In a 1960 episode of The Twilight Zone titled "King Nine Will Not Return," World War II Capt. James Embry awakens on a desolate beach to find himself near a crashed airplane, his crew missing. As he tries to figure out what happened, he spirals toward insanity. Just then, futuristic (i.e., 1960-vintage) jets fly overhead and he realizes that he knows all about jet aircraft---though that is impossible.
The last scene has Embry lying unconscious in a hospital bed decades after the war. Two doctors in white coats and armed with charts are discussing his case and his delirious claims that today he has been back in the desert with his plane. We learn from the doctors' conversation that during the war the captain had in fact declined that particular mission at the last minute, and that the crew who did go were all lost. The doctors reasonably ascribe the former flight leader's incoherent ramblings to a long-festering guilt.
A nurse then comes by with the patient's clothing and deposits them on a table. As she puts down the shoes, about a cup of beach sand spills out.
How do you know if something happened or if you dreamed it? C.S. Lewis writes in his book Miracles:
"In all my life I have met only one person who claims to have seen a ghost. And the interesting thing about the story is that that person disbelieved in the immortal soul before she saw the ghost and still disbelieves after seeing it. She says that what she saw must have been an illusion or a trick of the nerves. And obviously she may be right. Seeing is not believing. For this reason, the question whether miracles occur can never be answered simply by experience. Every event which might claim to be a miracle is, in the last resort, something presented to our sense. . . . And our sense are not infallible. . . ."
We already knew this, of course, from Luke 16, in which Abraham told the rich man in hell, who asked him to send his brothers on earth a visitor from the other side, that his brothers would not believe, even if someone should come to them from the dead.
In chapter 4, I used to think it quaint that Joshua had the Israelite leaders of the 12 tribes extract 12 rocks from the middle of the Jordan River while its waters were still pulled back from flood stage, to raise them as a lasting testimony of the incident of the crossing. Isn't that so Old Testament?
But just imagine this: Some years hence, some Eliab ben Nethanel ben Shelumiel ben Ammishaddai who has rejected his parents' religion and run off with the family goat to start a new life in Amnon will perchance stop at the Jordan River to rest. And the sight of a stack of rocks will catch his eye. And he will inquire of one of the townspeople, "What do these stones mean . . ?" (verse 6).
"[T]hen you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever" (verse 7).
All through the Twilight Zone episode we are not sure whether the captain is sane or is imagining things. The sand spilled from the shoes settles the matter. It really did happen.
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