Thursday, November 16, 2006

East Is East

Orienteering is a sport or pursuit growing in popularity. The purists use compasses and folding maps. Their wealthier counterparts carry elaborate and expensive GPS devices. In all cases, getting your directions straight is the goal.

The older amongst us will remember Lamont Cranston, “who, while in the Orient, learned the power to cloud men’s minds.” Even if you don’t remember The Shadow, you know that the Orient stands for the Asian nations.

It started before compasses. One of the simplest directions to discern for the Romans was oriens, that point on the horizon at which the sun rises each morning. In the European Christian era, since Jesus’ homeland was to the east, it was a requirement that altars be oriented—facing east, that is.

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