Last weekend was the big huge American group’s trip to York, located in northern York (which, by the way, is in northern England). The trip was already paid for by my study-abroad program and thus “free” for those of us that like to pretend that sunk costs are more than just econonic-speak. The highlights:
The York Minster is a gargantuan cathedrel built over various centuries and which I apparently called the “York Minstrel” all weekend before someone kindly corrected me. For pictures of the ludicrously lavish Minster/Minstrel better than any I could take, click here. We also went to an “Evensong,” a Saturday service in the choir. The standouts: the full-size statue of a former primate – not a monkey, but an Anglican religious leader – with a full sized statue of his favorite dog at his feet; and the small, barely noticeable statues of obviously crazy people being eaten by gargoyles inside the chapter room (which you can see by clicking here). I’ll include some more serious reflection on the Minster after the pictures.
Round Five of the Six Nations rugby tournament: Scotland v. Wales
Despite the fact that Scotland is duck-blind-cold every day, and despite the fact that Scotland’s chances of beating Wales’ Grand-Slam hopeful ruggers were worse than Vanderbilt’s against other SEC football teams, five of us (Myself, Hannah, Henry, Grant and Matt from Nashville/St. Louis U/U of Edinburgh) decided to brave the cold and the Welsh to see our first rugby match. As you can see from the pictures below, the pregame entertainment was hardly what might expect having been to American football games. After a solid Welsh trouncing and quick cat nap in the first half, followed by scalding (and life-saving) coffee during halftime, we were ready to cheer our Scots on to victory… or at least dignity. Why must I always pick the underdogs?
The York Minster from the top of Clifford’s Tower:
Clifford’s Tower, site of the seige and massacre of 150 innocent English Jews in 1190 and now the only remains of the old York Castle:
What I would like my statue to look like after I die, assuming that all the good sculptors refuse to fashion a hammock out of marble:
Some of the usual suspects at one of their usual locations:
Why rugby pre-game shows are so much cooler than those at American sports. Yes, those are real bagpipes. This one’s worth zooming in for:
Why rugby fans are so much cooler than us:
On a more serious note:
For those of you who made it this far, thank you! I know that time spent browsing blogs is not always considered “productive” time. Know that I appreciate your readership.
While walking around the York Minster, a JSA* named Sean found me and whispered, “Mark, you’ve got to see this room. Come here.” I followed him into the foyer and he explained why the Chapter Room was a must-see: “You know how when you’re a little kid, you always want to go to Disney World? And then you see the big giant golf ball and you’re like, (insert angelic ‘ah’ here)? Dude, that’s what this room is like. Totally wicked.”
I couldn’t help but laugh at Sean’s timing. Just before I had wondered, if there’s a god out there, is it impressed by this? I am, certainly – the stonework and woodwork of the Minster is jaw-dropping. But if I had created the universe out of the chaos, would my proverbial jaw still be on the floor by the rearranging of some borrowed materials? Might I be more impressed by the life of a dedicated husband and wife who lived and died making sure that their children were well-fed, safe and loved? Only Chantel, a JSA from Minnesota, was able to moderate my cynicism by recalling that the audio guide to the Minster’s crypt said only during the building of the Minster had the church experienced such unity; they constructed with a single purpose and fully convinced their efforts were, in fact, glorifying their God.
More bothersome were the lavish graves and statues of the former Minster Primates, and the primates’ gold-plated staff. Immediately I contrasted their legacy with that of Mother Teresa and Francis of Assisi. Unavoidable too was the contrast between how these primates spent their final pounds and how someone like Nita Haywood, who thanklessly directs the children’s programs at the underfunded and understaffed 61st Methodist Church in Nashville, would spend hers. What’s really important? What matters?
I’m a lot better at questions than I am at answers (shoulder shrug).
*JSA = Junior Semester Abroad