Encouraging signs in season of hope
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, December 23, 2010

"What if: the primitive perspective is as true as the scientific perspective and the world is filled with signs, messages and miracles?"

William W. Keen, MD; "I Believe in God and in Evolution," 1922

So there I was, very early Tuesday morning, wrapped in my oversize plaid robe, standing on my front walk under the evergreen trees, sipping hot chocolate from my "We love our grandma" mug, watching the moon go into eclipse through the nearly winter clouds.

This was the first time since 1638 that an eclipse of the moon occurred on the winter solstice. That last date was, according to historians Priscilla Lord and Virginia Gamage, three years after the Massachusetts General Court named Marblehead a separate plantation "to punish Salem for its reluctance to banish the dissident Roger Williams."

If the sky was clear, colonials on the North Shore might have noticed the eclipse; if the night was stormy, like this year, they might have ascribed Earth's shadow to passing clouds. Perhaps the Naumkeags, who summered on my street but moved inland during the winter, would have been paying more attention to nature's signs and portents and been properly awed.

The twins, who love their grandma, could have been watching the eclipse in Las Vegas, where they and their parents had joined their Grumpaw and their cousins for a family holiday, except it was raining there. My ex-husband was e-mailing me photos of the kids at the arcades and ignoring my suggestion to wake the entire family at midnight and take them to the roof of the hotel or, better yet, out into the desert, just in case the clouds parted there, too, for a portentous moment.

I am so grateful that he and his wife, who live in New Jersey, planned this family trip, as it helped discourage our son from having Christmas in Baja California as usual. The Mexican vacation home was an excellent investment until the drug cartels took over the border. Christmas does not prevent evil, as we know from the story of King Herod killing baby boys to prevent a new, prophesied "king" from growing up in his Middle Eastern territory.

Speaking of New Jersey, that state's governor, Chris Christie, was on "60 Minutes" last Sunday, featured in a frightening segment about the possibly pending collapse of some states and communities from the weight of their pension liabilities.

Which reminds me: Lo, an angel appeared Tuesday from on high to note my error in last week's column: The baby Jesus, were he born here this year, would owe not $22,000, but roughly twice that amount, in national debt.

Actually, it wasn't an angel, it was Avi Nelson who caught the mistake. I think I got the number from a column written in 2003 instead of 2010. I should note that the $45,000 doesn't include the national unfunded liabilities like Social Security and Medicare. Happy birthday, baby Jesus.

I celebrate His birthday, along with the winter solstice, evolution and miracles in general. An amazing article in the new National Geographic shows photos of the black hole, named Sagittarius A*, at the center of our galaxy. Turns out that the darkness is not eating the Milky Way as quickly as had been thought, and might not swallow us at all. Isn't this a great "scientific message"?

Also read an article about the recent discovery of a life form at Mono Lake in the Sierra Nevadas (near where the grandma-loving twins live) that does not contain all the elements that science had thought were required for life.

According to NASA, "the little bacterial microbes found at Mono Lake use five of the usual six building blocks of life carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen and sulfur. Instead of phosphorus, the Mono Lake life-forms use the usually poisonous arsenic to build their DNA."

Wow! Life from poison. Like good from evil, isn't this a hopeful Christmas message? Maybe Mexico will prevail over the drug cartels, and fix its economy, ending illegal immigration.

While waiting for the eclipse, I watched "Endgame" on PBS, about the apartheid negotiations in South Africa that ended white rule without the long-feared bloodbath. At the end of the film, there was a note stating that the same successful negotiating process used in South Africa is being tried by Sinn Fein negotiators with Hamas in the Middle East.

I remember when peace in Northern Ireland seemed as impossible as success in South Africa, or the Balkans. And yet, as with Nazi Germany and Soviet Communism, the darkness did not prevail.

Perhaps, with both the scientific and religious perspectives, this is the message of Christmas, validated by new scientific discoveries, as well as the traditional story of the Nativity. Problems can be solved; wars can be won; dissidents, from Roger Williams to William Keen to reformers like Gov. Christie to determined negotiators around the world, can prevail; and hope can shine through the clouds of disillusionment and despair.

The moon was not swallowed by the dark, our galaxy may not be swallowed by a black hole, there may someday be peace on Earth to men of good will.

Merry Christmas.

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle Tribune newspapers; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Lowell Sun, Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.

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