20th Century, authors, History, Minnesota, Uncategorized

Lewis Receives Nobel Prize

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Dec 10, 1930
Sauk Centre’s Sinclair Lewis, who satirized small-town complacency and back-slapping boosterism in such novels as Main Street, Babbitt, and Elmer Gantry, becomes the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1930.*

Sinclair Lewis may well have had great insight into small-town Midwestern life, but did he have a great outlook? Help me ponder this man and the impact of the Nobel prize on Minnesota and the outside world. What is the blessing of this event, and how could this impact future generations of those outside the immediate influence of cities and suburbs?

We give You thanks today for the life and writings of Mr. Lewis! We remember what he got right about the Midwest, and the authenticity of his observations. We commend to You the fact that his characters, even heroes, were a balanced with positive and negative characteristics; human just like us! Maybe even the boring middle of “Main Street” could have been a stylistic choice to emulate the stillness of a remote village.
We give You thanks that, though critical, he still put the spotlight on the burgs, settlements, and unincorporated townships across Minnesota and the greater Midwest.

Conversely, we observe with You the things he may have overlooked, or gotten wrong. His critics find that “Main Street” is one of the most merciless novels in American history, and posit that it was motivated by revenge. Surely, he latched onto all that he saw as negative in Midwestern life in this story: narrow-mindedness, hypocrisy, and resistance to change.

Will You forgive his bitterness, and his literal and figurative children that chafe against a simple, small-town life? Will You forgive his judgments based`on his intellectual intelligence that could not recognize the practical intelligence of farmers, housewives, and tradesmen? Truth be told, the Midwestern farmer, both then and now, cannot be a pushover in the brains department. He needs to know: agriculture, machines, weather, sales, and transportation. But further, he needs a tremendous work ethic and energy to get it all done!

Did he misconstrue the common sense libertarianism of Main Street because he spent too many hours in the salons pondering Fabian Society versions of utopia with H.G. Wells? What if these folks were resistant to change simply because they were content? Is it wrong to desire autonomy after being pushed, prodded, and starved out of Europe? What if the greater hypocrisy was on his part, and he was agitated by their inner peace? Forgive us all, Lord, where we have judged, or disrespected another’s pursuit of happiness.

Will You be the balance of 61 Petty France, K Street, Wall Street, and Main Street? Will You temper our designs for contentment and advancement? Will You help us love and understand our small-town neighbor? Will You take the judgments rooted in the false gods of education, culture, and elitism up, out, and onto the Cross of Christ? Will You remove their counter-judgments coming from outstate towards the cities of Minnesota?

We thank You for the Nobel Prize of Sinclair Lewis. We thank You for all future writers that dare to go against the grain, to speak the truth as they see it. Will You give them a sense of humility with their opportunity to be a louder voice in society? Will You bless the contentment of our citizens, wherever they live? We are all the recipients of Your eternal noblesse oblige!

Bless those who persecute you. Bless and do not curse.
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Romans 12:14-16 NIV **

* P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
The Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org, is fantastic! Check it out! Images are from https://images.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl; again, an amazing resource!
** http://biblehub.com/romans/12-16.htm

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20th Century, authors, History, Immigration, Minnesota, Prayer

“Giants in the Earth” Published

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1927
Ole Rølvaag, a Norwegian-born professor at St. Olaf College in Northfield, publishes Giants in the Earth, his brooding, epic novel of immigrant pioneer life. The book becomes a huge success both in Norway and the United States.*

“The infinitude surrounding her on every hand might not have been so oppressive, might even have brought her a measure of peace, if it had not been for the deep silence, which lay heavier here than in a church. Indeed, what was there to break it? She had passed beyond the outposts of civilization; the nearest dwelling places of men were far away. Here no warbling of birds rose on the air, no buzzing of insects sounded; even the wind had died away; the waving blades of grass that trembled to the faintest breath now stood erect and quite, as if listening, in the great hush of the evening….”

-Giants in the Earth, excerpt from Chapter II “Home-founding.” *

Rolvaag, named after his birthplace five miles from the Arctic Circle, was born one of seven children in 1876. He worked as a fisherman with his father and brothers for six years until he was recruited to be a farmhand in South Dakota at age twenty. After a few years, he went after his education graduating from: Augustana Academy in 1901, Saint Olaf both in 1905 (B.A.), and 1910 (MA). His rugged life experiences gave authenticity and realism to his recollections of the struggles of Norwegian pioneers in the Midwestern United States.**

We remember, with You, the plight of the pioneers from Norway to the Midwest. We remember that this earth is Yours, as well as all its peoples and resources, and that in Your forbearance You move them where You choose. So we give thanks for the example of these aliens, and that within their hardships of displacement that they were perfectly placed to thrive by the King of the Universe!

We give thanks to You for the life and extreme austerity experienced by Ole Rolvaag. He knew both the frigid waters of Norway’s Lofoten fishing area, and the burning sun of South Dakota. He battled the elements for the privilege to enrich his mind, and truly took in the discipline and lessons of both.

We recognize the tribulations of the Norwegian characters of “Giants in the Earth”, and reflect on their lessons for all peoples at all times. Each immigrant must wrestle the elements of his environment, a culture that is unfamiliar, and the loneliness for home. We also ponder the judgments of aliens against Your Sovereignty.

Will You forgive our ancestors their environmental judgments against their new home land? Will You forgive the thoughts and words this wave of Norwegians made in their attempt to tame the “amber waves of grain”? Will You forgive our judgments in this era of them? We have forgotten what pestilence means: losing whole crops to blight, grasshoppers, and fire.

Will You forgive Norwegian Americans their judgments and false assessments of their neighbors? They encountered foreigners, also from Europe, who though racially similar held no common culture or language. They met Native Americans who led migratory lives following the buffalo, again somewhat relatable to fisherman following their catch, but different. For all their cultural struggles we seek Your mercy and restoration.

Granted, these are stalwart, hearty people who endured much more than our present generations, but even giants have hearts of flesh. Because of Your kindness, will You forgive the inward struggles of these pioneers? It’s understandable that one would ask, “Who am I?” while at home, but even more so, “Who am I in this new place?” Will You forgive their sins of fear and doubt related to their identity stemming from Norway rather than the Maker of Norway?

We, like them, are displaced from the heritage of our Creator. Much of our travail is that our identity is based on geography, ethnicity, and culture, but these are comforting false gods. Will You give us an unshakable sense of place that can only come from the Cornerstone of the Universe and Your unchanging Word?

17″You shall not pervert the justice due an alien or an orphan, nor take a widow’s garment in pledge. 18″But you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and that the LORD your God redeemed you from there; therefore I am commanding you to do this thing. 19″When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.…
Deuteronomy 24:17-19 NASB***

* P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
The Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org, is fantastic! Check it out! Images are from https://images.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl; again, an amazing resource!
**https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ole_Edvart_Rølvaag
***http://biblehub.com/deuteronomy/24-18.htm

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19th Century, Culture, History, Intercession, Jesus, Minnesota, Native Americans

“Song of Hiawatha” Published Nov 10, 1855

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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow never visited Minnesota, but his epic poem The Song of Hiawatha immortalized the Minnesota forests, prairies, and waters he saw only in his imagination. Longfellow began Hiawatha on June 25, 1854, he completed it on March 29, 1855, and it was published November 10, 1855.

The famous story still attracts tourists from around the country to see, in the words of the poem,
“Where the Falls of Minnehaha
Flash and gleam among the oak-trees,
Laugh and leap into the valley.”*

This poem could be revelatory of the best and worst aspects of pop culture…even if it was popular 160 years ago. A cynical synopsis? A man who never visited Minnesota or lived with the Ojibwe whose language he borrowed, wrote a pop lyric that morphed and mutated their culture with the East Coast Iroquois to the tune of the “Kalevela” of Finland?! Of course it became a smash hit, and the listeners accepted it as the truth!

I’m not a cynic, Jesus. So today I wish to focus on that which gives life in this poem by Longfellow. I want to practice seeing the potential in historical works, rather than judging their limitations according to the standards of the present.

Longfellow sought to learn real Indian languages, and wasn’t afraid to interact with real Indians. He invited Kahge-ga-gah-bowh, an Ojibwe Chief, to his home, and took the time to meet Blackhawk, Sac, and Fox Indians in Boston.

If the poet saw a connection between tribes of the East Coast of North America with those of the Midwest, can we forgive him? Artists are allowed to make connections where others do not see them. We can find fault in their “improper” labeling of a small branch of a larger concept, and stubbornly miss their heart.

As a drummer and percussionist, I seek to learn each new ethnic music from the ground up with great respect for its traditions. However, there is new life in breaking the rules, once one knows them. If one hears a connection between Celtic music and samba, then merging them into a new style is natural.

Perhaps that is the explanation for Longfellow merging the sound and rhythms of Indians with the heartbeat of Finland? Maybe he borrowed an interesting “drumbeat” from Suomi poems to express what he felt about Native Americans? In any case:
“The Song of Hiawatha was written in trochaic tetrameter, the same meter as Kalevala, the Finnish epic compiled by Elias Lönnrot from fragments of folk poetry. Longfellow had learned some of the Finnish language while spending a summer in Sweden in 1835.” Calhoun, Charles C. (2004). Longfellow: A Rediscovered Life. Boston: Beacon Press.

Father, will You bless Longfellow, Kahnge-ga-gah-bowh, and each Indian who shared his story? Will You continue to bless those who reach out to know a culture very different than their own? Will You honor those who see Your unyielding imagination expressed through all the families of nations?

Thank You for Longfellow’s example that we can create beauty beyond the confining aspects of our culture. Show us ways to “include, but not be limited to” the legalism of our traditions. Thank You, First Poet, for drawing the romance from hearts of stone! Thank You for the possibility of fusing peoples together when living under grace! May we never tire of creating, merging, or reaching to describe Your beauty mirrored in the faces of fellow humans! With this heart and mind, will You bless our state?

*Note – PrayThroughHistory uses the timeline located for several years at the Minnesota Historical Society Web site, at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm .

 

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