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Sunday, April 22nd, 2018
9:37 am - Earth Day 2018
It's turtles all the way down!

It's turtles all the way down!

I need to design a t-shirt with this on it.

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Sunday, April 15th, 2018
9:58 pm - Lead, kindly light
Years ago, I realized that I had a certain talent for destruction, at least of a verbal sort. I could preach, and write, slashingly. I could demolish an opponent's position with flair. But, I thought, that's too easy. And it's not enough. So I set out to make the effort to describe, in ever-increasing detail, what I was for. I put my best efforts into explaining the truth as I knew it. I tried to do so as attractively and winsomely as I could, plumbing the depths of the wisdom of God in clear words that a child could understand. I don't know that I always succeeded, but I didn't want to just be an "aginner."

I still believe that it is better to say what you are for rather than expend all your energy in saying what you are against. That doesn't mean that I'm not against some things; indeed, being for some things means you are also against other things. But I want to draw people in, not drive them away. Even if they're not within the circle of oughtness that I'm describing, maybe if I present the truth in love, they'll be persuaded to step into the circle instead of stepping away in a huff. Especially in theological, moral, (and political) discussions, I think this is very important.

Now since advocating for some things inevitably means advocating against other things, you might think the opposite would also be true. But I find it's not. Many of those whose writing and preaching is full of what they are against never get around to explaining exactly what they are for. And when they try to do so -- are requested to do so -- many of them fail to express themselves clearly. They mumble a few vague cliches and tired slogans, and soon return to the negative. It turns out that they only really knew what they were against.

There are conservative/evangelical/orthodox people who only talk about what they're against. But there are also liberal/progressive/radical people who only talk about what they're against. And all of them just come across as scolds. The scold only sees the enemy he or she desires to assault. That enemy -- which can be a person, a group, or a cause -- has no redeeming features; it must be dug out, root and branch. There can be no treaty with it, no truce; the battle must be joined every single day, without a single nod to the essential humanity of the wicked Other. We are becoming a nation of scolds, I think. It is wearing me out. And if I have sometimes come across that way in the chaos and convulsions of The UMC, I beg your pardon. That is wearing me out, too.

So it was good to sit in church this morning and feel the peace around me. These are good people, in a good place. God is with us. Deanne and I are feeling more at home in this congregation every week, and I am rapidly learning how to belong. Not the pastor any more, just another believer. And communion this morning was extra sweet, since I missed it last week. God is good. The challenge is fully explaining that goodness. We need to avoid the temptation to dwell upon the dark, except when we must, and then return to explicate and experience the light again. For "the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

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Saturday, April 14th, 2018
9:05 am - Back at it
I took advantage of the spring weather and drove over to Wilderstead yesterday for the first block-laying of the year. And a beautiful day it was. Laughery was well within its banks, too. Another sign of spring: orange barrels everywhere. I had to dodge around some road construction to get to the holler.

Once arrived, I set out to investigate. I cleaned up the building site a bit. Then it came time to mix the mortar. When I went down to the creek to fetch some water for that, I was taken with the beauty of the little falls above my bathing pool.

bathing pool

Bathing Pool
I never get tired of watching the water

I laid out the mesh ladders on the long front run. These go between the courses down in the mortar. And then I began. I'm not a threat to any professional mason's livelihood, but I made steady progress. I mixed three batches of mortar yesterday. I only had four block to go to finish that run, but by that time my muscles were turning to rubber, and I couldn't face mixing another batch of mortar. I decided to wrap it up for the day. I made a light supper and then did a few easy chores and packed up for home.

day's work

The day's work
Starting the fifth course

The first thing I did when I got home was to take some painkillers. The first thing I did this morning was to reach for some more. Dear God, I hurt. But it was the first day back at the job after a long winter off, so that can be expected. And it's a righteous hurt. I'm gettin' 'er done, however slowly.

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Tuesday, April 10th, 2018
12:46 am - I have meat to eat ye wot not of
So, I started a new God & Me class tonight. I have four boys -- two in Kindergarten and two in 1st Grade -- with parent support. It was lively tonight. Oh, yes. I also accepted a request to come out to the District Camporee in a couple weeks and lead chapel on Sunday morning. Deanne was kind of surprised at that; after all, I'm supposed to lead chapel (and cook) for the Council Cub-o-ree two weeks later. Aren't I getting kind of busy?

Some would see my love for Scouting as the motivating factor here, but they would be wrong. I love Scouting, don't get me wrong, but it is not my love for Scouting that makes me say yes to these kinds of opportunities. It's my love for Jesus and my call to ministry. My life's work has been telling people about Jesus -- especially, telling young people about Jesus. That hasn't stopped because I retired; in some ways, retirement has freed me up to do ministry without the distractions of The Job.

Being a pastor not only has its distractions -- meetings, administration, keeping difficult people happy, keeping discouraged people connected, and so on -- but, well, the dirty little secret of the Church as we experience it is this. A majority of people in a majority of churches -- even evangelical/orthodox/spiritual/whatever you want to call them churches -- are not serious about making disciples. They haven't the first clue how to go about it, and they don't want to learn. This doesn't mean they're bad people, or unbelieving. They are, by and large, good people, concerned about their own souls and about those of their families. And they want their churches to prosper. But they can't see all the people I see who want to believe and belong -- and if they could see them, they would just count them as a nuisance instead of an opportunity.

Why do I do so much Scouting ministry? It's not because it gives me an opportunity to do Scouting, but because it gives me an opportunity to do ministry. I get to teach little kids how to pray! I get to tell a whole bunch of men and teens -- a goodly portion of whom rarely darken the doors of the church back home -- about the love of God and the adventure of faith. I get to talk with young adults who are wrestling with the future they're grasping for. And they want me to do this. They seek me out!

Compare that with the people who make excuses about having to teach Sunday School. With the people who are fine with letting youth ministry slide so long as their church connection meets their own needs and convenience. With the people who complain about messes and dirt and want to write endless lists of rules. With the people who want their church to grow but who can't think of anyone to invite. With those who are jealous of the pastor's time spent with those people, but who won't respond when the pastor offers to spend time with them and theirs. As I say, these are not bad people. They'll work, and work hard, doing programs, running events, attending things. But an awful lot of them don't know what actually matters, and they won't learn; meanwhile, the few who do know or want to learn struggle to do their ministry while the church piles all kinds of other responsibilities on them.

Behold! Kids matter. Lonely people matter. Overwhelmed parents matter. The spiritually hungry of all ages matter. I was sent to them, to seek them out wherever they might be found. I am as surprised as anybody that so many are found in uniforms of one color or another (adorned with lots of bright patches), but so it is. And best of all, these hearers are eager to listen to what I have to tell them. Who knows what wonders they might receive because they believed the word that was told them?

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Monday, April 9th, 2018
8:03 am - Hiking with Daniel
While Daniel was here, we hiked around Lake Weimer. We also stumped around the neighborhood. I'm adding 2 miles to my lifetime estimated hiking mileage. It now stands at 1680 miles.

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Saturday, April 7th, 2018
3:37 pm - Keeping up
There's a reason God gives children to young couples. When you are approaching geezerdom, there is just no way to keep up with their energy demands. Daniel, especially. He loves to play games, but he can only sit still and focus for so long, and then his body starts jumping around and his attention is grabbed by other things. When that point comes, we know that he needs to go move some big muscles. In such cases, Deanne's exercise machine is a boon.

Perpetual Motion

Perpetual Motion
Daniel, not the machine

Zach came over and we played a powerful load of games last night. This morning, Daniel and Deanne pulled weeds and roots (and one nasty grape vine). Then all of us played more games. After lunch, Daniel went outside to play with his scooter. Deanne needed some quiet work time. So I took the werecub and went off, seeking adventure. We wound up at the Tulip Trestle, one of the longest railroad bridges in the US. Built in 1905-6, it is 2,295' long and 157' off the ground at its highest point.

Sky Road

Sky Road
Solsberry, Indiana

On the way home from the Viaduct (another name for a trestle), we stopped by the Cottingham farm. Alane showed us Harrison's 27 pet rabbits. Daniel petted a few, but they were skittish. One of the farm cats made up to him, though. Steve told us that he has been slowly cleaning out his father's man-cave (his father died last year). A hunter and fisherman, his man-cave was chockablock with mounted turkey tails, deer capes, and other such stuff. He asked if I wanted a pheasant feather. Sure, I said, thinking this would be one (1) feather. He gave Daniel an entire pheasant tail.

And so the adventures continue. I'm thinking Grandbear could use a nap before the evening fun begins.

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Friday, April 6th, 2018
12:45 pm - Big Bear, Little Bear
We're taking a break after lunch. Daniel is down for his first solo weekend visit. He'll be re-charged in about half an hour; meanwhile, Grandbear's going to take a while longer.

I went over to Richmond and picked him up yesterday. As soon as we got home, he headed for the basement where all the books, toys, and musical instruments of destruction are. One of the things he most wanted to play with was this old game. It's a version of tangrams, of making pictures with a limited set of shapes. He asked me what the initials on some of the cards meant. The ones that say AWC refer to me, while the ones that say AMC refer to his mother. These are the challenges she and I met while playing with this toy many years ago.

The Shape of Things

The Shape of Things

We watched some cartoons last night and he popped off to bed. I figured he'd be up when Deanne got up this morning, but he slept in for a while. Right after Deanne left at 7:00, he finally got up. I fed him some cereal. He got himself dressed. He said he was full of energy. Uh-oh, I thought. I know what that means. "The motto of the mongoose tribe is Run! and find out," as Rikki-Tikki-Tavi says. So as soon as I was showered and dressed, we headed out to do the morning.

We went by the bank first, because I had to deposit a hefty check in the Pathfinder account (Thank you, Franklin Grace UMC for supporting our Congo Jamboree!). Then we went to the IU Campus. I wanted to show him the Lily Library. We saw their Gutenberg Bible, and the hand-painted first edition of Audubon's Birds of North America. We saw tiny books, early children's books, an actual early printing press. I don't suppose he got a lot out of it, but as he learns more about Gutenberg and Audubon and these others, there will be a peg to hang things on. That's important. On the way back to the library parking lot, we stopped for a picture.

Hoagy plays the Werecub Rag

Hoagy plays the Werecub Rag

A walk in the woods was on the morning agenda, so we headed over to Wapehani Mountain Bike Park. This was, once upon a time, Camp Wapehani BSA, where I spent seven summers of my childhood and youth. It's a nice place, but of course, I see it with an overlay of what it was when I was young. Seeing Daniel heading down the same road into camp I walked so many times was particularly heart-warming.

Down Memory Lane

Down Memory Lane

We walked around Lake Weimer. We saw a cardinal, a bald eagle, ducks and geese. We investigated footprints of dog, raccoon or 'possum, deer. We climbed over a log. He was getting pretty pooped by the time we got back to the parking lot (which was my design all along).

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

He leadeth me beside the still waters

He leadeth me beside the still waters


Geese on Lake Weimer

Can't keep a good man down

Can't keep a good man down

It was past 11:00 o'clock when we left camp. I asked Daniel what he'd like for lunch. He wanted a cheeseburger, so we headed for Steak 'n' Shake. After lunch, we popped into Walmart to get a few things, and it home again.

Uncle Zach's coming over this evening. We're making pizza and playing games. Daniel's trying to figure out why Granny's not available all the time. The idea that she has to work while I don't is something he's still puzzling out. But we're having a great time so far, and Granny can take over the Werecub Rodeo for a while in the morning while I sleep in.

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Thursday, April 5th, 2018
7:30 am - Fill my cup, Lord

This day more than most.

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Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018
6:22 pm - Dear LJ Fairy
Every now and then, I get an e-mail telling me that someone has "liked" one of my LJ entries. I can't find any "like" button on anything. How does one "like" an LJ entry? And where do you go to see who did it?

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Sunday, April 1st, 2018
9:55 pm - The Old English religious vocabulary
This being Easter, somebody posted an article about the supposed pagan origins of Easter. This is a misunderstanding of something Bede wrote in his History of the English Church and People. Bede said that Eostre was the name of a pagan goddess whose month was Easturmonath (April). Bede may, in fact, be mistaken about this, but let it stand. Easter (German Ostern) is one of a very small group of Old English words for religious concepts that were either dropped by the Anglo-Saxons upon their conversion, or became fossilized so that even the Anglo-Saxons themselves forgot what they meant.

Other terms that lost their meanings include Blotmonaþ (November), where blot was a term denoting a pagan blood sacrifice; coincidentally, November was also when flocks and herds were culled for the winter. Then there were herig/hearg, a pagan sanctuary, enduring only in modern names like Harrow-on-the-Hill, and stow, as in Cheapstowe, originally an outdoor worship place in the woods but ultimately just a "place." Frea was the name of one of their gods -- it means "the Lord," but significantly, after the conversion of the English, it just meant a worldly lord or prince; knowledge of the divine Frea was forgotten.

Specific terms for God or the gods show the same tendency. The pagan Old English called one of their gods an os (plural esa). This is cognate with Old Norse Æs, Æsir. It survives in a few old-fashioned personal names like Oswald and Oswin, but is otherwise totally extinct. After their conversion, the Anglo-Saxons referred to God (German Gott), a word related to the word god meaning "good." By back-formation, when they had to refer to pagan gods, they now said merely, god (plural godo) -- "god, gods" -- as we do.

Meanwhile, it took a while to decide what, exactly, to call the God preached by the missionaries. Crist, of course, was an easy transcription, but more often -- at least in the early days -- they referred to Christ as Hælend, a word related to hæl, "salvation, welfare," and generally meaning "Savior." In Beowulf, a work very careful about naming the God the characters aren't supposed to know yet, God is Metod, the one who metes out the fates of men. Latin Dominus was mostly translated as Drihten -- a military leader or prince. Finally, Hlaford was adopted -- a word that means "loaf-ward," the master who distributes bread to the workers -- which is the ancestor of our modern word, "Lord."

As for the use of pagan gods in the names of the week, you have to understand that this was a translation done by Christian monks based upon their understanding of Latin literature. Caesar and others had written (often in garbled fashion) about ancient Germanic gods, and had equated some of them to the gods of the Latin pantheon. Tiw was equated to Mars, Woden to Mercury, Thorr to Jove, and Friga to Venus. There was no Germanic equivalent to Saturn, so Saturn got to keep his day, along with the Sun and the Moon. The point is, this is not authentic surviving folk belief; this is the book-learning of a bunch of persnickety scholars. If there had been the slightest chance the Anglo-Saxons would have still been moved to worship any of these gods, the translation would never have happened. Indeed, so converted were the ancient Anglo-Saxons that about all of their pre-Christian belief and practice we can find are these few linguistic remains. There are almost no actual artifacts or rituals, even at the level of folk belief.

Many words were brought into English direct from Latin because OE lacked words for the concepts they denote: words like abbod (abbot), apostol (apostle), bisceop (< Latin episcopus), deofol (devil < Latin diabolus), diacon (deacon), discipul, engel, martyr, mæsse (< Latin missa), munuc (monk), mynster (< Latin monasterium), papa (pope), preost.

Meanwhile, many concepts were expressed in native OE words. Ærist = "resurrection," from arisan "to arise." Biddan and its relatives gave us "bid, prayer" and eventually "bead" for the little object on a string that one moves at the conclusion of each prayer of the Rosary. A decree or judgment was a dom, so the Day of Judgment became Domesdæg, "Doomsday." The native word for "baptize" was fullian, which referred to being made full of God. Gæst (spirit) gave us gæstlic (spiritual), as well as ModE "ghost." Godspell (good news) > "gospel." Halig (holy) > halga (saint). Hæðen (heathen), one who lives rough -- out on the heath -- a rover or outlaw, paralleled the original meaning of Latin paganus -- somebody from the sticks, an unconverted rustic. The Anglo-Saxons called the bread of communion husl (housel, a "little dwelling" for Christ), and partaking of communion was huslgang. When it came time to translate "Paradise" in the Book of Genesis, somebody coined the word neorxnawong, whose roots are from ne wyrcan -- a place where nobody had to work. Rihtwisnes -- right-wise-ness -- is "righeousness." Rod became rood, a cross. To hang on a cross -- rodehengen -- was to be crucified; meanwhile, to take the cross -- rodetacn -- was to make the sign of the cross on yourself. The Trinity was þrinnis (three-ness). Morningsong (Matins) was uhtsong, from uhta, "dawn." And the precious viaticum, the communion for those about to die, was wegnest, the provisions packed for a journey (weg, ModE "way"). All of these are faithful and apt expressions of Christian practices and concepts.

In fact, I can think of only a few cases in which the OE word expressed a concept that has caused us difficulty in understanding the original meaning of the biblical concept. Sawol (soul) might be one such. A fair number of people get confused about the differences between soul and spirit, not realizing that soul refers to the personhood of the individual, not really something the OE would call gæstlic. Then there's woruld, used to translate Latin saecula and Greek aiwn. It means "world," of course, but like saecula and aiwn it can also mean "age, cycle." OE on worlda woruld therefore means "unto the age of ages," just as in saecula saeculorum does, but when it became ModE "world without end," it seems to imply that this world will not end, when this world isn't the world being talked about. But perhaps no OE word -- no Germanic concept -- has caused as much confusion as hell. Hell was the Germanic realm of the dead, especially the unworthy dead. It could, with caution, be used to translate Hades or Sheol, but unfortunately the same word was used to translate the concepts of the fiery pit from the Book of Revelation. We have had problems trying to explain the Christian doctrine of hell ever since, and we still find ourselves struggling to explain what we mean by the line in the Apostles' Creed that says Jesus "descended into hell."

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6:50 pm - Stuffed animals not included
Here is the pump organ I bought a few years ago, thinking I had a plan for it. Not so much these days. So, I'm looking to sell it to someone who would appreciate it.

I bought it from a guy who really fixed it up -- all except for one dropped key. The pump action works. And it's a very nice piece of furniture, with the candlesticks and all.


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5:44 am - You ask me how I know he lives
This classic PvP strip features Skull the Troll and his friend Brent Sienna (in his snide and skeptical stage).


He is risen, indeed.

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Wednesday, March 28th, 2018
8:08 pm - Be still, my heart
Þa wif's quest for pure water (which I don't get, but I humor) has reached the Rube Goldberg stage. She had some sort of electric still that made drinking water, but it was cheap and eventually broke down. So, she went online and found a better still (complete with recipe book for various forms of hooch) and ordered it, the better to make distilled water for her consumption.

Being the mechanical sort that she is, she soon had it up and running. The output tube needs a little sealant of some sort, but it works. I'm guessing this is going to be a very time-consuming thing, and is going to take up space in the sink on a more or less regular basis. Space is already at a premium in this kitchen, but what the hey -- Happy wife, happy life.


Double, double, toil and trouble
Granny's still, inaugural run

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9:31 am - The politics of The United Methodist Church
In the ongoing turmoil of The UMC, lots of claims get thrown back and forth. One made recently by a couple of UM "centrists" (we'll get around to defining that, below) is that "evangelicals" make up only about 20% of The UMC, so they shouldn't be able to prevent us coalescing around a plan for unity which involves some form of accommodation to LGBTQ activism.Collapse )

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Saturday, March 24th, 2018
10:25 pm - Educational TV with a vengeance
Years ago, I remember seeing Sword of the Conqueror, a 1961 Italian adventure movie starring Jack Palance as Alboin, King of the Lombards. In the 6th Century, Alboin defeats the Gepids, marries Rosamund, drinks from a goblet made from her father's skull. Sounds like a hoary fantasy tale full of done-to-death tropes, right? Well, except that the script is largely based upon actual history. One can doubt some of the details from Paul the Deacon's account, but there it is. This isn't Hollywood, this is history from primary sources we're talking about.

It feels like made-up movie shtick, but it isn't. When I finally came to study the Dark Ages seriously, I remember reading accounts of Alboin and the Lombard invasion of Italy and thinking, "I've heard this before." Yep, I'd already encountered this from late night TV during my high school years. Pity those who never learned anything about the Dark Ages, even from cheesy adventure movies. We really do a poor job of teaching history. Maybe we should assign Sword of the Conqueror in World Civ 101.

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Friday, March 23rd, 2018
1:06 pm - Just the facts, Ma'am
So there I was, sitting in the vet's office, waiting on a prescription for our kitty, when in comes a young mother and a little boy about 3 1/2 - 4 years old. He got a lollipop from the counter and sat down between his mother and me. Mom pointed out an interesting dog across the waiting room.

"Oh, look, that dog has such pretty eyes," she said. "One's blue and one's brown."
"Is it a girl dog?" the little boy asked.
"I think so," she said. "Yes, she's a girl," she said, more firmly.
"How can you tell?" asked her son.
"Well, she doesn't have a penis."
"What doesn't she have?"
I could sense Mom's unease with this conversation in a public place.
"She doesn't have -- have a -- boy part," she said.
"You mean a PENIS?"
"Yes. She doesn't have a penis."
"YOU don't have a penis."

And what am I doing while this fascinating exchange is going on? Oh, I'm staring off into space, doing my best impression of someone who is either deaf or distracted. But behind my poker face, my Sense of Mischief is doing a wild jig and blowing raspberries at the Moon, lemme tell ya.

Small children like facts. Learning facts makes them feel secure in the handle they're getting on this world they're in the process of inheriting. Knowing (and demonstrating) facts makes them feel confident in their increasing mastery. And whenever there's a possibility that they might be getting into new territory, they always want to confirm the facts they already know. Basic facts are largely matters of vocabulary, which they like to exercise.

So, good for you, Son. I'm glad to see you're getting the world sorted out properly. And good for you, Mom, for teaching him important things, with the right words. Don't worry about it; we've all been there.

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8:00 am - Experiment
Trying to make a yogh --



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Tuesday, March 20th, 2018
12:46 am - Happy St. Cuthbert's Day!
March 20 is the Feast Day of Cuthbert, Bishop of Lindisfarne. He died in 687. He was a great Christian leader. I have prayed at his tomb (in Durham Cathedral). Off the coast of Holy Island (the site of Lindisfarne), there is a little spit of land, where Cuthbert built himself a hut when he was the head of the monastic community (and later, bishop). At low tide, it is joined to the rest of the island. At high tide, it is cut off. When Cuthbert needed to get away from the press of duties and the clamor of others wanting his attention, he would retire to his hut and for the next several hours enjoy complete peace and quiet.

Cuthbert had his spiritual training in the Celtic monastic tradition. When the Northumbrian church agreed to align its practices with Roman ones at the Synod of Whitby, he accepted the result. His leadership helped smooth the difficulties of the transition. He was a peacemaker, unlike his prickly contemporary, Wilfrid. As a bishop, Cuthbert travelled his diocese on foot. He carried a portable folding altar with which he could celebrate the eucharist in whatever village he happened to be.

When he felt his death approaching, he resigned his office and retired to the Farne Islands, where he forbade anyone to hunt the local waterfowl (since known as cuddy ducks, or "Cuthbert's ducks"). His command was the first such known environmental regulation in European history; the Farne Islands are still a bird sanctuary. He died on Farne and was buried there, but he didn't stay there. His followers reinterred his body on Holy Island. When the Vikings sacked Lindisfarne Abbey, Cuthbert's body was moved to the mainland, finally ending up at Chester-le-Street for many years. When Durham Cathedral was built, his body was moved there. Buried with him was the beautiful piece known as St. Cuthbert's cross, a pocket edition of the Gospel of John, and his portable altar.

Cuthbert was one of the famous "incorrupt" saints. His body didn't decay normally, despite being dragged around all over Northumbria. His face remained recognizable for many centuries. Before the Reformation, they used to open his tomb on his feast day every year, so that everyone could see the saint. His tomb is still covered with metal doors that were made to be opened, but they are now permanently sealed shut.

He was a man of great learning and also great humility. He is one of my personal heroes.

St. Cuthbert with Otters

St. Cuthbert with Otters

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Sunday, March 18th, 2018
7:43 am - What read you, my Lord? Words, words, words.
I read an article recently on the state of college English studies. It began with the observation that in previous days, English had been a serious pursuit pretending to be a frivolous one; however, it has become a frivolous pursuit pretending to be a serious one. Which is to say that once upon a time, the study of English (and especially, literature) was seen as the ultimate in non-essential, even merely ornamental, knowledge, but by forcing us to encounter the most important ideas, often in their best expression, it gave us something that the mere pursuit of our daily bread could not. Contrast this to the state of English today, where the endless rant of footling ideologies proclaims its own self-importance over and over, adding nothing much of value to anyone's experience of life.

And beyond the study of literature, the study of the English language seems to me to be a thing ill-done at every level. Nobody seems to teach much grammar any more, and what little they do teach attempts to portray English as something other than what it is. English is taught to English-speakers in terms unlike any other language we teach. Not only that, but it is taught as if it were a computer language or an exercise in symbolic logic rather than a living speech -- but you cannot understand English properly if you have no sense of its history.

My own major in English was, I confess, merely a stepping stone to other things, but I have retained an interest in English and how it is taught. I have continued to read and learn over the years, particularly in my ability to read Old English and Middle English and in my understanding of the evolution of the language. I thought then, and think now, that my formal education in English was sadly incomplete, yet what I got was more than is available to students of English today.

In any case, I keep toying with the idea of writing an English textbook, perhaps a grammar for secondary students. I don't really have time for this, especially since my actual professional field also cries out for other things that could use my attention, but it won't go away. Given the state of English studies -- particularly, the politics of English education -- I have no hope of ever having such a textbook adopted anywhere, yet it keeps nagging at me. An increasing number of jottings and sketched outlines is accumulating on my hard drive, alas.

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Wednesday, March 14th, 2018
9:42 am - I see what you did there, John Ronald
In The Lord of the Rings, there is an ent known as Quickbeam, who is the nearest there is to a hasty ent. It is natural to assume that the "quick" in his name refers to his "hastiness." But things are never that simple when you're talking about J.R.R. Tolkien.

Quickbeam's "people" are rowan trees. Our word rowan is ultimately derived from Old Norse, but in Old English the tree was called cwic-beam. In that case, "cwic" means "live, living," as in the phrase "the quick and the dead." Whatever. The startling thing is, "Quickbeam" is just the modern spelling of cwic-beam. So the rowan-like ent is named "rowan" in OE. One more example of how Tolkien used his academic specialty in his story-telling, and one more example of the unusual depth of his created world.

I first read LOTR over fifty years ago, and I'm still finding new details in it, like this ent whose name is an OE-based pun.

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