Monday, 25 October 2010

Are You A Cultural Bumpkin?

Metro Man
This morning (being the first day of the half term holiday) I went to a large Scandinavian Furniture Retailer, based in Southampton with one of my housemates to buy a flatpack wardrobe. It was an eventful trip including 1) dinging a Redibus Minibus (nothing serious, but very annoying and somewhat disconcerting), 2) eating my first McDonald's meal in about 3yrs, 3) seeing rats foraging in the bushes and 4) talking loudly in a lift in the hope of trying to create a comedy moment in the humdrum of life. (Unfortunately, the glum clients of the aforementioned store would have none of it! I was shocked.)

The highlight was having Jackanory time in the car. I drove, Sam read. My interest in theology and Sam's interest in ancient history (he did a degree in it) meant that today's choice was "The Breeze of the Centuries"

Reeves opens his book with the help of C. S. Lewis, homing in on a very common species in our time: the cultural bumpkin.

Whether deliberately accomplished or not, if you or I have no sense of our place in the world or our place in history, then however cool we may look, (like Metro Man above) we'll be cultural bumpkins. Reeves elucidates...

"C. S. Lewis was a self-confessed dinosaur. He knew perfectly well that he simply did not belong in the modern world. Yet being born out of due time, he was able to spot what the natives could not. And what he saw in in modern culture, perhaps more than anything else, was a suffocating enslavement to the beautiful myth of progress, the dream that history is evolving ever onwards and upwards, that newer is better.

It is the sort of belief that sits very comfortably in the subconscious, giving the warm glow that we are faster, better, wiser, more advanced, more knowledgeable than our parents and forebears. Yet one of the problems that Lewis noticed in the myth was that such superiority tends to produce not wisdom, but ignorance. If we assume that the past is inferior, we will not bother consulting it, and thus will find ourselves stranded on the tiny desert island of our moment in time. Or as Lewis put it, we will become like the country bumpkin, full of

'the cocksure conviction of an ignorant adolescent that his own village (which is the only one he knows) is the hub of the universe and does everything in only the right way. For our own age, with all its accepted ideas, stands to the vast extend of historical time, much as one village stands to the whole world.'"
Reeves goes on to introduce some big names in Church history from the period after the New Testament was written. His aim is to help us get out of the myopic and suffocating philosophical/theological air of the 21 century and realise that there is a whole world out there that doesn't think like us in the things of God, and in many cases therefore, has much to teach us modern snobs.

I look forward to the next Jackanory time!

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