Love others. Value and esteem others. Treat everyone the same, regardless of social status, looks, speech, education. Do not save your best manners for certain people only. Genuinely care and put others first. Instead of telling people about yourself, listen to others and let them talk about themselves.
Manners must adorn knowledge and smooth its way in the world, without them it is like a great rough diamond, very well in a closet by way of curiosity, and also for its intrinsic value; but most prized when polished. Lord Chesterfield
Having a macchiato and hot chocolate with a friend outside Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford.
From my previous posts you would have seen that I was at Oxford and in London last weekend. I planned on attending a Wagner concert at the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford but stayed longer in London and viewed the Taylor Wessing Photographic Exhibition Portrait Prize exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery (we accidentally got tickets to the First Actresses Exhibition but returned them for what we really paid our 2GBP for).
First, second and third prizes were all won by female photographers. The portrait winning first prize is of 13-year-old Harriet Power. It was taken in the guinea pig judging area at the Royal Welsh Show where she was stewarding. For me the most captivating, in the curiosity it aroused, was the portrait of a female head prison guard who was once a rebel fighter. If you are in London it is quite worth visiting.
Well, having missed the Wagner Concert I decided some music was necessary before leaving Oxford and therefore headed to Christ Church Cathedral the next morning. While sipping a macchiato outside Cathedral this public bus cruised by.
My host had left Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion beside my bed for ‘my reading pleasure’ AND I was in Oxford visiting the Department of Zoology. So quite opportune this bus. But somehow my host, who sat next to me sipping a cuppa hot chocolate with The God Delusion in backpack, missed the irony.
If you are interested in the event advertised on the bus check out William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith Tour lecture at the Theatre at the site listed on the bus. Enjoy the video of the lecture and the empty rebuttal table with no Dawkins.
I found the remembrance station for the Commonwealth fallen soldiers. There were few poppies or crosses in this station. Then I saw ‘St. Kitts and Nevis Legion’. It came home that war-heroes-memorials were not unnecessary, unfathomable nor unvisited. My own countrymen gave their lives for something and the green-painted rusty WWII gun which I played with whenever I went to my town’s square was more than a toy.
I then went to the poppies table, no longer seeing brisk business as it was now late evening, which offered poppies and crosses for a donation. Then with three bangs of the black mallet I planted a cross and thought of the bangs which may have taken the women’s lives and the bangs that came from the green rusty gun now in my island’s town square.
I came away having connected a childhood memory to what had appeared as a British pomp and ceremony poppyfest to something deeper (and also with a blue and red poppies wrist band).
Today I am thinking about compassion and victory in death. Not just because winter is here or as I look out of this coffee shop I see grey skies, naked and skeletal trees, silver coffee tables patronized by pools of water, and people huddling along in their coats as they brace against the chill and constant drizzle.
Death is on the brain because of a book review, a funeral service and Remembrance Day.
Well the review of the funerary monograph is almost finished! It is Kathleen Corley’s (2010) Maranatha: Women’s Funerary Rituals and Christian Origins. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. Her thesis is:
The practices of the Greco-Roman world of funeral activities, meals, and associations is the best context for understanding Christian origins. Women were the primary actors in providing funerary services and banquets to create community between the living and the deceased. She then extends this role and the centrality of these rituals to early Christianity submitting that memorial meals for Jesus, the passion narrative and even the ‘notion’ that Jesus was raised and appeared were in fact generated by the practices of women who led in these areas.
One side point which caused a chuckle as I thought of retired Professor John’s funeral last weekend is the BAWDYness of Christian banquets at cemeteries. Efforts to squelch the bawdy Christian banquets continued as late as the fifth century. Corley claims that Augustine wanted funerary meals relocated to the quietness of the church. Hence the Eucharist which she sees really as certain kind of funeral meal.
Mourners, clergy and choir processed to the hearse to bid farewell to Prof. John’s body. Quite solemnly we echoed ‘May the souls of the dearly departed …. Amen‘. Then one of the two women priests remarked ‘I need a smoke and a drink! I wasn’t John’s friend for nothing!’. ‘Well done’ everyone chuckled while making their way to the buffet and open bar as John’s remains journeyed on to the crematorium in the next town.
More on Remembrance Day next week.