WHAT DEWEY SAYS History THE BIG QUESTION How do you feed and care for saints and miracles?
STARTING POINT American history is all wars, religious revivals and pop stars. A few heady moments involve all three.
During the war of American independence, not all patriots fought. Quakers, the first citizens of the first capital (Philadelphia), were unshakable pacifists. But a new sect within the Quakers raised more hostile eyebrows. They were called the Shakers, and they were not only pacifists but refused to side with England or America. They had rowdy meetings where dancing was the norm, and followed a charismatic leader they called Mother Ann.
Mother Ann’s radical preaching had landed her in jail in England more than once. During one of these visits, she had a “visitation” from Jesus, and he confirmed her strong belief: that abstaining from all sex was a powerful road to holiness. When she left prison, she performed miracles, her followers said, and they described her as a female Christ.
Here’s the interesting bit: Mother Ann’s moment in prison became very important to the Shakers. Some believed that just telling the story of that visitation was enough to make it happen again. Jesus appeared at each retelling.
What’s the difference between history and fiction? That’s the task of the Upholsterers, who take the foundations of the path and cover them in new cloth. What’s worth remembering? And what happens when we retell it?
CENTRAL PRAXIS Days of the Dead
OTHER PRAXES A lot of praxes exercise those memory muscles. Confucianism is arguably built around remembering your parents and honoring your ancestors, through spirit tablets and consecrated places to remember them. The Mexican Day of the Dead, and all of the ghost and Halloween traditions from the Greeks onwards are about remembering and honoring the past.
The best history is written by a witness, they say. And many Christians embrace that idea of a “witness” wholeheartedly. A Jehovah’s Witness is “witnessing” when they knock on your door. They’re passing on extraordinary facts - people and events and changes of the heart - that they believe to be true, which require remembering and repeating.
How important this is! In Dante’s Purgatorio, he describes the two rivers at the summit of Mount Purgatory. Souls must wash themselves in both before they can come into Heaven. One is Lethe, where we forget our evil. The other is Eunoe, where we remember our good.
Remembering good things - the unlikely saints and miracles that make up our lives - also falls to this omada.