Thursday 25th August - The Bed of Procrustes

"Fitting things to a Procrustean bed". A phrase used often in discussion during theological seminars on the philosophy of religion and "God-talk". In regards to God, it means restricting Him to the limits of our thoughts, and not allowing Him to be what He is - thus misunderstanding God and His actions. Another phrase I learnt at university and like to use in essays is the "non-existence of an Archimedean point", but that's not really relevant to this post.

I've been reading Nassim Nicholas Taleb's book 'The Bed of Procrustes'. It contains pithy aphorisms, often paradoxical and mind-boggling. I quite liked his other book 'The Black Swan,' which discusses the theory that events or occurences tend to have more consequential relevance than regular occurences. I recommend you read it if you get a chance.

It's books like these that make me miss the times when I used to study philosophy. Since sixth form I recognised it as a subject that would allow me to benefit from all the time I spent thinking about things such as: Is the world random? Do things happen for a reason? Do we all perceive reality the same? Colours? Now in my final year I have no choice but to stick to theology modules.

Anyway, I'm rambling once more. The intention of this post is to share with you some of my favourite aphorisms. So here you go, enjoy.

"Education makes the wise slightly wiser, but it makes the fool vastly more dangerous."

"Those who think religion is about 'belief' don't understand religion, and don't understand belief."

"It is harder to say no when you really mean it than when you don't."

"Usually what we call a 'good listener' is someone with skilfully polished indifference.' ~ That's probably why people confide in me their darkest secrets, because I forget most of the time. That said, I'd like to think I care about my friends....

"You exist if and only if you are free to do things without a visible objective, with no justification and, above all, outside the dictatorship of someone else's narrative." ~ Considering humanity's meta-narrative as discussed by scholars such as N.T Wright, do Christians not really exist?

"If you can't spontaneously detect (without analyzing) the difference between sacred and profane, you'll never know what religion means. You will also never figure out what we commonly call art. You will never understand anything."

Monday 22nd August - Chiswick House

Chiswick House - an undiscovered gem of south west London. It was nice to just sit and have tea and scones with my aunt and her children. 

Children are so funny. Tom is one and a half and he loves to just ramble to himself. What I think is brilliant though is that he can understand both Tagalog and English. Ask him in Tagalog where his eyes are and he'll point to them. Tell him in Tagalog that there's a snake in the tree and he'll run away. Ask and tell him these things in English too and he'll do the same. Children are so clever. And cute.

Why does the summer have to end?

Isn't he just adorable? Every time I spend time with him I become extremely broody....

My 'Glee' moment

Sunday 21st August - The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ

I've just finished reading Pullman's book 'The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ'. Here are some of my thoughts:

NB Forgive the lack of structure, my writing reflects what I thought depending on where I was in the book at the time.

My first thoughts are: there's a lot of redaction. A messy amalgamation of biblical stories are used to drive home Pullman's point that Christ, Jesus' brother, is trouble. You've heard of the parable of the prodigal son haven't you? Well Pullman substitutes the two sons with Jesus and Christ. I'm sure you can guess who the celebration was for. One has to be reminded though that this is a piece of fiction - and not a very good one at that! This is not my way of expressing that I've taken offence - it takes a lot more than this I assure you.

The magazine 'Slate' says: "How many writers would dare to try to rewrite - no, to repair - the most famous, most sacred story ever written?" What do you think is meant by 'repair' here? No scholarly theologian (nor armchair theologian for that matter) would disagree that there are contradictions within the Bible - an expected assumption from a text written by human hands and with human fallacy. So what is Pullman supposedly repairing?

Christ: "I believe the Kingdom is coming, of course I do. But he thinks it will come without warning, because God is impulsive and arbitrary." - Why does the lack of a details for the Kingdom of God mean that God is arbitrary? Does your partner tell you of the exact time they're going to propose to you? Are we supposed to know when, where and how we are supposed to die? No. If we argue from logic this is an unfounded assumption. Looking at it from another viewpoint it can be suggested that this 'impulsive' behaviour has been incorporated into God's larger plan.

"And he is the history and you are the truth." ANATHEMA! Any Christian knows that the historical figure of Christ cannot be separated from the man who is the Son of God. Now tell me, who was right, Arius or Athanasius? Monothelitism or Dyothelitism?

So why is Christ a 'scoundrel'? Because he wants to place emphasis on the Law? Then he is no different to any of the Pharisees or Sadducees who question Jesus. That does not make him a scoundrel.
  But wait, I understand! Christ manipulates Jesus' actions and words so that they reflect the spiritual and eschatological significance rather than the historical truth, thus making him a scoundrel. But can it not be argued that what Pullman's character Jesus taught had eschatological significance?
  Is Pullman calling Christ a scoundrel because of the way he acts? But Christ is human. He is tempted by a prostitute and and he worries about his family. He loves his brother and is short of temper. When he realises his sins he prays and asks for forgiveness. So shoot the guy.

Why does it not surprise me to read this: "As soon as men who believe they're doing God's will get hold of power, whether it's in a household or a village or in Jerusalem or in Rome itself, the devil enters into them."

Later, Pullman gives an insight into what Jesus said whilst in the garden at Gethsemane. He voices the opinion, the thoughts that many faithful share: one where crisis permeates everyday life, where no voice can be heard in reply to one's prayers, where one questions whether God is really there. I have to say, Pullman has surprised me here. He asks questions that many faithful do but do not readily admit.

For a second my opinion about this book had changed, but I realise that Pullman simply wants to suggest that the story of Jesus was a fabrication by his twin Christ, who was also the one who betrayed him. This novel is heretical on so many levels but I knew that would be the case before I opened the book.

If you're looking to see how the Gospels would have been written by an English writer from Norwich, then read this, although I'm not sure it's worth it's £7.99 price tag. For that price you're better off reading C.S Lewis' 'The Problem of Pain'. Not Catholic, granted, but you'll learn a thing or two.

Rain? What Rain?

I feel a real affinity with the Scottish countryside. It reminds me of my second home - St Andrews, and of the beautiful Pluscarden Abbey. Growing up in a city, I treasure the ability to have a break from the bustling hubbub for half the year.

When I'm in London I miss not living in Scotland. For the past three years it has served as my retreat from the world, my haven, my bubble. Once I leave, where am I supposed to go when I need to get away?

Today my family and I left London to spend the weekend in St Andrews. I was supposed to come up - and stay up - but East Coast were offering cut-price tickets for first class so I thought, why travel first class once, when I can travel three times? To be honest if I did stay up this early before the start of semester I think I'd drive myself mad racking my brain over a dissertation topic. 

Three years, travelling back and forth across the border and I've only ever been in standard with loud Scots drinking Tesco beer, watching a Rangers game and playing Blue Nile out of their phones. I wanted - needed - a change.

On Saturday the forecast in the south of England was set for rain, however the complete opposite was true for the east coast of Scotland. Here's just how nice it was:

Travelling up to St Andrews

He looks like he's wearing a wig, doesn't he?

The Hogwarts Express!

Entering Scotland

View looking towards the East from the Forth Road Bridge

Me: Is it not supposed to look like that? Brother: It's an onion you idiot

Bibi's Cupcake shop. If I died and went to heaven (supposing heaven was a habitable place) and it looked like this, I would be perfectly happy.

*nom nom nom nom*

Saturday 20th August - Iggy's New Home

I've relocated "Iggy" to Scotland. Now he is amongst good company ... although this may be disputed.

Friday 19th August - Peter Vardy on Death

This may sound strange but I really enjoyed reading this article (except for the part where he mentions Twilight ... But wait! Don't let that put you off!). Too often when the topic of death is brought up in conversation (an every day office occurrence of course) people give a disapproving look, squirm or just smile and walk away not wanting to catch your depressing thoughts. Mentioning death is considered bad social etiquette. It is nearly unforgivable as putting your elbows on the table during dinner. Anyway, give it a read. You'll like it.

Or maybe you won't.

I may comment more on this when I cease to enjoy being in Scotland. Ta-ta.

I have my coffin in my college office. It was made for me by my son Luke when he was 16 as part of his GCSE design and technology coursework, a project he researched thoroughly by taking work experience with an undertaker. He took measurements most carefully, and even allowed for me to grow fatter, but I have shared his concern, both then and many times since, that the bottom might not bear my weight.
One could, of course, speculate as to the psychological reasons behind a son making his father's coffin. Yet I know that he knew that I wanted one and that I have always valued handmade, thoughtful presents. My father used to say that birthdays are times when people you don't like give you things you don't need, and this has always seemed apt to me when I see how most celebrations have become dominated by the exchange of useless things. Even funerals tend towards this practice, with people keeping tallies of the flowers sent or the donations made.
Read the full article here.

The Good Ol' Days

When you think of school you usually think of boring, every day things like going to class, having lunch and going home. I wish I saw it like that. I used to be quite meticulous and write a journal every day. I would sometimes include descriptions of people's outfits and whole conversations.

I loved school. I'm having a blast re-living some of these old memories so I thought I'd share some short excerpts from various entries. I'll tell you one thing, I really enjoyed documenting the banal!


Spanish we were just doing a sheet. DT managed to drill two holes. What a joke. Rock climbing was ok, the other instructor was an arrogant sexist as he picked on N and I, and once even pushed us to get climbing the wall. What an idiot. It was fun though watching D cling on to the wall for dear life even though he didn't need to. Bless him.

RS was quite funny. Half of the lesson we were having petty arguments like why T's Bible has thinner pages at the front and thicker pages at the back.

G won't be in tomorrow as she has an all day philosophy conference at Heythrop College down Hi Ken. I'll have no one to speak Spangalog to!

DT didn't do anything apart from trying to destroy C's model and laughing at photos. Quite a boring day to be honest.

Period four we met Trevor Baylis - the inventor of the wind-up radio. He was really down-to-earth and cool  as he said words like "crap", "twerps" and "gunned down those nazi bastards". Lol. He then made a joke about him inventing the pencil sharpener when he approached his cat from behind...

Stressed about DT as usual. She finally gave me some acrylic so I started drawing my template ... General RE was about sex again ... I was asked what I thought about prophecy being equal and that I should know as I wrote a very good piece of homework / Well I'd say none are of equal importance / Why? / Because they are all seen equal in the eyes of God and they were all chosen by him to preach the same message / Excellent, that's a very good point ... On the way out of class K just went "You top neek!" [I was such a geek....]

Thursday 18th August - Rummaging in the loft

Flip flops. That's all I was wanted. I'd initially planned to go into the loft to find some summer things but my curiosity got the better of me and I ended up looking through a couple of boxes.

I discovered so many little things that made me cry with laughter that before I knew it a couple of hours had passed. That's when I thought I'd document how my handwriting changed from primary school to sixth form. It's not like I have book reviews/articles to write or a dissertation to prepare for or anything....

Year 6 (10 years old). Oh look, our topic title was an Abba song

Year 7 - standard

First half of year 8 - the letters seem to have put on weight 

By the end year 8 I had discovered the beauty of calligraphy

Year 9 - My 'rebel' phase. It was the year I stacked up pink slips and was nearly suspended

Year 10 - The Gothic look (matched the metal/rock phase I was going through)

Year 11 - Shame about my English....

The start of Sixth Form - By this stage I was using a cut nib all the time

Meet "Iggy"

Thanks to the lovely Jesuits at Loyola Press, I have my first real piece of Catholic kitsch - a St Ignatius bobblehead! Isn't he just grand?

Sunday 14th August - Lost in Barnes

Planned to cycle to Richmond Park today but it didn't work out. Instead a friend and I took a walk by the river, got lost in Barnes, and had tea and beetroot brownie in a nice pub. Could have been worse.

What's wrong with this photo?

 I have a thing for braces

Saturday 6th August - Mr Nobody

Mr Nobody is an incredibly thought-provoking film. It deals with complex issues such as time and possibility, and leaves the viewer pondering the deep questions of life.

It shows that life can have meaning regardless of which path we decide to take. It can be both beautiful and sad, but ultimately unpredictable. The film is full of memorable quotes. One of my favourites is from the scene where 118-year-old Nemo Nobody is being interviewed by a young journalist.

Nobody says, "Every path is the right path. Everything could have been anything else and would have just as much meaning."

It's got me thinking (rarely a good thing and never a surprise) about all the possibilites that have been presented to me, one way or another, in the disguise of a choice. Every decision we make has its consequences, whether good or bad, or for better or worse. Nothing is left to chance - and neither should it. We must take responsibility for the choices we make, even if it means ploughing through the rough.

Loves have been lost, chances missed but not all is gone. Friendships have lasted, new things experienced and goals have been achieved. Such is life - a whirlwind of opportunity and meaning just waiting for us to grab it and hold on.