9.9 – London VI
In Michelangelo’s depiction of God and Adam on the Sistine Chapel, the two subjects are just barely out of reach from one another. It doesn’t seem to be for God’s lack of effort though, so much as Adam’s casual, relaxed, comfortable reach, while God is stretching. Take a look again.
I wonder if this was Mr. Angelo’s intention. Regardless, after all the studying that I did to find Truth, it seems to me that God tries much harder and goes further out of His way (if that’s even a thing since He’s omnipresent) to reach us, than we do to reach Him. After all my struggles, and then the diversion of war and overseas studies, on page 32 of my London journal, I professed myself to be a Christian, but not religious. I would echo that today, in the sense that my relationship with the Creator is more important and personal than any sacraments or rituals could express. As much as Mr. Marx believed “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people,” I believe Faith is much more. And faith, not religion, is my foundation.
Les Miserable was, well, miserable. I do not enjoy big commercial productions. London is where I figured this out. The Trial, by Franz Kafka, was much better. I enjoyed this, as well as the jazz ensemble that performed in the lobby beforehand, as was the pattern at the National.
I have failed to mention so far that, in addition to taking a British history class in preparation for this trip, I also read Ralph Waldo Emerson’s account of his visit to England in 1833. He visited Wordsworth, Carlyle and Coleridge, and made comments about the visits and the same scenery that I was visiting in 1991. He stayed at a few homes, and remarked that British people kept immaculate homes. Here, at the end of my homestay, I disagreed. He visited poets and authors, though, and I doubt that William Wordsworth sat in his recliner all evening drinking his beer from a can.
The end of Homestay was the beginning of our group tour through the Kingdom. One of our first stops was Wordsworth’s home in the Lake District. A couple of friends and I chose to climb the small mountain overlooking the town rather than tour his home. Emerson was more impressed with the landscape than he was with Wordsworth himself, and I just assumed I would feel likewise about his home.
That’s me in the bottom right. I agreed with Emerson. It was an extraordinary place. We climbed through light rain, then hot sun, then sleet to reach the top.
Upon reaching Edinburgh, Scotland, we toured the castle, wandered through the town looking for an ATM, then settled in to our B&B for the night. I was sitting in the study of the B&B, reading philosophy for a class, when the couple that owned the place came in and we chatted for some time about Adam Smith’s contribution to economics and specifically American capitalism through his book Wealth of Nations, which I had actually read and reported on for my last class at LC. That was NOT a conversation I would still be able to survive intelligently today, but it was great then. Mr. Smith was Scottish, of course.
We stopped in York after Edinburgh, but at this point I was apparently pretty sick and my journal is unclear until we reached Caernarfon Castle in Wales. Had I not been familiar with Dover, I would have been more impressed. I have a couple of expatriate friends living in Wales now, and I’m honored that they are reading. People hang around where they are accepted and generally don’t stay where they feel out of place. This may be why I enjoy travel so much. This was historically the point from which the Prince of Wales would rule, in training to be the King of England.
From here we traveled to Stratford on Avon (second time for some of us) and then on to Bath for Easter Morning. Bath is an ancient Roman-built town based around hot springs found in the area. It was a resort town in A.D. 60 (New Testament times – think Acts – Paul was converted around 33 and he was under house arrest in Rome around 60. He wrote several letters at this time) and it still is.
After Bath came Stonehenge, and I must admit, like Emerson, I was not as impressed as I thought I would be. I’m afraid it gets more hype than it deserves. The highway runs by about 50 yards away. Just me…..
Once we returned to London, Kent and I took another trip to Scotland, to backpack part of the north bank of Lochness.
Good times, but fiercely cold in early spring. We bought minimal used equipment from shops at Covent Garden, and then armed with a backpack, an old convertible Nazi sleeping bag (converted to a trench coat), and boots, we took the train to Inverness and then, after standing in amazement watching old Scottish guys fly-fishing the River Ness, followed the road to Urquhart Bay. We slept on the rocks of the north bank along the way, and made it to the bay the next morning. Here we found the famous Nessie Museum and saw the castle ruins across the bay. We bushwhacked our way back using the topo, made it to the train the next morning and finally made it back to St. Margaret’s.
This would draw our time in England to a close, and the big jet plane returned us through storms but no war on the way back to the United States. As Soren Kierkeggard said,
“Life can only be understood only backwards, yet it must be lived forwards.”
p.s. Next in line is congregamini, already published.