Experts cannot even agree whether it is an alphabet, a syllabary, a mnemonic, or a rebus. The longest, consisting of a few thousand signs, winds its way around a magnificent ceremonial staff. When the angels appeared to John Ballou Newbrough early one morning in 1881, he was nothing if not well prepared. The desert is an invention, a creation of emptiness in the plentitude of existence, an introduction of barrenness into the fecundity of being.A dentist and Spiritualist, he had spent the last ten years purifying himself for supernatural contact by abstaining from meat, bathing twice a day, and rising before dawn. However dry this biome, it is never entirely vacant.Besides containing rocks or sand, the actual desert from Atacama to the Sahara and from the Gobi to Mojave is propitious to certain animals (coyotes and scorpions, chipmunks and rattlesnakes) and plants (barrel cacti and Joshua trees, tumbleweeds and ironwood) that find themselves at home there. Suppose that you were a lonely analphabetic with no religious education—the year could be 2017 or 1617, it doesn’t matter—and at the same time zealous for initiation into the narratives that the New Testament offers by way of instituting the Christian faith.In more recent years, the magazine published Woodrow Wilson and Winston Churchill long before either man became a political leader.
Theodore Roosevelt wrote for broke Seymour Hersh’s account of the My Lai massacre and devoted a full issue to Norman Mailer’s “The Prisoner of Sex.” Over the years, the magazine’s format has been revamped, its general appearance has evolved considerably, and ownership has changed hands.
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