Saturday, 9 July 2011

Camino bore: Sarah & Hagar.

Oh dear! Codex Calixtinus has been stolen; read all about it in Those who aren't yet completely bored by the camino will enjoy

I've been reading a lot lately, Sarah and Hagar stuff, with the intention of letting it soak into me, and then I hope to generate 'stuff' for my proposed textile exegetical piece. I wondered why I was having a bit of a dearth of 'pnk brolly moments', and I traced it back to the Sarah & Hagar thing; as one who reads the Bible always looking out to find myself in there, there really isn't anywhere in the S & H stories where you really do want to see a glimpse of yourself. Whereas the book of Ruth  is a model of what a community might do if the Hebrew virtue of hesed is practised by a majority, the story of Abraham's 'crowded marriage' doesn't seem to portray any of the participants in a wholly good light, even G-d. But then it is maybe all the better for its warts-and-all approach, at least we can see ourselves in that. All of the 3 main human players have afterlives in which they are evaluated in various ways, used as the allegorical furniture for all kinds of chair-slinging down the centuries, and the 3 faiths which claim various kinds of descent from them seem all to have had their moments, some prolonged, of persecuting one or both of the other two. It's depressing. But thinking purely about the story as it stands in the Bible, one of the most incisive things ever said to me about it was by David Lane CR of blessed memory: 'Did Abraham tell Sarah?' Go on, read Genesis 11-24 with that in mind.

The way to the lake
The perfect end to the perfect summer afternoon.
But somehow the whole thing has links with the camino, on many levels (OK, OK, what doesn't for Pilgrim Viv?). Take the stars; Abraham's descendants are to be as numerous as they are; and Compostela as the 'field of stars' is making me think of a particular stitch on my Pfaff 2058 sewing machine (that's a Jaguar among sewing machines, by the way, the other's an elderly Rolls Royce Bernina 1031) which will be used to create a field of stars as the first bit-of-cloth step towards my project; there's a lot in my head, and I need to make a start before it all backs up. But how to represent sand and dust, with which Abraham's descendants are also compared? I was supposed to be doing that tonight, but now I'm in bed as I've had a lovely dafternoon windsurfing on the lake - oh what a lovely typo - it was a fab little wind - admiring the chaps with their 9 m sails while I zimmer-surf my way across on a 5 m - followed by cutting the grass (that means walking a mile) and clipping the yew, and then snoring in the bath. How is it that it is possible to hear oneself snoring? One of the mysteries of the universe. Probably some ancient survival capability which means one can be asleep but also alert and able to distinguish between the sound of lions roaring and one's own snortings.

But Sarah & Hagar reading has made me reflect how I have been a bit scathing about the current batch of pilgrims to Santiago, who have sometimes shown great ignorance of many aspects of Christianity, as in 'What are the Benedictines?' But when I think of Spain and its past glory in being a place where Jews, Muslims and Christians co-existed fruitfully, followed of course by shameful persecutions and expulsions, I'm starting to think that its multi-faith aspect, including non-faithed pilgrims, could be one of its glories. Wouldn't it be wonderful if there could be a tri-faith pilgrimage take place, a group of Jews, Muslims and Christians all walking the camino together? Just think what a shared blog they could write as they share (or don't share) food, stories, music, blister remedies....

But there has to be something left to harrumph about in life, it's part of our heritage as Englishmen and women, and I'm right with Damian Thompson, editor of Telegraph blogs and quoted in the Tablet for this week, when he says, 'The most chilling sentence in the English language is, 'Our next hymn is "Shine, Jesus, shine". '

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