When Alfred Nauman, Jr., was looking out over the Pacific from a rubber life raft he faced the realization that he was without food and water. Instead of succumbing to panic he adopted a philosophic attitude. "I remembered Gandhi and his fasts," Nauman told his friends afterward. " 'Well,' I said, 'he doesn't weigh half what I do. If he can do without food for days at a time, I can too'."
Seven days later he was rescued, weak but still hopeful.
Shall I teach you what knowledge is? When you know a thing, to hold that you know it, and when you do not know a thing, to acknowledge that you do not know it-that is knowledge.-The Analects CCS
NEWS FROM INDIA
The world colony at Ranchi, India, still centers its activities in the successful Ranchi school. A recent letter states: "The latest development in the Ranchi School is the formation of a Yogoda Sat-Sanga Hospital Committee, consisting of eleven members. Six are from the membership, and five have been chosen from the influential local public. Purpose-the expansion of our Y.S.S. medical department's activities at Ranchi.
"The celebration of Paramhansa Yogananda's birthday was successfully performed under the presidency of the Maharaja of Kasimbazar, on January 5th. Y.S.S. members from far and near came and joined with us and partook of the blessings of the Masters."
Scientists, as a group, transcend national and racial barriers by offering their discoveries to the entire world. Thus, they are exponents of World Fellowship. Raymond B. Fosdick describes their gifts in Destinies.
"An American soldier wounded on a battlefield owes his life to the Japanese scientist Kitasato who isolated the bacillus of tetanu. A Russian soldier saved by blood transfusion is indebted to Landsteiner, an Austrian ... A German soldier is shielded from typhoid fever with the help of a Russian, Metchnikoff - - . Our children are guarded from diphtheria by what a Japanese and a German did . . . from smallpox by an Englishman's work * . . From birth to death they are surrounded by an invisible host -The spirits of men who never thought in terms of flags or boundaries . . . Who never served a lesser loyalty than the welfare of mankind."
The Chinese Cultural Society of Los Angeles, a very active group, recently sponsored a banquet for the All-India element of the vicinity. Several hundred attended and so many prominent figures were among the speakers and listeners that a representative list cannot be given here. Occidentals, both white and colored, joined the Chinese and Koreans in honoring India and her people. Paramhansa Yogananda gave the opening prayer. American, Indian and Chinese speakers were followed by a period of entertainment. Several Hindu dance numbers were India's contribution. A sweet-voiced Chinese singer followed two numbers sung in his own tongue by a number in English, dedicated to India. To many of us this young Chinese singing The Song of India with such feeling symbolized the fraternal spirit which must be strengthened between these two vast countries.
PROTECTING MINORITIES Through religious or racial hatred and disunity minorities suffer first, but when the majority indulges in persecution of weaker sects or groups it too must eventually suffer the penalties accumulated through the law of cause and effect. Even today, as we watch some countries reaping this horrifying harvest, the seeds of disunity sprout here and there in our own country. But warnings come from all sides too, and perhaps we shall heed them and pull up the poisonous sprouts before they flower and spread.
In B'nai B'rith Messenger, David Weissman comments, "It should seem axiomatic to any intelligent student of modern history that attacks on racial minorities, that attempts to set one section of a community against another, to arouse religious or race hatreds, is the first step towards the weakening of a nation's basic tenets and the destruction of its will to unity."
Lillian Smith, in South Today, says, "There is a problem facing all of us, black and white, but it is not the Negro Problem. It is the problem, for Negroes, of finding some way to live a good life with white people. It is for each white the problem of learning to live a good life with himself."
By Virginia Scott
Books devoted to some phase of the war, or its probable effects upon post-war civilization, continue to form a large proportion of the volumes offered to the public. Offhand, it might seem that the "blood, sweat and tears" inherent in war reportage would obscure any flashes of spiritual insight experienced by the chroniclers. Yet, when heroism and death face each other, often a third Presence overshadows them, either reconciling them to each other or quietly turning death aside for the moment. So general is this awareness of God that one of the war-created proverbs asserts: "There are no atheists in foxholes."
Service men have spoken for themselves in letters and diaries. They have written their own stories fluently, or told them haltingly to some ghost writer. And others have spoken for them--chaplains, doctors, nurses. correspondents and entertainers. We have chosen three representative books. Although two of them are no longer "new" they are among the best examples which can be used to illustrate this acknowledgment of God's sustaining presence which shines from the dark pages of war literature. These
authors-a War Correspondent, an Actor, and an Army Private-do not speak for themselves alone, but also for the inarticulate, the wounded, the dying.
LETTER FROM NEW GUINEA
Vern Haugland, a war correspondent who parachuted from a disabled bomber into the jungles of New Guinea and kept diary notes of his subsequent experiences, had no idea of sharing wi!h his public the religious convictions which grew within him during the days he was so close to death. "Had I prepared my own story, I would have trimmed out the personal details, the intimate thoughts, and toned down the religious emphasis," he later admitted. Fortunately, his diary was published through the AP while he was still too ill to be story-conscious. "Religion had always been something I felt deeply, too deeply to talk much about it," he explained. But when letters from strangers and comments from supposedly hard-boiled associates convinced him that his testimony had been helpful to others he was persuaded to add more details to his notes in order that the adventure might be presented in book form. The resultant Letter From New Guinea* is only secondarily an account of danger and hardship. Primarily, it is a testament of faith.
Thoughts of God were with him from the beginning of his adventure. "On discovering the nature of the extremely rugged country into which I had fallen, I was quite sure I would never get out alive. I believed quite truly that I would die-probably of starvation-and I began to resolve my feelings about death.
"Then, really to my surprise, I found as the days went by that I was not afraid to die. Moreover, as I saw death approach I became surer and surer about profundities I long had questioned. I knew at last for certain that somewhere there was God and that I was in His hands, and that He was merciful."
Actually, the greater part of the book describes the horrors of his battle with the jungle: loss of equipment, treacherous waters, unscalable mountains, soaking rains, ferocious insect life, sometimes the scourge of thirst, always the threat of starvation and an increasing bodily weakness. Yet all this makes less impression upon the authorand the reader-than the repeated miracles which intervened each time death clutched at him.
Miracle of Manna
These are more impressive when they are read with the context but, as an example, take this instance:
"A morning came when I could scarcely walk. Twenty-one days since I had eaten real food, it was all I could do to stumble across the beach for a drink of water. I had been crossing back and forth over this tiny beach for ten days now, and had found it completely barren. This morning my eyes caught sight of a slender green vine trailing across the sand.
"Where had it come from? Had I walked across it many times a day without seeing it-had I been that blind? Or had it just taken root this morning?
"I knelt down to inspect it, and noticed brown marbles of fuzz among its leaves. I touched one of the marbles, expecting it to be stiff and prickly. Instead it yielded to my fingers, and was soft as down. I parted the fronds, and found cupped within them a large, pale green berry.
"I pinched the berry open. It was juicy and filled with tiny seeds. Cautiously, I tasted it. To my surprise, it had flavor. Then I took a bite. It was delicious; the first jungle food I had found with actually a pleasant taste."
There was no other such vine in the vicinity, although he made a careful search, but the strength derived from the handful of berries enabled him to climb the steep slope which had held him prisoner on the beach so many days. "'The Lord is my shepherd.' I thought of the chance that led my feet to that vine and caused me to look down. I shall not want.'"
This 23rd Psalm inspired him upon other occasions too. ". . . I kept getting thirstier and thirstier, until, near the top of a ridge, I lay down and thought I couldn't take it any longer. Then I remembered my helpful psalm-The Lord is my shepherd.' Glancing idly around, I noticed some large, cuplike flowers of the flycatcher species. Upon closer observation I found that they were filled with water, evidently from the rainstorm of last night. The water was sweet and cool, and I was able to slake my thirst. . . . At the moment when' my thirst would become simply unbearable, invariably I would reach a stream. When I'd become too weak to continue, I would find a few more sour, green, plumlike berries, scattered -about the ground. Or they would fall on me when I leaned against a tree."
Visions of Past and Future
The climax of his adventure took place on the mental rather than the physical plane. After he had met some Papuan natives and they had guided him to a mission station, his reactions to food and safety-plus the mental confusion caused by the missionaries' attitude of superiority toward the natives Haugland had come to consider as his friends-so upset him that a complete breakdown was the result. He entered a delirious state in which he passed through a succession of worlds from the lowest hells to the finer worlds of the future.
Those inclined toward religion or occultism will term them "visions," skeptics will say "delirium," but the experiences point to spiritual laws of which he had no conscious knowledge. The principle of reincarnation is apparent, although he has never studied the theory. "I have studied none of these strange sects. I know nothing of reincarnation theories, nor of the mystical beliefs of the Far East. My ignorance in religious teachings is profound. I have always been biased against 'unusual' doctrines." Nor had he thought much about life after death. "I believed in a Supreme Being without troubling to inquire too deeply into the exact nature of that belief. I had never given much thought, for instance, to such details as heaven and hell," yet his visions showed much of other spheres beside the earth with which he was familiar.
The dream cycle is described in some detail, but briefly: "The dream from beginning to end was of the struggle between good and evil. It was a tale of the past and the future of Man, as I watched it unreel like a motion picture in my inflamed mind." He was shown that "Man does not die. He passes from one form to another, and slowly--ever so slowly-he progresses upward.... Since extremes attract, I dreamed, the greatest evil always would be countered-and defeated-by the greatest good....
"My dreams carried me through a series of better and better worlds -through worlds in the Dark Ages when people were so cruel to each other that the earth was a hell of its own, through parts of the world where there had been superstition and witch-hunting and worship of strange idols, and on into worlds of tile future where life was more exciting and thrilling than it had ever been before, yet where evil had less and less space and finally no space at all."
The faith and sincerity which permeate Letter From New Guinea have made it a classic document which is almost as much in demand now as when its publication brought the first rush of response from appreciative readers.
YOUR KIDS AND MINE
Comedian Joe E. Brown's faith was not called upon to face a trek through jungles, but it did carry him through an 150,000 mile trip to the war fronts of the world. In Alaska or Africa, China or Italy, he shared the snow and the sand, the mosquitoes and torrential storms, the alerts and bombing missions with American boys. He was the first comedian to tour the Pacific fronts and, as he told General MacArthur: "'I don't want to leave the Pacific until I've given a laugh to every youngster out here. There's not one too far for me to travel to find.
"'I'm ready to do anything our kids are doing. Go anywhere they are going.' And that's how far I did go before I had finished the trip."
Whether his audiences numbered thousands, or hundreds, or consisted of a small group of fliers who would soon be off on a bombing mission, a gun crew at an advanced post, a soldier in a foxhole or one dying on a hospital cot, he offered the gift of laughter. But he offered more than that. He increased stores of hope when they were running low, conjured familiar home scenes, exuded a warm friendliness which seems the special attribute of those who have once known what it is to be alone and friendless.
And what did faith have to do with all this? Well, Joe E.-as all the boys called him - isn't young, and he wasn't well either when a youngster he'd once known wrote from Alaska and begged, "Please, for Pete's sake, come- up here to Anchorage and talk to the men the way you talked to us kids at UCLA'' He realized that here was his war job, but the Government and the U.S.O. ignored his enthusiasm, while his wife said, "Joe, you're crazy. Alaska in February, at your age! Come home and let me put compresses on your head!
But he did take that wide grin to Alaska, and to the smallest outposts, and returned more certain than ever that he had found a gift to offer. "Kathryn helped me see it," he says of his wife. "She tells a little French fable about a poor juggler who knelt before the Virgin Mother's shrine and prayed that he might have something he could give, for he had no money. He thought perhaps some money would fall from heaven into his outstretched hand, so he could give that. But no money fell. Then into his heart came the voice of the Virgin.
"'Rise, my soil, and give what you have,' she said. So he rose from his trembling knees and drew the three little balls from his pocket and juggled those as beautifully as he could. Then he heard laughter -the loveliest laughter ever heard on earth. The Babe Himself was laughing with joy."
But while Joe E. was "hammering on official doors" to get permission for an extended tour of the Pacific front, his son, Don, was killed while on a routine flight. "The next few days were a dark abyss. I seemed to be falling through endless chaos; I couldn't get hold of myself. And then one night when I was alone I felt something I never had known before. It was the presence of God. It was a peace that passes understanding. I felt God's arms around me, in a way I cannot possibly describe. It is difficult for me even to mention such an experience as this. I force myself to do it only because it may help someone else in grief.
"From then on I knew that everything was going to go on; that I would do my work, my crazy juggling act before the shrine. I knew that as long as there is breath in this body I shall go on clowning and strutting and screaming my loudest, if that's what makes people laugh. I had said to my son that we'd meet out there in the Pacific. Well, I would keep my rendezvous, not with my son, but with hundreds of thousands of Dons,
other people's Dons."
So Joe E. set forth motivated by tragedy, but waving the banner of comedy-and invisibly armored by God's touch. For a long while ill health was a recurring obstacle. He suffered from sciatica which threatened to cripple him. Sometimes it gained control and he had to ride from one show to another stretched flat in an ambulance. "The kids never knew it," he explains. "I'd get out of the ambulance in some hidden spot. Whenever the ambulance was seen I'd make a gag out of it, pretending to put on an act of a lazy civilian traveling lying down. When I was limping too badly to conceal it I made believe that, too, was an act."
How his faith increased and healing came to him, how he missed death on a number of occasions, these are highlights of Your Kids and Mine.* He includes these incidents as an illustration of the faith in God which strengthens men in danger, for, "Nobody has much right to explain anybody's faith except his own." For many of us, these are the most valuable sections of his interesting book, and we refrain from quoting them so that you may have the pleasure of reading them with the context.
Oh yes, there are plenty of laughs-just as there is a wealth of adventure in the other two books-but this review is devoted primarily to the spiritual content of the three volumes. He has caught a covey of chuckles for every chapter. And there are portraits of the sorrows, fears, needs, the courage, laughter and wit of our boys. But the contrasting emotions depicted through these thousands of characters are epitomized in one small figure downstage-the grinning, capering figure of Joe E. in motley so bright that it temporarily obscures the lonely child, the bereaved father, the friend who Can find the right word to give a dying boy. Yet we know all these selves mingle behind the clown's garb, and we can find no words for the poignancy of this contrast which runs through the book like a strain of music, can only sigh, "Ali, Pagliacci," and think we hear again the sorrowful theme issuing from the painted mouth of Canio, the clown.
Soldiers and Religion
In one of the last, and most significant chapters, Joe E. describes at greater length the attitude of our boys toward religion. In part, he says, "When I try to explain to myself what I have seen happening in our boys it seems to be not that the boys have found religion but that they have found something in themselves. I don't know how to say it any more clearly than that. . . . When everything outside is hardship and danger these boys often find inside themselves some shadow of the kingdom of heaven which Jesus said was 'within.' You see it in their faces; you touch the substance of their faith when you are in danger with them. They don't speak about it in religious terms, but if you understand, and if you have experienced faith yourself, you see evidences of it."
Your Kids and Mine is a link between service men and their loved ones. Many a mother, reading the references to Joe E's childhood, will wish she had been there to take the hand of that troubled lonely youngster, and will be grateful that those difficult days bred in him an understanding which has made of the smile and the words he brings to our boys more than a vaudeville act.
LIFE OUT THERE
One of the first stories of faith to emerge from this war was Captain Rickenbacker's account of twenty-one days on a life raft. For a few weeks everyone was talking about the sea-gull which landed on his head after the starving men prayed for food. But the humblest member of that group, Johnny Bartek-at that time a privatehas a version which differs somewhat. While on furlough he told it to Austin Pardue in answer to a series of questions, and his words were taken down by court stenographers. Pardue wisely forebore rewriting, and so Johnnie's story appears in Life Out There* told simply and sincerely, with a naiveté which makes it effective.
According to Pardue, Johnny Bartek is "a boy with a strange mixture of shyness and confidence." Of himself Johnny says, "I'm still myself, Johnny Bartek, whether I'm a private or a sergeant or a colonel or a general," and proceeds to tell the story of adventure, and the reactions of the different men, as he sees it.
Haugland's jungle trip clarified his beliefs and Joe E. Brown's experiences strengthened his faith and his contact with God. But the adventures of Johnny and his companions brought forth seeds of faith that had never before sprouted. Even Johnny who carried a New Testament did so only because it had been given to him by his church. "I used to read it but I never got much out of it. What I mean is that I would just read it because I thought I ought to." He had gone to church for the same reason. "I used to go to church, just to be there, like most of the members. I was just there to be on the honor roll or something and I got disgusted even with that."
*Life out There, by Johnny Bartek. Charles Scribner's Sons. N.Y. $1.75.
God Answers Prayers Show In The Sky
When it was evident that the plane was going to crack up, only one man prayed. Johnny declined, saying, "Well, I've never done it before. Why pray when I'm in trouble? If the Lord wants me He'll see me through this; if He doesn't, well, that's that."
They survived the crash; and on the second day Johnny brought out his Testament but "just read it as routine. Then I read it to the group, but none of us really paid much attention to it until our four oranges were gone on that fifth day. When we were out of food, when we weren't picked up, we didn't know what to do-that's when I opened the New Testament to see what it did have to say. Before I opened it I prayed to God that I would turn to some chapter that would help everybody, and that's when I opened up to Matthew 6:31-34."
About twenty minutes after he had read that passage, beginning "Therefore take no thought, saying What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink?", the sea-gull landed on Rickenbacker's head. Johnny believes that only he and Captain Cherry believed at that time that it was God who had answered them. But all the men needed help, so whenever he read they listened. "No one said, 'Oh, that's the bunk.' If they did they didn't say it out loud. But as we went on we all began to believe in the Bible and God and prayer."
About the tenth day, when they were hungry and thirsty all the time, a series of cloud pictures began to form in the sky. The men didn't talk much about them because, "You see there were so many of them in the sky and they kept coming new all the time . . . they kept us too busy to talk." Later he thought he must have been out of his mind and so he did not mention the phenomenon to anyone but a member of the family until after Rickenbacker's article came out. He was relieved then to know that all the men had seen them.
Asking Too Much
Other prayers brought them fish; and drinking water was obtained from rain. "We always got rain if we really needed it. After the tenth day it rained almost every night, and no matter whether the skies were clear, no matter which way the winds were blowing, we would pray for a storm and the storm would come, but it would go right by us, and we'd say, 'There it's going away.' Then we'd pray some more that we'd get rain. But even if it passed us by it would turn right around and come back."
Sometimes they expected too much, according to Johnny, and then the prayers didn't turn out so well! "You see we kept praying for the Lord to give us a great big fish, that's again why you have to be careful about prayers. You get what you ask for and then sometimes you don't want it, but you've got it, so what are you going to do about it? I think we were asking for too much. That's when we landed the shark. Believe me he was no good. All we got out of him was a hole in the boat."
He also believes that rescue was delayed because their prayers were too insistent. "He kept putting it off, and putting it off, and we kept asking and asking. But when we prayed f or rain we'd get that, and when we prayed for food we'd get it, so we kept asking, 'Why can't we get picked up?' We kept begging Him, begging Him. I think we were asking for too much. ' * * The way I look at it, if we did get picked up earlier, we probably wouldn't ever give Him any thought again after we landed. I mean, if we got picked up in eight days we'd just forget all about Him."
The Best Religion
Other particularly interesting sections are those describing the "confessions" which the men were moved to make after they had been at sea about fifteen days, and the paragraphs in which Johnny expresses his views on the fundamental equality of divergent sects.
Johnny was puzzled by the attitude of the men concerning the burial of one who died at sea. "DeAngelis said he should bury him. He was a Catholic and so was DeAngelis. We felt as though that was all right, but I don't think lie should have expressed the point so deep, because I don't think his religion is any better than anybody else's religion ... I wondered why Captain Cherry or Rickenbacker or Adamson couldn't say a prayer over him. . . . Oh, yes, again I remember about the sick kid. Before he died he mentioned the fact that-something about going into another world. He said he felt himself going. I've been thinking about it quite a while since we buried him.
"That burial makes me think that money doesn't do you any good. Here I had two bucks and here Rickenbacker had a few hundred dollars, and we were all in the same boat and we all got our prayers answered, whether we were rich or poor or whether we were colonels or privates. It didn't matter about our life before or anything, I mean who we were or how much dough we had. It was just the idea that the Lord answered our prayers, no matter who you are or what denomination you belonged to. You see, that's the trouble with this world-everybody thinks their denomination is the best. That's why these church fights are going on. If they would only think first of other people instead of thinking of themselves all the time, the churches would be a lot better off."
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