Guest Underground Society Post by Josh Gross

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I want to give thanks to Josh Gross for contributing this excellent post to my blog. Please be sure to check out his blog: Jaguar and Allies .

Underground Library Society Post

 

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Introduction

 

In May of this year, Dr. Charles French extended an invitation to join his Underground Library Society (ULS). The ULS began as a project for Dr. French’s English 2 class, in which students were required to create a poster and blog about a book they would memorize. In this way, they might be able to save it from censorship.

 

Dr. French’s invitation asked readers to do the same thing: make a poster and blog about a book they would memorize. I selected the Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T. E. Lawrence – better known as Lawrence of Arabia.

 

While I have not constructed a poster, what follows is an essay about why I would memorize this book.

 

The Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T. E. Lawrence

 

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(A portrait of T. E. Lawrence, as seen in Lowell Thomas’ With Lawrence in Arabia. Public Domain image retrieved from Wikimedia.)

 

In these pages in not the history of the Arab movement, but just of what happened to me in it…It treats of daily life, mean happenings, little people. Here are no lessons for the world, no events to shake peoples. It is filled with trivial things, partly that no one mistake it for history (it is the bones from which some day a man may make history), and partly for the pleasure it gave me to recall the fellowship of the revolt (Lawrence, 2011, p. 9).

 

I first picked up the Seven Pillars of Wisdom on a whim. I had just finished reading The Outsiders by Colin Wilson, which quoted Lawrence repeatedly. Lawrence’s words struck a chord with me, so I ordered a copy of his book. I had no idea what I was getting into.

 

The Seven Pillars is the memoir of the fabled “Lawrence of Arabia,” whom Michael Korda (2010) describes as, “a scholar, an archaeologist, a writer of genius, a gifted translator…a soldier of startling originality and brilliance; an instinctive leader of men; and, above all, a hero” (p. xvi).

 

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​(T. E. Lawrence, second from right in the middle row, accompanying Emir Faisal Hussein of Mecca at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. Public Domain image retrieved from Wikimedia.)

 

Lawrence’s memoir chronicles his experiences in the Arab Revolt of 1916, in which the Arabic peoples rose up against the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire. Little did they know, they had entrusted their fates to a far more devious power than the Turks: the British Empire.

 

The Arab Revolt was both encouraged and supported by the British. At this time, Europe was locked in the bloody stalemate of World War I – with the British and Ottomans fighting on opposite sides. The British therefore helped to instigate a rebellion of the Arabs against the Ottomans, promising to grant their ‘friends’ freedom and a sovereign state.

 

But in a real-life conspiracy, the British and French met behind closed doors; deciding to carve up the Middle East amongst themselves however they saw fit. There would be no freedom for the Arabs.

 

From the beginning, Lawrence was a firm believer in the Arab Revolt. He initially supported it indirectly as a desk-based intelligence officer in Cairo. But when the revolt began to flounder, he entered the field as a liaison between the Arabic and British armies. His time in the field makes up the bulk of the Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

 

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(Much of Lawrence’s sympathy for the Arabs stemmed from his Oxford days, when he worked as an archaeologist at Carchemish. Public Domain image retrieved from Wikimedia.)

 

What first struck me about the Seven Pillars, and the primary reason I would memorize it, is the sheer beauty of its prose. Lawrence wrote with more skill, passion, and care than any author I have yet found. He described the scenery of Arabia so perfectly that the hues of the desert come to life; he writes about the characters so intimately that they seem like old friends; but, most of all, he describes his own thoughts and emotions in such detail that it is impossible not to be affected by them.

 

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(Wadi Rum, shown here, was one of Lawrence’s favorite places in Arabia. Wadi Rum by Dan. CC BY-SA 2.0)

 

It is in these moments of self-disclosure that the Seven Pillars truly shines. To be fair, I disagree with many of Lawrence’s sentiments. However, that does not detract from the quality of his writing. It is also during Lawrence’s ‘deeper’ passages that the central theme of the Seven Pillars becomes apparent: that of a man torn in two.

 

Lawrence was a proud Englishman, and felt that his first duty was to his homeland. Despite this, he also believed in a free Arabia. As the Seven Pillars progresses, the incompatible drives between serving his British masters and helping his Arabic friends gradually rip him apart.

 

This is the primary reason I would choose to memorize the Seven Pillars of Wisdom: it shows what happens when one chooses to obey authority over doing what they know to be right.

 

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(​Lawrence died on the morning of May 19, 1935, following a tragic motorcycle accident. TE Lawrence Effigy Wareham Church by Julian Hutchings. CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0)

 

Lawrence never recovered from the war, and neither did the world. How different would the modern age be if the Arabs had been allowed to govern themselves, instead of being turned into the colonial play-things of the British, French, and later the Americans? We will never know.

 

The Seven Pillars of Wisdom is more than a literary masterpiece. It is the story of broken promises, of failed dreams, and of a world that almost was. As Lawrence (2011) wrote:

 

I meant to make a new nation, to restore to the world a lost influence, to

give twenty millions of Semites an inspired dream-palace of their national

thoughts. So high an aim called out the inherent nobility of their minds, and made

them play a generous part in events: but when we won, it was charged against me

that British petrol royalties in Mesopotamia were become dubious, and French

colonial policy mined in the levant (p. 10).

 

I hope to preserve Lawrence’s words forever, so that the world never forgets the price of deception.

 

References

 

Korda, M. (2010). Hero: The life and legend of Lawrence of Arabia. New York, NY:

HarperCollins Publishers.

 

Lawrence, T. E. (2011). The seven pillars of wisdom: A triumph: The complete 1922 text.

Blacksburg, VA: Wilder Publications, Inc.

 

Once again, thank you to Josh Gross!

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Quotations By J.R.R. Tolkien

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“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.”

                                                 The Fellowship Of The Ring

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

                                                 The Fellowship Of The Ring

“There is some good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for.”

                                                 The Two Towers

 

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

                                                 The Hobbit

“Oft hope is born when all is forlorn.”

                                                The Return Of The King

Quotations on Freedom of the Press

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“Freedom of the Press, if it means anything at all, means the freedom to criticize and oppose”

                                                                 George Orwell

 

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“Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”

                                                                Thomas Jefferson

 

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“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.”

                                                                Benjamin Franklin

 

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“Let us never forget that those who oppress freedom by attacking the freedom of the press are neither patriots nor lovers of democracy.”

                                                                Charles F. French

 

Quotations by Rod Serling

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“All the Dachaus must remain standing. The Dachaus, the Belsens, the Buchenwalds, the Auschwitzes -all of them. They must remain standing because they are a monument to a moment in time when some men decided to turn the earth into a graveyard, into it they shoveled all of their reason, their logic, their knowledge, but worst of all their conscience. And the moment we forget this, the moment we cease to be haunted by its remembrance. Then we become the grave diggers.”

 

“It has forever been thus: So long as men write what they think, then all of the other freedoms – all of them – may remain intact. And it is then that writing becomes a weapon of truth, an article of faith, an act of courage.”

 

“The writer’s role is to menace the public’s conscience. He must have a position, a point of view. He must see the arts as a vehicle of social criticism and he must focus on the issues of his time.”

 

 

Quotations on Censorship

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“There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches.”

                                                                     Ray Bradbury

 

 

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“Censorship is to art as lynching is to justice.”

                                                                   Henry Louis Gates Jr.

 

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“If this nation is to be wise as well as strong, if we are to achieve our destiny, then we need more new ideas for more wise men reading more good books in more public libraries. These libraries should be open to all—except the censor. We must know all the facts and hear all the alternatives and listen to all the criticisms. Let us welcome controversial books and controversial authors. For the Bill of Rights is the guardian of our security as well as our liberty.”

                                                              John F. Kennedy

Rest In Peace, Stephen Hawking

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Renowned scientist, philosopher, and author Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76. Mr. Hawking was a brilliant thinker, someone whose accomplishments put him with the pantheon of great intellects, including Leonardo Da Vinci, Sir Isaac Newton, and Albert Einstein.

At the age of 21, he was diagnosed with the disease ALS and not expected to live for more than a few years at most. His longevity, despite facing a terrible illness, demonstrates his tenacity.  He forged new ideas in science and wrote about those ideas in works that brought such thinking to nonscientists, including, but not limited to,  A Brief History of Time and The Universe In A Nutshell.

He remained optimistic about the future of humanity, especially if we can successfully make our way into space.

The human race was fortunate to have had such a mind. They are indeed rare.

Rest In Peace, Stephen Hawking. (1942-2018)

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Quotations on Education

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“Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.”

                                                                        Walter Cronkite

 

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“The mind once enlightened cannot again become dark.”

                                                                        Thomas Paine

 

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“Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.”

                                                                         Plato

Quotations From Umberto Eco

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I am currently teaching Umberto Eco’s extraordinary novel The Name Of The Rose in my European Novel In Translation class at the Wescoe School of Muhlenberg College, so I was inspired to offer some of his quotations from this book.

“I wrote a novel because I had a yen to do it. I believe this is sufficient reason to set out to tell a story. Man is a storytelling animal by nature.” (546)

“Often books speak of other books.” (306)

“Books are not made to be believed, but to be subjected to inquiry.” (338)

Eco, Umberto. The Name Of The Rose. Trans. William

     Weaver. New York. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2014.

      Print.

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Gallows Hill can be found here in ebook.

Gallows Hill in paperback can be found here.

An interview about Gallows Hill can be found here.

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Please follow the following links to find my novel:

ebook

Print book

Thank you!

The book trailer:

Maledicus:Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

My radio interview:

interview

The Old Lie

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Please, in the name of the victims of the most recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida, let us begin to do something to change the national insanity of gun deaths.

Stop with the old lie — “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” It is illogical, fallacious, wrong, and stupid. Guns are weapons and are designed to expel bullets that are intended to kill. That is their purpose. That is why they exist.

Guns kill people.

Guns are not used to make paintings; they are not used to drive screws into wood; they are not made to make omelets; they are not created to write letters; and they are not aimed at making sculptures.

Guns are made to kill. That is their purpose.

The United States has a history of gun ownership based on the 2nd Amendment. As  I would say to my students, please do a close reading, parse the language, and understate what it says. If you do, then the phrase “A well-regulated militia” is crucial to understand. The militia of today is the National Guard–that is the militia of the United States of America. If you believe in the 2nd Amendment, then you should enlist in the National Guard.

Guns do kill people. Let us never forget that. And let us stop accepting the old lie.

Quotations on Political Courage and Political Cowardice

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Given the circumstances of the horror of the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, the hypocrisy of politicians in bed with the NRA and gun-makers, and their inaction about even considering reasonable gun legislation, I wanted to offer three quotations to consider:

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“There comes a time when silence becomes betrayal.”

                                                        Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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“The ballot is stronger than the bullet.”

                                                       President Abraham Lincoln

 

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“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.”

                                                      Albert Einstein