Tuesday, June 20, 2006


I heard a great interview on Fresh Air yesterday; Reynolds Price discussing his new book, Letter to a Godchild, with Terri Gross. She is really such a wonderful interviewer - Anyone who regularly gets guests to say, "That's a great question, I've never been asked that before..." Has to be on to something.

Anyway, I've not read the book yet, but I plan to - I've only read a bit of what he's put out over many years - Terri said he'd written "37 volumes of fiction, poetry, plays, essays, and translations" Now that's a prolific writer, and eclectic to boot...

What caught my ear was Price discussing the fact that he's had two visions in his 70 something years of life - Visions: There's a word that in our language has some impressive diversity. Vision might connote vivid mental imagery, the ability to see, the perceptual sensation of sight, imaginative imagery, or a religious or mystical experience. Price's experiences were of the last category, as both were religious in nature. He is, by he by, a very squared away person, and by his own admission, "Not weird". As seems to be the case with most accounts of visions that I find plausible, the seers are quite normal; not overtly religious, or really zealous in any sense of the word.

Price noted the incidents in detail, and I found the accounts quite interesting. He noted a couple of times that, in essence, what he had experienced was just a vision, and nothing more. I think he made that statement because quite often the term vision is held to be synonymous with apparition; obviously, Price doesn't think it's necessarily so, and neither do I. In this instance, Price experienced a vivid experience in his minds eye; he did not see supernatural forms appearing in his real world, and there's a profound difference. I read The Miracle Detectives recently, which is predominantly an account of the so-called Marian apparitions that continue to occur in a small town in the former Czech republic. One of the things that struck me as strange in that book was the reference to what is happening there as apparitional. While there may have been an apparition or two, really what is occurring is a long-running series of visions by a group of seers. Believers still travel there, to be around a seer during a vision, in hopes, I suppose, that they too might see the Blessed Virgin Mary; yet no one ever does, and as far as I'm concerned, no one ever will: Again, what is happening is a vivid experience by the seer in their mind's eye, not an intrusion of the supernatural into the real world of the watchers.

Visions are, it strikes me, really a rather personal thing. Price related that he didn't tell anyone about his for many years, though he eventually mentioned them in two or three of his books. He's corresponded with many others who read his work and wanted to relate visions of their own to a fellow seer. Most of them noted that they also hadn't told anyone of their experiences. While several said they'd not done so 'cause they didn't care to be marked as a nutbasket, in many instances they didn't say anything 'cause it wasn't nobody's business but their own... I've never had a vision, but I understand either perspective. I've never seen an apparition, either, but I know other sane, plausible people who believe that they have. Terri Gross asked Price if he believed the visions others had told him of, and he gave the perfect answer; "I don't know what they saw, but I know that they believe what they saw," and that's kind of the nature of the phenonenon, isn't it?

Visions aren't always religious, and those who believe in them aren't either. They do, however, seem to share a basic faith in the validity of what they've experienced. What the truly faithful understand, I think, in this regard, is that they are not asked to see and believe, they are called to believe that others see, and there's a big difference.

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