British Empire

I finished reading The Decline and Fall of the British Empire today. It is a depressing tale of racism, slaughter, oppression and misused power over the span of a few centuries. It was also eye-opening in that my grasp of history between the Reformation and WWII outside of America is vague. This book really sets the stage for seeing the origins of a lot of our current world situation, for example, the rise of India. I knew little to nothing of the mayhem that attended the partition of India and Pakistan. Full on ethnic slaughter and pogroms from Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus happened. From the book:

But Muslims and Hindus also perpetrated every outrage summed up in that grotesque modern euphemism, “ethnic cleansing.” They roasted babies on spits, impaled infants on lances, boiled children in cauldrons of oil. They raped, mutilated, abducted and killed women…They subjected men to frenzied cruelties, burning them alive in their houses, stabbing them in the streets, butchering them in hospitals, strangling them in refugee camps, torturing and forcibly converting them in desecrated temples, mosques and gurdwaras (Sikh places of worship). They poisoned their enemies, drenched them in acid, blinded them by throwing chilli powder in their eyes.

On and on it goes. And that is simply the partition of one colony. The use of torture seemed normative from Rhodesia to Kenya and Nigeria. The treatment of Africans is particularly galling and inhuman. That a nation dedicated to high ideals sunk to such a low level when dealing with others is a testament to the reality of evil. In fact, this entire book is yet another reminder of the reality of original sin. Whenever tempted to believe the foolish platitudes of (small l) liberalism about man’s goodness, human decency and the brotherhood of man, you simply need to open up a history book and see how we really are. Lurking right beneath the surface of a peaceful social order is total chaos, hatred and blinding evil. Let’s hope that America pulls back and does not engage in even more foolishness in the next century, resulting in who knows what. But I doubt that we will stop ourselves, as our political class is as unable as the Brits were to pull back, fearing the label of coward.


A Chaos of Nothing

James Boswell wrote this in his journal on Monday, 22 October, 1781:

Walked to Craighouse and breakfasted with Lord Covington, whom I had not seen for many months. He was grown very dull of hearing, and gave me a discouraging view of life and old age and human existence. He said his memory was failed, and that the mind and body failed together; and he seemed to acquiesce in that dreary notion, without hope of restoration. And he said when one looked back on life, it was just a chaos of nothing.


Contemporary Authors

C.S. Lewis was not a fan, witness:

Incidentally, what is the point of keeping in touch with the contemporary scene? Why should one read authors one doesn’t like because they happen to be alive at the same time as oneself? One might as well read everyone who had the same job or the same coloured hair, or the same income, or the same chest measurements, as far as I can see.

“Love is a Flattering Mischief”

So says Izaak Walton when discussing the marriage of John Donne:

for love is a flattering mischief, that hath denied aged and wise men a foresight of those evils that too often prove to be the children of that blind father; a passion, that carries us to commit errors with as much ease as whirlwinds move feathers, and begets in us an unwearied industry to the attainment of what we desire.

RSV Rebound

I just received the second of two of my Mom’s Bibles that I had rebound. It is a Revised Standard Version published by Thomas Nelson. My Dad gave it to her for Christmas of 1969. It had a white cover that of some type of leather. I believe she used to keep it inside a zip cover that she had and used throughout the time I was growing up. It had completely deteriorated externally in the past 41 years. Mom has marked up the interior every which way, but it is in decent shape.

I had the folks at Mechling rebind it again, and I chose a black goatskin. They don’t have white and I didn’t want it anyway. I also asked them to remove some paintings that were in various places and which I thought made it seem a bit tacky. I think the finished product is very nice and has restored it to usability for decades to come. My pictures of it really aren’t the greatest, but I am trying to show the before and after.

Reads, 2010

Not the best year for finishing books. I read too much stuff online. Here are the books I finished in 2010:

The Puritan Dilemma, Edmund Morgan

The Rise of Puritanism, William Haller

Augustine of Hippo, Peter Brown

The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Samuel Pepys

The Death of Adam, Marilynne Robinson

The Bible, ESV {completed}

Rabbit at Rest, John Updike

A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis

Eclipse of the Sun, Michael O’Brien

Is the Reformation Over, Mark Noll, Carolyn Nystrom {completed}

America’s God, Mark Noll {completed}

The Mines of Behemoth, Michael Shea


Google Books on the iPad

Today is a day of rejoicing for me. Ever since the iPad debuted, I’ve wanted a good interface for reading Google Books on it. I was a bit surprised that one didn’t exist right off the bat. In the last month, Google opened up Google Docs for editing on the iPad – a major plus. And now, I can read ancient books on the most modern device! It blows my mind! I don’t think any author 100 or 300 years ago could have imagined that I would be looking at a printed text of their book from back then on this digital device.

I think this will revolutionize certain niche areas. For example, there are hosts of Anglican theological books (and other theological books) that would never have seen the light of day before. To read them would have required travel to a few select libraries, or a publisher dusting them off and reprinting them in a limited run. Now they are accessible, free, searchable, and universal. It really is something.

I’ve come across ancient magazines like Notes and Queries that I can read a century or more after it came out in a way that was unimaginable when it was first published. I don’t like to overdo the “we are living through history” angle on things, but I do think that we are in the middle of something big with the Google Books project, something that future historians will look back on and pull apart for its impact on the world.