A loose but substantial body of work is emerging that explores the English landscape in terms of its anomalies rather than its continuities, that is sceptical of comfortable notions of “dwelling” and “belonging”, and of the packagings of the past as “heritage”, and that locates itself within a spectred rather than a sceptred isle. . . . We are, certainly, very far from “nature writing”, whatever that once was, and into a mutated cultural terrain that includes the weird and the punk as well as the attentive and the devotional.
Robert Macfarlane writes about the eerie lands of England in many art forms, beginning with a good summary of a strange story. (via Alan Jacobs)
October 14 was the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings. Peter Konieczy of the University of Toronto offers three reasons why this was not a typical medieval battle. One reason was that the Normans and the English were evenly matched.
We can read some of the battle’s details in this post on a French poetic account, Estoire des Engleis – History of the English, by Geoffrey Gaimar. It includes a part about a Norman juggler who demonstrated his spear skills before the English army.
Konieczy also touches on how the Normans meddled with the Irish several decades later, never fully conquering them, and by 1180, “would leave the island unstable and divided.”
English Nightingales don’t actually exist. They are migrants from Central Africa up in the north country for a bit of holiday. Most of them go to Europe, but some come from families that have always holidayed in England and they aren’t going to upset Grandma by suggesting the Black Forest or the Provence Alps (especially not after Freddie ran off with that scarlet thrush last autumn; Grandma’s barely gotten over that).
Musician Sam Lee holds special performances in the woods of southeast England where the nightingales sing around this time of year. “Lee’s show presented an opportunity to focus, fully, on what a nightingale actually sounds like, miles from the nearest road,” writes Sam Kinchin-Smith. “Much to my surprise, its stop-starting, self-counterpointing quality reminded me of nothing so much as James Brown’s ‘get on up’ scat.”
Beginning with words from Psalm 22, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me,” a new video from The Church of England puts Jesus’ words in the mouths of today’s rejected people before turning to celebrate our Lord’s resurrection.
“What this film shows is that God is with us in those struggles and Easter represents the triumph of Jesus over those struggles,” says the Church’s Director of Communications.
Here’s hoping all of England will hear the full meaning of the gospel this year and be transformed, not by their good wishes and sentimentality, but by the Living Word of God. Because Christ didn’t come into this world to merely sympathize with us and tell us to keep our hopes up and be nice to each other. He came to deliver us from bondage, from the hatred and lies that come from living on our own. He came to give us new life, which is literally new life, not some tired, exaggerated metaphor.
What we have on our own doesn’t work. Both subtly and overtly, we’ve earned God’s condemnation. We’re like filthy farmhands crashing an upscale wedding. We think the wedding host and guests are supposed to be loving, accepting people, so we should be able to walk in off the field and be ourselves. The doormen said if we washed up and put on the formal apparel they would give us, we could join the party, but we said we didn’t need that. We were kicked out.
Now, it might take a while to talk through the reasons we were kicked out, but Easter celebrates the fact that we will be accepted, if we will accept the washing and clothing the host offers. No one will be turned away if he is willing to be made clean.
To paraphrase Tim Keller, the problem many churches have is that they say add a little Jesus to your life and everything will be good in the end. No need to change your life. Just keep your hopes up. But such a message short-changes the gospel, which is intended to change us completely. New life is totally new, beyond our old expectations. Just as Jesus went into the grave dead and returned alive, so he wants to take our old lives into the grave and bring us out gloriously renewed.