September 23, 2018

No News From Doodlebug Island by William F. Jordan

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Like many people, Darwin Wilkens, who has weathered fifty-three years on Doodlebug

Island, is inordinately fond of sharing his experiences, insights, political views, and philosophy

of life with anyone willing to risk the encounter. And, if no one volunteers for the job of

listening, he is known to leave the park bench that from long use has born the imprint of his

presence and insinuate himself into the conversations of people simply strolling through or

socializing with friends. All he appears to need is the merest wisp of the matter being

discussed, and he’s off like Man of War.

“I heard you rhapsodizing about the flowers planted

here in the park, and I want to support your contentions and praise your acuity. Some folks

seem unaware that flowers and plants generally do so much more than absorb carbon dioxide

and give off oxygen; they are heavenly messengers of peace, of beauty, of hope. They

remind me of that passage, I believe it’s in Luke, ‘Behold the lilies of the valley; they neither

spin nor weave,’ but, well, I’ve forgotten the rest although it unfavorably compares Solomon’s

glory with the lilies. Scripture kind of reminds us to look for the beauty in people and things, is

the way I look at it. Why, only yesterday. . . . Well, sorry you have to rush off; I was about to

invite you to sit a spell and allow me to show you how that lesson might apply.”

It is never an accident that Darwin’s conversation ends up in one scriptural reference or

another, for his experiences, insights, political views, and philosophy are formed or

referenced by his religious convictions. And it is these that Darwin is anxious to impart.

Likewise, it’s never an accident that people who appear to be ambling along in no rush to get

anywhere suddenly discover a purpose that only now revealed itself and requires removal to

an undisclosed location.

Strangers to the Island are often mislead into thinking that the encounter with someone

who actually lives here—a mature, helpful denizen no less—is a serendipitous occurrence.

Little do they know that Darwin lies in wait for their appearance like a wolf spider behind its

trap door. “Welcome, friend! You’ll naturally want to learn something about this place, its

history and its people. I’m not occupied at the moment, so maybe you’d like to sit a spell while

I attempt to fill you in. You see, Doodlebug Island is occupied by god-fearing people who

demonstrate the old maxim, ‘do unto others,’ which, of course, is the most important

commandment of the New Testament.

It’s what Isaiah and Ezekiel were getting at in their

commentaries back in the days when it was ‘an eye for an eye,’ as it was understood in

Abraham’s time and outlined in the thirty-eighth chapter of Deuteronomy, verses 19 through

21. Of course, I’m quoting from memory, so I might be off a reference or two. But, like as not,

you’ll find folks here compare pretty well with your best practitioners from other places. Oh,

I’m sorry, you’ve got to catch an early flight? Maybe you could make a phone call and leave

tomorrow! No? Well goodbye then, and as we like to say, ‘Vaya con Dios!’”

A resident or visitor who troubles himself to actually read the book of Deuteronomy might

learn that nothing is said about ‘an eye for an eye’ whether in the thirty-eighth chapter or

those comprising the rest of the work, but to Darwin this lack is merely a troubling detail that

shouldn’t be allowed to interfere with the benefit and practicality of the message. Somewhere

in scripture something is said about the matter, and Deuteronomy is as handy as anyplace

else.

Congregations on the Island have long since learned not to call upon Darwin for short,

cogent sermons given to discernible direction and purpose. Those that tried it found

themselves captive for the length of several hours, wondering if hell wouldn’t be an

acceptable alternative to the heaven being so convolutedly described.

What always made it worse was that Darwin preached ‘as the spirit directed.’ (Mathew

something or other, he believed.) It was presumptive, he declared, to prepare in advance, and

if he did, no one ever caught him at it.

We Islanders remind ourselves that eccentricity must be protected if not encouraged, but

we do have to acknowledge that some forms of it are easier to tolerate than others.

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