The Flat-Earthers — Part 2: Irving, the Church & Columbus

Into the vacuum of white light and silence rushed shape and sound once more. TK2 was immediately conscious of the heat of the sun on his brow, sheltering his gaze with an outstretched hand. Turning towards the horizon, his view was dominated by grand structures and ornate surroundings. If his calculations were correct, he had entered the world at a time of feudal autocrats, of grand palaces of worship, and a people whose worldview was captive to their faith in an omnipotent deity. The task before him was surely a momentous one.

From a nearby doorway, a man approached. His confident stride brought him straight to TK2, where upon he offered his hand in greeting.

“Good morrow, sire! I happened to see a heavenly flash of light from over yonder church. I was ready for the coming of Christ himself, were I not a man of steadier disposition, and less worldly-wise. Tell me, do you know the source of the phenomenon I saw a moment ago?”

TK2 wasted no time in providing a succinct account for the benefit of his newfound audience of one.

“My name is TK2. I am a traveller to this time and place from the years ahead. My opportunity to share my story is short, but if you will listen to my teachings, I bring the promise of great knowledge and wisdom for you to share with your people.”

The man’s self-confident façade wavered for a moment. He had anticipated that this stranger was a foreigner in these parts, but he was unprepared for such an abrupt revelation.

“Oh good fortune, for you are in the presence of the great explorer, Christopher Columbus, discoverer of the New World and Governor of the Indies. By the grace of God, I have achieved glory and fame, but would relish news that my exploits continue to be celebrated by future generations after I pass onto the next life!”

TK2 was not here to pander to the pride of mere laymen; he turned instead to the rather more pressing matter of spreading light in the dark recesses of human ignorance. Convincing this wandering sheep of the need to place his faith in the knowledge, truth and wisdom in his possession was the only way to ensure future generations would avoid the folly of ignorance.

Thus, TK2 shared his mission and the ancient texts he had brought with him. He told Columbus of the writings of Washington Irving, of the histories of John William and Andrew Dickson, and of the great struggle waged by the Christian Church, divided between Catholics and Protestants, but united in their efforts to keep the common man ignorant of the true order of the natural world.

Columbus gave due attention to this stranger’s sermon, but appeared unmoved by TK2’s words.

“I am a follower of Christ’s teachings myself, and yet here I stand having crossed the oceans and proven man’s ability to navigate the world, a world that has long been known to be round by both lay men and the Church.”

“I am afraid your stories are not of our time, but fabrications of an age where others have clearly sought gain from the discord they sow. You would do well to ask of the motive of the authors you read, for one cannot put faith in every book, as one puts in the Bible.”

“Indeed, not since St Augustine of Hippo has the Church wrote seriously of an Earth that is flat and not round. Please, go with God, and know that your mission is itself one of folly in this time of re-birth and discovery!”

*****

The Vikings, Myths & the King’s Mirror

With a blinding flash and tremor of deafening silence, TK3 found his feet planted on unfamiliar and disconcertingly unsteady ground. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness around him, he felt his slight frame fail to find a fixed position on Earth. All of a sudden, he was hit by a wave of nausea as his vision failed to fix its gaze on a horizon that seemed intent on playing an unwelcome game of peek-a-boo.

“Ahoy stranger! Be ye friend, or foe?”

TK3 spun on the spot and almost lost his footing once more; he saw before him a great bearded man with sword in hand and guarded disposition.

“I am a friend to all who seek truth and knowledge”, replied TK3.

“Well truth be told, I’ve seen many things in my travels, but it’s never been known to me that men should fall from the sky! Still, if you come in peace, I see no reason to cast you into the sea before you’ve had chance to share your story.”

TK3 hesitated for moment, faltering in his continued efforts to gather his bearings and wandering sense of balance. Gradually, the prominent taste of salt in the air, the creak of wood under foot, and the fluttering of sails above him duly restored his faculties.

“I appear to have landed on a ship”, he offered, rather matter-of-factly.

“Yes. My ship” replied the bearded man, “Leif Erikson is my name, and you’ll find no finer ship among the Norsemen.”

TK3 nodded in acknowledgement and offered his hand in a vague gesture of greeting.

“My name is TK3. I am a traveller to this time and place from the years ahead. My opportunity to share my story is short, but if you will listen to my teachings, I bring the promise of great knowledge and wisdom for you to share with your people.”

Leif looked his unexpected guest up and down, regarding his strange dress and manner of speaking with an air of curious interest.

“We Norsemen are a superstitious lot, and prone to myth and legend, but my adventures across the great sea have taught me that there is much I still have to learn about this world. Speak on traveller and share your story.”

Once again, our Time-keeper shared his mission and the ancient texts he had brought with him. He told Leif Erikson of the sagas he had gathered from Norse mythology, writings that told of sea monsters at the edge of the world, of gods and their manipulation of men, all fabulous accounts that failed to demonstrate a proper understanding of natural philosophy and the physical universe.

Leif listened with rapt attention and grew more animated with each story. As TK3 ended his lecture, the Norseman beamed and replied:

“A fine collection of stories, you tell them well. We are a warrior people, great travellers too, and my own discovery of new lands has only added to the great tales that will be told of my deeds by my ancestors. I’ll admit that many will exaggerate my feats, and legends will be born and bred for ages to come, but do not confuse us for an ignorant people about all the ways of the world.”

“We are sailors able navigate by the stars, we travel vast distances and share our discoveries through song and story, but much has been learned that depends not on the machinations of the gods.”

“If your mission is to teach men that the world is not flat, then I must disappoint you in that mission.”

“Though you possess many of our sagas, I did not hear the King’s Mirror among your tales. In here lies our knowledge of a round Earth!”

Poppy Lambert is studying for an MSc in Science Communication at Imperial College London

Banner Image: Earth, Pexels.

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