Ringing the bells revisited

Back in October of 2016, I wrote a column about bells; interesting things, bells. Edgar Allan Poe wrote a poem about them – here’s a stanza:

Bells, bells, bells,

What a world of merriment their melody foretells!

Bells can be happy, rolling on the floor jangling happy – but they’re not always that way.

Back in Poe’s day, the ringing of bells marked significances; the beginnings and endings of days, the beginnings and endings of lives, and important events between. When the bells rang, people listened.

In 1864 The First Congregational Church got Alpena’s first church bell. Other churches followed and they would ring in the time together. But how did those early bell ringers know it was ringing time?

For a time that answer came from our official timekeeper, Charles Reynolds the owner of Reynolds Jewelry located in downtown Alpena where Kennedy Jewelry once was.

Periodically, Charlie would take his “solar transit” to the roof of his building and site the exact center of the sun as it crossed a north-south meridian line he had established there.

He would then set the clock at the back of his store and from that clock, bell ringers could coordinate their ringing.

Charlie’s solar transit is now at the Besser Museum, a gift from the Reynold’s family.

But it wasn’t just about merriment, time, and special occasions, sometimes bells would ring a warning:

In the jangling and the wrangling,

how the danger sinks and swells,

by the sinking or the swelling of the bells.”

Today we use sirens, radio, T.V., and cellphones to alert us to danger. All this used to be bell work. But, there is still a need for bells to warn us – a need not filled by any modern warning system.

Christianity, in its many manifestations, used to use bells to drive out demons and unclean spirits; the more bells the better.

I believe we have that need for bells today.

Consider these reported outrageousness:

The United States – with only 4% of the world’s population – has 25% of the coronavirus cases and 21% of its deaths. Of the 947,000 deaths world-wide, the U.S. has experienced 201,000. Four percent of the world’s total deaths would be 37,800. Accordingly, 157,500 of our countrymen may have died unnecessarily.

Is not something terribly wrong? Could there be a devil in these details?

Thousands of children were taken from their parents. Numbers vary but The Department of Homeland Security admitted to removing 1,995 children from 1,940 adults between April through May of 2018. I believe there were many more.

What form of evil is that?

I’m not aware that our government made any response to reports that a bounty was offered by a foreign power for the death of our soldiers. Soldiers their commander and chief reportedly called suckers and losers.

I’d let those “Suckers and Losers” characterize that characterization.

The Center for Disease Control, a world-class disease-fighting agency, is involved in a fight for its reputation. Recommendations posted on its web site purportedly drafted by its scientists were instead drafted by political appointees.

Messages get confused, a lack of trust grows. Are these the hallmarks of a demon?

We are told the coronavirus will just go away, that herd immunity will stop it’s spread. We are not told that such immunity will require hundreds of millions of us to get sick and hundreds of thousands even millions to die.

Ring the bells!

Thursday, a chief federal judge found President Trump and Postmaster DeJoy are, “involved in a politically motivated attack” creating the “substantial possibility that many voters will be disenfranchised and that the states may not be able to effectively, timely, accurately determine election outcomes.”

An unclean election? Are unclean spirits involved?

What to do?

Grease all the bell bearings and put out the call, “Bell ringers on deck!” We need our bells to peal as they have never pealed before.

What if all that ringing doesn’t effectuate the hoped-for exorcism?

In that event, you will not have to send to know for whom the bells toll.

They will be tolling for thee – and me.

Doug Pugh’s “Vignettes” runs weekly on Saturdays. He can be reached at pughda@gmail.com.


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