Do you find yourself going through an evening where you're stuck at home and don't know what to do? You take a look at the TV guide, only to find that there is not much on which is worth watching on either BBC channels. Oh, there is a movie, an exciting drama on one of the commercial channels, but what's the point in watching a movie so frequently interrupted by commercial breaks, when you already have your own DVD recording of the movie? So shall it be watched again? Not really. You have watched it already only last week, and that was the third time after purchasing it.
I have to be honest here. I despise commercial channels! For me, anyway, I find nothing more frustrating than to be deeply involved with the plot of the film, and just when an exciting bit arrives, there is this sudden silence followed by an advert on Kitekat (we don't have a cat) or Chunkie dog food (we don't have a dog either) or this geyser driving a flash sports car as he passes a lone young female at an exotic location and tries to impress her. Not very relevant to me here either, for I don't have a driving license. The only appropriate advertisement is the one on Cadbury's Dairy Milk. After all, who doesn't like chocolate? But alas, there's no chocolate in the house and either the superstore had closed for the evening or I'm too tired or not bothered to go back out. Furthermore, I'm waiting for the movie's climax.
Thus, the wonder of the Internet! So useful it has been during this pandemic lockdown. Indeed, I'm beginning to wonder how the generation which had to endure the Bubonic Plague in the 13th Century managed to cope? Okay, there may be some bad things online, but it's also an unlimited storehouse of useful knowledge. Trivia which I had missed out at school is now easily accessible with just one or two clicks of the mouse.
And that also includes virtual reality. Yes indeed, I have moaned about our virtual church service over the weeks. But I have always agreed to the principle during these critical times: to be able to worship God and to listen to the preach from the speaker on screen. I certainly can see him as he stares back at me, only that he cannot actually see me, nor, for that matter, can he see anyone else gazing at him, but instead, he looks into a camera and at the same time keeping track on how many are tuned in. But it's the bit after the service is over when chatting rooms come on screen. Here, not only can I literally talk to the person on screen but we can actually see each other as well. It was as if talking through a windowpane.
About nothing worth watching on TV. Here we have two other channels we can rely on. One is the BBC Iplayer, where I can watch the hour-long travel documentaries presented by Simon Reeve which I normally miss on TV, along with other programmes. The other website is YouTube. And one set of videos has recently caught our attention and that is by Prowalk Tours. Unlike most travel presenters, who love to stare into the camera and narrate, this fellow simply walks along, holding his video camera aloft on a pole. This gives the impression that as he walks, it's as if the viewer himself is walking and filming. There is no vocal narration nor any background music. Instead, his footsteps can be heard crunching on the gravel, along with the voices of talking passersby.
One of his videos was about his ascent to the crater of Mt. Vesuvio, with the walk starting and finishing at the car park. It was very enlightening. The modernisation of such a tourist attraction has become well-advanced since my actual visit to the volcano in 1973. Where in my day the footpath leading to the rim was nothing more than a band of light dirt streaking along the barren, ash-laden slope, now there is a proper trail, fenced in on both sides with a trestle of logs and wide enough for up to six people to walk abreast. Where in 1973 I was practically the sole walker, in the video the path was very busy with mostly families walking in both directions.
But then, such a video looks to be almost too perfect. I guess it has to be for public viewing. Not like in my day when nearing the crater, the heavens opened, and the torrential downpour, consisting of marble-sized raindrops, had soaked me in seconds before I spotted a natural alcove in the lava cliff, where I had taken refuge before some kind driver offered me a lift back to Naples. Not to worry. I managed to successfully reach the crater on the next day after another hiking attempt from sea-level.
In reality, such mishaps such as a sudden rainstorm make the adventure so much more exciting! Too bad such don't show on YouTube videos. After all, there are no mountains of real success without valleys of failure in between.
But the near-perfection of video shooting can be appreciated more so if it was shot at a location where I had never set foot. Capri is one such location. Yet as a fledgeling backpacker of the early seventies, after arriving by train into Stazione Napoli Centrale, I couldn't help notice the posters featuring I Faraglioni on display around the terminus. These are natural stacks jutting out from the south coast of the island, and it's one of the main features symbolising the whole of Italy throughout the tourism industry. But back then, I wasn't aware that they were not part of the mainland. Instead, I thought that these stacks were of nearby Sorrento.
After finding a hotel at the Piazza near the station and asking whether there's a room available, I settled in, intending to check out the city itself. But more importantly, I Scavi di Pompeii was a must for my visit, along with a must-see of the crater of Vesuvio. Sorrento can wait until another day.
And this is how Prowalk Tours had shone quite a light on Capri. As the cameraman walked along through the maze of narrow streets, I began to get acquainted with the island until I began to feel that I have actually visited. However, there are some setbacks. One is looking at those stacks from a height without walking down to the very foot of the stack which nearside is still part of the land. Nor was seen the second stack, out at sea, which had a natural arch through where cruise boats carrying tourists passed under.
I happen to be very fortunate to have travelled in a way I did. I guess I'm one of the fulfilment of Holy Scripture where it says that in the latter days, men shall run to and fro and knowledge shall increase, Daniel 12:4 KJV. The advance of technical sciences along with skyrocketing travel seems to have come as no surprise for the Holy Spirit.
But I was equally intrigued by King David's cry of despair when he expresses his wish to grow wings like a bird so he could fly away to rest and take respite. He actually wrote,
Oh, that I had wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. (Psalm 55:6.)
If only David knew what the Holy Spirit had already known, some three thousand years before fulfilment! Indeed, we do "have wings like a dove and have flown away to find rest." The tourism industry is fixed on that very purpose - to find rest from the day-to-day stresses of modern living. Of course, David visualised having his own pair of wings resembling that of a bird (or even an angel) yet would have never imagined a metal tube with two huge metal wings and with a capacity to hold more than a hundred passengers. But the Holy Spirit had already known.
And there is another very astonishing prophecy found in the Revelation of St John, and that is of the Two Witnesses of Revelation 11. John records that during their ministry "the beast out of the Abyss" attacks and kills them. Whether this "beast" is the Antichrist himself or his agents, we cannot be sure. The crunch of the matter is that whilst the two bodies lying dead in the streets of Jerusalem, they are observed by the whole world all at once. This would include people living in Australia, North and South America, Africa, all of Europe and Asia, everybody will be able to see the two bodies simultaneously, verses 8-10.
Although many interpreters believe that the two witnesses will be Moses and Elijah, I tend to believe that one of them will be Enoch rather than Moses. In the Old Testament, Enoch and Elijah were the only two men in the whole of history to have been taken to heaven alive, without facing death. Moreover, if the one was Moses, he would have needed to die twice, the first time at Mt Nebo as recorded in Deuteronomy 34. As physical death is the gateway for every believer into the eternal presence of God, both Enoch and Elijah must face death sometime within human history.
For many centuries, commentators were baffled on how could the whole world observe these two lying at a specific location. Then in the 1970s, author Hal Lindsey was sure that this problem was solved by the development of Telstar Television. This was a big leap forward. But with his prediction that the 1980s was the countdown to Armageddon, the turn of the new millennium came and went with no divine intervention, as Lindsey had never thought of the idea of the internet in his time.
As far as we presently know, it does look as if the Internet will be the media used for the observance of these two witnesses by the entire global population. It will be an act of God's grace for, at their resurrection and ascension into Heaven, many in terror will turn in repentance to God, a demonstration of worldwide salvation which by then only modern technology can help bring about.
However, this scenario is based only on what I can see and observe at the present. Nobody knows when the coming of Christ is due, and who knows, there could be even greater wizardry in service before he returns, gadgets that may not be around until after my own passing, and technology I cannot at present imagine. But neither was any of our own technology ever imagined by past generations, let alone by the Romans.
Nor by the ancient Israelites who were camped near Mount Sinai, and were ready to receive the Decalogue. While the Ten Commandments were given out, God knew everything about modern technology which will not arrive until some 3,500 years later.
Just as God has every day of our lives marked and a specific number of them to be lived by every individual, according to Psalm 139, then while we all thread through this pandemic, we can be assured that it was all written down long before the beginning of time, and thus, we can trust him.
And that includes the moment when I stood at the rim of Vesuvio's crater, trusting it would not suddenly erupt.