Thursday, May 1, 2014



Long lost in my house is a piece of Noah's Ark.
 Or what some explorer claimed was a piece of the most famous boat in the world when I interviewed him when he appeared on Front Page Challenge.
I had forgotten about the splendid splinter from  - if you can believe Genesis - a rib of cypress until the publicity drums started beating for the latest movie on the "righteous man" chosen by God to save samples of all life on earth by building a great boat.
The holy splinter dated from one of my favourite times in journalism when I was a kid on general assignment on the evening shift of the lamented Toronto Telegram. Every Tuesday I got to meet some famous person and had to interview him or her or it with absolutely no research to help me.
Front Page Challenge was an instant hit when it started in 1957 and lasted for nearly four decades. The famous Canadian personalities/journalists tried to guess the identity of people involved in major news stories. In the early years, the CBC secretly would fly in one world figure for each show, which could be Gandi or Jayne Mansfield, and keep them hidden until their turn before the cameras to try to stump the panelists. And a reporter from each newspaper would interview them for some useful publicity in case Mother Corp. had paid for some really controversial figure to come to town.
Because of the secrecy, you never knew whether you would be talking to Errol Flynn, or one of the Barrymores, or the beekeeper who was the first  to climb Mount Everest  (Sir Edmund answered my inevitable question by saying he and Tenzing got there together,) or the earnest man who said he found the ark in ice near the top of Mount Ararat.
I can't say I terrified the Challenge mystery guests in my interviews, but I did grill the Ark "discoverer" because I had been raised intensely on the Bible and the Ark was one of my favourites stories.
(And you have to be careful in trying to figure out exactly what had happened because there is a lot of repetition and contradiction. One modern theory is that is caused by there being two different writers of the early Bible and when the Bible was being compiled, the ancients may have included both versions rather than just pick one.)
 My knowledge impressed the explorer, whose name I've long forgotten, along with his book. So he gave me a scrap of wood which I treasured for years until I went to show it off and found it was gone.
If you wonder what sort of untidy house I keep, let me offer in defense that Mary and I have had a full life, which has left us with a lot of nice stuff. Then add in the treasures that three sons have left behind even though two own homes. Their "stuff" includes hundreds of full bottles of beer and pop carted home laboriously from most corners of the world. Why we even have a stone figure more than six feet high, one of those famous terra cotta warriors from China, which looms up in the rec room.
I wrote a blog about this on March 27, 2012, headlined Mummified Fingers and Wedding Rings, which describes just two of the items that have vanished into the corners.
But back to my missing splinter which is either an historic treasure or a bad toothpick. I can't guess as to its provenance. I have read other books on the Ark, including one that showed a great "shadow" which could be a boat in a glacier which that group of explorers could never find again. I have flown over the great snowy bulk of Mount Ararat, the extinct volcano which is the tallest mountain in Turkey and a familiar sight on clear days and know that would be a fitting place to ground an Ark if there really was one.
We now know that all the great civilizations had legends about great floods covering the earth. And then there are all the doubts about everything in the Great Book and especially the Old Testament, from the crucifixion and whether there was a Jesus to all those flights into and out of Egypt.
For every great story in the Bible, there are a host of skeptics. And I have often wandered the great stone cradle of religions, Jerusalem, searching vainly for clues.
Back in simpler times, especially for me, I remember when I first heard about Noah. It certainly fired  my imagination. And this question? Since God's aim was to make drastic improvement to his new world, and he told Noah to collect a pair of every living thing, why didn't Noah just let the snakes and the mosquitoes drown?
The Sunday School teacher made me sit in the corner when I asked. 

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