3 Minute Theologian

Words about God and Life for the Attention Deficit Generation

Category: Musing (page 1 of 3)

A Socio-Economic Theory of Justice (and good leather boots)

The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.

Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while a poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.

This was the Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socio-economic unfairness.

Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms, Discworld 15 (London: Corgi, 1993).

On Returning to England

Let me sing of thee, my Lionheart,
O England, of my dreams
Where sodium lights from oil-slicked roads
On factory walls doth gleam.

Where mardy proles speak scabrous prose
In snugs and pub saloons;
Cathedral towns selling tea-towel views
On shuttered afternoons.

Shared spaces and clipped public hedges,
On bus, tube, morning train
Friday evening home for DIY
And washing in the rain.

Thermos flasks, twisted salt, boiled egg,
Picnics in the car park
Union flags salute from lamp-post jacks
Football’s national mark.

What know ye now of England’s story
If only England knows?
Less than half a sixpenny paper,
Less than the sickly rows

Of suburban villas clutched on cliffs,
Double-glazed, aerialled trance,
Corry and Talent, TOWIE, Bake Off,
Lost now in Strictly’s dance.

England’s Dreaming—Kipling, Blake and Rotten,
Modest indifference.
Our Empire’s wealth and expectations,
Understate arrogance.

The ribbons of the Empire poured out
Darlo’s mills, Redcar’s forge,
Rich, black money washed from Rhondda’s vales
To the big house disgorged.

We used to build the world from this place,
Coppered, tinned and steeled votives,
The prayers of navvies, squaddies, joiners,
Firebox locomotives.

The foundry is a shopping outlet,
The pit a flattened park,
Garden centres in the railway works,
Naval-yard a landmark.

England’s Dreaming—Shakespeare, Caedmon, Bede
In moorland, wood and dale,
We buy the postcards of scenic views,
Rustic pubs sell bitter ale.

England! England! Blue remembered hills!
Home of my parents’ choice.
Allow my return to your faithless breast—
Homecoming now rejoice.

The delights of group working

In its search for a leader the [small therapeutic] group finds a paranoid schizophrenic or malignant hysteric if possible; failing either of these, a psychopathic personality with delinquent trends will do; failing a psychopathic personality it will pick on the verbally facile high-grade defective. I have at no time experienced a group of more than five people that could not provide a good specimen of one of these.

W. R. Bion, Experiences in Groups and Other Papers (London: Tavistock Publications, 1961), p. 123

Change and the Brigadier Belt

How do we experience change, in society and its groupings? Wilfred Bion, with his experience as an officer in the First World War, and his training as a psychoanalyst, had some ideas:

Change can take place, but society needs to defend itself from change that takes place too rapidly, the catastrophic rate of change. The new ideas have to be appropriately contained and represented so that they can become accessible to the non-geniuses who represent the vast majority of any society. They have to pass the test of what Bion called the Establishment, persons whose established rôle it is to preserve the existing status but at the same time to allow for the slow incursion of new ideas. In the church this would represent the assembly of bishops, in the army what has been called the brigadier belt, that is, those persons whose ability does not fit them to rise above this relatively high rank but whose experience and capacity for testing new ideas is relied on to protect the army from wild ideas but at the same time foster steady change.

Malcolm Pines, ‘Bion: A Group-Analytic Appreciation’, Group Analysis 20, no. 3 (September 1987): 251–62,. p. 253

Trammelled by the otherness of the others

My last post was Gregory of Nazianzus’s advice to avoid assemblies of bishops. Carl Jung was even more pessimistic. He thought we should avoid all assemblies of any kind:

When a hundred clever heads join in a group, one big nincompoop is the result, because every individual is trammelled by the otherness of the others. There used to be a funny question: Which are the three largest organizations, the morale of which is the lowest? Answer: Standard Oil, the Catholic Church, and the German Army. Especially in a Christian organization one should expect the highest morality, but the necessity to bring into harmony various factions requires compromises of the most questionable kind. (Jesuitic casuistry and distortion of the truth in the interest of the institution!)…

Real virtues are relatively rare and constitute usually the achievements of individuals. Mental and moral laziness, cowardice, prejudice, and unconsciousness are dominant. I have behind me fifty years of pioneer work and, therefore, could tell a few things about these: there is, perhaps, scientific and technical progress. However, one has not heard yet that people in general have become more intelligent or morally better.

Individuals can be improved because they let themselves be treated. Societies, however, let themselves be seduced and deceived, temporarily even for the good.

Hans A. Illing, ‘C. G. Jung on the Present Trends in Group Psychotherapy’, Human Relations 10, no. 1 (1957): 77–83.

Avoid all assemblies of bishops…

For my part, if I am to write the truth, my inclination is to avoid all assemblies of bishops, because I have never seen any council come to a good end, nor turn out to be a solution of evils. On the contrary, it usually increases them. You always find there love of contention and love of power (I hope you will not think me a bore, for writing like this), which beggar description; and, while sitting in judgement on others, a man might well be convicted of ill-doing himself long before he should put down the ill-doings of his opponents. So I retired into myself; and came to the conclusion that the only security for one’s soul lies in keeping quiet.

Gregory of Nazianzus, Letter 130 (to  Procopius), cAD 382, in Creeds, Councils and Controversies: Documents Illustrating the History of the Church Ad 337-461, ed. James Stevenson and W. H. C. Frend, Rev. ed. (London: S. P. C. K, 1989).

from Elizabeth Lasch-Quinn’s 2006 introduction to Philip Rieff’s seminal work:

Ephebe NarcissusWith nothing shared beyond a commitment to the self, which turns out to be a commitment to nothing, the individual lacks essential resources for flourishing in ordinary times and for solace in periods of great need. The anything goes mentality of niche marketing prevails, driving what qualifies as reading and thinking downward to new lows.

Elizabeth Lasch-Quinn, “Introduction (2006),” in Triumph of the Therapeutic: uses of faith after Freud, by Philip Rieff, 40th Anniversary Edition. (ISI Books, 2006), vii–xxvi.

 

Kim Fabricius on ministerial formation

How should the church respond to congregational decline, financial deficits, and vocational shrinkage? The answer is obvious: make ministerial selection more stringent, theological education more demanding, and spiritual formation more exacting. And burn anyone who proposes a managerial or entrepreneurial solution.

From here.

The Mothers’ Union, a fabulous organization of enormous integrity, has as part of its raison d’être the responsibility to “promote conditions in society favourable to stable family life.” How true and how necessary. Too often in our culture, the work that is needed to be put into a family is thought of as secondary or incidental or unimportant compared with the work that is necessary to put into employment. Thank goodness for the MU standing against that.

How then to react to an invitation to a Mothers’ Union meeting which includes this sentence?

If this happens to fall on your ‘day off’ then we apologise, but please do take this opportunity to join us and we look forward to seeing you.

Clergy get one day off a week (not a ‘day off’ in scare quotes). Sometimes that might be the only sustained time that they can spend with their families, especially as the ‘day off’ is never a whole weekend, when the rest of society works at family life. The invitation asks for the one day off in a week to be set aside for a MU meeting. How is this putting families first?

Science is imaginary

According to David N. Livingstone, the historian of science soon discovers that

scientific claims… sound universal but turn out to be situated, theories… seem transcendent but are profoundly embodied. At the same time, the plurality of scientific sites bears witness to the protean nature of science. Indeed, there is much justification for suspecting that the term “science” is an imaginary unity masking the disparate kinds of activity that trade under the label.

Discuss.

[From: David N. Livingstone, Putting Science in its Place: geographies of scientific knowledge (London: University of Chicago Press, 2003), p. 15]

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