September 18, 2009
Angels on Earth , a magazine published bimonthly by Guideposts, “presents true stories about heavenly angels and humans who have played angelic roles in daily life.” I accepted an offer for a free issue (subscription cancelable if not satisfied). Here is a brief look at the first few stories in the July/August 2009 issue and my analysis of them.
A Salt Lake City woman sees meaning in a telephone call. On the anniversary of her younger sister’s unexpected death, she is comforted to receive news that she has become a grandmother. Her son reports, “A healthy baby boy.”
Comment: Isn’t this merely a happy coincidence? Doesn’t the fact of her sister’s untimely death make clear that both good and bad luck occur and that sometimes they coincide?
A California man recalls how, years ago, he was a young traveler in Sudan, trying to get to Khartoum “to pick up some much-needed money from the Western Union.” At the train station “a well-dressed, aristocratic-looking black man” asked if he needed help and, learning his problem, provided the price of the fare.
Comment: But wasn’t the young traveler’s distress evident on his face and from his body language? The “aristocratic” man could obviously afford to be generous. That he was is praiseworthy, of course, but many of us perform random acts of kindness.
A young Oklahoma lady relates how, after receiving expensive new contact lenses during high school, she was sweeping the family porch of mimosa blossoms, when she stopped momentarily to rub her eye. Out popped one lens. Replacement being unaffordable, she searched frantically on hands and knees, but the wind hopelessly “whirled the flower petals around like fluttering wings.” As she reluctantly stood to go tell her mother the bad news, she saw something glinting and realized, “The wind had blown my contact lens right out in the open for me to find!”
Comment: Or perhaps the wind had simply separated the chaff, as it were (the petals), from the wheat (the lens). In any event, why the unnecessary suggestion of supernatural intervention?
A New York woman writes of her apprehension one night as she dropped off her husband for a stint of duty on the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Catenary . A young woman in jeans and plaid shirt sat on the pier, her blond hair catching light from a storage shed and casting “a glow around her face.” After her husband returned five days later, she inquired who the girl was that she had pointed out to him, but he recalled no one; neither, he learned, had the other men. His wife concluded the girl was “the Catenary ’s angel, standing guard over ‘those in peril on the sea’ as the old Navy hymn goes. . . . She showed me that angels were watching over all our family, on the sea and on the land.”
Comment: The magazine helpfully added wings to its color illustration of the “angel” girl. That the husband’s memory did not support his wife’s recollection, however, suggests that the latter may have conflated what actually happened. Perhaps she saw a real girl, or had a daydream or later an actual dream, that grew—in her obviously vivid imagination—into a seemingly supernatural dimension.
The articles continue in this fashion, with the writers engaging in much magical thinking. With all due respect to some of the sentiments expressed, I found the little magazine too syrupy for my taste and too sadly lacking in critical thinking. I wrote “Please Cancel” across the subscription invoice.
#1 J. (Guest) on Friday September 18, 2009 at 7:32am
I find it suspicious that the sailor didn’t remember the young woman on the pier. Was she a guardian angel or the secret girlfriend two-timing sailor? She was a blond, that clinches it.
#2 gray1 on Friday September 18, 2009 at 2:04pm
Don’t throw away that copy too fast! I now wish I’d managed to keep my stack of numerous comic books from the early 60’s that I’d subscribed to at ten cents a copy!
#3 Edwardson on Saturday September 19, 2009 at 8:09am
As I see it, the mag is a compilation of positive anecdotes (which I shall assume are not fictional). What I’d like to see is a collection of *all* stories both with positive and negative outcomes. I predict that we’ll find much more stories ending badly (or very uneventfully) than those that end fortuitously—which are the only ones which find their way into publication. This is extreme selection bias both on the part of the contributors (assuming the zine asks for submissions) and the publisher.
#4 Cambias (Guest) on Monday September 21, 2009 at 11:16am
Edwardson: But what would be the point of such a magazine? The bulk of it would be tales like this: “I lost my beloved grandfather’s watch. Never got it back. It’s probably been melted down by now.”
“I was lost and out of money late one night in a bad part of town. Some guys tried to mug me and when they found out I wasn’t carrying any cash they beat me viciously. I spent a week in the hospital.”
Who would buy such a magazine? Who would read it? Who would publish it?
#5 laura (Guest) on Monday September 21, 2009 at 7:25pm
For free magazines, I always use magshark.com
Try it Its free!
#6 Edwardson on Tuesday September 22, 2009 at 2:04am
Cambias, I think we should be prioritizing how to think critically and even ethical concerns about misleading people by giving them only one cherry picked stories. I don’t think we should prioritize what people want to read and what makes money. If this magazine were about cancer cures for instance the problems with it would be clear.
The Angels magazine fosters confirmation bias, availability error, and not objective thinking about the matter of angels. So my answer to your rhetorical questions would be: We shouldn’t publish crap and anything that promotes muddled thinking.
#7 heidianderson on Tuesday September 22, 2009 at 7:07am
If these are the best examples of angels among us, I am sorely disappointed.
Angels have time to help people find their contact lenses and pick them up from the bus station, but the abused children I work with are not even on the agenda?
#8 Arthur Urrows (Guest) on Tuesday September 22, 2009 at 9:29am
Joe, this is more a personal message. I am now retired in mid-Florida.
One of your most ardent fans, Grace Urrows, died last August of a severe stroke. She always thought you and your writings were great.
When she learned of your marriage she was quite happy for you.
P.S. While he was not a favorite of mine, I was never satisfied by the explanation of Paul Kurtz’s ouster! It did appear to be a ‘palace revolution.”
#9 John (Guest) on Tuesday September 22, 2009 at 10:59pm
Thank you lens for the explanation.
#10 Sapna (Guest) on Monday October 12, 2009 at 4:04am
Hey Angels magazine stories are great, i use to read the love stories and recently i finished with
Chetan Bhagatbook. This is really a great one, the story between the marriage of couples of different castes.