Tuesday, February 10, 2015

High Nibley on the comfort of purity in difficult circumstances


I read the book Sergeant Nibley Phd: Memories of an Unlikely Screaming Eagle yesterday.   I very much enjoyed it and recommend it.   It was about Hugh Nibley’s experience in World War II as part of army intelligence.  He was part of the force that invaded Normandy on D-day.

One particular experience of his I found particularly inspiring, so I want to share it with you.

One day I was asleep, all covered up in my foxhole, and Dave came running up and said, “Get up!  Grab a carbine and come quick!  The Germans are in Carentan, and they’re going to attack!”

And I heaved an enormous sigh of relief and I said, “Thank heaven!  It was only a dream!”  Because before he woke me I had been dreaming that I had committed a rather serious crime—I think I committed murder—and I was terrified by the dream.  When I woke in the foxhole with the guns firing and the noise and shouting all around and the dense smoke of rifle fire, I was so happy I could sing because I hadn’t committed that crime.  When I found it wasn’t true, it was as if I’d found myself in my bed in a palace.  “How happy I am!  Everything is all right!  The world is lovely and right because I have not sinned!” (p127-128)

I love this story because it shows what a wonderful thing it can be to have a clear conscience.  I suppose the Lord gave Hugh Nibley that dream specifically so that the comfort of finding it wasn't real would buoy him up in difficulty.

Elsewhere in the book, Nibley reflects on that further on that experience:

I remember the dream I had in the foxhole outside Carentan.  The one where Dave Bernay woke me up and I felt so happy because it was just a dream and I hadn’t actually committed the terrible crime I had dreamed about.  There I was in the middle of a battle, and I was completely happy.  It was a very strong thing; it came to me very strongly: I shouldn’t be happy in this circumstance!  But it’s not what happens to you that matters.  It’s not what becomes of you, it’s what you become that’s important.  And the tragedy today in America is not what becomes of us, but what we become.  As Brother Brigham used to say, if you don’t deserve hell and you’re sent to hell it doesn’t bother you.  You just say, I’m in the wrong place; there has been a mistake. It’ll be corrected, I don’t belong here.  But if you belong there, that’s the sad thing. Then it’s what you are.  There is the tragedy. (p125-126)