Oct. 31, 1998


by Wendell Berry


Today's Reading: Section IV from "1984" by Wendell Berry from A TIMBERED CHOIR, published by Counterpoint (1998).

It's HALLOWEEN, the fall festival dating back to ancient Britain and Ireland. It used to mark the end of summer and the eve of the new year, and bonfires were lit on hilltops to frighten away evil spirits revisiting their homes this night.

The BATTLE OF BRITAIN ended on this day in 1940. This was the air war fought over England, and it began in late Spring,1940, as German aircraft attacked the British coastal defenses in preparation for an invasion. By summer the attacks moved inland, destroying Royal Air Force bases and fighter production centers. By September the RAF was close to defeat. At that point, however, Hitler changed his strategy. He was infuriated that the British had begun bombing Berlin, so he ordered retaliatory raids on London. That gave the RAF time to quickly re-build and focus on hitting the incoming German bombers and now the RAF had the help of the newly developed radar. The tables turned and Germany lost over twice as many planes as Britain. Hitler called off his invasion, and it was Germany's first major defeat in the war.

It's JULIETTE GORDON LOW's birthday, the Girl Scouts of America founder, born in Savannah, Georgia, 1860. She founded the Girl Scouts on March 12, 1912. The first meeting was in Savannah and attended by 16 girls. Low taught them knot tying, fire building, and outdoor cooking.

It's the birthday of the English Romantic poet JOHN KEATS, born in 1795. He was the son of a stable manager and had little formal schooling. The family sent him first to be apprenticed to a surgeon, then he worked for a time as a nurse. But he gave up medicine and from the time he was 22 years old, till he died from tuberculosis four years later, devoted himself completely to writing poetry. His first long poem came out when he was 23, "Endymion," about the handsome young Greek who spends most of his time asleep.

JOHN EVELYN was born on this day in 1620, Surrey, England, who wrote more than 30 book on the fine arts, forestry, and religion of his day. But he also kept a diary from the time he was 11 years old till he died at 86, writing in great detail the everyday life of 17th-century England, and that's how we know him today.

Martin Luther nailed his 95 THESES on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church on this day in 1517, beginning the Protestant Reformation in Germany. Luther was angry that the church was selling indulgences, which were assurances of sins pardoned in exchange for cash. The archbishop of Mainz sponsored an indulgence sale in 1517 to help pay for the construction of Saint Peter's in Rome. Luther posted his theses some of them openly critical of the pope, others meant more as topics for discussion. Copies were quickly spread all across Europe, and the Reformation was underway.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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