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A Denominationally Unique Phenomenon?

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Posted under Miscellanea at .

I’m in the midst of sorting some books with a view to rationalising their shelving, and have come across one I bought, probably in the late 1990s, possibly at the secondhand book shop in Broadford, probably in a hurry. The Ancient Church Orders by Arthur John MacLean (Cambridge University Press, 1910). As I recall, the text was not what I had expected and of little interest, but I remember none of the detail — in part because of a distraction it contained. Its previous owner had left within the most remarkable bookmark I have ever encountered.

MacLean, The Ancient Church Orders

At some point in its life, probably when new, the book had been owned by one Reverend H.S. Sard (CoE), initially at Cuddesdon College,[1] and later at Upper Norwood, London, England. I doubt I am the first owner since; several decades may have elapsed in between. Rev. Sard had in 1942 (probably December) received [2] a letter from someone whom (it indicates) he had assisted financially towards what appears to have been a form of missionary endeavour in Barcelona. I had no idea that Anglican missionaries went to the Continent in the early 20th Century, even if — as seems likely in this instance — they went of their own accord. In fact I cannot say whether the writer was in any sense representative of contemporary Anglicans or their missionaries — or perhaps not an Anglican at all, but a denominationally unique phenomenon, though with some Anglican friends?

Rev. Sard’s Bookmark

I assume Rev. Sard read it, and I cannot presume to guess his feelings regarding either the letter or the missionary — though this was one of a series of communications, so probably he was familiar with the style. He then returned it to its envelope and appears to have used it thereafter as a bookmark. (A habit which, as its later discoverer, I must heartily commend.) The picture shows where it appears to have spent time stuck out of a book at one end and become sun-scorched and perhaps a little smoke-stained. [3]

hbm’s envelope, open, with letter

I am about as far from an expert on 20th Century Anglican — or other Christian — or in fact any religion’s — missionaries as it is possible to be, but so far as I know this is the only surviving record of HIS BARCELONA MESSENGER. (Transcription below.) I would be interested to hear about any other records or memories which do still exist.

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I read a line on a webpage a while back. Admittedly, at the time I thought — hah, sounds kind of right — and moved on. But it’s been niggling at me, and I ended up realising, no, not right. So I had to go back and find it, failed, failed to accurately remember the words, but by the marvel of search engines found what I think is the original (or at least, where it was as it seems now to be behind a paywall, but I’ve found it on the Internet Archive):

The world is so big, so complicated, so replete with marvels and surprises that it takes years for most people to begin to notice that it is, also, irretrievably broken. We call this period of research childhood.”

— Michael Chabon in the New York Book Review, 2013–01-31

The implication I understood in the context I first read (still haven’t found it) is that adults are those who have noticed that the world is irretrievably broken. And it’s that implication (which might not be the whole point in the original) to which I have to respond with an unambiguous no.

The state of mind in which we view the world as irretrievably broken might be better characterised as mopey-teenager, rather than adult. The idea goes quite well with the denial and depression stages of grieving. But really an adult — well, what do we mean by adult? A mature person? I know these words are all a bit tendentious, but there’s a point behind them, and I think it’s this:

Maturity requires acceptance. In this case, acceptance that we just live in the world, we didn’t design or make it, and it never did respond to our desires and preconceptions more than coincidentally. To consider the world broken because it doesn’t meet your expectations is not mature. (Or at least, very far from enlightened.)

To be sure, there are people who are legally adults who haven’t moved on from the mopey-teenage viewpoint; which shouldn’t be surprising as there are those of all ages who haven’t moved on from childlike marvel and surprise either. And whether it was originally intended this way or not, the quote, used by those who are still stuck in the adolescent phase, serves to infantilise those who have managed by good fortune or neurological peculiarity to skip it, or those who haven’t yet reached it. Misery loves company.

Hopefully this doesn’t come across as just an attempt to infantilise . . . well, juvenalise? . . . those who are stuck in denial and depression with regard to the world around them. I didn’t skip it, though I don’t think I’m irretrievably trapped in it either. Because: it’s not the end of the process. If you think the world is broken, it’s time to move on. Your expectations may indeed be broken, but the world is as complete and ever-changing as it always was.

I suspect enlightened maturity loves company too. If I get there I’ll let you know.


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The Russ’s children are a wild bunch. We knew that all along. They’ve never been easy neighbours, though sometimes their parents were our friends. But yesterday we heard a scream from the little sister and wondered what it was now. Turned out that the biggest brother was dragging her into a cage he’d built. She’d been trying to get out and meet people, and the brothers didn’t like that. The littlest of them was always too small to dare to do anything himself, and too scared to talk to anyone or to disobey. So he’d helped build the cage and kept quiet.

We wondered what to do. Could we, should we, do anything? Sometimes everyone knows what’s going on, but no-one says anything. This wasn’t the first time she’d been dragged into the house and tied down, while Big Brother did whatever he wanted with her, and the Little Brother sat and watched, giggling to himself about the things he’d do when he grew up. How she got over that and still had enough nerve to talk to anyone, I don’t know. Perhaps she wants to believe that it’s good to be friendly, so long as people are friendly to you.

But this time I don’t know. I’m afraid. I’ve heard of it happening before in other villages. Maybe they’ll just tie her to the bed again and Big Brother can use her like before. Or maybe he’s so crazy about her, so mad that he’s not the only thing in her world. Maybe it’ll happen this time. Maybe he’ll say, it was an honour killing. And all the people looking for excuses will just say, well, honour. Yes, that’s important, isn’t it. It’s traditional. It’s their family business, after all.

Stop looking at me like that. You’re not helping.

Zen & the Art of Synthesiser Maintenance

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So, a new site? Yes, after a year of covid and code. The older site was no longer serving its original purpose, and I’m writing now mostly about . . . well, Zen & the Art of Synthesiser Maintenance seems to sum it up. (Contrary to my expectation, it seems no-one had used it before . . . ) Also I’m consolidating a few other things here which never worked very well in the old CMS, and mostly got lost in different subdirectories in earlier/other sites. (They still have their original publication dates though, near as I can work them out — anything prior to this post.)

This site will be divided into topical sections for ease of access, and will be less constrained by templates — I’m doing my own CMS. This may involve a bit more vector graphics than works well with off-the-shelf software, and anything I fancy trying out. Some pages will even have scripts for special operations, but this will always be a) handcrafted, b) lightweight, c) served from this domain, d) stated and explained, and e) honest (but don’t just trust me on that). Enter at your own pleasure over pain ratio, but feel free to contact me about visibility issues.

Bad Stars

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So it seems Boris Johnson thinks that devolution and the return of the Scottish Parliament has been a disaster.

That’s somewhat curious, as my experience has been that since 1999 Scotland has been better governed than at any time in my life and probably better than any time in history. And this does not depend on a particular party or coalition being in government; it is a consequence of the existence and the structure of the modern Parliament. Scotland has for twenty years had a series of governments which have been more highly representative of the people, and more responsive to our concerns, than ever before. Which is a great deal more than can be said for the United Kingdom governments over that time.

So who exactly has this been disastrous for? Not for Scots; so, for English people perhaps? I rather doubt it. For the most part it has been irrelevant, but it is true that many English people have expressed a sense of envy, and of disappointment in Westminster. We make them look bad. But even so it is scarcely disastrous. Perhaps for the British establishment? But how? Has their ineptitude been shown up so critically? Well, yes, but even that has been simply by events rather than by the existence of a Scottish political system. Except perhaps just recently, in the comparative performance of the governments relating to the pandemic. Is that what he’s on about?

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Family-Friendly Filtering

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I will be tremendously glad when the American election is finally over . . . or at least, when Donald Trump is no longer in the news, which may take a while longer. There’s a great many obvious reasons for this, but the one that matters to me at a visceral level is that I’ve spent the last five years or so seeing photographs of him on web pages, on my laptop. I suppose that I have to some extent become inured to the sight, or at least a bit more adept at looking slightly away, but still, every time I scroll up the page, he goes down in the direction of between my thighs, and I have the sense that he’s about to grab my pussy, or something.

Which makes me think that it would be nice if there were some sort of browser filter available to just block images of him completely. I’m not aware of one, but it would be a good idea . . . or indeed perhaps a more general filter that you could train for any face. Critically, it should run on the local system; I don’t especially want a filter which tells some remote site what news pages I’m reading . . . 

Or maybe that’s too much of an ask, or it might be too power-hungry (like someone else I coulddid mention). My brain is at least half-way able to block him out, though it’s taken four years of implied sexual assaults to achieve it. (Or maybe it’s achieved in spite of it.) Maybe it would be a waste of all that effort to turn to software now. Still, it’s a thought; there are likely to be other faces I’d prefer to block at greater speed.

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