Friday, 29 August 2014

Prayer Stone

I previously mentioned my daughter's happy stones. I also found in my collection of curios a prayer stone. This is something I bought at Pennant Melangell, a tiny church tucked away in a Welsh valley.

This church has been an important focus of pilgrimage for many centuries. Nowadays, the place is perhaps not so well known (probably to its advantage). It was once deemed to be a site of great spiritual importance. In the Middle Ages, a certain numbers of pilgrimages to Pennant Melangell, were deemed to be the equivalent of pilgrimages further afield to the better known sites such as Canterbury, Rome etc. To have completed such pilgrimage earned one remission of one's sins.

Today there are still those to whom this site holds a personal significance - although it should be noted that it no longer has anything to do with the penance system operating in the past.

Pilgrimages have also changed. They are nothing like the journeys one associates with the Canterbury Tales. When I went to Pennant Melangell, the word pilgrimage was used by some. In that case, the pilgrimage, if that is really the right word, simply entailed driving to the pub - about a mile away - and then walking to the church and back. There was hardly time to tell a tale, although the odd funny story was possible. (I can't see that as worthy of being forgiven any misdemeanour at all!)

The idea of the prayer stone, if I remember correctly, is to pray with something tangible in one's hand thereby making the act of prayer more concrete and real and having something by which to remember the prayer. I simply liked the image of the cross in the form of a Celtic knot.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

The Mathematics of University Entrance

It is at this time of year that many young people are scrambling to get into university. Some will jump at any opportunity. Don't!

What seems to have been overlooked is that with around 50% of young people going to university, many gaining admission will be of lower than average intelligence. Not everyone from the top 50% does go to university. Many take other reputable career paths straight from school. This leaves vacancies to be filled and means that below average applicants are successful. There are institutions that take such people and then find themselves catering for them by making the work less academically rigorous.

My advice when assessing whether a university is worth attending is: the harder it is to get in, the better it is. Any institution can have an open door policy but very few can be choosey about who they let in. It may take an extra year but only go to an institution worth attending.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Remembering World War I

In World War I, one of my great grandfathers and a great uncle died. My maternal grandfather, whose age mirrored the year of the century, was in the navy. So, when the war ended in 1918, he would have been just a few months past his 19th birthday. If like his brother he had died, I would not be here to write this.

I have a few mementoes of him and that below is also something from the WWI period: a spoon which I understand may have been widely on sale to help pay for the war.

The spoon depicts Earl Kitchener (1850–1916). As a child, I always found it somewhat amusing that a spoon we used in the kitchen had the face of a man on it called kitchener.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Losses that outweigh gains

Although I read a book about the American Christian missionary Jim Elliot (1927-1956) some years ago, I remember very little about him - save that he died at the hands of a South American tribe while on a missionary expedition. However, there is something he said that I have occasionally heard quoted and which often comes to mind. That being the case, I searched for it and found the following. The first quote is the one I often remember; the other two I think are worth including.

"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose."

"When it comes time to die, make sure that all you have to do is die."

"I seek not a long life, but a full one, like you Lord Jesus."

Thursday, 7 August 2014

A Diversion

Everybody fiddles with paperclips from time to time. Some people seem compelled to straighten them. I remember reading in a biography about George Thomas, former Speaker of the House of Commons, that this seems to have been something he frequently did. One afternoon, I had a fiddle with a couple of paperclips and a spring and took this image of the product (which can mean something or nothing):