December 17, 2009

I arrived late at tonight’s gathering where twelve people sat around a small fire. A bottle of Macallan and one of Glenlivet stood well-depleted on the table. I was preoccupied with my own thoughts, so I confess I didn’t really attend to a conversation which began shortly after my arrival and continued for the best part of the evening. I really couldn’t tell you what the discussion was about except that it devolved at some point into an enquiry into the extent to which animals have cognition or memory or the ability to appreciate or something like that.

During lulls in the conversation, I could hear the haunting call of an owl somewhere in the neighborhood. I spent some time gazing into the bare arms of the tree which arch over us like a benign protector. I stared for a while at the fire. I watched a rabbit run silently across the snow. I filled my churchwarden with some English flake tobacco and smoked in silence.  As is my habit, I went at one point to get an armload of wood to build up the fire to a roaring blaze and dropped a log on my tumbler of Scotch, shattering the glass, and giving the earth an uncustomarily tasty drink. But, as I have a history of breaking Jerry’s glasses,* this was taken little note of, and the night proceeded.

The talk, indeed, was so convoluted that Jerry asked if we had gotten anywhere and quoted C.S. Lewis who said that all intellectual endeavor ends in some degree of doubt. Greg, Jerry’s nephew, and the only man we suffer to smoke cigars because he played Division I football and because he’s bigger than all of us, said he was just waiting until we could talk about sports. He looked at me with a smile that tells you he’s going to say something witty, and said, “You could write about mystery on your blog; before you came tonight, Nathaniel was talking about how he was discussing the idea of mystery with his students, and everything else in tonight’s discussion is a mystery to me.” I laughed and heartily concurred.  Even Jerry agreed, likening the conversation to an endless merry-go-round.  

I learned two other things worthy of note. First, Martin Luther would put the ten commandments on the bottom of his beer stein and when he could no longer read them, he would stop drinking. Second, when C.H. Spurgeon was confronted by a lady for smoking a cigar, he said he didn’t smoke to excess. She asked what “excess” meant. He replied, “More than two cigars at a time.” Amen.

As always, I welcome comments. If I have recalled something in error, you would like to supplement what I have written or you simply want to comment, feel free to click in the reply box.

Well, the brotherhood is taking a hiatus for two weeks, so no more posts until after the new year. Smoke a pipe on Christmas eve and New year’s eve anyway. Peace and Merry Christmas to all.

*It all began one evening many Thursdays ago when I stacked a large number of glasses into one another like a busboy at a restaurant and lost my hold on them as I was reaching for the door handle to take them inside. After such a tour-de-force, the occasional shattered glass doesn’t have much “wow” value.

~ by Mark Neal on December 19, 2009.

3 Responses to “December 17, 2009”

  1. Mark,

    I always enjoy reading what you’ve written, you write so well. You are right about the owl. He lives behind our house somewhere and we see him on rare occassions but we hear him often enough. As for the Cigar smoker you mentioned: it was C. H. Spurgeon, not D. L. Moody, who said that he didn’t smoke to excess. And, when asked “How much is excess?” he claimed, more than two at a time.

    I’ll miss you over the next couple of weeks. Have a great Christmas.



  2. Mark,

    As always, when I read your written word, it creates a canvas of meaning and I appreciate your highlighting Thursday night’s event for me. I am sorry I missed it. I should have gone. There are many evenings, where I probably should have been there, but chose rather to enjoy the close proximity of a feather pillow and cotton sheets.

    Anyway, I hope you have a Merry Christmas brother, and a happy New Year. I am sure I will run into you.

    But peace, and make sure you don’t smoke two pipes at once. That would be too much. 😉

    Until next time,

  3. Thanks Jerry for pointing out my errors. I have corrected them in the text. I think my mind must really have been elsewhere to confuse the names.

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