Logically, if you have proven a hypothesis beyond a reasonable doubt, and you then move on to exploring nuances, you don't have to prove the foundational theory over again each time you study the new question. I have proven that I was Mathew Franklin Whittier in the 19th century. Therefore, I can legitimately begin exploring various aspects of that match, without having to defend my primary assertion.
One of the pieces I found in the 1853 volume of the Portland (Maine) "Transcript"--actually, the one I was looking for, in the first place--was an "Ethan Spike" sketch entitled "Ethan Spike on his Travels." I had a reprinted version dated Dec. 7, 1853 from another paper, but I wanted the original printing in the "Transcript," because often other papers didn't reproduce the entire sketch. In this case, they had, but there were minor variations in spelling (i.e., deliberate mis-spelling) and punctuation, and this one was included in the Appendix of my first book. So I re-keyed it and replaced it this morning; but I had the thought to comment on it, a bit.
First of all, one sees the colloquialism, "dead as a door-nail," which also appears in "A Christmas Carol." That doesn't prove anything, except that it's one more cross-correspondence which shows that Mathew could plausibly have been the original author. Unless, that is, it turns out to have been primarily a New England expression in the late 1830's, which I doubt it was. I can't remember, now, but I think I found two or three instances of Mathew using "dead as a door-nail." I don't now how often Dickens might have used it. The reason I bring it up, is that in the "Carol," there is a playful discussion as to its meaning--and there's a back-story, there, regarding an interest in linguistics. One of Abby's cousins, from Guadeloupe, appears to have been a linguistics professor, who studied such things.
Incidentally, when I moved to Portland, I got a place a couple of miles outside the city proper, and it turns out that in Mathew's day, this was actually part of Westbrook. While there are probably any number of railroad crossings in Westbrook, I can see one of them at Woodford's corner (which Mathew has mentioned elsewhere) out my kitchen window. So this story could have been set that close to my current residence.
Mathew is historically known as the author of "Ethan Spike," because he was "outed" as its author in 1857. So unlike some of my recent entries, we don't have to do any detective work to establish his authorship of this series. But it's the style of humor I'm interested in. Here, Mathew creates an ignorant character who misunderstands things, and in particular, road signs. I seem to have this same sense of humor. I have long been tempted to create a web page of politically incorrect humor based on local road signs. One of them, near my house, proclaims, at a busy intersection, "Does Not Stop." I would caption this one, "Here in Portland, the Native American influence is still strong, and they are encouraged to post signs protecting the wildlife."
Another, not far away, set up in front of a house on another busy road, says, "Caution: Autistic Child." I suppose he throws rocks at passing cars.
You get the idea. Once your mind gets into this sordid state, you start seeing them everywhere...
All of this would mean nothing to a card-carrying Stevensonian--but this might, because I created it in 1998--seven years before I discovered Mathew Franklin Whittier. I was in the area of Wilmington, Delaware, because I was visiting reincarnation educator Carol Bowman to interview her for my documentary, "In Another Life: Reincarnation in America" in Media, Pennsylvania. Wilmington is about 20 miles from Media, so definitely I was in the area. And it felt very familiar.
By letter of March 31, 1882, Mathew's brother, John Greenleaf Whittier, wrote a young colleague, Sarah Orne Jewett, that Mathew was convalescing in Wilmington. I discovered this letter, of course, many years after I was in that area. What appears to have happened, is that my identity (and my talents) as Mathew were subconsciously triggered, so that I was able to spontaneously create very much the same sort of humorous essay as Mathew might have. I, too, adopted an ignorant persona, who misinterprets what he sees, including road signs.
Generic? Not when considered with everything else, as a whole. It might be, if the "Lighter Side" page wasn't genuinely funny; but allowing for personal bias, I think it is. When the reincarnation researchers find a child who has talents matching those of his previous incarnation, they count this as significant evidence. The reason they study children--essentally the only reason Stevenson stuck to child cases--is that one can eliminate the false memory, or "cryptomnesia" objection thereby. But if you can eliminate cryptomnesia in an adult case, why not? One should not be dogmatic about these things--but the spirit of dogma is already entering into the Stevensonian method, when the dirt on the master's casket is still fresh, as it were. If I can demonstrate that I had a specific talent--to a notable degree--before I discovered that my past-life personality had a matching talent--then this is real evidence. It deserves to be taken seriously as such.
Unlike my silly offerings, today, Mathew's sketch held a deeper layer of meaning. Well, I guess I'm poking fun at political correctness. But Mathew had created a teaching story which explains the cause of human suffering, or at least, much of it. We misinterpret instructions through ignorance, doing precisely the opposite of what is intended--you know, like Christians using the Bible as an authority for hating gay people. Or like taking the Old Testament saying, "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth"--which is a pithy explanation of karma--and turning it into a justification for exacting revenge, oneself. Then, when the inevitable disaster arrives, we blame someone else--but we can never find the right person to blame, because "we have met the enemy, and he is us."
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
Music opening this page: "Tongue in Cheek," by Sugarloaf,
from the album, "Spaceship Earth"