For my parents, Barbara Hall Fiske and Irving Fiske, the King James Bible was a kind of powerful poetry, with some visionary truth contained in it. It was not a literal truth to them, but an artistic one.
Barbara painted tempera paintings with herself, Irving and Milton as figures from the Old and New Testaments, and they referred often to the parts that intersected with their vision of "a paradise for Souls"-- people who were incapable of living the conventional life.
The Bible passages that moved them (and often me) the most were those that speak eloquently of peace and a new Jerusalem, a beautiful new earth/heaven without pain and suffering, without killing or pain.
"They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, for the earth shall be full with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea."
These words of Isaiah spoke to the heart of Quarry Hill's point of view. Along with Blake's radiant and defiant poems, and the words of Melville's Moby Dick, it "spoke to our condition." When the place ran up against people wanting, not only to claim the land but to stake claim to QH's point of view, in 1999-2002, one of the things we could not stomach was the idea of a "mission statement." That as much as anything was what the situation foundered on. It was not the Fiskian way to bind the self with one idea, one thought, one point of view-- a way of being which often drove other people crazy.
Yet, not as a commandment upon us but a vision of sanity , such passages as this one in Isaiah were a part of our deepest thought.
The Quarry Hill agreement, begun in my childhood and in effect through all the years and still today, is that here no one who is living or visiting here may strike, neglect, or verbally abuse children. Animals are not hunted, and fish swim unmolested in the brook, the frogs in the pond.
No one raises animals to kill.
This verse had a special meaning for Irving.
In his liitle brown cabin in the deep piney woods of the Ocala National Forest, a vine grew over the window of his miniscule bedroom. On the side of the cabin toward the lake he planted a little fig tree. And there he lived, in peace and unafraid, and completely defiant of the Forest Rangers and the rednecks who, in the 1970s, had burned our earlier cabin down.
(More to come)