Take It Easy

Not just a song by the Eagles (‘f***ing Eagles, man’), not just something I remember my dad saying, but my approach to my two miles this morning. I woke up feeling washed out, my muscles and joints loose but not really limber, not feeling any energy surge at the beginning of the day; I walked most of my two miles, then, and it was comfortable and beautiful (though few things are as beautiful my crack-of-dawn run, real run, yesterday morning). I walked and watched what was going on around me, ran a few paces when I felt like it, and satisfied my felt need to keep my body moving first thing in the morning.

Sunrise over the Thames as it runs through Abingdon, seen from St Helen’s Wharf looking east to the Bridge

I process emotion in complicated ways, and I had been holding on to a lot of stress and tension between my sister Holly’s death in April and the Mass of Requiem I said for her yesterday morning, with a dear handful of the faithful from St Helen’s. For all my dissatisfied suspicion about the discourse of needing closure, yesterday’s Mass was the correct, fitting cadence to the protracted interval of suspended grief and tension.

End of a Busy Week

Two miles each of the last two mornings. I made a hot breakfast yesterday, so it was fruit this morning. Coffee, of course, shower and in to church. Yesterday I arrived for Morning Prayer; this morning I arrived very early to set up the Lady Chapel for a small Low Mass of a Requiem for my sister. That went smoothly and well — it was the right thing, a relief, the right ending of this interval of grief.

As to the rest, I have a sermon to write for Sunday and a funeral to plan for next week, some emails and general correspondence to catch up on. But the end of the week is here.

Very Busy Week

Yesterday and today, two miles each. Fruit breakfast, shower, Morning Prayer (at church yesterday, at home today), finished paperwork, caught up (somewhat) on email, and so on and so forth. Monday was a long trip to Church House in Kidlington; this morning will be a Zoom conference to wrap up my orientation as a priest new to parish ministry in Oxford Diocese. Then Chapter Meeting at the church, then a meeting with Fr Paul to talk about funerals, then a pastoral call. Good thing this is a part-time post!

L’Effet de l’irréel

Isn’t it odd that characters in television crime dramas never seem to have seen any television crime dramas?

The spouse always takes offence when the police interview them, as if they didn’t know that the investigators ought to interview everyone connected with the crime. The family shouts at the police for not arresting a suspect after just a day (and they usually shout at a beleaguered underling, not the relevant managing officer), as if they were completely unaware that a city police department might have responsibilities other than solving one case. The characters don’t have the faintest familiarity with police procedure.

Even granted that serials don’t represent ‘actual’ police procedure, characters ought at least to have an appropriately distorted media image of how the police pursue a case. And that’s before you even count the romanticised image of honest, hard-working cops (with a few bad apples they’re trying hard to root out) — didn’t anyone learn from The Wire?

Monday of Fourth of Trinity

I really did not want to run this morning, but I ran anyway. Coffee and fruit breakfast, Morning Prayer, then a trip to Kidlington for a lunch at Church House, then home to clean up marking. Not a thrill-packed day, but it accomplished what was required.

Sunday After Ascension

Walked and ran my two miles (usual route) this morning, fruit breakfast, got cleaned up and dressed, went to St Nic’s and prepared for the service, preached and celebrated, drifted home, and have been sitting mostly comatose since then. We were planning to go to Edith Wren’s birthday party, but the willing spirit, flesh, and so on.

In keeping with my new policy, here’s today’s sermon. I think it hasn’t fully matured — a couple of days of living with it would help — but it was well received, so…

First page of sermon, Sunday after Ascension

Another Sermon Day

My morning run started slow, but I got into a good rhythm on Park Road and thought I would stretch out my run a little bit, maybe draw it close to two and a half miles, so I crossed Stratton Way and ran east to Stert, ran down to St Nic’s, turned down East St Helen’s, and reconnected wtih my usual route at church. When I got home and remembered to look up the exact extra mileage, it turned out to be almost exactly the same distance as my usual route. It was just the unfamiliarity of the route that engendered the intuition that it would be longer. Oh well, two more miles in the book of life.

Margaret and I sat in the sun and took lunch at the Riverside Café, which was lovely; then we meandered back to town, and enjoyed a leisurely round at the King’s Head and Bell. As we were leaving the pub, a gent from another table (Margaret and I both thought he looked like Jason Momoa) stopped me and said, ‘Hey, man, I really like your look!’ So there’s that.

Now to bang away at tomorrow’s sermon…

Ascending and Standing Up

My back and legs are still stiff from my over-eager book shelving extravaganza on Tuesday; yesterday I struggled on my morning run, so today — instead of running this morning — I walked most of my two miles. I walked, so as not to let my muscles entirely off the hook, but walking concedes that running was just too uncomfortable to press through.

Yesterday didn’t make that any easier. I raced from Morning Prayer to Oxford for my morning tutorial, then after lunch had a long consultation with a PG student, then a revision, then the long bus ride home, a hasty dinner, then off to St Nic’s for the Ascension Day Mass. At length, I stumbled home and collapsed in a heap on the living room sofa.

In keeping with my new resolution, I’m attaching the sermon below. I didn’t feel as though I had the rhythm of the sermon, but people’s responses suggest that they didn’t sense a problem.

Ascension Day sermon delivered to Abingdon Parish at St Nicolas's, Abingdon

Joints, Muscles, Back

Stiff all over after shifting books around yesterday (not just loading the three bookshelves, but also moving book boxes out from Margaret’s library and my closet out to get them in position to shelve), so my morning run was slow; I felt as though all my motion was restricted, everything was tight. Still, the weather was pleasant, and I haven’t missed a day since the rain stopped.

Now that I have two time-ambiguous jobs, I notice that one of the big time costs of my work involves the interplay of emails and timetables. If I were a shop clerk, I’d have set hours and fulfil them by arriving at and leaving the shop. Now that I’m somewhat on-call for two posts, I spend a lot of time answering emails, planning this meeting and that, changing plans, and shifting my attention from sermon prep to pastoral news to marking to answering students’ queries, and all this time is invisible to outside auditing, and task-switching leaks time through start-up and wind-down efforts. Hey, I love Oriel and I love the Abingdon Parish, no doubt. I’m just (re-)affirming what part-time workers have known all along, that part-time work costs the worker more tie than just the compensated hours.

On Having Too Many Books

This morning, we took delivery of three more bookcases. They went directly to one of the only rooms that doesn’t have a bookshelf in it: we call it ‘O’Hare’, because when we moved in, that room served as the storage point for the luggage we used to help move our clothes, linens, and related matters. I had stacked some book boxes along the back wall there, and these shelves displaced the book boxes.

In fact, not only did they take all the books from those boxes, they’ll fit numerous other boxes of books that currently reside in the library (Margaret’s study) and in the closet of my study. We’re really making progress on getting books unpacked.

In the process, I’ve seen innumerable old friends emerge from their cardboard hostels. Books that touched me profoundly (The Man in the High Castle, 1962 book club edition from Putnam), that changed my mind (Derrida’s Margins of Discourse), books by friends, books I long to have time to read, books I long to reread, books I need to consult for my own writing once I get the time, books I hope some next generation reader will cherish….

Some may have read the interview with Umberto Eco that’s been bouncing around the internet (cited here from Open Culture) — the one wherein he goes hard for having unread books in one’s personal library, constituting what he calls an anti-library. Eco testifies to books’ importance to personal research. He notes that ‘a private library is not an ego-boosting appendages but a research tool.’ Fair enough, and point very well taken; I have numerous books stored up against the day I begin writing out my big book about hermeneutics, more for work on parables, more for liturgical guidance, more for the history of the reception of the Bible in English, and I could go on indefinitely.

But books are also like a network of friends and acquaintances. Some are so close that one can hardly imagine living apart from them. My copy of The Genesis of Secrecy, of Paul, the Corinthians and the Birth of Christian Hermeneutics, of the Philosophical Investigations, of course my Bibles and prayerbooks, The Wind in the Willows, and a few others are as close to being physical expressions of my heart and mind as could be. Others are your close friends, the ones who tell you the truth about yourself and the world while they aren’t part of you. Some are everyday friends, great to see them, have a cup of coffee, refresh the relationship. Others are long-lost BFFs, emerging unexpectedly and reminding you of great times from ages ago. Some are acquaintances, some are strangers who look interesting, who might become friends when you have time to sit with them for a while. But going from in-transit, in-storage, to circulating among this Kings Cross station, this vast cocktail party, this congregation, this city of friends and could-be-friends — that’s one (sometimes the only) redeeming aspect of having to pack up and move homes. Today I had the deep, deep pleasure of meeting some mentors, some buddies, some playmates, some informants, some exotic strangers, and that feels so good.

They’re more than just an untapped research resource. They’re relationships waiting to happen.*

* Those of you who have been paying attention for a long time may be holding back the urge to say, ‘Wait, aren’t you the guy who resolutely opposes ascribing personhood or agency to inanimate entities, like books and images and tunes and objects?’ Yes, I am, and I do. But note the difference between ascribing autonomous qualities to a text (on one hand) and observing, relishing, the relation between me and a recorded complex of expressions, which expressions may have surprised, or delighted, or instructed, or defeated me, all in different ways at different times in my life. I have a relationship with Questions of Evidence by virtue of its embeddedness in the timeline of my life, and my associations of it with conversations I’ve had, with people who have their own relations to these texts, and with changes and continuities in y perception of it. It’s not that a particular collection of essays has agency, or personhood; it’s that it constitutes a nodal point in the intensely recursive and also exoteric and emergent constellation of meaning that the centre of which you may find… me.

Four (Total) My Own Good

Two miles yesterday, two miles today. The weather has been MISTy in the mornings, but not too cold, and my legs are slowly accommodating themselves to not taking four days off (cos of rain) out of seven. Two sermons this week (Ascension Day and Sunday), and various other obligations at which I’m not keeping adequately up.

Two Slow

My legs were reluctant, my nose was streaming (presumably some pollen issue), but I recorded my two miles this morning. Coffee and fruit breakfast, Morning Prayer, will clean up, go to Mass (not on duty this Sunday), then finishnup marking. I did finish Perdido Street Station yesterday because I got to the point at which I couldn’t stop. I look forward to beginning this week with a clear register, at least with respect to marking.