An interview with Greta

Meeting Greta Thunberg in the run-up to COP26 in Glasgow was a fascinating experience. We discussed the project over meatballs and I was impressed by her single-minded approach – she would not be deviated by a millimetre.

Her English, by the way, is pretty good for a foreigner. A learned professor I read observed that Swedish and English are barely different from each other after a few sound changes (I don’t know if he had made a lifelong study of Germanic linguistics, or he had just been watching dodgy films.) The scheme she laid out though could be followed by both of us.

It all seemed too complicated to my unfamiliar eyes, but the way Greta laid it all out made it look achievable for the first time. All the pieces I would be tempted to gloss over, she grasped the significance of each one and ensured the pieces joined in exact alignment. ‘Every dowel to its hole’ as they say in Swedish apparently (which is enough to get you cancelled on the whackiest of  campuses, or the Guardian).

The complex became drawn together into a logical whole, a thing almost of beauty. She spoke the minimum to get it all together and would not be distracted even for a moment. I could not ask about her family, art, food, music, her school friends – we were here for a reason, as she made very clear, and she would not speak of anything else until she was done.

(I asked later as diplomatically as I could why she was not yet back in school. She has a withering scowl. Little girls can be like that.)

By the time she had finished I was all admiration. She might not know much about science or geography, but I sincerely admire her, because that was the neatest flat-pack chest of drawers I have ever seen built. No wonder they want he at the conference, with all those ‘Ingolf’ chairs they will need built.

Books

No, XR, I don’t believe you

They have a right to peaceful protest, and I have a right to mock them relentlessly, and point out the rank dishonesty.

It must be a fun week out for the protestors, like Glasto in the West End. Soon the holiday will end and school-teachers and students must return, but for now it is the Extinction Rebellion free festival.

That’s not a Lambeg drum I have heard banging all day: too tuneless. Whoever have been bashing it must be having a great time: he hasn’t been able to dress in a funny costume and bang a big drum in the street since his primary school days. How could he resist? They built a giant table in the middle of the busiest junction in London! Who hasn’t dreamed of that?

Be honest, lads and lasses, it’s not to do with the environment is it? It never was. It is just having a fun time and doing all those forbidden things before someone forces you to be responsible. Beware though: it can get very dark, as I observed once before:

The sun is out, and that’s not all that’s out, is it miss?  I’ll bet you’ve been wanting to do that in public for years, cheeky girl, and it brought the cameras to you, which is what it was all about.

All around the noise and the flags (all the same – so conformist of you). You have cameras coming to look at what little Jack did at playtime, just like the old, innocent days.  There has been a helicopter overhead all day, spewing carbon dioxide just for you. Doesn’t it make you feel important? Rather that than realise how ordinary you are, as we all are, and drip back into  mediocre anonymity. That’s next week.

We all laughed when we found out that your founder drives a car that spews diesel smoke, just as we chuckled at the academics forming your intellectual respectability when they spluttered and showed themselves dimmer than the remedial class they somehow escaped.

(Do you not have bins?  Dropping your rubbish all over the place like animals! Pick it up, please – some of us care for the environment, you know.)

The term begins soon, and back to class you must go, to do no good maybe but to slot you back into the order of life.

For now though, in the sunshine the festival can go on.

See also

Books

Maddening the priests

How most vicars stay sane I do not know. There is a special blessing in the knowledge of the love of God: without it, Bedlam is close at the heels.

To reach out to touch the divine, the awe must overwhelm the mind, and it is easy to be misled down other paths.

A minister of the established Church has a position without easy parallel. He is a public official with all eyes upon him because he is expected to display a special insight into the mind of God, but with a doctrine reminding him that he has none.  He knows he is inadequate to the task. To be an elder of the church is to accept impossible responsibilities in which you are seen as what you can never be. The process of striving to achieve spiritual  improvement may destroy it.

Understanding anything of the vastness of God, and the divine is impossible to approach. Martin Luther when first ordained as a monk-priest shook uncontrollably when he first performed the mass, because he had been told that he was physically creating the body of Christ, which is to say he was quite literally making God. No man can do this.

Most vicars, level-headed and understanding as they are, know their own inadequacy at impossible task, and they fail only when they forget that they are mortal. Whatever vision Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel were shown on Sinai, we are told that none, not even Moses, can see The Lord and live. We though have Jesus, which is why any attempt by a minister of the church to understand his called must be by learning at the feet of Jesus, and being content there.

A temptation may creep upon one to believe that there is a special insight given to vicars, that any inspiration in the mind, notwithstanding that it is not scriptural, must be from the throne of the Most High. This is particularly evident in those vicars who take up political causes and a will not be swayed form them, as all who disagree must surely be evil.

Vicars should keep busy at their actual calling: we know who makes work for idle hands.

For as in the middest of the sea, though a man perceive no sound of that part of the water next him; yet he is well assured, that part contributes as much, to the Roaring of the Sea, as any other part, of the same quantity: so also, thought wee perceive no great unquietnesse, in one, or two men; yet we may be well assured, that their singular Passions, are parts of the Seditious roaring of a troubled Nation. And if there were nothing else that bewrayed their madnesse; yet that very arrogating such inspiration to themselves, is argument enough. If some man in Bedlam should entertaine you with sober discourse; and you desire in taking leave, to know what he were, that you might another time requite his civility; and he should tell you, he were God the Father; I think you need expect no extravagant action for argument of his Madnesse.

This opinion of Inspiration, called commonly, Private Spirit, begins very often, from some lucky finding of an Errour generally held by others; and not knowing, or not remembring, by what conduct of reason, they came to so singular a truth, (as they think it, though it be many times an untruth they light on,) they presently admire themselves; as being in the speciall grace of God Almighty, who hath revealed the same to them supernaturally, by his Spirit.

Thus we have vicars who preach sermons devoid of spiritual content but fiercely passionate on climate change, those who condemn racism, which could be done with a simple word, and consider they work done, with not a word from the charge given to them in the Great Commission.

It is displacement activity, just like the Pharisees of old following invented rituals and painting tombs rather than following justice and mercy.

It s hard to condemn such behaviour knowing we are all flawed. Modern life is too complicated to take it all in. The Christian faith is actually very simple so some ministers may be looking for something to fill in, to bulk it up, but that would be mixing the iron with clay.

In a more dangerous trend, a minister may turn away from the actual requirements of his calling, knowing it to be too hard and the awe too frightening, replacing the living faith with a dead, secular  doctrine drawn from his own Private Spirit, which is a form of madness. It is unsurprising then to see a minister sew his own lips together, which must be a sign of deepest madness in itself, not in the cause of the faith but in a purely secular idea of environmental eschatology.

If the secular cause has gained such traction as to displace actual Christianity, it is a heathen religion, an idol, to be condemned and cast out.

See also

Books

Wonder of the Peak 0: introduction

De Mirabilibus Pecci is one of the lesser works of Thomas Hobbes, but influential, as others have followed him to explore and describe the Seven Wonders of the Peak. Over the next seven days (if I can manage it) I would like to look at them too.

William Camden may have been to record the tradition of seven wonders in the Peak District:

There are in High Peake wonders three,
A deepe hole, Cave, and Den,
Commodities as many bee,
Led, Grasse, and Sheepe in pen.
And Beauties three there are withall,
A Castle, Bath, Chatsworth.
With places more yet meet you shall
That are of meaner worth.

The Peak District is a wonderous place, certainly, and choosing just seven places for a list is limiting. The list, by Camden then by Hobbes, is fixed now, and ranges in themes that explore the eclectic nature of the Peak District.

Hobbes was born, of course, in Wiltshire, but he travelled widely, and lived for many years as a guest of the Earls of Devonshire, his patrons. He composed De Mirabilibus Pecci (‘Of the Wonders of the Peak’) as a grateful tribute to the 3rd Earl, his former pupil and his patron (who owned much of the Peak). It is a long poem, in Latin so I cannot comment on the quality of the poetry. The quality of the seven wonders he listed however I can explore. Mercifully for readers, I will do so in prose.

See

0 Introduction – 1 Chatsworth2 The Ebbing and Flowing Well3 Eldon Hole4 St Ann’s Well5 Poole’s Cavern6 Mam Tor7 The Devil’s Arse

The broken fence

There’s a broken fence nearby. Nothing spectacular – just a stretch by the path pulled down by weather and neglect. It belongs to no one as far as I can see, or if it does it is lost in the deeds.

It was put up when the new houses were built on the other side, as a boundary for the development. A stout wall stands at the mouth of the new road to proclaim it as a desirable place to raise a family, as no doubt it is, but round the side, where it is seen by no one except those walking the public footpath, is just a wooden fence.

The fence is not part of the house standing by it – that has its own garden fence beyond which stands tall and solid with fresh creosote, proudly maintained by the householder, a sentry proclaiming ownership around his snug family home. Between that fence though and the outer edge of the development site is a patch of unmaintained scrub. It might have encouraged the first buyer of that house to know there is a bosky cordon sanitaire between his neat garden and the public path so he would not get drunks hurling beer bottles over or spray-painting obscenities on his private fence (like that wall behind the houses out on the way to the other place), but when the developer had built all the houses, when last hod was packed away and the keys handed over, that neat spinney was abandoned to revert to nature. Drunks still do not hurl bottles, but every malicious weed known to man is thriving and hurling its thistledown over.

Now the outer fence is broken, by the wind. It is a nice village and we hope there are no junkies forcing their way in to colonise the vacant plot, and it is left to nature, but the fence is still broken. It is not becoming unbroken.

If the fence belonged to the householder, he would have been out at once, raising it straight again, shoring it up and maybe adding a buttress to each compromised post, and the smell of creosote would follow his steps. But he does not.

Whatever you may be tempted to think, the local council is not the workman of last resort, tending to every bent plank that does not have a name to it. They did deal with the steps in the woods nearby that they had put in those years back, but they may not touch so much as a splinter of a stranger’s timber.

There are those who do not tire of telling us that some things about us in our environment should really belong to everyone, which means belonging to no one, and that some endeavours are not for private gain but for all society, which means for no one. But the fence remains fallen, and bowing further with every new wind, the rain digging out at the untreated fissures. It creaks. The failing fence proclaims the truth of an old observation:

That which belongs to no one is cared for by no one.

See also

Books