- In our time, many scholars have held neo-Spenglerian views of the decline and fall of civilizations. These are governed by biological rather than theological thinking. A very interesting book of some years ago, Maurice Collis: The Land of the Great Image, Being Experiences of Friar Manrique in Arakan (1943), begins with a statement that I often think about. Between the tenth to the fifteenth century, Portugal and Spain fought 3,700 battles against the Arabian Emirs for independence. In terms of much current thinking, the peninsula should have emerged exhausted when the last battle ended in 1492, with the fall of Granada. Instead, Portugal and Spain emerged as world powers with quickly established world-wide empires. There is too little appreciation of the greatness of their achievement although the evidence is all around us. An earlier book by Maurice Collis, The Great Within, I have wanted to locate but with no success. Its subject is the Confucian and Buddhist political theories of a world state and their relation to the Christian Civitas Dei.
Returning to Collis' comment about the emergence of Iberia from centuries of battle revitalized rather than exhausted, it seems that we must see, not cultural exhaustion at the end of our present cultural conflicts, but possible revitalization.
- The world changes more than we realize. Patrick Howarth, in The Year is 1851 (1951), describes England at that time. He reports on a "traditional contest" on the Yorkshire Moors in 1851. "The participants were the young men of the district, who had to run stark naked from the church to the bride's house." The prize? The bride's garter (p. 119). Englishmen must have been different then. Can you imagine any running naked in cold England today?
According to Henry Mayhew, the working class found weddings a waste of money, and, among London costermongers, only one couple in ten was legally married (p. 94).
- Recently I was discussing with someone roughly my age the changes we have seen, some good, some bad. Some of the more dramatic changes have taken place in families, and with children and youth. Before World War II, if two boys came to blows, the other boys formed a ring around them to let them fight; if one began to fight "dirty," the onlookers intervened. Now, such a thing is rare. Disagreements lead too often to ugly gang fights.
Again, if children were unfairly treated by another child, by a neighboring adult, or by a teacher, they dared not complain to their parents. They knew they would be rebuked and told something like this: Life is not fair this side of heaven, so grow up and get used to the real world.
I recall, when we lived in a city for a time in the 1920's, a girl in the neighborhood who was avoided by all girls and boys. At the least slight or injustice, fancied or real, she ran to Mama, who collared the boy or girl to scold him, shed tears, and demand better treatment of her darling, sweet girl, known to all as "Bossy-cow." The father went around embarrassed until, after a shouting match, the three moved away, hopefully with the father in better control.
- I have a mind that, from childhood on, has enjoyed strange and curious facts as well as things important and relevant. My father encouraged this delight in knowledge. Well, an interesting fact was reported to us by Douglas Murray, as we were about to record an Easy Chair. It was about vortexes. A vortex in the southern half of the world circulates in a direction the exact reverse of a vortex in the northern areas. Thus, if by mistake a toilet bowl made for Patagonia, South Africa, Australia, or some like place should get installed in your American, English, etc. bathroom, it would not flush. It would be built for a vortex the opposite of what we can have. Facts like that interest me, and also interest people like you! This is why so many of you turn to Random Notes first! Think of the choice bit of knowledge you now have, to introduce into a serious table discussion! So far, I have had no such opportunity, so I am passing it on to you!
- I was interested to learn that salary figures for England a century and half ago, and for some time before and after, are very misleading because of the importance of land and property, then relatively untaxed. Land and property were the main forms of wealth; we now think of wealth in terms of monetary income, whereas other forms of usable wealth were once more common to those of the middle and upper classes.
- Something very common when I was a child was father and son businesses. A great advantage in such firms was and is accumulated experience. Recently, a freakish problem with our water well was solved because the well man had his father's some fifty years of experience to draw on to solve a problem others had never before seen.
- Recently, some of our family was with us, happily. (Three of the five children, and their sons and daughters, live locally.) One of the granddaughters was Christine Aardema, wife of Dean Aardema. They were married in October, 1995. They had attended the same college, but Dean was a year ahead. For almost two years, Dean has been an auditor for Los Angeles County. Very recently, he uncovered a large misappropriation of funds, and the Los Angeles Times carried the story. We are very proud of Dean.
Financial fraud in civil government is much too commonplace, but I believe that it is more likely to be punished than financial abuse in the churches, where too often the reformer is punished. Christine's youngest sister, Mary Coie, was also here. She told me that in college (second year) she finds that being my granddaughter attracts male attention, a fact which surprised me. Things were not that way a few years ago!
- In Contract Killer, an autobiography by a professional killer, as told to William Hoffman and Jake Headley (1992), the "hitman" commented on the "new breed" of criminal and prison inmate: "This `new breed' of inmate featured a nonfunctional brain fried by dope, an inability to read or write and no fear whatsoever: with nothing to live for, why should he worry about dying?" (276f.)
Family & Marriage,