According to Rule #1 of Intuition and the Art of Sluethiness, we need to find everything we can about the “perpetrator” of a mystery; in this case, Forrest Fenn. This is a bit terrifying because there is no telling what you will find when you try to get close to the real Forrest Fenn; to fill in a few more details of his life history; to discover his habits, worries, and preferences; his friends and enemies; his allegiances and followers; his travels and his likes and dislikes. But I will tell you anyway.
Forrest Fenn was raised a Southern Baptist.
And now that you know, I want you to also know that the above statement is a declaration and not, as some would suggest, an accusation.
It was an easy sleuth. The funeral for his father was held at the First Baptist Church in Temple, Texas and attended by an overflow crowd. A Google search of that church told me that it has pretty much always been allied with Southern Baptists. And, since we know that the young Forrest Fenn would show up at “church socials,” we know that the Fenn family was at least somewhat familiar with the affairs of that church. And that tells us of the immense pressure that Brother Fenn had as a kid to become a member of that church.
My interpretation of this information was also relatively easy. It helped that my father and father-in-law were deacons; my brother a minister; my wife a seminarian; and I, an excommunicate in and from Southern Baptist churches.
Now you ask, “Other than being interesting in a voyeuristic sort of way, does this information tell us anything? Does it get us any closer to the treasure?”
Of course it does, although that comes in Part 2 and I promise I will get to it later.
But for now I want to begin with an interesting obsession of Southern Baptists. That is, all good Southern Baptists leave the comfort of their homes for a hard wooden pew in order to hear some 170 sermons a year, and all of this sermonizing is, supposedly, based on something called “exegesis”(Rule #3, Intuition and the Art of Sluthiness).
A very simple definition of “exegesis” is that it is “parsing” which, I have learned, has nothing to do with gourmet cooking. “Parsing” is what journalists did four years ago to figure out what the then Governor of Alaska was saying. They had to identify the verb(s), subject(s), object(s) and a bunch of modifiers in her statements, put them in an intelligible order and then figure out why a whole new topic would suddenly appear in the middle of it all. To “parse” one needs only to be a very patient grammarian.
“Exegesis” is something else. It’s what scholars do when they try to prove one another wrong concerning the interpretation of ancient, often sacred, texts. It involves an understanding of the cultural milieu within which the text was written; it looks at the text’s provenance and chain of custody and the nuances of its original language; it attempts to identify the author or authors through an analysis of the writing style and supposed personality of the writer(s); it looks at the various meanings of each word; and it considers the people for whom it was written and for what purpose. With some adaptation, this is what we will have to do with each of Forrest Fenn’s clues.
For example, take what is perhaps the very first “clue” in his Memoir and one I have mentioned before:
“I tend to use some words that aren’t in the dictionary, and others that are; I bend a little.” (Page 3)
This sentence was not written for the casual reader; it was written for us—the ones trying to find his treasure. And it is there to warn us to be careful when we decipher other of his clues because things could be “fudged” or “made up” and that no matter what we think we know about a clue, we could easily be somewhat off and that difference will be the difference between success, and total frustration.
It’s a fair warning. And it comes from Brother Fenn himself.
Don’t know what you do to remember things like this, but I put this one on a sticky-note and stuck it inside the cover of my very own hymnal.
Keep the Faith,