very modest gait, and is a very sure preventative against the excessive spinning of street-yarn. The sleeves of their gowns are also rather in the inverted order, being tight at the shoulder and amply-distended at the forearm, down which they reach about half way, and are, as the times go, of very moderate dimensions, containing, as the second daughter of the man in the moon assured me, only three yards of gossamer each. Their bonnets are in shape and size much the same as a large ton-tray; and they are so put on, that the longest diameter crosses the head from side to side. Such being the size, shape and mode of wearing the bonnet, it is impossible for a lady in walking to derive any benefit from a gentleman's arm, as the nearst approximation will scarcely allow them to touch one another's fingers.
The dress of the gentlemen is, if possible, still more singular. Their coats, which are made very long, and fit their waists to a hair, have skirts hanging down both before and behind; being made whole in those parts, and buttoning up on each side. They wear small-clothes, which reach to the calf, and are in like manner buttoned up on each side, from the bottom to the top. Their boots are yellow, with black tops. They wear wigs of a pea-green color, and hats without brims. They have neither shorts nor waistcoats, the latter being unnecessary on account of the fashion of the coat, and the place of the former supplied, to all outward appearance, by the use of the dicky. This is made whole before, and comes up to the tip of the nose, an orfice being made opposite the mouth, for the convenience of eating and drinking.
The Philosophers on your planet pretend to have discovered mountains and volcanoes in the Moon. But they are entirely mistaken. The surface of the Moon is as smooth as that of an artificial globe. There is neither mountain nor valley; all is one charming unvaried plain. The mountains they pretend to have discovered, can be nothing else than the lofty palaces of the city of Fumfum, and the vast buildings belonging to the Moon-shine establishment. The clouds of smoke, arising from the chimnies of this celebrated manufactory, have very naturally been mistaken for the eruptions of volcanoes.
The Moon-shine Company, which is probably the oldest corporate body in the universe, was established in the year one, and has lately renewed its charter for the twenty-ninth time. The machinery belonging to this establishment is brought to very great perfection; and the moonshine manufactured here is believed to be of the very best quality. About eleven hundred years since, as I was informed by the agent--who by the by, appears to be very much of a gentleman--an opposition company was formed, and in the strife of competition the price of Moon-shine was reduced to the lowest possible rates. The consequence was that the new company, who started on borrowed capital, and whose Moon-shine was of inferior quality, failed in less than a hundred years, and again left to the original company the entire monopoly of the manufacture.
The Lunar Gazette is the leading newspaper in this country. It is especially patronized by the Man in the Moon, and is the chief organ of his communication with the people. It is printed morning and evening on a double imperial sheet. In addition to the government patronage, the editor has been rewarded for his political services by the appointment of Slang-Master-General, an office worth ten thousand Moonies per annum--equal to about seven thousand five hundred dollars of your money.
This appointment gave a great deal of dissatisfaction to the opposite party, who did not fail to brand it with the name of corruption; and it was no less opposed to the wishes of certain individuals of the government party itself, who had fixed their eyes upon the same office. But his Potency, the Man in the Moon, felt secure in his own strength, and did not care a fig for all the croaking of the opposition, or the uneasiness of disappointed rivalry.
Among the on dits of the Lunar Gazette, it is rumored, I know not on what authority, that a certain distinguished lunatic, who is now extraordinary Minister to one of the greatest powers in Europe, is expected here shortly. But whether he is to come here in the quality of ambassador, or merely in the capacity of a private citizen, seems not to be postively decided by the Gazette. It is believed, however, that he will make this his permanent residence; and should that be the case, many people think he stands a very fair chance to be raised, in due time, to the office of Man in the Moon.
The violence of parties here is very great.--The principal factions at present are the Step-toe-dians and the Step-heel-ians. They take their names respectively from their different modes of walking. The Step-toedians first touch their toes to the ground, and contend this is the only proper mode of walking; while on the other hand the Step-heelians bring down their heels first, and as strenuously contend that this is the only proper mode.
These factions include both sexes, and their differences are carried to such a height as nearly to preclude all neighborly intercourse. The ladies never visit one another, and those of each party would sooner burst than speak to one of the opposite faction. The parents enjoin it upon their sons and daughters respectively, to turn their backs upon the sons and daughters of their opponents. It is not, however, so easy in all cases to restrain the younger branches within the bounds of party, and, like Romeo and Juliet, they sometimes consult their own wishes, instead of those of the old people; in which case, being disowned by both the great factions, they naturally form a third party, which, in derision, is denominated the Quiddletonians, and is held in no respect by either of the other parties.
These factions are at present nearly equally divided; the Step-toedians are however the ruling party. The Man in the Moon belongs to this faction. Formerly the Step-heelians had the upper hand; but after a long and severe struggle the Step-toedians gained the day, and put all their opponents out of office. An opposition man told me there never was such a sweeping before.--Even the fleacatcher to his Potency--the most expert man ever employed in that business--was hurled out of office to make room for a Step-toe-dian, who had never caught a flea in his life.
But this is the story of an opposition man; and you know what Butler says:
"No man e'er felt the halter draw,
"With good opinion of the law."
So the Step-heelians, being turned out of office, have naturally very little love or good will towards their opponents. On the other hand, the present ruling party do not hesitate to declare that the old possessors of power were utterly incapable of managing the affairs of the nation. The second daughter of the Man in the Moon assured me, that, in addition to the incapacity of the opposite party, they were horrid vulgar and not in the least calcualted to lead the ton. For her own part, she could never think of the low and plegeian practices of putting her heel to the ground first.
It is exceedingly difficult to remain here any length of time, without taking sides with one or the other of these factions. Indeed I had scarcely been here a week, when I was asked which of the parties I intended to join; and received invitations from both to unite myself to their respective sides. I got off by pleading that I was a foreigner, that my stay in the country would probably be short, and that it would not become me to take part with either of the factions against the other. My excuse was allowed to be valid, but at the same time I could not help noticing that I was looked upon by both parties with a jealous eye, and not sincerely respected by either; several of the leading Step-toedians in particular treated me with a marked degree of coldness. In fact, I thought one or two squibs in the lunar Gazette were aimed at me.
The editor of that paper was formerly a Step-heelian; but seeing how matters were likely to go, he made a timely somerset, and came upon his toes. He was, as I said above, rewarded with the lucrative office of Slang-Master-General. He is now a thorough-goiung Step-Toedian; and it is believed by some that he is aiming at the office of Man in the Moon, after the term of the present chief magistrate has expired.
I am, dear sir, ever yours,
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*Mathew frequently quoted and referenced poetry and literature, so one can readily see what his influences were. He had avidly read the satirical social commentary of his day, and that of 18th century Britain. Abby, being half French, introduced him to French writers, as well as to the classics of ancient Greece and esoteric sources like Hermeticism and the mystical literature of the East. (All of this I can back up with various references in their respective works.)
Music opening this page: "The Great Beyond"
by REM, from the film, "Man on the Moon"