Joist a moment, there

I woke up way early yesterday. I was planning on leaving about a quarter to five but was out the door about a quarter to four. I arrived at Wilderstead just after six o'clock. In the morning. It was cool, almost jacket weather.

I had eight joists to hang in the undercroft to complete the joists for the house project. I had them all done by ten o'clock. The Building Inspector came out and green-tagged my electrical hookup after that. He said he would call REMC when he got back to his office, so I may finally have power the next time I go out there. I mean, the generator works fine for my tools, but I'd like to finally plug in my little fridge and be able to have a fan and lights in the cabin.

The water was low in the creek, but delightfully cold. My creek bath felt wonderful. And then it was back to B-town, where I promptly fell asleep reading various social media. Today, I'm checking out decking material for the sub-floor. Moving ahead!


Something to support me in my old age
Ready for sub-floor decking


Hung over
Undercroft joists
storming the castle

Hail to the Whatsits

So, the Washington Redskins have finally announced that they will change their team name. Surveys have shown that 9 out of 10 Native Americans were satisfied with the name; indeed, saw it as honoring them. No matter. The Awokened have spoken. And they have succeeded by applying the Golden Rule: whoever has the gold makes the rules. The mega-corporate sponsors of the team have threatened to withhold their monetary support, which constitutes a near-existential threat to the franchise.

At bottom, I don't care what the Redskins call themselves. (Someone suggested the Washington Bureaucrats.) If it sells more tickets or produces a more winning team, well and good. If the people involved are happy, I'm happy. But I think the current wave of Woke Capitalism should give us all pause. We've been here before, and people didn't like it.

To take an example, the Ford Motor Company -- back when Henry Ford himself was in charge -- was the very example of a principled corporation that cared about the important things. Ford pioneered the 40-hour work week and the living wage (one that could support a family on its sole earnings). It also dabbled in company towns with affordable housing, convenient markets, etc. Ford sent all its employees its newspaper, too, with the founder's anti-semitic rants included for free. Well, the workers could wrap fish in the company rag, but they also found that they were subject to Ford's nosiness concerning their private lives. People who didn't live what Ford viewed to be the "family-friendly" way found their leases not renewed, which led to the end of their employment.

Other examples could be multiplied. There was also a time when the lives of schoolteachers were lived as in a fishbowl, and people were fired for what was deemed scandalous behavior (which no one would turn a hair over, now). Recently, a CEO somewhere (the name escapes me) was forced to resign from his own company -- which he founded, I think -- for innocuous opinions expressed in 1987. A reminder that you can never be woke enough and there is no forgiveness, ever, for those who are outed by the mob. We should also remember that all revolutions eat their own, eventually.

If you really want mega-corporations and other employers taking a direct interest in people's opinions, you should remember that there is no guarantee that they will always share your opinions. Already, it is common for employers to not only check references, but to also take a tour of applicants' public posts on social media. Some of the unhinged comments and doxing (done in the name of woke culture) I see on social media may seem otherwise than righteous to someone who wants a responsible, non-troublemaking employee.
says who

We are in darkest Zeitgeistheim these days

In the circular political arguments that pass for discussion these days, I often hark back to this passage in C.S. Lewis's The Pilgrim's Regress. John, the protagonist, has been imprisoned by the Giant "Spirit of the Age," whose eyes make human beings transparent, revealing all kinds of ugly things to his prisoners about themselves and each other.

Chapter Eight: Parrot Disease

Every day a jailor brought the prisoners their food, and as he laid down the dishes he would say a word to them. If their meal was flesh he would remind them that they were eating corpses, or give them some account of the slaughtering; or, if it was the inwards of some beast, he would read them a lecture in anatomy and show the likeness or the mess to the same parts in themselves -- which was the more easily done because the giant's eyes were always staring into the dungeon at dinner time. Or if the meal were eggs he would recall tot hem that they were eating the menstruum off a verminous fowl, and crack a few jokes with the female prisoners So he went on day by day. Then I dreamed that one day there was nothing but milk for them, and the jailor said as he put down the pipkin:

'Our relations with the cow are not delicate -- as you can easily see if you imagine eating any of her other secretions.'

Now John had been in the pit a shorter time than any of the others; and at these words something seemed to snap in his head and he gave a great sigh and suddenly spoke out in a loud, clear voice:

'Thank heaven! Now at last I know that you are talking nonsense.'

'What do you mean?' said the jailor, wheeling round upon him.

'You are trying to pretend that unlike things are like. You are trying to make us think that milk is the same sort of thing as sweat or dung.'

'And pray, what difference is there except by custom?'

'Are you a liar or only a fool, that you see no difference between that which Nature casts out as refuse and that which she stores up as food?'

'So Nature is a person, then, with purposes and consciousness,'said the jailor with a sneer. 'In fact, a Landlady. No doubt it comforts you to imagine you can believe that sort of thing;' and he turned to leave the prison with his nose in the air.

'I know nothing about that,' shouted John after him. 'I am talking of what happens. Milk does feed calves and dung does not.'

'Look here,' cried the jailor, coming back, 'we have had enough of this. It is high treason and I shall bring you before the Master.' Then he jerked John up by his chain and began to drag him towards the door; but John as he was being dragged, cried out to the others, 'Can't you see it's all a cheat?' Then the jailor struck him in the teeth so hard that his mouth was filled with blood and he became unable to speak; and while he was silent the jailor addressed the prisoners and said:

'You see he is trying to argue. Now tell me, someone, what is argument?'

There was a confused murmur.

'Come, come,' said the jailor. 'You must know your catechisms by now. You, there' (and he pointed to a prisoner little older than a boy whose name was Master Parrot), 'what is argument?'

'Argument,' said Master Parrot, 'is the attempted rationalization of the arguer's desires.'

'Very good,' replied the jailor, 'but you should turn out your toes and put your hands behind your back. That is better. Now: what is the proper answer to an argument proving the existence of the Landlord?'

'The proper answer is, "You say that because you are a Steward."'

'Good boy. But hold your head up. That's right. And what is the answer to an argument proving that Mr. Phally's songs are just as brown as Mr. Halfway's?'

'There are two only generally necessary to damnation,' said Master Parrot. 'The first is, "You say that because you are a Puritanian," and the second is, 'You say that because you are a sensualist."'

'Good. Now just one more. what is the answer to an argument turning on the belief that two and two make four?'

'The answer is, "You say that because you are a mathematician."'

'You are a very good boy,' said the jailor. 'And when I come back I shall bring you something nice. And now for you,' he added, giving John a kick and opening the grating.
white horse

The English and Slavery

A lot of ink is being spilled these days over the origin of chattel slavery in colonial America. America is being condemned as “systemically racist”; that is, that you can’t have America as we have known it without racism, and (by implication) that racism is a unique American product. For what it’s worth, a brief examination of slavery in English society seems called for.Collapse )

Going through the motions

As part of a prayer or a charge yesterday, the pastor expressed the hope that in receiving Christ in the bread and the wine we also, each one, had opened ourselves up to receiving him in spirit and truth, and that our partaking would be more than "just going through the motions."

Now, this is right and proper to say, I suppose. We Methodists do emphasize in our invitation to the Table that to receive Christ is to receive Christ -- which is why we do not require those who come seeking him in the bread and wine to have gone through some other process first. But, of course, having sought him there, and received him in some fashion, that ought to leave a mark on us. If we weren't Christian before, we ought to be now -- and if we aren't sure what-all that entails, we need to be making progress toward a full commitment at our best speed. So, I don't have a theological beef with the hope expressed.

And yet, I notice -- especially among Evangelicals -- a certain nervousness about outward forms. Evangelicals are always worried that we will engage ourselves in mere ceremony, and miss out on the "real" relationship with God in Christ those ceremonies are concerned with. And while I'm willing to take that concern as a real concern, I still note that the Jellicles have this tic, this constant dichotomy over what is real/inner/spiritual and what is appearance/outer/mere motions.

This concern shows up in a certain attitude toward ceremony; indeed this concern shows up in a certain attitude toward order. A slovenly attitude, I dare say. We are so concerned with rousing the inner person without bothering with the outer person that we neglect the outer person's participation -- as if in declaring that since clothes don't matter, we needn't bother to put anything on beyond whatever we slept in before coming to church. Or perhaps the ideal evangelical Christian is to be like the couch potato who gorges oneself on pizza and beer while showing one's zeal of spirit by cheering on one's favorite football team; then we wonder how someone who participates so deeply in sport is still so fat.

"Going through the motions" is something to beware of. But failing to complete the motions -- making any half-hearted effort toward saying/singing/enacting the great words that move our souls through confession and pardon and peace and communion -- seems to be something we ought to be wary of, too. And it is the besetting sin of the Evangelical church (besides dullness): sloppy agape. We keep calling for a burst of the old-time fiery zeal, but we can't bestir ourselves to any effort to lead well-ordered worship. We call ourselves Traditionalists, but we don't know what to do with the Tradition we were bequeathed.

I don't say this to complain. I'm trying to be helpful, really I am. And meanwhile, there are scores of pastors I know and love, who wonder why they get so little response, and who think that if they just talk longer, surely someone will spontaneously combust and rush the altar. They are trying to force an incarnation without allowing for full bodily life: they are functional Docetists. I'm not saying they should be liturgigeeks, obsessing about the right colors and obscure practices; but it would be nice if they could participate in a ceremony without breaking the fourth wall to comment upon it, if they could lead worship without constantly trying to warm up the crowd, if they could admit sometimes that Thomas Cranmer said it better than they can, if they even left some times of holy quiet in which we might make one of those "real," spiritual responses they'd like us to make.

In case you were wondering

I was watching a Time Team special on Caerleon, which has one of the best-preserved Roman amphitheaters around. Amphitheater, like stadium, is one of those words we throw around, meaning more or less "sports complex." But in fact, it has a very specific architectural meaning.

To the Romans, a theater was a semi-circular structure. Greek theaters had their stage area at the bottom of a hill. Seats were built in courses up the side of the hill. For best hearing, the whole would be curved around the stage. The Romans didn't need hillsides; they could build up seats in tiers, like an artificial hill. Still, the semi-circle was the most efficient form for a theater in which the spoken or sung word was the primary means of presentation. Like Shakespeare's Globe, most of the scene was set in words, not by means of set decoration.

If you put two theaters together along their back ends, you get a full circle, with tiers of seats all around. The prefix amphi- or ambi- shows up in other words, implying doubleness, like "amphisbaena," "ambivalent," or "ambidextrous." So an amphitheater is just a round stage or field with seats in circular tiers.

(A stadium was originally a footrace course, one stadion long. A stadion was about 200 yards. So, an amphiteater was used for public spectacles in the round, while a stadium was a track and field complex. A chariot-racing track was called a circus by the Romans.)

Celebrating the Fourth

We had a lovely Independence Day overnight at Wilderstead. Anna and Brian and grandcubs Daniel and James joined me and Deanne for a stay at the cabin. We had a lovely cold supper, and then blew off an amazing amount of fireworks: sparklers, morning glories, bottle rockets, snakes. There was enough boom-boom material to sate the appetite of two little boys and their parents as well.

Board of Ordnance
Setting out the swag for firing


Smoke and Fire
Daniel and James in a moment of pure joy

The bombardment continues in the gathering dusk
Bottle rocket launch against Akes Hill

As we headed for bed, a full moon was rising over the peaceable kingdom; it shone all night in through the loft skylights. This morning, we had a good breakfast, and then went wading in the creek for a while. We were cleaned up and on our way to our homes by about ten o'clock. Good times. God bless America.

Standing on the rock
Daniel in the Pishon, low water

Wade in the water, children
Mama Bear with James, wetting a foot

A Mammoth Adventure

Daniel turned the big 1-0 this month, so his present was a four-day camping trip with Grandbear. Setting this up proved to be a challenge with the virus and all, but we managed to snag a reservation for two nights at Mammoth Cave National Park (Kentucky) and another night at Charlestown State Park (Indiana). On the way home, we were planning to look into Big Bone Lick State Historic Site (Kentucky again).

The focus of our trip was rocks, fossils, and nature (both prehistoric and current). That was what Daniel was to explore. But another focus was just giving the boy a chance to have the undivided attention of his Grandbear. We went at his pace, consulted his interests, let him try whatever he wanted. We ate enormous amounts of food. And we talked about all kinds of things.

Wednesday, June 24

I was mostly packed the night before. Just had to finish my personal packing, plus the cold food, get gas and ice and a prescription before leaving town. I was on my way out of B-town by 9:20 a.m., heading for Richmond. When I got there, Daniel was on hot coals, waiting for my arrival. He had been pacing back and forth with his day pack on for some time, and wanted to leave as soon as I pulled up in my truck. Within minutes, we were on our way down the road. We left Richmond at 11:45.

We toodled down to Cincy via Oxford, Ohio. Lots of road work. More road work on I-71/75 through Cincy. Traffic was backed up for miles in the lanes headed for the Roebling Bridge over the Ohio. Finally, I shifted over to whizz through downtown and cross the river on I-471 and followed the ring road around to Florence, KY. It would'a been quicker to take a mule path, if I could'a found one. We drove down I-71 to Louisville, then finally got on I-65 heading south. And within an hour and a half or so, we found ourselves pulling into Mammoth Cave N.P. We found our campsite at 4:45 Central Time. That means it was 5:45 our time. Six hours from Richmond (eight hours for me from Bloomington). We were tired.

There was no one to check us in at the campground entrance, so we went to find our reserved site. I was surprised at how empty the place was. When I made our reservations, most of the sites seemed taken already. But that was just the Park blocking off two out of every three sites to enable social distancing. As someone who had already paid online, the Rangers had no beef with me just pulling in and setting up.


Still Life with Ten-Year Old
Our campsite at Mammoth Cave
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lindisfarne gospels

Luke 1:39-45 through time

Old English:

Soþlice on þam dagum aras Maria and ferde on munt-land mid ofste on judeisce ceastre and eode into Zacharias huse ond grete Elizabeth; Ða wæs geworden þa Elizabeth gehyrde Marian gretinge. Þa gefagnude þæt cild on hire innoðe; And þa wearð Elizabeth haligum gaste gefylled. And heo clypode micelnre stefne. And cwæþ; Ðu eart betwux wifum gebletsod. And gebletsud ys þines innoðes wæstm. And hwanun is me ðis þæt mines drihtnes modor to me cume; Sona swa þinre gretinge stefn on minum earum geworden wæs. þa fahnude min cild on minum innoþe; And eadig þu eart ðu þe gefyldest þæt fulfremede synd. þa ðing þe ðe fram drihtne gesæde synd;

Middle English (John Wycliffe):

And Marie roos vp in tho daies, and wente with haaste in to the mounteyns, in to a citee of Judee. And sche entride in to the hous of Zacarie, and grette Elizabeth. And it was don, as Elizabeth herde the salutacioun of Marie, the yong child in hir wombe gladide. And Elizabeth was fulfillid with the Hooli Goost, and criede with a greet vois, and seide, Blessid be thou among wymmen, and blessid be the fruyt of thi wombe. And whereof is this thing to me, that the modir of my Lord come to me? For lo! as the voice of thi salutacioun was maad in myn eeris, the yong child gladide in ioye in my wombe. And blessid be thou, that hast bileued, for thilke thingis that ben seid of the Lord to thee, schulen be parfitli don.

Early Modern English (KJV, original 1611 text):

And Marie arose in those dayes, and went into the hill countrey with haste, into a citie of Iuda, And entred into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elizabeth. And it came to passe that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Marie, the babe leaped in her wombe, and Elizabeth was filled with the holy Ghost. And she spake out with a loud voyce, and saide, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruite of thy wombe. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to mee? For loe, assoone as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine eares, the babe leaped in my wombe for ioy. And blessed is she that beleeued, for there shalbe a performance of those things, which were told her from the Lord.

Modern English (RSV):

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechari′ah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

On Bees and Bonnets

A friend shared my blogpost (You keep using that word…) and someone replied, dismissing my thoughts, saying, “This author has not spent time understanding systemic racism.” He then gave an example of what America looks like to “a poor person of color.”

Well. It’s true that this author is not a poor person of color. That limits one’s perspective, but I am willing to listen and learn from anyone. All experience is valid; all persons are to be respected when describing their experiences. But it is also true that I’ve spent nearly fifty years studying and dealing with ideologies of all sorts. What I don’t know about ideologies and ideologues ain’t worth knowin’.

I started out as an undergraduate majoring in Political Science. There I met Locke and Hobbes, the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of the social sciences. We didn’t talk much about race in those classes, but the 1970s were the decade of Black Power, and moving from a small, all-white town to a university where there were people of different backgrounds to share space with provided new experiences. I eventually graduated with a degree in English, with minors in Poli Sci and History. The History minor required me to take non-Western history courses: I took a course in African History, and one in History of the Middle East taught by an Arab nationalist. We wrestled a lot with Communism in Poli Sci (though not, interestingly, with Marxism – that was Economics).

I was originally going to become a lawyer. I participated in local politics, too. But with a year to go, God called me to ministry. I reoriented myself toward divinity, graduated early, and went off to seminary. There in Church History I met Locke and Hobbes again, along with a lot of other thinkers. I was ordained and set to work. I served in many kinds of churches and many kinds of settings. I served a university community. I served an inner-city church. I’ve ministered to the affluent, to the poor, to coal miners and farmers, in towns and cities and the open country. And, of course, I worked as a member of an Annual Conference and of a denomination in which theology and ideology (which were frequently indistinguishable from each other) often determined advancement and power relationships.

Working with people of all sorts, you find out what people really believe in. I’ve met a few racists, and more than few bores, conspiracy-mongers, religious cranks, and those awaiting the Revolution. Working with my colleagues, I’ve heard the official patter about systemic racism and I’ve participated in the mandatory diversity seminars. Since I don't fit the usual cultural mode of an evangelical, progressives have sometimes assumed that I'm one of them, and have talked quite frankly to me about how they view the world and the people they see as reactionary or bigoted; since I've usually served conservative churches, evangelicals have often assumed that I'm one of them, and have talked quite frankly to me about how they view the world and the people they see as ungodly. Meanwhile, The UMC has been convulsed over gay marriage and related matters, which has exposed the different belief systems (theological and ideological) operative in the church, and I’ve been an engaged participant in denominational politics.

When I went back for my doctorate years ago, I discovered that in the dozen years since I had last been in an academic environment that the whole tenor of Academe had changed. The young radicals had achieved tenure, and were now engaged in remaking the universities in their image. Political correctness was on a rampage. I took a course in American Thought, which led me to start investigating Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine. I took another course taught by a disciple of Eric Hobsbawm (gawd ‘elp us). And I took a School and Society (i.e., sociology) course that introduced me to Critical Theory Sociology. Whether the course was History or Psychology or Sociology or Secondary Education, I kept meeting the same kind of thinking. It made me realize that intellectual movements aren’t confined to a single discipline. They move across all the disciplines.

Some people, of course, talk the latest talk and haven’t really thought about what it all means. They just repeat the latest buzzwords. But there are those who mean what they say and say what they mean, and among the Awokened, when they talk about systemic racism, they aren’t talking about a system in which racism occurs, but about a system which creates and sustains racism (and other forms of oppression) as its founding principle. For them, America is founded upon racism, and all its talk of liberty is just a means of justifying that racism. And they mean that.

Interestingly, the people I’ve heard most strenuously advocating intersectionality, etc., have been highly educated whites in the church hierarchy and bureaucracy. Maybe that’s because I haven’t had these conversations with my black colleagues; maybe it’s because Woke Culture is more a preoccupation among elite whites than among African-Americans. I'd be interested in exploring that question and learning from others.

In any case, all this has made me constantly re-examine my own beliefs and experiences. I have continued to read across the disciplines. And I have been clear about my own standards. Politically, I’m an Old Whig and an admirer of Edmund Burke. Theologically, I’m an orthodox Methodist with a serious interest in Church History. And I am always sensitive to humbug, wherever I find it.