Christian zeal, and Queen Victoria's space programme
I've spent most of the past twenty-four hours in bed with nerve pain, courtesy of the venerable injury that has been one of the more tedious recurring themes of this blog. When I'm in this state I tend to avoid the mainstream media - self-pity and irritability are a combustible enough combination, without being spiced with self-righteous outrage at the philistinism and complacency this country's newspaper editorialists exude. Foolishly, though, I stole a look at this morning's New Zealand Herald, which carries a story about the persecution of a small girl by a Bible in Schools instructor:
A couple who took their daughter out of a school class based on the Bible were dismayed to find her left alone in a classroom "naughty corner" with a book during the 35-minute lesson...Jeff McClintock posted a photograph of his 7-year-old daughter Violet on the Secular Education Network Facebook page showing the little girl kneeling on the floor next to a rubbish bin...When he arrived one day to check on her he found her in the corner children are sent to for being naughty.
I'm a dyed-in-the-wool atheist, but I can't deny that Christianity, along with the other great world religions, has produced some superbly erudite and subtle thinkers. What a pity that the ideas of St Augustine, Gerard Manley Hopkins, John Updike and Nathan Parry never seem to feature in New Zealand's benighted Bible in Schools programme. When I was at Drury School back in the eighties, the volunteers who traipsed in to make us sing hymns and say prayers were a mixture of fanatics, neurotics, misogynists, and good old-fashioned psychotics. One of them told us that babies who bothered their parents by crying too often deserved to be beaten; another, who had apparently never read St Augustine, insisted on the literal truth of the Book of Genesis, and topped that act of stupidity by denying the theory of evolution.
The most loveably mad pulpit bully of all was Mister Chick, whom I saluted in this poem. After the poem was published in Landfall, a few people asked me whether Mister Chick was, like, really real. He was.
At the recent launch of Bronwyn Lloyd's excellent issue of brief I bumped into the great Kiwi-Samoan - he prefers the term Kamoan - painter Andy Leleisi'uao. I know that 'bumped' long ago became a loose, rather lazy label for any sort of unexpected meeting, but my encounter very nearly returned the verb to its primordial sense: I was so excited to see the Blakean creator of the Ufological villages of Sepataua and Maevaeua walk into the room that I shivered, staggered, and almost fainted all over him.
latest bunch of conspiracy theorists can send a teenage Obama to Mars then I can fire Augustus Pugin at the moon.
An Apology for the Revival of Christian Architecture on the Moon (for Andy Leleisi'uao)
We’ve been on the moon
since 1851. To outwit the Habsburgs
and Tsar Alexander, the Victorians disguised their scientists
as architects, their rocket programme
as cathedral construction.
Pugin launched St Chad’s from Birmingham
and planted it three weightless days later
on Mare Ingenii, the Sea
of Cleverness. Lord Russell locked him in Bedlam
when he tried to write a Treatise
about lunar design.
The moon, Pugin knew,
was an alien spacecraft.
The rocky outer coating,
he wrote, is camouflage,
like the skin of a crocodile
or the roof of a turtle.
The moon’s craters were
the accursed work of a classicist
who inverted the domes of St Peters
and St Pauls. The moon’s orbit,
Pugin noted, was preprogrammed.
So is its descent.
[Posted by Scott Hamilton]