Sunday, 29 October 2017

Time and railways

Today we commenced the winter time here in England.  I do not know of any other country that adjusts its clock twice a year.

Only last week did I learn that for quite some time in England, people did not have a national time or clock.  They only had local time or regional time.  It was only with the railways becoming a means of national transport that people felt the need to have a time followed across the country.  That's how the history of having a unified system of calculating time across the country began.  And it is only after 1807, when horse-drawn carriages were used on tramlines, which eventually led to the evolution of railways, that England began to follow one clock.

This once again proves the theory that time is nothing but a record of motion.  If not for the national rail network, people would have followed their own respective time and no one would have had serious difficulties.  More than transport, I think it has all to do with network.  I guess, if the internet were discovered before the establishment of the railways, even then there would have been the notion of a single clock being followed.  However, in this case there would have been some wider consensus on following a particular clock than mere national boundaries.  

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Eat here!

Came across this particular signboard during one of my tumbling around on youtube videos!  Found the caption quite amusing!

Religion: Public or private?

A youngster at the University described herself as a 'Catlim' when sharing about her religion.  She said, her father was a Catholic and her mother a Muslim and she grew up in both the religions and therefore, 'Catlim'.

In a recent survey at the place where I did my Master's here in UK, it was found that only 50% of the students fill in their religion while filling up the application form for the studies.  The rest prefer not to mention.  Of those, only 18% are Christian, and the rest are of various religions.  But even of those 18% not all are practicing believers.  Now there is a strong move to drop the optional question of religion in the census forms for the UK in the coming years.

More than ever, here in the UK, I see how religion is a private matter.  Though England claims to be a very Christian country in its civil and political structure - and it certainly is - the fact that practice of the religion is totally a private matter.  On the collective front there is a tussle between being called Christian, on the basis of its historical past, and being called by no religious affiliation, on the basis of its progressive future.  All the while practice of religion is purely a matter of conscience, even the choice of a child - each one for oneself.


We got pepper here

Fr Sean was narrating to us, how in the 1950's when he finished his novitiate and came to England for his post-novitiate, one of the first things a senior told him about the new place was, "They have pepper here!"  In the novitiate, they only had salt at the table but no pepper. But the post-novitiate was an 'improvement': they had pepper besides salt, at table!

How times change!  And how differently at different time across the globe!  

Battling belief and truth

I don't remember a word of what the sermon this morning was!  Not because the priest was not speaking sense, but because my mind was battling some overflow of my meditation.

What would be the basic difference between belief and truth?  Now that's what I intend to research for my further studies. But it occurred to me this morning that belief is a matter of the heart. Truth a matter of the mind.  Not that they are compartmentalised but still predominantly, it is the heart that kicks in when it comes to matters of belief and faith.  I believe in something not because it makes complete sense or because it is true.  I honestly don't have logical explanations and rational proofs for most of what I believe in.  I feel.  I believe.

Now what is true (if it means abiding by the correspondence theory - that itself needs to be justified... or else how does one explain the concept of truth), need not always be the foundation of my belief or  what makes meaning.  And most often it is the mind that is most concerned with the truth (or falsity) of a reality. Now if I know something is the truth, then I cannot contest it.  Does that also mean, I'm bound to believe in it?  If not, what is the worth of calling something truthful?  In other words, can I have reasons for belief and heart for the truth?

But this whole idea of dividing the heart and mind is again Cartesian!  Can there be any other way of relating the two, without one merging into the other, each retaining its identity yet making sense to both.  I sense meaning has much to do with all of this. Yet am unable to lay my finger on it.

On the other hand, why should I be worried if there is a conflict between the two?  Isn't that a good thing?  Perhaps it is the conflict between belief and truth, between the heart and the mind that keeps me alive and going.  If not for this I'd be doing nothing, thinking nothing, striving for nothing.  But again fear this state as well: because it is a luxury only religious like me can afford.  Who else would have the time and space for sitting and thinking?!  Most of humanity is up and about working for their livelihood and some for basic survival.

Christian Resource Exhibition, Esher

Last week, on October 18, I attended the Christian Resource Exhibition at Esher along with Brian and Pat.  It was kind of them to inform and invite me to join them for this trip.

More than anything else, I was keen and interested in the way it is organised and planned.  Unlike most of what I have seen, there is more confusion and disorder and last minute rushing in most of such events involving hundreds of people.  None of it here!! Honestly I could not find one single person who was part of the organising team - or perhaps I was too dumb to identify them among the crowd.  But no one running around, trying to fix things, or arrange things or sort out confusion.  Not one in the whole crowd with a worried face!! Wish I could reach that stage of tranquility and organisational capacity!

So besides the usual stalls from the various denominations of the Church there were talks (some spontaneous, some serious and lengthy), prayer sessions, interviews, performances, sale, and possibility for one-to-one chats with individuals for various Church related themes... all of these going on simultaneously without one causing interference with anything else!  Luckily I had gone through their website earlier and had picked and chosen where I wanted to be and when.  That way, I made the most of the day.  So I attended two talks, one on the 'Green Church' - which was really good - and another on the Celtic tradition in modern Christianity - wasn't what I thought it would be.  Then a couple of youth speakers sharing (in short duration of 5-10 mins) their experience and learning in running youth groups.

Also sat through a Ukrainian dance troupe performance titled, Zozulenka.  I liked it very much.  A team of 8 youngsters (all aged between 14-20) led by their music and arts teacher.  A 45-minute performance of song and dance, perfectly synchornised, without even a minute of delay or confusion.

Walked around viewing every stall, their exhibits, seeing how each stall had the little space arranged, decorated, designed... really amazing!   The exhibition was held at Sandown park, the racecourse of Surrey.  That way got to see a racecourse in person too!

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Go on your way...

Jesus sends out his disciples two-by-two (Luke 10: 1-9).  As he sees them off, he instructs them to carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals... From an Indian context this would not be a very very difficult task.  However for an Englishman, it would be quite impossible.  As Fr John during his introduction to the Mass stated, "He'd not get much further than the main door!"

Thanks to the cold of England, it would not be possible to travel outside one's home without sufficient warm clothes, and certainly not without some protective footwear.  So for an Englishman to try to live the gospel in its call to set off for evangelisation as per this passage would indeed be a radical choice.  Very well aware of the danger of reading the Bible as solitary passages, this call of Jesus certainly challenges the Englishman much more than an Indian.

Perhaps, if this Gospel passage were to be written in an English context, it would read:
Go on your way; behold I am sending you like lambs among wolves.
Carry no wallet, no picnic, take not your car, walk through the bylanes, greet every person you meet...

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Altar buds

Thanks to the cool weather of England, the flowers on the altar last longer than in the Indian subcontinent.  In our chapel we change flowers once a week.  Mostly gladiolas, asiatic lilies, bedonna lillies and tulips when available.  There are a couple of other flowers which we use when available cheap.  They remain quite fresh for that duration, some even for two weeks at a stretch (asters, for example).  However, one weird thing is that most often the flowers are yet to fully bloom.  So most often we have buds instead of flowers!  By the time they have fully bloomed, all on the stem, they are discarded!  Partly because the first flower on the stem has almost withered!  Left to me, I'd keep them a little longer.  But I suppose the Lord understands!

Monday, 16 October 2017

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Another Salesian residence

Another piece of history that I learnt about today is that the house adjacent to the Salesian school was once the Salesian residence.  It perfectly makes sense as it is the connecting plot between the pavement beside the cemetery and the school compound.

I'm told that it presently is the residence of the Cor et Lumen Christi, one of the few lay communities of England.  They had bought that house from the Salesians when we had moved to the present location.  Fr Eric Donnell, himself a Salesian, who was then the parish priest of St Anne's Church was instrumental in mediating this purchase of property.  It was also because he had been in touch with the societies of laity living together in a community and one of them was looking for a residential plot.  He negotiated this deal between the lay group and the Salesians.

It was interesting to know something about this particular lay group which lives together as a community, something akin to religious living together.  Brian has volunteered to put me in touch with one of them who is an active parishoner.  The Hungarian priest, Fr Thomas who occasionally appears in the parish for Masses is said to be their current Chaplain.  Look forward to know more about this particular group.  

Neighbourhood history

Only this morning did I come to know that the house two doors from our present residence was once upon a time a police station.  I've walked past that house a thousand times over the last year and always found it a bit fascinating in comparison to the others in the street but it never occurred to me that it has this bit of historical significance.  The house even today has an emblem of the queen, the crown, on its walls

The houses behind the same were once the courthouse.

The house where Brian and Pat live was of one who owned many horses.  His stable was behind his house - part of which is still intact!  And all around was grass cultivated for the horses.  Including the plot where we presently live.  As years went by, he sold bits and pieces off and that's when the police station was built adjacent to it.  To its left is the house which now belongs to our immediate neighbours.  

Teddy from the attic

And whom did I find in the attic?...

Also learnt the name of the little boy who comes every Sunday for Mass with his mother and his little teddy and a handful of small cars, Jacob.  He is always so full of questions! It is a great joy to see him every Sunday. 

Saturday, 14 October 2017

At Sean Devereux's grave

In the morning, on our way to Farnborough, Fr John and I visited the cemetery.  Fr John wanted to pay homage to some of the Salesians buried there.  He later told me that he did his first year of practical training at Farnborough and there were about 20 Salesians in the community then, most of whom were buried at Farnborough.

As we just walked around the part where the Salesians were buried, we were also looking for the grave of Sean Devereux, the past pupil from the place who was killed in Somalia where he was working as a volunteer with the UN.  We found it along the Salesians graves.

Have to admit I was more fascinated by the small flower pot someone had placed on his tombstone rather than the epitaph itself! Am told it is the heather flower. 
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