The Purpose of Marriage is Not to Make You Holy

Before we moved abroad, we did some marriage counseling. What I mean is, we sat in an old guy’s office for fifteen hours and cried. It was amazing.

He told us our marriage could be a safe-haven on the field. Or not.

He said we could strengthen and encourage each other on the field. Or not.

He said that our marriage could bring peace and stamina and even joy to the mission field. Or not.

He was right.

 

Some Questions

If you and I were chatting at a local coffee shop and I asked you, “Hey, I’m curious, how would you describe marriage?” In general, what words would you use?

Would you say, “Marriage is…

Hard?

Wonderful?

Good?

&#^$? [that could mean good things or bad things, I suppose]

How do you describe your own marriage? Often, the first word I hear people say is “hard.” And after they say “hard,” they quickly follow up with, “but it’s good.”

Now, think about your relationship with your best friend. How would you describe that relationship?

Would you say, “Our friendship is…

Fun?

Easy?

Intimate?

Hard?

Would you call it “hard, but good”? Honestly, what would you think of someone who spoke of their closest friendship, first and foremost, as hard? Um, weird.

What about your relationship with God? Is it, first and foremost, hard?

Is that really what we’re going for? Is our chief end to endure the hard, with God and our spouses?

On a gut level, I think we know there’s more. There has to be more.

A Dangerous Idea

“The purpose of marriage is to make us holy.”

“Marriage is hard, but it’s ok, because it makes us holy.”

“My marriage is really difficult. But that’s good, because marriage is supposed to make me holy.”

Have you ever heard a variation on this theme? Often, people don’t say it so explicitly, but I’ve heard this a bunch, and I think it’s dangerous. It’s almost like we looked around and said, “Well, marriage is really difficult, and a lot of folks never experience intimacy or joy or happiness in their marriages, so let’s just tell them marriage is supposed to make them holy instead.”

We sound so spiritual when we talk like this, and we think we’re elevating the institution of marriage, when in fact, we’re simplifying it and cheapening it. We’re robbing it of beauty. And, we’re insulting people.

We’re insulting the people who aren’t married. How are they made holy? Are they doomed to a life of less holiness due to their marital status? Are they holiness-deficient? Are we implying that our single brothers and sisters, widows and widowers, or folks who’ve dealt with the trauma of divorce, don’t have access to the thing that can make them holy? Namely, a spouse?

Can marriage make you holy? Sure. Any relationship with another human has the potential to wear off rough edges, point out selfishness, expose our sin, and through the work of the Holy Spirit and the sacrifice of Jesus, make us holy. (See: Parenthood.) But saying “marriage can make you holy” is very different than saying “the purpose of marriage is to make you holy.”

The real-life implications of this belief are what scare me the most. If marriage is to make me holy, and if what I really mean by that is that the hard parts of marriage make me holy, then I’m actually completely justified in staying in the hard parts, without any hope of or desire to change. There is no impetus to seek deeper intimacy with the one I’ve promised to be with forever.

You know, sometimes marriage is hard because we’ve got issues that need to be worked on. But instead of acknowledging the emotional pain, or the fear of intimacy, or the past offenses, we deflect and avoid, consoling ourselves, “Well, at least it’s making me holy.”

This is not God’s plan for marriage.

Instead of hitting conflict or hardships and deflecting to “holy,” we need to start asking the tough questions, like “Why are we having this conflict?” or “Is there deeper emotional pain that’s making this so hard?” Can we stop using the idea of holiness as an excuse to avoid the hard questions?

And more to the theological core, I think we believe marriage can’t be pleasurable and enjoyable, because then it wouldn’t be as spiritual. This is an ancient discussion. Pause and analyze for a second if any of these fallacies have crept into your thoughts on marriage:

Marriage can’t feel good.

Marriage can’t be good unless it’s purely spiritual.

Spiritual intimacy is the most important part of marriage.

Physical and emotional intimacy in marriage is inherently “less than” spiritual intimacy.

Again, we don’t really talk like this, but it is often our meta-message.

Marriages are not meant to be endured.

Marriage is for intimacy.

The sharing of souls and dreams and flesh.

The first taste of summer.

Marriage, the joining together of two unique persons, predates sin and exists beyond it. Marriage satisfied Adam. It excites Jesus.

The first marriage was designed by a loving Father, for joy and companionship. Closeness. It was good. The last marriage, a proclamation of Love’s victory that echoes in eternal joy and companionship and glory. A celebration such as the cosmos has never seen.

Marriage is the mysterious coming together of two people; the blending of heart and vessel and marrow. The tearing of the veil. Intimate. At least, that’s what it’s supposed to be.

But intimacy can be a scary thing. It’s vulnerable and exposed and leaves us naked. It’s also amazing.

The opposite of intimacy is withdrawal. Distance. Disconnection. Ask yourself, ask your spouse, “Are we close? Are our hearts even in the same room, communicating easily? Have we settled for a dull disconnect?” It’s worth talking about. And for the record, if one spouse feels like there’s distance and disconnection but the other spouse thinks everything’s great, the first one’s right, and the marriage needs help. If you’re the spouse that’s denying distance, I beg you to stop. Now. Listen to the heart-cry of your husband or wife.

Every relationship will have seasons. Seasons of grandeur and awe and warmth, and seasons of darkness and winter. But there’s a big difference between a season of winter and an ice age. If you’re living in an ice age, please get help. It doesn’t have to be that way.

 

A Blessed Arrangement

Intimacy with your spouse is a gift, a fountain of youth. Treasure it, protect it, and fight for it. Here are some ideas:

Explore the relationship between Christ and the Church. Study Ephesians 5. Read the Song of Solomon. Slowly. Find a marriage counselor, even if you don’t have any “issues.” Pursue emotional healing.

Say no to good stuff so you can say yes to better stuff. Do not embrace your mission so much that you lose your marriage. Keep porn far, far away. Porn will destroy intimacy faster than you can click “delete browser history.”

Read good books about marriage. Trade babysitting. If at all possible, when someone comes to visit you on the field, let them get over jet lag and then leave the kids with them so you and your spouse can get away overnight. When you’ve got little munchkins at home, even 26 hours away (our last getaway) can be awesome. (And someone please tell me I’m not the only one who counts those getaways in hours!)

You may be in a place where getting away is impossible, or unsafe, or just really stupid. So, change your definition of “a date.” Putting the kids to bed early and catching up with your spouse over coffee (or tea, I guess) can be romantic, if you want it to be.

 

Regarding Sex [a word for my brothers]

Sex and intimacy are not synonyms. But still, a marriage characterized by emotional intimacy will include some form of healthy physical intimacy.

Men, we think we know a whole lot more about sex than we actually know. And that’s a problem, because we think we don’t need to learn, or even worse, we think that we’ve learned about sex already, you know, because we watched some porn once or listened to guys in the locker room. Yikes. Our wives deserve better than that.

Having sex doesn’t take much skill or special knowledge, but really making love to your wife’s heart and body, now that takes some practice. And research.

I think you should research sex. I know you think about it a lot, so why not study it from a healthy source? Have your wife do some research, and read whatever she thinks you need to read. And if she thinks you need to read something, then you need to read it. However, if she doesn’t want you reading about sex, she’s probably got a very good reason, and you should look into that before you start calling her names. For example, if you’ve violated her trust, or pressured her in the past, she’s probably not going to be too excited about this paragraph. And she’s probably right.

That being said, a pretty basic book that might be a good place to start your research is A Celebration of Sex, by Dr. Douglas Rosenau.

A longtime missionary and medical doctor once told me something interesting about sex. (And I always listen when someone tells me something interesting about sex.) He said, “Often, the sex life of a missionary couple is a barometer for the health of their marriage in general.”

Sex doesn’t create intimacy, and you can’t fix an unhealthy marriage by having more sex. That wasn’t his point. He was just saying that emotional distance, or a lack of emotional intimacy, will show up early in a couples’ sex life. It’s a warning sign. And if the emotional intimacy between a husband and wife begins to diminish, it should be addressed sooner rather than later.

It should be noted here that a healthy sexual relationship has nothing to do with frequency. It has to do with intimacy. Do you, as husband and wife, regularly connect with each other both physically and emotionally?

Husbands and wives, enjoying each other physically and emotionally, is very pleasing to God.

 

When One Partner Doesn’t Care

Maybe you hate this article. Maybe you’re already gearing up for the comments section. Please, hear me out.

For most of this article, I’m assuming that both husband and wife want to grow closer. I’m assuming you both want a healthy marriage characterized by deepening intimacy.

However, I realize that many people live in marriages that aren’t like that. Maybe that’s you. Maybe you’re in a marriage that’s missing something and you already know it and it’s breaking you. Maybe you wish things would change, but they haven’t, and you don’t think they ever will. If that’s you, I want you to know that I totally believe you. I see you, and I’m so very sorry.

It is not good to be alone. But being married to someone and still alone, now that might be worse still.

If that’s you, you may find yourself in a valley of grief, and that might be right where you need to be for a time. Grieving the loss of dreams. Grieving for the broken places, and the broken things.

If you’re in that hurting place, may the Lord of Peace surround you with his love. May you find friends and confidants who will walk beside you, encourage you, and strengthen you. May you find the Church to be a welcome and warm place, full of people who care about you, about seeing you. Not you, the part of the “bad marriage” or the “failed marriage,” but you, the child of the King, who is worth so much. May you know intimacy, with your God and with his people. And may he bring you safely home.

 

Conclusion

Marriage is a great gift, and we honor the Giver when we accept the gift with joy and excitement. We honor him when we treasure each other, respect each other, know each other.

We miss the Father’s heart when we think he gave us marriage “to make us holy.”

Yes, marriage is sometimes hard, and life is not all peaches and cream, but if your default description of marriage is “hard,” I’m telling you, there’s more. Look for that. Pray for that.

 

A Marriage Blessing

May your marriage be beautiful. May it remind you often that God gives good gifts. Very good gifts.

May people look at your love and see that there is a God and he is awesome.

May you show the world — and the Church — that it’s not about submission or obedience or “who’s in charge.” That in your love and mutual submission, you will race each other to the bottom. And when you get to the bottom, may you find love, wholeness, joy, peace, and life. In other words, Jesus.

May you laugh often. At each other, with each other, because of each other. And if and when God fills your home with children, may you sit around the table and laugh and laugh and laugh.

May you taste heaven when you taste each other.

And when you walk through the shadowlands, and you will walk through the shadowlands, may the One who led you together continue to lead you together. He is the Creator of the soaring mountaintops and the scary valleys. May he sustain you and remind you.

May 2018 be the best year of your marriage. Until 2019. And may 2019 be the best year of your marriage. Until 2020. May you experience the intense joy of being known, deeply, and the great honor of knowing another.

May your love, promised and given, echo into eternity.

May people hear your stories, witness your love, and say from now until forever, “Look at what the Lord has done!”

Read Next On FaithIt
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Read more: https://faithit.com/purpose-marriage-not-make-you-holy-jonathan-trotter/

‘The Care and Keeping of You’ author on the book’s staying power 20 years later

Millions of young girls grew up on "The Care and Keeping of You."

Editor’s Note: The internet has changed how kids learn about sex, but sex ed in the classroom still sucks. In Sex Ed 2.0, Mashable explores the state of sex ed and imagines a future where digital innovations are used to teach consent, sex positivity, respect, and responsibility.


There are few things more mortifying than being a preteen and needing to ask someone about good old Aunt Flo. 

Thanks to The Care and Keeping of You: The Body Book for Girls, millions of young women didn’t have to. American Girl’s seminal book about getting our periods, dealing with acne, and finding healthy friendships provided answers to questions we were all too embarrassed to ask. Packed with informative, anatomical illustrations and simple, matter-of-fact details, the book was a staple for prepubescent girls before we all started googling. Instead of offering cringeworthy euphemisms like “sacred flower” or “first moon,” it got straight to the point: You have a vagina, and here are the changes you might experience. 

If maxi pads and salicylic acid made up our armor for the battle against puberty, The Care and Keeping of You was our sacred text that led the way.  

The book turned 20 years old this month. Since its publication in 1998, it has been updated and divided to include a second book specifically for older girls. How did it come about, and what made it so popular — and powerful? We caught up with Valorie Schaefer, who wrote the original book, to find out. 

You mention in a piece in the Atlantic that the book was inspired by nationwide discussions about how puberty was happening earlier and earlier. Can you tell me a little more about how it came to be? 

Pleasant Rowland was the founder and CEO of American Girl, and she’d been on some airplane and there was an article in the Times on the early onset of puberty. And she ripped the page out, and she put a sticky note on it for Michelle [Watkins, the editor of the book], and she wrote, “WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS NOW.”

They decided that one of the things they did best was education. I was a copywriter, writing for the catalogs about all the cute doll accessories, and somehow Pleasant was just determined that I was the best person to write this book. They wanted to talk to girls with a particular voice. 

There were girls who were 9, 10 … who were getting their periods, and they were so confused and scared. When you’re a 9- or 10-year-old girl you don’t want the whole discussion about reproduction and sexuality — even if your mom is awesome. So a book just seemed like the way to go. 

How would you describe the tone of the book? 

Well, we always said, “This is the voice of your cool aunt.” Someone you could view as older and trustworthy, but not your mom and dad. Just a little younger, and maybe she’s a little cooler, but you trust her. She’s not the crazy wingnut, haha. 

So she’s not the vodka aunt. 

She’s the cool aunt! That’s sort of exactly how we wanted to talk to girls, because we wanted them to feel heard. We wanted to speak to them in a way that is respectful and kind and warm. Here’s just the information you need. We’re not going to give you stuff you’re not ready for. It’s just like, “What’s going on with my breasts??” “Am I going to get any?” “Will it hurt?”

These are the questions you have at that age. It’s hard for you to think of yourself as a 10-year-old, knowing what you know now, and say, “Wow, how could I not know that?”

And not only did you not know it, but you didn’t want to ask anybody, you know?

Yes! What was your research process like when writing this? How did you come up with that cool aunt persona, while also being informative?

Pleasant, Michelle, and I have all been 10-year-old girls. We started by asking ourselves the question, “What did we want to know?” 

“Ten-year-old girls are like truth-seeking missiles.”

We just talked to people. We talked to girls, we talked to moms, I think we had a lot of confidence that fits “who” she was. I think the information — to us as adults — is not tricky, but when you’re 10 … 10-year-old girls are like truth-seeking missiles. It’s not that they distrust adults, but they’re not babies. They don’t buy everything hook, line, and sinker, so you have to talk to them in a way that’s very truthful. But you also can’t overwhelm them with information they can’t possibly digest yet. 

So going back to your question, we talked to pediatricians, but more importantly, we talked to 10-year-old girls. 

There’s a stigma about any discussion of a reproductive body part being inherently sexual. How do you think The Care and Keeping of You dispelled that myth?

I don’t think the book dispelled the myth, but the book steered a course right down the middle of that discussion. And I think if you want to talk to a girl about getting her period, you really have to talk about reproductive organs. You have to answer the question, “Why do I get a period?” 

In the past 20 years, the book has become a staple for girls of my generation. When I mentioned it, everyone was like, “Oh my god! I remember that!” Why do you think there’s so much nostalgia surrounding The Care and Keeping of You? 

I’m just gonna guess that it has much to do with who you were at that time, and a real affection for that girl. You can look back and go, “Man, I was a sweet-ass 10-year-old!” 

You miss some things about being that age. You’re smart, you’re super-curious, you’re not completely frightened, you’re not overwhelmed by the concerns of the world like an 18- or 19-year-old. My daughters are 18 and 20, and they get, like, choked up about being that girl. 

It arrived at a time in that girl’s life when they’re realizing they’re transitioning to the next stage. 

In this internet age, you can pretty much Google anything. Why do you think that, in this flood of information, the book is still so relevant? 

When you Google things, you don’t have a lot of control over what you receive. Even a 10-year-old knows not to trust everything that’s out there. You might Google something about getting your period and be like “Whoa! Too much information!”

“You might Google something about getting your period and be like ‘Whoa! Too much information!'”

I also think there’s something about the format of the book that’s so private and personal, it’s like the person is talking just to you. This book arrives at a time in your life when you really like to hang out in your bedroom, on your bed, with your friends. There’s something really great about being in a quiet place that’s private with a book that’s talking just to you. 

Right. 

And I think in an age when everything can be handed to you with a mouse, there’s something really nice about that experience. 

Yeah, I totally get that! Do you think it’s dangerous for little kids to be flooded with information that they don’t have context for? 

I don’t know if it’s dangerous, but it’s overwhelming, and way confusing! Even as well-meaning adults, we want to treat young people respectfully, and we think treating them respectfully is giving them as much information as possible. But it’s really important to be age appropriate. Not because we’re trying to hide anything, or we’re trying to be dishonest, but because a 10-year-old doesn’t have the same concerns that a 16-year-old does. 

There are definitely times you can be scarred, your memory becomes seared by something you see that you definitely did not hope to see, but I think it’s mostly just overwhelming. 

A few years ago the book was split up and modified, and the second book includes chapters about tampons and mental health … Can you talk about that process and why there was a decision to divide the books?

When we first wrote The Care and Keeping of You, we were really thinking about a 10-year-old girl. And we said on the back of the book, for girls eight and up. That’s really a readership level, and what we found was that younger and younger girls were reading it. Young girls are super-aspirational. If your older sister’s reading it, then you want to read it too. 

And some of the contents of the book — maybe body image and eating disorders and stuff like that — are really not so appropriate for that younger girl. American Girl thought, we can just make the split and keep The Care and Keeping of You 1 more appropriate for the younger girl, and then in the second book be able to provide more information for that older girl who is asking harder questions. 

The second book was written by an absolutely wonderful Harvard pediatrician named Cara Natterson. She has really built a reputation for knowing how to talk to preteens. 

It’s 2018 now, and updates have been made, but some people have pointed out that the book is still very straight, very cisgender, and very able-bodied. Do you see it being modified to be more inclusive? 

You know, I’ve been thinking about that. 

I remember when I read the book years ago, there were parts like, “Sometimes you might feel this way about a boy!” 

Right, totally! I don’t know if the publisher right now is thinking about revisiting that. As a parent myself, what I would do is explain to my child, “Every book isn’t written, sadly, for every single person. So we’re gonna take what serves us, and take what we can find.” 

My 18-year-old is gay; she’s been out since she was 12, and she considers herself a female-bodied gay person. My conversation with her is, “Look, you’re female-bodied. The information in this book mostly applies to you. Sorry about the area of interest.” 

In my circle of young people I care about, I would buy them The Care and Keeping of You, I would buy them The Body Book for Boys. I would put them both on the shelf and say, “There is fantastic information in both of these books; you should know about them no matter what gender you embody and no matter what kind of person you might be attracted to.” 

I wish we didn’t create such a hard division between what each gendered child should know and understand. But without the references to who you might be interested in, I think the rest of the books really stand. 

For sure. 

If you are a male-bodied child, but you identify as female, most of the information is still going to be useful to you. You’re not gonna get breasts, you’re not gonna bleed, but all the other information about skincare and exercise and how to feel about stuff is going to be the same. If you’re a parent of a child who is not strictly binary, you’re be putting together a custom program for them no matter what. 

In the past 20 years, you’ve raised two girls. Did you read them the books? 

Ha! I wrote the book when I was pregnant with my daughter, so she never knew a world without that book sitting on the bookshelf. But it’s really funny because it doesn’t matter who you are — you could be the person who wrote the book, and your kid does not want to talk to you about it. 

It was on our shelves, and I was like, “Hey gals! Do you want to talk about anything in the book? Do you have any questions?” And they were like, “No, Mom. Thanks. No.” 

My high school sex ed class was pretty comprehensive, but it was really matter-of-fact. It was like, “Here’s a cucumber. Here’s a condom. That’s it. Go. Be free.” But there’s so much nuance involved in sex education that just isn’t discussed, in schools or in general, you know?

I think we do a really poor job of recognizing transitions. There are a lot of cultures where there are specific and beautiful rituals about going from becoming a young girl to becoming a woman. In the U.S., we just do a shitty job, honestly. One of the things we tried to do with the book without getting into like, rites of passage ceremonies — and I know girls whose mothers would have first moon parties which was mostly mortifying —

I was mortified just getting a pack of pads and The Care and Keeping of You. 

Right, right! One of the things we tried to do with the book is to say, “Hey. Girl. This is a moment for you when you are making a transition. You’re going from being a person who relied on your parents to take care of you physically and emotionally, and you are stepping into this new space where you are responsible for you.”

And I hope we did that in a way that is reassuring and empowering, without getting into anything spiritual or cultural. We wanted to say, “We see you! You got this, girl!” 

Read more: https://mashable.com/article/the-care-and-keeping-of-you-interview-sex-ed/

Extinction Is Normal, But It’s Currently Happening 1,000 Times Faster Than It Should Be

The Conversation

When Sudan the white rhino was put down by his carers earlier this year, it confirmed the extinction of one of the savannah’s most iconic subspecies. Despite decades of effort from conservationists, including a fake Tinder profile for the animal dubbed “the most eligible bachelor in the world”, Sudan proved an unwilling mate and died – the last male of his kind. His daughter and granddaughter remain – but, barring some miraculously successful IVF, it is only a matter of time.

The northern white rhino will surely be mourned, as would other stalwarts of picture books, documentaries and soft toy collections. But what about species of which of which we are less fond – or perhaps even entirely unaware? Would we grieve for obscure frogs, bothersome beetles or unsightly fungi? Extinction is, after all, inevitable in the natural world – some have even called it the “engine of evolution”. So should extinction matter to us?

First of all, there are strong practical arguments against biodiversity loss. Variation, from individual genes to species, gives ecosystems resilience in the face of change. Ecosystems, in turn, hold the planet steady and provide services essential to human welfare. Forests and wetlands prevent pollutants entering our water supplies, mangroves provide coastal defence by reducing storm surges, and green spaces in urban areas lower city-dwellers’ rates of mental illness. A continued loss of biodiversity will disrupt these services even further.

Industrial-scale deforestation has decimated habitats in Brazil, Nigeria and South-East Asia. shutterstock

Seen in this light, the environmental damage caused by resource extraction and the vast changes that humans have wrought on the landscape seem extremely high risk. The world has never before experienced these disturbances all at the same time, and it is quite a gamble to assume that we can so damage our planet while at the same time maintaining the seven billion humans that live on it.

Although the unregulated plundering of the Earth’s natural resources should certainly worry those brave enough to examine the evidence, it is worth specifying that extinction is an issue in its own right. Some environmental damage can be reversed, some failing ecosystems can be revived. Extinction is irrevocably final.

Uneven losses

Studies of threatened species indicate that, by looking at their characteristics, we can predict how likely a species is to become extinct. Animals with larger bodies, for example, are more extinction-prone than those of smaller stature – and the same holds true for species at the top of the food chain. For plants, growing epiphytically (on another plant but not as a parasite) leaves them at greater risk, as does being late blooming.

This means that extinction does not occur randomly across an ecosystem, but disproportionately effects similar species that perform similar functions. Given that ecosystems rely on particular groups of organisms for particular roles, such as pollination or seed dispersal, the loss of one such group could cause considerable disruption. Imagine a disease that only killed medical professionals – it would be far more devastating for society than one which killed similar numbers of people at random.

The world could be in the midst of its sixth mass extinction event. shutterstock

 

This non-random pattern extends to the evolutionary “tree-of-life”. Some closely related groups of species are restricted to the same threatened locations (such as lemurs in Madagscar) or share vulnerable characteristics (such as carnivores), meaning that the evolutionary tree could lose entire branches rather than an even scattering of leaves. Some species with few close relatives, such as the aye-aye or tuatara, are also at higher risk. Their loss would disproportionately affect the shape of the tree, not to mention erasing their weird and wonderful natural history stories.

The most regular counter argument contends that we should not worry about extinction, because it is a “natural process”. First of all, so is death, but it does not follow that we meekly surrender to it (especially not prematurely or at the hands of another).

But secondly, fossil records show that current extinction levels are around 1,000 times the natural background rate. They are exacerbated by habitat loss, hunting, climate change and the introduction of invasive species and diseases. Amphibians seem particularly sensitive to environmental change, with estimated extinction rates up to 45,000 times their natural speed. Most of these extinctions are unrecorded, so we do not even know what species we are losing.

An incalculable cost

But does it really matter that the world contains fewer types of frog? Let’s take a hypothetical small, brown African frog that becomes extinct because toxic waste pollutes its stream. The frog has never been described by science, so no one is the wiser about its loss. Putting aside disaster movie-level ecosystem collapse as a result of ongoing mass extinction, the frog’s intrinsic value is a matter of opinion. It evolved over millions of years to be adapted for its particular niche – to us, the authors, the loss of that perfectly balanced individuality makes the world a lesser place.

But it is easy to moralize about biodiversity when you don’t have to live alongside it. One person’s marvel of nature might be another person’s torment – an orangutan raiding a poor farmer’s crops, or a leopard snatching a shepherd’s livestock. Pathogens are also part of life’s rich tapestry, but how many of us mourn the eradication of smallpox?

The ConversationSo how far should our aversion to extinction extend? We cannot answer this question – but like all good philosophical conundrums, it belongs to everyone, to be debated in schools, cafes, bars and market places across the world. We may not all agree, but extinction is broadening its reach, so consensus and urgent action are needed if we hope to control it.

Elizabeth Boakes, Teaching Fellow in Biodiversity and Environment Research, UCL and David Redding, Research fellow, UCL

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Read more: https://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/extinction-is-normal-but-its-currently-happening-1000-times-faster-than-it-should-be/

11 amazing perks you get from your local library you never knew before now

“I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library.” So said the famed novelist Jorge Luis Borges, and if you love those musty old buildings packed with study carrels and knowledge, you probably share his heavenly sentiment.

Tap or click here for 4 apps to help organize your books, music and movies.

Today, the library is as essential as ever. I mean physical libraries, the same brick-and-mortar buildings that have been lending books since the dawn of America. However, how does a place full of hardbacks and CDs keep pace with the digital universe? By adapting to its logic and evolving with the times.

Tap or click here for a fantastic resource for free eBooks.

Armed with a simple library card, you can put your tax money to good use and support one of the noblest institutions there is – all the while enjoying a near-limitless supply of literature, periodicals, music, movies, and even free office space. Here are just a few of the perks your local library has to offer.

1. eBooks and Audiobooks

When you think “library,” you think books. But books come in many varieties, including picture books for kids, paperbacks for the beach, and large-print books for people with visual challenges.

The explosion of media has birthed multiple new formats as well: libraries today also boast an impressive number of eBooks and audiobooks, all for free with a library card. All you need is your eReader (such as the super-cheap Kindle) and/or an audiobook app that supports your library’s file types (such as Overdrive), and you can binge on books the way you binge TV shows.

Just keep in mind eBooks and audiobooks from the library come with due dates, just like the print books do – you’ll be able to keep your copy for generally about two weeks, then you’ll have to renew your reading material, or let it be available again to other library cardholders.

Specific titles, especially beloved bestsellers, may not always be available either. However, you can place hold requests, just like with print books, and get the link to download your copy as soon as it’s available.

2. DVDs and CDs

Long before streaming, libraries made a go of competing with video and music stores with one big exception – the tapes, DVDs and CDs would be free to check out with a library card.

Sure, the selection might be somewhat more limited, and new releases wouldn’t get there as quickly, and sometimes the DVDs or CDs would be scratched and difficult to play. The movies would be free, and still are free at your local library right now.

The best approach to a library’s selection is to treat it like a thrift store: you never know what’s been donated over the years, so you can browse the eclectic collection for old favorites or bygone blockbusters you never got around to.

3. Wi-Fi and places to work

The “virtual office” usually means one of two things: your house, or a cafe. Coffee drinks add up, and sometimes leaving the house is a boon for productivity. The solution: an open table or padded chair, courtesy of your local book-lender. Every major library has free Wi-Fi, outlets, and designated places to work, and your only limitations are the hours of operation. (And don’t make any phone calls, obviously).

Libraries often have secluded workspaces and conference rooms you can reserve.

4. Computers

Need a computer too? Virtually all libraries have desktops available, and some even have laptops you can rent on site. These devices come with time limits on their use, but they’re still handy for many situations, and they often have printers available for use as well. So libraries make excellent work locations.

5. Free images

Need great stock images that are more historical or natural, or need to look at famous works of art, or some local maps? Libraries can help with all of that. The New York Public Library has 200,000 free images you can use for any purpose, and you can download them from your home right now. It also has a collection of 180,000 works of art, literature, and performance, many of which are in the public domain, as well as 672,000 items in its digital collection in general.

Peruse any of the items in your home right now, and use the public domain ones for any purposes you can think of. Then perhaps enjoy a collection of coloring pages from world-class libraries and museums, which you can print out and use whenever also made available through the digitizing efforts of libraries.

Also, don’t forget to see what similar services your local library has—you may get to see some great old maps of your town or portraits done by local artists of yore.

6. Classes on Technology

As an inexpensive alternative to more formal continuing education classes, libraries often host classes and workshops on various subjects. These classes might be on technology, accounting, or studio art. In the case of the D.C. library system, there might even be a class on how to avoid NSA spying. Classes are often divided by age, offering courses to teens and adults to better account for their relative learning levels, and some libraries even offer courses aimed at young children to encourage literacy and necessary math skills.

Libraries also frequently offer ESL programs to help those less familiar with English gain fluency. Since these classes are free, they’re aimed at a large audience, so typically they’re designed for serious beginners. If you already know a bit about Excel, taking a class on it at your local library will likely cover what you already know.

7. Activities for children

Libraries are heavily geared toward children, from individual sections (organized by age groups and reading ability) to kid-friendly programming, like storytelling and play sessions.

Kids may also access computers with pre-installed games and learning programs. (Full Internet access may be restricted as well).

8. Employment help

As mentioned, libraries offer free classes that can give you the skills to put on a resume. On top of that, many local libraries have job listings on their website, particularly with local companies that hire often, and some libraries offer programs to provide some basic resume and cover letter critique to those seeking it out.

If you’re looking for work, your local library can be a fantastic resource for you. Check out your local library’s site, and ask about it next time you go in for any of its other amazing services and resources.

9. 3-D printers

Some of the most tech-savvy libraries, including college libraries, offer 3-D printers for use. It’s all part of what’s called the Maker Culture, providing spaces for people to create things that they use or sell.

Check with your library for availability, any associated costs (some libraries offer printing for free but charge for the plastic that is used) and policies. You don’t want to get caught printing something that could get you in trouble.

10. Hotspots

While Wi-Fi is almost always available in libraries, more are offering hotspots for checkout. This gives internet access to people that otherwise don’t have it, ensuring that libraries are doing their part to close the digital divide.

Schools sometimes borrow the hotspots for their students, or families will get the devices so the kids can get some homework done. Check with your library before you go get a hotspot, as the devices can have long waiting lists.

11. All Kinds of Devices

In well-endowed libraries, you can borrow an arsenal of digital equipment by the hour. If you only need a camcorder to record a short meeting, or you just need a laptop for long enough to edit a few dozen photos, this is the perfect arrangement.

Most such lending occurs at colleges and universities, where students must use their student IDs to check out expensive electronics. But some technology is only available at your library, or at least would be hard to find anywhere else: librarians may provide easy access to microfiche readers, transparency projectors, laser disc devices, cassette players and vinyl record turntables. Such old-school devices may reopen while archives of lost material.

What digital lifestyle questions do you have? Call my national radio show and click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to the Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet or computer. From buying advice to digital life issues, click here for my free podcasts.

Copyright 2018, WestStar Multimedia Entertainment. All rights reserved.

Learn about all the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2018/08/25/11-amazing-perks-get-from-your-local-library-never-knew-before-now.html

Robot Solves ‘Where’s Waldo?’ Books, But It’ll Never Know Why Is Waldo

In the latest edition of things no one asked robots to do for us, creative agency Redpepper created a device that takes all the fun out of the beloved “Where’s Waldo?” children’s puzzle books.

The machine, called There’s Waldo, finds the candy-cane-striped gentleman in just seconds using Google’s Cloud AutoML and AI image recognition technology. But what possible applications could this lead to, besides stopping humanity from being able to hide in crowds?

“Maybe a fun use would be seeing what cartoon character the AI thinks you look closest to? Maybe could detect comic book forgeries?” Redpepper’s chief technologist, Matt Reed, told The Verge.

All right, robots, so you found Waldo, but do you have any idea who Waldo is or why he’s here?

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/wheres-waldo-robot_us_5b7184cae4b0ae32af99e5e5

Touring 21st-Century Devon with a pre-war guidebook

In 1939, the newly established Penguin Books decided to branch out from its trademark paperback fiction and Pelican non-fiction titles and to try its hand at UK travel guides. Six guides to various English counties were initially published, complete with touring maps, aimed at the motoring middle-class traveller. Emma Jane Kirby has been driving around the UK with those first-edition guides in her hand to see how Britain has changed since the start of World War Two. Last stop: Devon.

I feel a little sad as I trot on to Exmoor. Not just because the heavens have opened and I’m soaked to the skin, but because Devon is the last stop on my tour of Britain accompanied by Penguin’s 1939 county guides and I suppose I’ve become nostalgic for the gentler days described in their pages.

Through a clump of hawthorn trees where I try to find shelter, a herd of wild Exmoor ponies eye us curiously under dark manes. Abbi, my stout, sweet-natured Exmoor trekking pony, gazes back at them seemingly without any resentment or longing to share their freedom. A young mare whinnies to her as we walk on but Abbi doesn’t turn her head; she knows there’s no going back.

F L Loveridge, who penned the 1939 Penguin Guide to Devon, was a farmer on Dartmoor and was anxious that his readers should admire Exmoor’s equine community. Linzi Green, my trekking guide from the Exmoor Pony Centre which aims to promote and protect the breed, couldn’t agree more.

Image caption Linzi Green with an Exmoor pony

“A third of Exmoor is in Devon,” she reminds me as she tightens the girth of her pony, Fleeter. “And these intelligent, strong little ponies have always been a part of Devon’s history – they’re even mentioned in the Domesday book.”

Once a devotee of the large horse, Green admits she’s now completely sold on the Exmoor pony that never grows above 12 hands three.

“So long as you’re not 6ft and you’re under 12 stone (76kg), anyone can ride them!” she laughs, as we prepare to canter back across the moor.

“But only a year after your guide was writing about them, they were nearly wiped out completely,” Green adds, over her shoulder.

“They were rustled in the Second World War and taken to northern cities as a food source. There were only 40 or 50 left after the war and they were needed for breeding rather than riding, so other breeds overtook them in popularity.”

“Bampton,” Loveridge informs readers, “is the animated scene of the famous pony fair where large numbers of Exmoor ponies and sheep throng the streets and buying and selling continues all day!”

Not any more.

Image caption Sue Baker

“Attitudes changed,” says Exmoor pony historian Dr Sue Baker, whom we meet back at the stables. “Running foals through a horse fair is quite traumatic and in days gone by people weren’t quite so sensitive about how stressed animals got. Now horses are sold privately from farms and it’s much better, I think, for the welfare of the animals.”

Unsaddled, Abbi and Fleeter are now chomping happily at their hay nets and I ask whether this little pony might come back into fashion one day?

“We have 4,000 Exmoor ponies in the world now,” says Baker.

“I love the idea that you can ride on Exmoor on an Exmoor pony and see the herds there and know that people have done this since Celtic times. What I’d love to see is Devon take pride in what they have and to see that pride translated into buying foals. Thank goodness after their terrible fate in the Second World War the ponies came through!”

As our guide, F L Loveridge, was a farmer on Dartmoor, it feels only fair to make a brief detour south-west to admire that moor’s ponies too and I choose to visit Haytor, which he assures me is “one of the most visited spots on the moor… with fine views”.

It certainly seems to be frequented by the Dartmoor ponies, which have clustered in impressive numbers around the picnic site and the car park, hopeful perhaps of a tourist’s discarded apple core.

“They’re super ponies but they need a purpose to be here,” calls Philippa Whitley from behind the counter of her mobile pasty and coffee van. “They are costly to farmers and they need a purpose so we can ensure their survival.”

Whitley explains that she and her farmer husband have long been campaigning on this issue and I ask her whether she has a solution.

“Oh yes,” she says, handing me a coffee with a friendly smile. “Pony burgers!”

I gag a little on the coffee.

“Pony or ‘taffety meat’ is good meat that’s low in cholesterol,” she continues. “And in times past – in 1939 – your Dartmoor farmer author would certainly have eaten roast pony for his Sunday dinner. So yes, I’d like to see the Dartmoor pony in the human food chain again and I’d like to sell pony burgers from my van.”

As I watch a couple of holidaymakers tentatively order vegetarian pasties while taking selfies with the ponies, I wonder whether Devon is quite ready to eat pony again. But how strange that 80 years ago the appetite for pony meat almost wiped out the Exmoor breed, yet 80 years on a resurgent appetite for taffety might help to save the Dartmoor variety.

If you look closely at the inside page of the 1939 Penguin guide to Devon, you’ll notice that it’s not just F L Loveridge who’s credited as the author but also an E A Loveridge, who, on examination of the fly leaf, turns out to be his wife.

“The responsibility for her share,” writes Loveridge rather grudgingly, “rests chiefly with her family, as some twenty of their summer holidays were spent at different places in North Devon.”

I wonder how poor Mrs Loveridge felt about this dismissive put-down and really hope that, after dutifully making them, she spat in his pony meat sandwiches…

But it wasn’t just his wife that our guide’s author managed to offend.

“Dawlish itself is one of the quieter modern resorts. The bathing is good but the cliffs are always crumbling and it is unsafe to stay under them,” he wrote.

“Now that,” chuckles James McKay from the Penguin Collectors Society, “made a certain town clerk at Dawlish Urban District Council very cross!”

McKay explains that, some 15 years after publication, Penguin lawyer Michael Rubenstein (who would later shoot to greater fame as the man who defended the publishing house in the Lady Chatterley obscenity case) was still dealing with the irate clerk, who insisted the cliffs were perfectly solid and that Loveridge’s comments were libellous.

Penguin eventually agreed that the comment would be removed from future editions of the guide – a promise that was easy to keep as the guide went out of print soon afterwards. McKay shows me the final tongue-in-cheek correspondence between the lawyers and the Penguin editor, ASB Glover, who wrote in 1954:

“Nonetheless, without prejudice, I don’t intend myself to sit under the rocks of Dawlish without putting my umbrella up.”

On the cliff path overlooking Dawlish beach and the railway track beside it, a train thunders past at high speed.

“That’s the Exeter train!” says councillor Rosalind Prowse, who sits on Dawlish town council. “Did you see the photos in 2014 when the sea breached the wall and the railway track was swinging and floating in the air?”

Image copyright Getty Images

The devastating storms of 2014 that shattered the railway line at Dawlish effectively cut off the South West from the rest of the country and left the only rail route into Cornwall hanging like a rope bridge over the sea. Engineering teams worked day and night to repair the line and the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, visited and promised help and funding.

“It cost about £40m to set it right,” remembers Prowse. “But it hasn’t answered the main problem and that takes us back to your 1939 guide and the talk of crumbling cliffs – the crumbling cliffs are the problem here, not the sea or storms, it’s the soft red sandstone that’s eroding fast.”

Dawlish is now contemplating a more permanent solution to its crumbling cliffs by pushing the railway line on to a causeway further out to sea and stabilising the base of the cliffs between Dawlish and neighbouring Teignmouth. But the go-ahead depends on public consultation and government funding.

“We desperately need a solution for the cliffs,” insists Prowse. “The railway is vital for the economy of Dawlish and the South West.”

I just hope no-one has told the former clerk for Dawlish Urban District Council.

Image copyright Getty Images

None of the Penguin guides ever suggests the names or locations of good restaurants or places to eat, but they do occasionally warn travellers to take care with any local fayre.

“Most of the cider apples that are grown are now sold direct to factories, but a few conservative farmers still use their own presses,” writes Lovering. “The inexperienced should remember that the potency of home-made cider is very different from the factory-made product, and treat it with respect.”

At the South Devon Sunshine Beer and Cider Festival at Newton Abbot, the cider is treated with hallowed reverence.

“Try this Dartmoor one,” says Ian Packham, vice-chairman of the local Camra branch as he pours a couple of inches of the cloudy golden liquid into my glass tankard. “It’s just over 7% so we’ll go easy to start.”

I feel the stress of the day dissipate as the warming nectar hits my bloodstream. There are six Devon ciders being shown at this year’s festival and I make no protest when Ian’s colleague Bob Southwell, who is Camra’s chairman in South Devon, opens the tap of another barrel into my glass.

Image copyright Alamy

“In 1939, 90% of the farms would have sold cider,” Southwell says as he watches me closely to check I’m appreciating the new taste. “But few would have sold commercially. In 1939 cider performed another role – it was a form of payment to agricultural labourers. Part of their wages were subsidised by cider. It was totally illegal but mind you, this is Devon!”

I glance around the marquee and notice that beer is much better represented at the festival – there must be at least 70 beers on offer compared to just six Devonshire ciders. When I look back down at my tankard, it’s been refilled – as if by magic.

“It’s true that Devon has become famous for beer,” says Packham. “We have some very famous brewers around here. But cider has been undergoing a revival here in the last 20 years. The production methods are different from ’39 but it’s still very natural and the cider is significantly stronger than the fizzy cider you’d buy in a pub.”

The fuzziness in my head may be trying to tell me something but I hear my voice asking Bob Southwell where I might buy some Devonshire cider to take home.

“There are 35 cider makers in Devon,” he smiles. “Some are very commercial with tasting rooms, others are just farmhouses where you can drive up and they’ll bring it out of the barn for you. There’s just one difference – in 1939, they’d have come out with it in a jug, today it’s in a box with a plastic container inside.”

“With the strength written on the box!” adds Packham.

I think of Loveridge’s warning as my head begins to swim and quickly make my excuses.

Find out more

Listen to Emma Jane Kirby’s report from Devon – the last in her series on 1939 Penguin county guides – for the World at One on BBC Radio 4

Scroll down for links to her reports from Kent, Derbyshire, Cornwall, the Lake District and Somerset

“One Devonshire industry that has increased and become more widely known in recent years is that of pottery making. There is a large pottery at Bovey Tracey, others at Barnstaple…” says my guide.

At the Kigbeare Studios near Okehampton, acclaimed potter Svend Bayer shrugs when I read out this section from the Penguin guide.

After completing his studies at the University of Exeter, Bayer went to work as a thrower at Brannams pottery in Litchdon Street, Barnstaple, where Loveridge advises his 1939 readers they can spend a “most interesting time” watching pots being thrown. Having moved to new premises in the late 1980s, the company ceased all operations in 2005 and the original kiln now stands defunct in the car park of a medical practice.

“By the time I worked there, the tradition was so watered down that it was time to get rid of it,” says Bayer. “The world was changing and it was cheaper to import from the Far East or Italy and Spain than it was to make pots there. It was better dead.”

Bayer shows me his huge wood-fired kiln and explains how the burned wood ash and embers colour his beautiful stoneware pots. His logs are meticulously and skilfully stashed in huge piles that remind me of the intricacy of dry stone walls.

“I am influenced by South-East Asian pottery, but my roots are definitely in the North Devon tradition,” he explains, as we sit in the hot sunshine drinking coffee from his beautiful mugs. “My shapes are based on the North Devon jug and storage jars. I obsess about the North Devon jug!”

He tells me that the North Devon pottery tradition predates that of the more renowned Stoke-on-Trent and that the clay, found only near Barnstaple, is thought to have arrived on a glacier and has nothing to do with local geology. Pots and pitchers would have been decorated with a white liquid slip that was then scratched using a technique known as sgraffito to produce designs or patterns.

“I don’t think it would be honest if I decorated in the old style,” says Bayer. “If you just copy something, you’ve missed the point. But if you can capture that spirit, then that’s something important.”

Twenty-two miles south-east, at Bovey Tracey, the pottery that our 1939 guide boasted of has also gone – but the riverside mill now hosts the Devon Guild of Craftsmen and the largest contemporary crafts venue in the South West. As an educational charity, the guild runs a wide outreach programme teaching crafts in schools and offers mentoring and networking for the county’s potters.

“We’ve got about 75 members working in ceramics today,” says the guild’s Lisa Cutler, as she shows me around the summer exhibition. “There’s definitely still a strong pottery heritage in Devon but with a contemporary take. The industry has declined but we’ve built up something else.”

Through the open windows of the mill I can hear the gleeful, irresistible sound of children’s laughter and I’m drawn outside to locate its source.

Crossing the bridge, I see scores of 10 and 11-year-olds dressed in their school uniform jumping into the river and splashing each other with the Bovey’s cool water, while their parents and teachers look on, applauding. It’s an old ritual, I’m told, to celebrate the end of the children’s time at primary school. In September they’ll have to knuckle down at big school.

I watch their joyful, carefree faces, dappled in the late afternoon sunlight and suddenly feel terribly emotional. I think too of our insouciant holidaymakers in the summer of 1939 who perhaps also came here to have a picnic and a paddle, unaware or unwilling to believe that in just a couple of months Britain would be at war and that play time and the holiday season would come to a juddering halt.

I close the orange tattered cover of my last Penguin guide and a line of poetry from Philip Larkin floats into my head:

“Never such innocence again.”

See also:

The guidebook that led me to a lost corner of England (Kent)

The forgotten guide that took me to another time (Derbyshire)

Touring the Lake District with an 80-year-old guidebook

‘Nothing but a holiday resort?’ Revisiting 1939 Cornwall

Touring a county with ‘special energy’ – using a 1939 guidebook (Somerset)

Join the conversation – find us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-45120851

#Resistance Twitter Star Seth Abramson Wants to Turn His Threads Into a Book

Over the past two years, New Hampshire professor and writer Seth Abramson has cultivated a #resistance Twitter following of more than 500,000 by posting lengthy threads prognosticating about the direction of the investigation into President Donald Trumps ties to Russia.

And now, following in the footsteps of other #resistance heroes, hes looking to leverage his Twitter fame to get into a new line of business. In his case, hes shopping a book.

People have been blindsided by the Trump phenomenon, explained Aram Sinnreich, a media studies professor at American University. They need an explanation to help them deal with the current political climate, he added. And so popular pundits look to cash in on that need.

In a lengthy proposal for the book, tentatively titled Proof of Collusion and exclusively obtained by The Daily Beast, Abramson writes that his Twitter followers have long clamored for me to bookify my feed.

Indeed, in recent weeks, Abramson has been attempting to do just that, circulating the proposal to a number of major literary publishers.

If one of them agrees to purchase the book, the University of New Hampshire communication arts and sciences professor wont stray far beyond his 280-character comfort zone.

According to the proposal, the book will be based off of edited and rewritten versions of his Twitter threadsa conceit, Abramson declares, whose time has come. The book will create a comprehensive, chronological review of the Trump-Russia case by transforming my Twitter threads into prose.

A book of this sort is daring, he writes. Few if any have leveraged the advantage that books offer in collating, organizing, and amplifying in narrative form an intensely followed Twitter feed.

Abramson would be just the latest #resistance pundit to attempt to cash in on the fervor surrounding the Russia investigation.

Self-described D.C. technocrat Eric Garland attempted to turn his bombastic Twitter feed into a revenue stream by creating a private, locked account where subscribers pay $10 per month for exclusive tweets. So did former NSA official John Schindler, who convinced several thousand followers to pay for many insights that The Outline pointed out he also offered for free.

Ed and Brian Krassenstein, two prolific #resistance tweeters accused of running websites that propped up online scams, released an anti-Trump childrens book last month titled How the People Trumped Ronald Plump, which has pages dedicated to collusion and glorifying special counsel Robert Mueller.

The reality, though, is that if Vladimir Putin is using a tape involving urine to blackmail our president, we have to love America enough to speak of urine publicly and objectively, without snickering or frivolous humor.
Seth Abramson book proposal

More established journalists and pundits have gotten into the Trump-Russia book game. Investigative journalists David Corn and Michael Isikoff published a book examining Russian interference in the 2016 election, while CNN pundit Jeffrey Toobin announced his intention to write a book focused on Muellers ongoing probe. GOP strategist and Daily Beast columnist Rick Wilson recently published Everything Trump Touches Dies, which in part excoriates the presidents actions in relation to the Russia investigation.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Fox News pundit Gregg Jarrett, who recently transformed from news anchor to Sean Hannitys go-to pro-Trump commentator, made Amazons bestseller list with his book criticizing Muellers investigation as a hoax. His colleague Jeanine Pirroa close friend of Trumpssimilarly skyrocketed up the New York Times bestseller list with Liars, Leakers, and Liberals, her self-described expos of a deep-state anti-Trump conspiracy.

Abramson, too, is offering publishers a built-in readership, in his case his large Twitter following.

Over numerous pages, Abramsons proposal lists the many celebrities, artists, pundits, political organizations, and brands that follow his voluminous Russia-investigation posts online.

Abramson name-checks reporters with whom he claims he speaks regularly, including journalists from The Wall Street Journal and The Atlantic, and includes a recent email in which CNN host Chris Cuomo asked Abramson: How come you have not been on with me?

As Abramson has become a staple of #resistance Twitter feeds, The Atlantic dubbed him a conspiracy theorist, The Washington Post described his style as interpreting liberally from news reports, and Slate knocked him for recycling information you could find on any news site and adding sinister what-if hypotheticals to create conclusions.

When Abramson isnt listing off the prominent journalists he speaks to in his proposal, hes often dismissing the medias coverage of Muellers Trump-Russia probe.

Abramson claims he has often beat news outlets to major stories, adding that he connected seemingly disparate facts major media outlets do not endeavor to reconcile.

And in an eye-popping section titled A PEE TAPE Q&A, Abramson asks why wont anyone in Washington or media investigate the infamous Steele dossier that alleges Trump paid prostitutes to perform golden showers in a hotel room during one of his visits to Moscow.

Abramson claims the fabled story is a taboo subject in the United States because were prudes and the media knows it.

The reality, though, is that if Vladimir Putin is using a tape involving urine to blackmail our president, we have to love America enough to speak of urine publicly and objectively, without snickering or frivolous humor, the proposal reads.

Abramson also plans to offer his anti-Trump book readers good news: By his calculations, the Trump administration will likely end by mid- to late 2019.

Sinnreich cautioned that such Twitter-style punditry can be misleading.

Making sense of complex systems requires one set of expertise, he said, and channeling peoples rage and frustration and giving them short, serialized outlets for rage and frustration is a completely different skill.

Readers should not expect any significant new revelations in Abramsons book. As he explains in the proposal, he does not have time to produce new, original reporting for a book.

Though he compares his book to one by Corn and Isikoffwho he notes have far lower engagement than he does in terms of daily retweets, quote-retweets, and reader likesAbramson says he does not have time to report new information because he is working on several projects, including a separate forthcoming memoir titled Thread.

Read more: https://www.thedailybeast.com/resistance-twitter-star-seth-abramson-wants-to-turn-his-threads-into-a-book

A Deadly Hunt for Hidden Treasure Spawns an Online Mystery

Everybody is searching for something. Paul Ashby’s search began with an unexpected phone call on July 8, 2017. It was a Saturday night in Townsend, Tennessee, a small town just outside Great Smoky Mountains National Park. An affable Army vet with gray hair, a goatee, and wire-frame glasses, Paul worked as a concierge at a rustic event space called the Barn. He was dressed in his usual top hat and coattails that night, greeting guests who were attending a wedding.

Paul had lived in Townsend, off and on, since 1974. In 1990, he separated from his wife and moved with their 4-year-old son, Eric, into a mobile home, then a small hilltop house nearby. He turned the modest two-bedroom home into a hippie retreat, teaching himself to make artisan cheese and hanging a purple sign with his favorite quote by the front door (“There is no path to peace … The path IS peace”). He’d often take his son trekking through the nearby hills and rafting down the Little River.

Paul had raised Eric mostly on his own, struggling to relate to his son’s fascination with computer games and anime. Eric would carry his laptop a quarter mile down the hill to a telephone pole in an attempt to speed up his internet. “He’d be sitting down there at 1 o’clock in the morning,” Paul recalls.

Eric was grown now—31 years old—but still had that headstrong streak. He had recently developed a singular obsession: an epic treasure hunt in the Rocky Mountains devised by an enigmatic art mogul named Forrest Fenn. In 2016, Eric had moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado, to devote more time to the hunt, which involves deciphering the clues in a cryptic poem, and on June 28, 2017, he told friends he had solved Fenn’s puzzle and was going to retrieve the treasure. Paul didn’t know much about the treasure hunt, but he was happy to hear his son was out hiking and rafting as he had as a boy. That day, Eric posted on Facebook. “I hope today turns out to be the success I’ve hoped for,” he wrote. “Wish me luck.” Ten days later at the Barn, Paul received a call from an unknown number.

“Mr. Ashby?” said a young woman on the other end of the line.

“Yes?” Paul replied.

“Your son is dead. He fell out of a raft and drowned.”

Paul figured his son was up to some kind of joke. “Tell Eric now is not the time to be playing pranks,” Paul replied. “I’m in the middle of a wedding.”

“No, Mr. Ashby, you don’t understand,” the woman said. “Eric is dead.” Then she hung up.

Paul clutched his phone as the wedding party swirled around him in what felt like slow motion. He tried calling the number back but no one answered. When he dialed Eric’s phone, the call went straight to voicemail. Who was the unknown caller? Where was his son? And why would Eric risk his life for an eccentric old man’s game?

Part of Forrest Fenn’s art collection.

Daymon Gardner

Forrest Fenn doesn’t own a watch, a cell phone, or a GPS. “I am not ready for the 21st century,” he told me. When I visited him one sunny afternoon last April, he didn’t seem to be much like a man for the 20th century either. He’s 87, with wispy white hair and inquisitive eyes. His favored outfit is blue jeans, a belt with an ornate turquoise buckle, and Hush Puppies shoes. He lives on a couple acres of land in a sprawling home on the Santa Fe Trail. American Indian artifacts and Western curios line his walls: buffalo skulls, arrowheads, moccasins, and original paintings by the masters of the frontier. “Ralph Lauren came here and tried to buy that headdress,” Fenn said, pointing to one in a feathered row hanging in his study. As with most of Fenn’s stories, it’s hard to know what to believe. As he admits in his self-published memoir, The Thrill of the Chase, “one of my natural instincts is to embellish just a little.”

Fenn grew up in Temple, Texas, and still carries the soft twang of the Lone Star State. Though his father was the headmaster of his grade school, he sometimes played hooky, hunting for arrowheads in nearby creek beds. “When the sun was out, the smell of freedom was more than I could resist,” he wrote in his memoir. He spent his summers working as a fishing guide in West Yellowstone, Montana, where his family had a cabin. After graduating from Temple High School in 1947 and marrying his high school sweetheart, Peggy Jean Proctor, he joined the Air Force. He flew hundreds of missions in Vietnam and was twice shot down, earning a Silver Star and Purple Heart.

Fenn returned home on Christmas Eve, 1968, and retired from the Air Force two years later. He had been interested in American Indian artifacts since childhood, and he decided to make himself into an art and antiques dealer. In 1972, using the $12,000 annual stipend he received as retirement pay, Fenn moved his family to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and bought an adobe home, where he turned the ground floor into a gallery. Fenn made up for his lack of experience with a showman’s streak. Noticing that competing galleries took out small black-and-white ads in local newspapers, he spent $3,000 on a full-page color notice in Architectural Digest.

His brash marketing methods worked, and wealthy collectors began visiting his gallery. “I’m a great schmoozer,” he told me. Before long he was among the top-selling art dealers in town, he claims, earning up to $1 million a year. He transformed his modest gallery into a lavish, two-acre homestead featuring three guest houses, a rapturous garden, and a pond containing two alligators named Elvis and Beowulf. Fenn says politicians and celebrities including former president Gerald Ford, Robert Redford, Cher, and Steve Martin made pilgrimages to Santa Fe to purchase his exotic goods and attend his legendary parties. Jackie Onassis once left behind a bottle of brandy, Fenn adds. He offered me a sip from what he claimed was the same 36-year-old bottle: “Shut your eyes and imagine you’re drinking it with her.”

In 1988, at the age of 58, Fenn was given a diagnosis of kidney cancer. Two years earlier, his 81-year-old father, William, was told he had pancreatic cancer, Fenn says. After 18 months, William killed himself by taking 50 sleeping pills, according to his son. “I respected him for having the courage to go out on his own terms,” Fenn recalls. After being racked by chemotherapy and an unsuccessful surgery to remove the cancer, he says, he was given a 20 percent chance of surviving three years. As Fenn tells the tale, he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps—but with his own swashbuckling twist. He would fill a treasure chest with gold and jewels, he thought, and carry it to a special place in the Rockies. Then he would swallow a bottle of sleeping pills and die beside his riches. But first, he would write a poem containing clues to the treasure’s location. “Take the chest,” read an early draft of his poem, “but leave my bones.”

The “problem” with the plan, Fenn says, is that he recovered. Over the next several months, then years, he slowly grew stronger, and in 1993 he was declared cancer-free. After being homebound by his disease for years, Fenn was overcome with a renewed appreciation for nature and an urgent sense of purpose. “We need to get off the couch, out of the game room, and away from our electronic gadgets,” he says. He now saw his hunt as a way to entice people into the wild.

Late at night, alone in his artifact-­laden study, he tweaked and revised his poem. Finally, in 2010, long after he first hatched the idea, he was satisfied. He acquired a 10- by 10-inch bronze treasure chest and filled it with emeralds, rubies, diamonds, and gold coins he’d collected over the years at gun shows and auctions. He added two gold nuggets from Alaska, “as large as chicken eggs,” he says, as well as an old Navajo bracelet with 22 prehistoric turquoise disc beads inlaid in silver.

One summer afternoon that year, Fenn drove into the Rockies—for how far and how long, he won’t say—with the chest and the treasure in the trunk of his sedan. He made two trips to his destination. First, he loaded the empty, approximately 20-pound bronze box into a backpack and lugged it into the mountains, breathing heavily. He stashed it in a spot dear to his heart. Then he returned with the gold and jewels and filled the chest. “I was entering into strange territory in my mind,” he recalls. He walked back to his car feeling giddy about what he’d done. “I said in a loud voice, ‘Forrest Fenn, did you really do that?’ ” he says. “No one was around, and I started laughing.”

In the fall of 2010, Fenn commenced the treasure hunt with the publication of The Thrill of the Chase, which includes his completed poem. The 24 lines contain nine clues to the chest’s location, “in the mountains somewhere north of Santa Fe,” he says.

Fenn originally printed just 1,000 copies of his memoir and stocked them at Collected Works, an indie bookstore in Santa Fe. In 2013, Hemispheres magazine ran a story on his treasure hunt. Soon after, the Today show aired a series on Fenn, and his slim, 150-page book became an overnight sensation. Thousands of buyers from as far as Italy and Ecuador flooded Collected Works’ website. (First prints of The Thrill of the Chase can now fetch more than $750 on Amazon.) Despite Fenn’s intent to lure people away from their devices, his hunt had all the ingredients—a cryptic puzzle, a tantalizing fortune, an intriguing mastermind—to go viral. News coverage followed, from national TV broadcasts and local newspapers throughout the Southwest. What started as one man’s quirky swan song became a real-life Ready Player One.

Fenn achieved Wonka-like status among the self-described Searchers, the online community that cropped up around his legend. Lovers of riddles and outdoor exploration converged to form a dedicated network of blogs, message boards, websites, and Facebook pages devoted to the hunt. Toby Younis, a retired digital media executive who cohosts a Fenn fanatic YouTube show, A Gypsy’s Kiss, says the internet helps them “crowdsolve” the puzzle. Searchers espouse theories in Fenn forums and detail their quests in YouTube testimonials. Dozens of Searchers meet in Santa Fe each June for Fennboree, an annual fanfest.

But despite the hive mind enthusiasm of the Searchers, others grapple with doubts about the truth of Fenn’s tale. They imagine an 80-year-old man—or even a young, healthy person—carrying a bronze chest across his back. What kind of terrain—steep, wooded, rocky—could he traverse without tripping over tree roots and stones? Though a handful of Fenn’s family and friends claim they saw him filling the chest, there’s no way to prove what was inside, let alone what it could be worth. And, barring its discovery, there is no way to prove that he actually hid it. Given the more than 100,000 square miles of mountains where the box could be located, it seems unlikely that even the most intrepid Searchers will find it anytime soon, if ever. Still, over the past eight years, the possibility that the bounty does exist has been enough to spur treasure hunters into the red canyons of the high desert and wild rivers of the Rockies.

Fenn claims he receives more than 100 “treasure emails” from eager seekers every day. He told me that 350,000 people have looked for the treasure, an estimate he bases on his always-full inbox. For devout Fennheads, the appeal isn’t just the money, it’s “matching wits with Forrest,” says 64-year-old Cynthia Meachum, who lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Since retiring from her job as a semiconductor engineer in 2015, she’s devoted her life to looking for Fenn’s treasure, first in a remote valley near Taos, New Mexico, and now near Yellowstone National Park. The hunt tends to attract people with technical backgrounds, Meachum says. “We’re probably the most egotistical group of treasure hunters, because we all think, ‘I use logic every day in my job. I use flowcharts. I use schematics. How hard can this be?’ ” she muses. “Well, none of us have found it.”

Over the years, Fenn’s poem has inspired Talmudic interpretation. One Searcher on the website Fenn Clues posits that, based on the first line, “We are almost surely looking for a location that satisfies ‘alone.’ So, a Solitary Geyser or a Lone Indian Peak would fit the bill.” Other determinations are more arcane. A Searcher nicknamed the White Knight insists the “blaze” in the 13th line refers to a turtle-shaped tattoo on the chest of a character in Marvel’s illustrated version of the 1826 novel The Last of the Mohicans. How that translates to the modern-day landscape is unclear.

Since publishing his treasure riddle in 2010, Forrest Fenn has doled out about a dozen additional hints in interviews, books, and TV appearances.

Though Fenn occasionally stokes the frenzy with interviews, he regards online sleuthing as unnecessary. “There is no reason for anyone to use the internet or social media when going to search for the treasure,” Fenn told me. “All they need is a map, a plan, good health, and a buddy to go along for safety reasons.”

Perhaps inevitably, determined Searchers have disregarded his advice. In January 2016, Randy Bilyeu, a 54-year-old man from Broomfield, Colorado, disappeared with a raft while hunting for the treasure near Cochiti Lake in New Mexico. The news devastated the Searchers, who, for the first time, had lost one of their own. Bilyeu was embedded in the Fenn community: He was friendly with Dal Neitzel, who runs one of the most visited Fenn treasure websites, and he once met Fenn at a book signing in Santa Fe. Disturbed by the news, Fenn paid for a helicopter to carry a search party. Six months later, Bilyeu’s remains were found on the banks of the river.

In June 2017, Jeff Murphy, an alleged Searcher from Batavia, Illinois, died of an apparent fall near the 7,000-foot Turkey Pen Peak in Yellowstone National Park. The same month, Paris Wallace, a pastor from Grand Junction, Colorado, died near the Rio Grande. The deaths have only garnered more publicity for the treasure hunt, spurring stories by Nightline, The New York Times, CBS News, and others.

The Searchers aren’t the only ones at risk. Fenn and his family have found strangers digging in his backyard for the treasure, he says. One woman wandered up the driveway to pray. In April 2017, Fenn sought a restraining order against a 55-year-old Texan who showed up at his home taking photos.

Despite all this, Fenn insists it would be wrong to halt the hunt. “If I called off the search, what would I say to the 350,000 people who have had wonderful experiences hiking in the mountains with no ill effects except but a few mosquito bites?” he says. “An average of 12 people die each year at the Grand Canyon. There is a risk in nearly everything we do.”

Paul Ashby in the former bedroom of his son, Eric, at his home in Townsend, Tennessee.

Daymon Gardner

After graduating from high school, Eric Ashby started cooking in restaurant kitchens around Townsend, nursing dreams of becoming a professional chef. With a wave of dark hair, mischievous eyes, and a ready laugh, he made friends easily. He never had much money, according to Heather Britt, a friend of his, but he didn’t seem to care about material things.

Then, in 2014, a motorcycle accident left Eric with a gangrenous leg. He told his dad that a doctor prescribed him oxycodone for the pain, and he got hooked. Though Eric fully recovered from the accident, “he couldn’t get away from the pills,” Paul recalls. Later, Eric took a swing at a plainclothes police officer who had pulled him over. He was convicted of assault and sentenced to seven years’ probation.

Eric first heard about Fenn’s treasure hunt in early 2016. He immediately geeked out over the riddle. As a child, Eric had immersed himself in fantasy books and sci-fi shows like The X-Files, and Fenn’s puzzle had a similar allure. Tempted by the mystery and still struggling to overcome his oxy habit, in April 2016 Eric moved to Colorado Springs, where he had some friends. He knew he was violating his probation but thought that if he stayed in Townsend he’d end up back in jail anyway.

The change of scenery was just what he needed. He kicked the pills, his friends say, and found a job as a server at Edelweiss, a kitschy German restaurant. He lived in his car for a while to save money and started dating Jamie Longworth, a local medical marijuana grower.

Eric Ashby

By early 2017 Eric had become consumed by Fenn’s treasure hunt, talking about it incessantly. He often stayed up late after waiting tables, smoking weed and compiling clues on his laptop. He tracked possible locations for the treasure on maps, homing in on Royal Gorge Park an hour away. Often he’d call Longworth to tell her how close he was to decoding Fenn’s clues. Eric wasn’t driven by money, she says. He enjoyed the intellectual puzzle of it all. “He was one of the smartest guys I ever met,” Longworth recalls. “He would say his goal in life was to be fascinated by a blade of grass.”

One day last spring, Eric met up with a group of friends and declared, “I know where Forrest Fenn’s treasure is,” says David Gambrell, who was there that day. According to Longworth, he believed the area where the “warm waters halt,” as the poem describes, was the Arkansas River. He connected another clue, “put in below the house of Brown,” to the home of a local physician, Dr. Brown, who had lived in the Gorge. And he deduced that the “blaze” Fenn cites referred to a fire that had happened nearby. When Eric described the precise location—nearly 60 miles southwest of Colorado Springs near Sunshine Falls, along the Arkansas River—Gambrell’s gut tightened. He urged Eric to take precautions. “Make sure somebody’s with you,” Gambrell told him. Eric replied that he’d already made a few trips to that area, but bad weather and high waters had prevented him from reaching his destination. When he told Longworth where he was headed, she urged him to reconsider. “I was completely convinced it was unsafe,” she recalls. “I didn’t want him going.” On June 28, Eric went anyway.

Ten days later, Paul received the anonymous call while he was greeting wedding guests. When he couldn’t reach his son, he called the Fremont County sheriff’s office in Colorado Springs. They told him there had been a reported drowning, but no body had been found, so they couldn’t identify the victim. A few days later, he was contacted by detective Sterling Jenkins, a stocky, goateed officer who specialized in marijuana enforcement. Jenkins couldn’t find a missing person report for Eric Ashby. It wasn’t unheard of for people to vanish in the rivers and mountains around Colorado Springs, but it was unusual for the disappearance not to be reported. Paul later told Jenkins that he believed his son had been out searching for Fenn’s treasure, but the detective had never heard of the hunt. “I didn’t know if it was an accident,” Jenkins says. “I didn’t know if it was foul play. It could be a hoax.” The detective vowed to find out what had happened.

Paul Ashby holds a copy of the contract drawn up by his son on the day he disappeared. The document stipulates that Eric will split the treasure among those hunting with him, should it be found.

Daymon Gardner

Word of Eric’s disappearance soon spread across Searcher blogs and message boards. But unlike Bilyeu, who had attended Fenn book events and was immersed in the Searcher community, Eric was unknown to other treasure hunters. Though he had spent hours poring over their theories and tips, Eric wasn’t an active participant in Searcher forums. He rarely shared his hunches online, and he often went treasure hunting alone. As details about Eric’s checkered past emerged, some in the close-knit Searcher network viewed Eric’s disappearance with skepticism. One faction pushed to distance the Fenn community from Eric’s case, arguing that his rumored drug use would cast the hunt in a negative light. Others questioned whether Eric was looking for Fenn’s treasure at all when he went missing. When I asked Neitzel about Eric’s case, he bristled and refused to answer. “Let’s move on,” he said gruffly. Eric, they seemed to say, wasn’t one of them.

Without the aid of the Searchers, Eric’s friends and extended family dissected Fenn forums and Facebook pages for possible clues that might lead to him. “We called ourselves the Investigators,” recalls Britt, his friend from Townsend.

Lisa Albritton, Eric’s half-sister on his mother’s side, led the family’s efforts from her home in Largo, Florida. Though she and Eric had grown up in different states, she in Florida and he in Tennessee, the siblings were in touch often.

In truth, it didn’t take long to find out what had happened to Eric. Shortly after Paul received his mysterious phone call, Albritton went to Eric’s Facebook page and posted a query on the growing thread of comments from Eric’s concerned friends: “Does anybody know the names of the people my brother was with?” she wrote. “Please feel free to message me, add me, I don’t care I just need answers.”

A friend of Eric’s in Colorado Springs quickly replied with a profile picture of a smiling, twentysomething woman with shoulder-length blond hair, dark eyebrows, and a fashionably shredded pink shirt, along with a name: Becca Nies. “Can somebody tell me what role she plays in this?” Albritton replied. Longworth offered an answer: “She was with him, as well as her boyfriend Jimi Booker, when he ‘drowned,’ ” she posted. She then provided a screenshot of a Facebook message that Nies, who had worked with Eric at Edelweiss, had sent her on Saturday, July 8, just hours after Paul got his mystery call, and 10 days after Eric had gone missing.

Nies said that she was with Eric and three of her friends that day. “On wednesday june 28th,” Nies wrote, “we went on that treasure hunt. Eric drowned in the river unfortunately. Im sorry to tell you like this, you deserve to know.… Very sorry.”

“If I called off the search, what would I say to the 350,000 people who have had wonderful experiences hiking in the mountains with no ill effects except but a few mosquito bites?”

The note from Nies should have put an end to the sleuthing, but it only seemed to spark new clues and paths to investigate. “How does she know he drowned if he hasn’t been found?” one of Eric’s friends replied on the Facebook page. “Sounds like some bs to me,” offered another. The police weren’t giving any information, and Eric’s body had not been found. In that vacuum, and in the heated detective atmosphere of the treasure hunt, rumors flew: It was a fight that landed Eric in the water, a scheme to steal the treasure from Eric and leave him behind.

The most vexing question remained: If four people had watched a man disappear underwater, why did they wait 10 days to tell anyone? That delay stoked its own conspiracies. “Something strange is going on it seems like with no one wanting to talk to anyone!!” one Investigator posted. “They really aren’t gonna like it when a bunch of people from Tennessee show up on their door step!!!”

“Exactly!” Britt replied, “And that’s what it’s gonna take!”

That July, Albritton launched a GoFundMe page hoping to raise money to drive to Colorado. Eric’s family continued to check in with Jenkins, but as far as Albritton could tell, the sheriff’s office was making little progress. She pleaded for help in finding her brother. To her surprise, she received $3,500 from a single donor: Forrest Fenn. Word about Eric’s disappearance had spread across Searcher blogs and message boards, eventually reaching the Wizard of Oz himself in Santa Fe.

Albritton and a cousin made the drive from Florida to Colorado in four days. They arrived in Colorado Springs and checked in to a hotel. Days later, they went to Nies’ apartment. Eric’s red Mercury Cougar was still out front, where he left it the day he disappeared. Albritton cued up Facebook Live as she approached the car, video streaming—just in case anything happened. “We’re going in the car, and I’m just going to try to grab everything I can,” she narrated, her voice tense. In the back seat, Albritton found her brother’s backpack. Heart pounding, she grabbed it and sprinted back to their car.

Back at their hotel, Albritton dumped out the contents of Eric’s bag: some moldy sandwiches, two cell phones, and a notebook. When she flipped the book open, she found a handwritten contract between Eric, Nies, and her friends agreeing to share whatever treasure they might find—51 percent for Eric and 49 percent to be split among the others. Albritton held the contract with a shaky hand. “Eric Ashby will be the executor of the selling and distribution (documented) of assets regarding said Quest,” the contract read. There was nothing treacherous in the document itself, but stoked by the hours she’d spent unspooling conspiracy theories among Investigators online, her mind reeled: Had there been a plot to kill her brother and steal the treasure? She reported what she had found to the Colorado Springs detectives.

Alarmed, Paul flew to Colorado Springs to search for answers. He met with Jenkins, who took him out to the spot on the Arkansas River where Eric had last been seen. Jenkins told him that two photographers had been taking pictures of whitewater rafters that day and called 911 after witnessing a possible drowning. But there was no way of knowing if the person had been Eric—the victim was unidentified and no body had been found. The people who were with him had been questioned, but Jenkins had not yet reached any conclusions. Desperate and sleepless, Paul called his brother, an Army specialist, for advice. If no one else could find his son, then Paul wanted to search the rapids himself.

“Can we go get him out of the river?” he asked.

“Paul, don’t even bother,” his brother said, “If the river is ready, the river will give him back to you.”

On the Arkansas River near Sunshine Falls—where Eric was last seen—the rapids are unpredictable.

Daymon Gardner

On July 28, a body was discovered by a Colorado Parks and Wildlife officer several miles down the Arkansas River. A Fremont County coroner later identified the victim as Eric Ashby.

After several weeks of investigating—questioning Nies and her friends Jimi Booker and Anthony Mahone, as well as the two photographers who had witnessed the incident—Jenkins and his team pieced together what had happened that day in June. Eric had driven to Nies’ apartment, where the group drew up a handwritten contract. They set off toward the river in an old green Jaguar sedan, stopping along the way to buy a cheap, two-person raft. They wound along mountain roads to a parking lot near Royal Gorge Park, where a suspension bridge hovers nearly 1,000 feet above the Arkansas River.

Eric led the group a few hundred yards through piñon pines to the edge of Sunshine Falls, a churning, boulder-strewn section of the river. As they watched rafts of tourists careen by, Booker told Jenkins, the current roared higher and faster than they had expected. Sunshine Falls is known for violent Class IV-V rapids, powerful enough to hurl rafters into the choppy water. Eric, who said he had been to the same spot on previous excursions, assured the others that it was still passable. “When he saw the river, he seemed OK with it,” Booker told me on Facebook Messenger, but “he said he had almost died on this hunt before.” (Nies and Mahone did not respond to requests to be interviewed for this story.)

Eric told them he believed the treasure was on the other side of the river. He planned to float across in the raft, retrieve the box, and bring it back. Despite his insistence that he had plenty of experience whitewater rafting, Eric had taken no helmet or life vest. He tied one end of a rope around his body and gave the other end to his companions on the river’s shore. “We weren’t prepared,” Booker told me later. “We had seen whole teams of rafters ride by with maybe six or seven people on large rafts, and they were still having a hard time riding the current with a professional guiding them.”

“They’re absolutely negligent. A life was lost. People watched it happen.”

Midway across the river, Eric’s flimsy raft started pitching uncontrollably in the froth, and he fell into the rapids. (Nies and Booker told the sheriff’s office he jumped out of the raft.) The rope slipped free from his waist as he was swept away in the fast-moving current. He attempted to make it to the other side but plunged underwater. When he hit the next set of rapids, known as the Sledgehammer, he went under again. This time he emerged facedown. He was carried away by the current.

From their post a short way downstream, the photographers looked on in horror as the body floated by. They frantically called 911 for help. Booker claimed that he and his friends searched along the shore of the river for half an hour, but the water was too violent. They returned to their car and drove away without waiting for the police to arrive. One of the photographers later told the police that he was troubled by the witnesses’ behavior, given the circumstances. “He told me it appeared as though they were not concerned with the unknown male’s well-being and had not bothered to attempt to assist the individual when he was in the river,” deputy Jeffery Moore wrote in his report.

Booker told me they took off because they knew the photographers had already called for help and felt there was nothing they could do. “I felt so powerless that it kills me inside,” he wrote me, “because my natural instinct would have been to jump in that water, but I know I wouldn’t have made it.”

Nies told Jenkins that she knew Eric had left Tennessee while on probation and didn’t report his disappearance to the authorities because she didn’t want to get him in trouble with the law. She said she wasn’t sure whether Eric was dead or alive. But by not giving the sheriff’s office Eric’s name, no one—including his family and friends—had known what had happened to him. “They’re absolutely negligent,” Jenkins says. “A life was lost. People watched it happen.”

On a rainy weekend in March, I attended an event for Eric at the Barn in Townsend, where Paul still works as a concierge. Paul had his son’s body cremated and brought back to the hills of Tennessee. Pictures of Eric hiking and cooking lined a table alongside a box bearing his cremains. Local country singers performed ballads on the small stage.

Now Eric’s family wants to make sure such negligence doesn’t happen again. They’re working with Colorado and Tennessee legislators to pass Eric’s Law, a “duty to report” mandate that requires any witness who sees someone’s life in danger to notify 911. Paul hopes the law ensures that “no one walks away,” he says.

He originally blamed Fenn for Eric’s death. “I wanted to see him hung out to dry,” he says. He’s since made his peace. Jenkins places responsibility on the Searchers. “As an adult,” he says, “if you make a decision to look for this treasure, you need to be prepared.”

When I talked to Fenn, he had distanced himself from Eric’s death. “I told myself that he was on drugs and had nothing to do with the treasure,” Fenn says. He continues to encourage the treasure hunt. In a recent interview with a blog called Mysterious Writings, Fenn wrote that his “gut feeling is that someone will find it this summer.” In fact, he reveals, a Searcher recently came within 200 feet of it. “Someone told me exactly where they were,” he tells me, “and I knew they were close.” He declines to say more, wary of tipping off the Searcher. His prediction, of course, will likely only spur more Searchers to return to the wild.

With each new death, the stakes of the search grow higher. Fenn continues to urge his followers to avoid putting themselves in life-threatening situations. (After all, he cautions, he was already 80 years old when he hid the treasure; there’s no need to assume feats of endurance.) This summer, thousands will take to the Rockies’ tributaries and trails, racing to glimpse the glint of a bronze chest in the wilderness. If it is discovered, many Searchers admit, it won’t just be the lost fortune they’ll miss—it will be the lure of adventure, the misfit community, the promise of the unknown around every bend.


David Kushner’s latest book, Rise of the Dungeon Master, is based on his profile of Dungeons & Dragons cocreator Gary Gygax in issue 16.03.

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