England Travel Journal – Day 5

The Radcliffe Camera, where I heard things a person ought not hear

Today was the Sabbath, and we only planned a few items on our agenda.

We walked to the Radcliffe Camera only to find signs in front of both entrances saying only “Readers” could enter. I consider myself a “reader”- I try to read 50 books a year – but I still felt the sign was not referring to me.

While standing there with the GSB team contemplating our options a gray-haired gentleman (and I use that word loosely) standing no more than 6 feet away crepitated, or as they say in the UK, “broke wind.” And in no small way, I might add; it was sustained and sonorous.

I looked at the rest of the team, but I was apparently the only one who heard it. And when I told them what he had done, no one else seemed surprised or offended. But we were at Oxford. In England. What about manners? Propriety? The Privy Council?

We stil had the Bodleian Library on our agenda, but there again we were turned away. We were told we were too late to get tickets. I used the opportunity to stress to the rest of the team again the importance of getting an early start, but that was met with the same disinterestedness they had shown to unrestrained flatulence.

At this point, I decided to cut the rest of the team loose to do what they wanted. I was headed to St. Philip’s Books to look for ancient leather bound books on history and theology. It was quite a walk, and I didn’t want the rest of the team slowing me up. I walked up Broad Street, then onto St. Aldate’s and across High Street, and down a long hill.

As I descended the hill, my anticipation built. Ancient leather books. My cup of tea. The sign at the front led me down a dark alleyway to a door, but to my great consternation the door was locked. The bookstore was closed. Weren’t we in Oxford? Hadn’t they long ago rejected Christianity and honoring the Sabbath? My day seemed full of unanswerable rhetorical questions.

After some lunch, I returned to the hotel for an ale and a latte chaser and got to work on this blog. In doing so, I became more contemplative. I thought back to our quest yesterday to the top of White Horse Hill, where we were only able to see a part of the hind end of the horse.

Looking back, I see our quest as a metaphor. So much of what we experience in real time makes little sense and often looks bad–like the hind end of a horse. But perspective’s fruit is often enjoyed only with patience and the passing of time.

The ancient Israelites are a good example. I’m sure their struggles in the wilderness didn’t fully make sense to them at the time. They were only seeing the hind end of horse. Through Moses, the Lord would grant them the perspective they did not have in real time:

“You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. “He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”

Deuteronomy 8:2-3.

And, who knows, maybe tomorrow today will make more sense as well. GS

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