Sunday, November 03, 2013

Consider the elephant and be wise

From Brother Ivo:

Brother Ivo likes to offer an occasional piece which arrives from an odd perspective, and today he would invite readers to explore a little elephant psychology. It is not a field in which he claims any personal expertise, but life is infinitely fascinating and instructive.

His invitation to explore unfamiliar territory, however, will take us to issues not as far removed from the major preoccupations of this blog as may at first appear. There has been a lengthy study by Sussex University of African elephant herds, with a particular focus upon two groups. The first was the Kenyan population, which offered a stable control sample of normal and successful elephant behaviour. This was studied to ascertain its responses to a variety of challenges and stimuli. The second group was a South African herd which had been the subject of significant culling of the older animals during the 1970s and 80s.

The report on the BBC website is short and readable: the only thing that Brother Ivo notices is that our friends at the BBC have not begun integrating this study into a wider narrative about the support it offers to social conservatism amongst humans.

The herd which had lost the influence of elders and had its social patterns disrupted left juveniles to find their own ways of coping with uncertainty and stress. It was not a pretty picture. "African elephants' decision-making abilities are left impaired by culling operations that ended decades ago," University of Sussex research suggests. A study found that elephant herds that lost adults to culls during the 1970s and 1980s were less able to respond appropriately to other elephant calls.

Lead researcher Prof Karen McComb said the animals' "social understanding" had been impaired by the loss of adults. The scientists from the University of Sussex say this is the first "systematic evidence that fundamental social skills may be significantly impaired by man-made disruption.

There is already evidence that the loss of these adult elephants had dramatic social consequences on South Africa's elephants: the researchers describe these effects as akin to post traumatic stress disorder. In two protected areas in South Africa, Prof McComb told BBC News that "young, orphaned male elephants became hyper-aggressive and attacked and killed rhinoceroses... This really suggests that the breakdown in their social fabric, even though it occurred decades ago, has had a real effect on their decision-making processes."

Doubtless lessons are being drawn about the impact upon nature of the culling activity determined by human agency, yet to limit the conclusions of the study to elephants alone surely misses the bigger picture.

Brother Ivo thanks the Sussex scientists for proving that not all obscure inquiry is self-indulgent and wasteful, for does their work not insist upon parallels being draw with the equally devastating culling of UK family life during those same years?

Social Conservatives have always believed that happy children and integrated communities at peace with themselves arise out of traditions handed down through the experience, wisdom and recollections of past generations. This is not to deny periodic evolutions and adjustments, but always there is a core of cultural stability and close inter-generational bonds. What works for elephants applies in equal, if not greater measure with humans.

What proves disruptive is equally instructive. It is surely no wonder to us that the impact of the rapid social changes of the latter 20th century have left many of our young in a similar condition of isolation, confusion, aggression and unhappiness. Many are separated from a parent and the deeper support and control exercised by grandparents and the wider family. As the US politician Rick Santorum wisely wrote: "It takes a family to raise a child." He wrote that partly as a ripost to Hillary Clinton's book It takes a Village, though even that idea - initially taken from an African proverb about child reading - is not wholly irrelevant; it simply misses the first priority that values are initially taught and best enforced within a family - as Brother Ivo would say - as God intended.

Happy children tend to live within concentric circles of bonds, with close family, extended family and friends and neighbours contributing, though usually in diminishing degree the further they stand from the central bonds. The state, with its varying attitudes and "here today gone tomorrow" teachers, social workers and counsellors, often tends to add to the vulnerable person's sense of inconstancy and unreliability.

The support of the state is rarely enduring on a lifelong personal basis, and therein lies the difference. What it certainly does not take to raise a confident, socialised child is a commercially exploited, self-invented, self-regarding gang culture developed in an atmosphere of self-preservation. Too many of those lacking supportive families and not encultured on the streets are often to be found inventing their own culture in the isolation of their gaming consoles or the unboundaried social media. Many of these, detached from traditional family life - frequently but not exclusively within "the underclass" - are as damaged and disadvantaged as those elephant orphans whose parental culling through state policy, for doubtless well meaning purpose, has had long-term effects well beyond the expectation of those who planned the policy.

Just as animals have been disoriented by a disruption of the natural order, so the radical attack on traditional family life and social structures has left us with too many long-term victims of these social changes. They have low educational attainment and an increased incidence of substance abuse and self-harm. The trajectory of these problems began with the social revolutions of 40 years ago.

Amongst too many of our disengaged young, we see a misplaced self-reliance, a lack of empathy and a suspicion of those outside the narrow bounds of "yoof culture". Much of this is excused, explained away, or even championed by opinion formers in many sectors of politics, the media and academia. They will not willingly join up the dots to connect the causal link between misconceived change of former years, and current ongoing problems.

What the elephant study teaches us is that the social disruption of families has long-term consequences, and these consequences were unforeseen by those who promoted them with short-term thinking. They never dreamed that their quick fixes might lead directly to learning disability, dysfunctional social interactions, fear responses, and aggression, the like of which we see all to often in our schools and courts. It may take such oblique but striking evidence from the natural world to give the "progressives" within our culture pause for thought about their continued promotion of "alternative" lifestyles. We can see the consequences of such policies from our past, and they are not attractive.

The contemplation of the implications of this study led Brother Ivo to another field.

Psychology, like economics, is far from an exact science, and frequently there are multiple factors at work which produce or mitigate the effects of the problem under consideration. Sometimes similar circumstances create varying responses because other more benign factors or influences intervene. Some victims of adverse circumstances, even within the same family or grouping, have compensating resilience. Some are blessed by the strength offered by faith, others are held back by a predisposition to depression or despair. Trends can usefully be identified, but in such areas of study prediction is a less than exact science and more akin to an art.

That said, insightful artists can also contribute to our understanding of the human - and animal - condition. The study of the elephants may remind readers of William Golding's prescient study in adolescent tyranny, Lord of the Flies, which predicted similar effects upon young people traumatised and left to their own devices.

There is, however, an unanswered question from this study. The subjects were initially traumatised by the culling of the older generation. They suffered the secondary impact of loss of social bonds and controls. Which of these was the dominant event? Brother Ivo suspects it was the latter. As we enter the season of Remembrance, it is worth noting that the considerable impact of the loss of a generation of fathers, uncles and brothers from both World Wars was deep and heartfelt, yet not as societally disruptive as one might have predicted from modern psychological theory and methodology.

One suspects that the ties of extended family and the fortifying strength of faith and social institutions made the difference in keeping those earlier generations on the straight and narrow path. Those exposed to the horrors if war often did not speak of it, but returned to a context which supported, if not entirely healed. There may not have been modern-day counselling for the traumas suffered: social disruption and the acting out of internal pain was less prevalent than we see today. That may merit a little more reflection. Brother Ivo hopes to return to such themes as we remember our war dead.

One ought, however, to consider an alternative explanation for the observation of such studies, whether animal or human. If we discount the loss of social structures (which Brother Ivo certainly does not), one is left with considering the impact of psychological trauma in isolation of the loss of loved ones and the events causing it. This is a wider question.

Many children will suffer such loss within our own society. Additionally, we are accepting vulnerable people into our society, some from very different cultures which most of us (not least our politicians) do not understand. It may be a moral and noble policy, but it is not consequence free. What may flow from the importation of displaced, traumatised asylum seekers from war zones is a most troublesome area of concern for Brother Ivo. He does not wish to seem to lack compassion, but feels compelled to flag up a potential problem to which he does not currently know the answer. He suspects few others do either.

As Christians, we need to be our brother's keeper: we should not pass by on the other side. Yet as Margaret Thatcher correctly observed, the Good Samaritan gave real support to the victim he helped, offering ongoing concern and applying resources to address the continuing needs until health returned. He did not foist the hapless victim on the nearest social services and walk away.

There may be unforeseen risks and problematic consequences with a policy of sentimental liberality followed by benign neglect and isolation. Admitting people damaged by trauma would appear to have greater potential sequelae than we may think. If we are to continue an open-door policy towards genuine asylum seekers, the implication is that we need to be more sophisticated and comprehensive in identifying their needs and how we mitigate the longer term challenges they will face as they try to adapt to an unfamiliar life amongst us.

As an old friend used to say, "Being human isn't easy."

Being Christian certainly isn't.

Brother Ivo is the Patron Saint of lawyers


Blogger deimos said...

That is some first class thinking. I compliment you insightful analysis and valid conclusions.

3 November 2013 at 09:13  
Blogger Mr. Morden said...

What a lovely well thought out and written post - Thank you.

3 November 2013 at 09:47  
Blogger Roy said...

Polly Toynbee, the Guardian journalist, would probably say that the problems of the elephants living in herds with few older animals could all be solved if more money was spent on support services for the animals.

Who needs family ties when you can employ more social workers?

3 November 2013 at 10:07  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

Beautiful stuff Brother Ivo.

My church is blessed with both the young and the old. Quite a few of our kids are from homes where parents are split up or life isn't stable, and I am sure that one of the reasons that many of them continue to get themselves up out of bed and down to Church is because there isn't an adult in church who doesn't instinctively go to being a parent or a grandparent to them.

That's true between us as well - and it's been true of every church I've ever been a member of. It sounds too cliched, but church *is* a family. I have many brothers and sisters, many mums and dads, and many grannies and grandpas.

There are a lot of things that secularists can claim to supplement or provide surrogates for, and I don't suggest that individual atheists are any the less inclined to treat the aged with regard, but I have been unable to find any serious match for the church in terms of its intergenerational nature in the modern secular world. It just can't find a compelling reason to come together with people radically removed from one's own experience (the god of the age). Thank God that He made us His Body.

"One generation shall commend Your works to another,/ and shall declare Your mighty acts." (Ps. 145:4)

3 November 2013 at 10:39  
Blogger David B said...

The elephant science was certainly interesting, and does indeed raise questions concerning whether, and if so what, are the implications for other social species, including people.

There have been changes since the last World War, though perhaps not as great as those brought about as a direct result of the two wars, or other events like the Black Death and subsequent severe plagues.

Leave alone tearing tribes apart during the slavery centuries, the great conquests of Xerxes, Alexander, Rome, Tamburlaine, Genghis Khan, the Muslim expansion, the Crusades, the Spanish Empire, the British Empire, to name but a few.

Besides these, The old way of compelling people to live in unhappy marriages seem to me to be not too significant.


3 November 2013 at 11:23  
Blogger bluedog said...

A brilliant post with some outstanding observations and conclusions, Brother Ivo. Your comment that an animal example may be the only thing that jolts the progressives into a re-appraisal of their well-intentioned folly is exceptionally astute.

Well done indeed.

3 November 2013 at 11:25  
Blogger IanCad said...

How lucky we are to have access to such superb writings as this blog provides.
What huge blocks of time must have been devoted to the production of this absolute gem of a posting.
Thank you so much Brother Ivo.

3 November 2013 at 11:49  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Well done Ivo. One is convinced that all our problems stem from being in opposition to the natural order.

Multi culturalism for example. It’s caused so much tears...

Cue secular modernisers who will now put this man right...

3 November 2013 at 12:18  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Brother Ivo,

Truly excellent insightful piece here. Mankind is part of God's creation and yes, indeed we can learn from social groupings like the beautiful elephants.

As bluedog says, progressives may well be better persuaded to take notice of ideas springing from the natural world than the wisdom of our own human ancestors, especially if it's linked to that dreadful thing "faith" or the political right, heaven forbid ! And being a pragmatist, if it's expedient to present good arguments using observational zoology then, I say go to it, use whatever works !

Finally a compliment to His Grace and Brother Ivo, and the other the occasional authors who post on this site. Although no stranger to preparing lengthy technical reports and legal proofs for my former professional life, I know how slow and difficult it can be to research, ponder and then produce, reliably, high quality, well thought through articles like this. I struggle with writing sermons ! Yet here on this Prince of Blogs we have daily, an unending cascade of insightful, well crafted, sound essays all of the highest quality. So thank you all very much from elephant free Suffolk.

3 November 2013 at 13:05  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Hear Hear David Hussell !

May Cranmer go from strength to strength.

“God, who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet.”

3 November 2013 at 13:11  
Blogger Johnny Rottenborough said...

● You say the progressives ‘never dreamed’ that their promotion of alternative lifestyles would have deleterious consequences. As those consequences are manifest and as the tinkering continues unabated, it is clear that the progressives in our two-and-a-bit parties of government have known all along what they were doing.

● The ‘moral and noble policy’ of accepting people ‘from very different cultures’ into our society will cease to be moral and noble when it affects the middle classes as badly as it has affected the working class.

3 November 2013 at 14:16  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

David B wrote:

... compelling people to live in unhappy marriages ...

How powerful is a simple adjective like 'unhappy.' Obligations and responsibilities and commitments and promises may all be swept aside by the invocation of that one little word. Truly there is not a more self-centered and selfish way to determine a course of action than to determine it according to 'happiness.' But that is the modern dogma. "I will carry no obligation that I have not chosen to carry, and I will carry it only until I choose to lay it down."

Have I made a promise to a wife? What is a promise against my unhappiness? Have I responsibilities and obligations to my children? What responsibility supersedes my own need to be happy? The Self screams to be heard above the cacophony of competing claims, and the modern world has given it priority of place. We have declared that the essence of man is his autonomy and the only sin to tread upon it. Happiness is the metric by which the Self measures all things, and autonomy is the sacrament by which happiness may be achieved. If others suffer as a result, that is nothing but the sacrifice demanded in the temple of the god of Self. A sacrifice that so many are so willing to offer.

It is the vulnerability of Secularism to worship the self. When you believe in nothing, you are possessed of nothing else. It becomes the de facto norm that norms all norms. The Christian can look upon unhappiness and say "God will restore the years the locust has consumed." The Secularist will respond "Fool! There is no god to restore anything. What then will your years of misery have purchased you beyond a wasted life. Live for yourself because there is no memory of what you have done where you are going."

And so they cast obligation and responsibility to the wind. They tear their children asunder. They offer virtue as a sacrifice to happiness. And when, having done all this, they achieve the goal which they pursued in service to happiness, they soon discover that they are yet unhappy. And so they do it all over again.

You see, the god Self demands many sacrifices.


3 November 2013 at 15:42  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

Happy Jack really enjoys watching films about natural life. The kind ladies in the charity shop put them to one side for Jack when people give them to them and he is able to watch them on his laptop and return them.

Happy Jack remembers a time when people knew right from wrong. One of his favourite programmes was Dixon of Dock Green. When you did something bad in those days you were arrested and took the punishment. Nowadays everyone wants to try to understand why you did the bad thing and then feels sorry for you.

With respect to Brother Ivo, Happy Jack thinks there is something missing from his excellent tale. Unlike Elephants, people are not just shaped by nature or changes in their social environment. Jack thinks their is a certain music in creation. And one of the themes for people in this symphony is an element that can be missed or drowned out if the orchestra is disturbed.

So Happy Jack thinks these Elephants are suffering from what he once heard called "separation anxiety". And people are suffering from this too except the parent they are separated from is not their earthly mother or father.

3 November 2013 at 16:09  
Blogger Kilsally said...

Excellent & thoughtful piece

3 November 2013 at 16:10  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Carl Jacobs,

Absolutely ! And very well put.

3 November 2013 at 16:10  
Blogger Kilsally said...

Excellent & thoughtful piece

3 November 2013 at 16:10  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Happy Jack,

"Except the parent they are separated from is not their earthly mother or father"

A useful point, that may well be true in many cases. Because they "unrooted" I would suggest.

Happy Jack, you are fast becoming this site's, veritable street sage, the "everyman" philosopher who sees things clearly, without the clutter of too many fixed ideas.

3 November 2013 at 16:17  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

Happy Jack has a different understanding to happiness than the one Carl has just used. For Jack, happiness is not about pleasure and enjoyment. It is about living life in a meaningful way. There are times when this may make life very unpleasant but one can still be happy.

3 November 2013 at 16:21  
Blogger David B said...

To add to what some others have said, I didn't think much of Bro Ivo's first posts here, but I think he has grown in office regarding style and, even though I often disagree with him, in his choice of content and how he addresses it.


3 November 2013 at 17:20  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Happy Jack is confusing happiness with joy. Carl wonders if HJ's last name is Daniels.



3 November 2013 at 17:25  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

Consider the elephant and be wise

Bit ironic considering the elephants depicted are Asian rather than African elephants - just sayin'.

3 November 2013 at 18:15  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

Goodness! I think I have to agree with Carl Jacobs...

3 November 2013 at 18:43  
Blogger David B said...

I liked that comment of Carl, too:)


3 November 2013 at 18:45  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

Happy Jack agrees with Carl. Happiness from a life with meaning does result in joy. But Jack thinks it is a difficult road and is only fleetingly in this life. Happy Jack is happy to settle for happiness.

My last name is not Daniels, no. Silly. That made Jack chuckle. Jack agrees that if Mr Daniels is sampled in moderation with good company it can lead to a feeling of inner contentment.

Hello Mrs Proudie! Where have you been hiding? Jack was sorry to see you being told off a few days ago and hopes you have now fully recovered from your ordeal.

3 November 2013 at 19:32  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Having trouble here chaps. It’s rather awkward to find meaning in life when the beginning and end of it stops with you. How a fellow can do so without considering he is part of a wider creation and one with a plan at that, put in place by a creator, completely flummoxes...

3 November 2013 at 19:46  
Blogger IanCad said...

Very sharp of you Dreadnaught @ 18:15.
Yes, of course! African elephants have large ears.
There is little anyone can get by with on this blog.

3 November 2013 at 19:53  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

Dear dear Happy Jack, how kind of you to think of me! Yes, I did feel a little 'got at' the other day and have worked off my frustration by polishing the brass candlesticks in the Chapel of St Peter of Tatchell here in Barchester. I have followed your postings quite assiduously and feel warmth in my heart for your wisdom and kindness. I have made up the spare bed in The Palace, so should you ever find yourself in Barchester be assured of a welcome here - my Lord the Bishop is keen to debate with you over a malt and Cuban...

3 November 2013 at 20:00  
Blogger IanCad said...

This thread has jogged my memory.
FWIW, my father had in his library a wonderful book by a Colonel Williams titled: "Elephant Bill"
An absolute delight. I read it as a child and I see that it is availble on Amazon for 0.19p.
Going to 1-Click now.

3 November 2013 at 20:08  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Brother Ivo,

Judging by the undisturbed array of plaudits for your article, all entirely deserved in my opinion, you appear to have hit upon the magical key to communicant satisfaction. Perhaps elephants are the way forward ?

Seriously, it's rather jolly for us fractious crew to be as one, about anything ! Long live Brother Ivo !

3 November 2013 at 20:27  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Taking lead, perhaps Ivo can do a piece on the chimp. The next primate down from us, and if atheists are right, our nearest cousins. Did you know these fellas have worked out that if you poke a stick into a hole in a tree, ants will climb onto the stick, and can then be licked off. Fascinating creatures - you can see where mankind gets his ingenuity from, what !

3 November 2013 at 20:49  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

{AHEM} s/b "Taking David Hussell’s lead,"

3 November 2013 at 20:50  
Blogger David B said...

I find myself wondering if carl jacobs is crackers.


3 November 2013 at 21:03  
Blogger David Hussell said...


Let's settle for a " joint lead" , all very ecumenical, or as you have been known to say, at the end of a paragraph,

.......... what !

3 November 2013 at 21:03  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

Mrs Proudie, Happy Jack gladly accepts your warm invitation. So far as that chapel is concerned, Jack suggests you close it and have the ground reconsecrated. Happy Jack will spare your blushes and have a quiet word with the good Bishop about s suitable final resting place for those candlesticks.

3 November 2013 at 21:04  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

David B has just moved up the shortlist ....

Happy Jack has been thinking about the Good Samaritan and the people seeking safety in Britain from war and persecution. Jack has asked Jeeves about this. Mrs Thatcher's said: "No-one would remember the good Samaritan if he'd only had good intentions - he had money as well." Jack thinks she meant that a country has to prosper in order to help the needy. Maybe the problem is not the genuine refugee. They need help. It might be those choosing to come here from Europe where they are not so well looked after. Who can blame them? But sharing our resources means less is available for others in need and everyone suffers. Happy Jack believes Europe should stop all this or foot the bill as they made the rules.

3 November 2013 at 21:40  
Blogger David B said...

@Inspector who wrote -

" It’s rather awkward to find meaning in life when the beginning and end of it stops with you. How a fellow can do so without considering he is part of a wider creation and one with a plan at that, put in place by a creator, completely flummoxes..."

All things must pass, but life does not begin or end with the individual.

One must be stoical about personal extinction, and take solace in the fact that one has been for a while a part of a long and wonderful process of great variety. One is part of a wider universe, in time as well as space, but 'creation is not the term I would choose.

I don't see how one can extract more meaning from considering oneself a pawn in a plan - even were it true.

But one can find meaning in exploring, contemplating and, insofar as one can, understanding life, the universe and the relationship between them, and passing on one's ideas.

It is not perhaps the meaning that all of us would like to see.

But it does have the virtue of being real.

Most ideas of personal immortality are necessarily false, since they spring from religions incompatible with other religions. Most religions deny the resurrection of Christ, for instance.

But there is no good reason to think any of them are true, any more than there is reason to believe that a candle is remade in some sort of spiritual realm after it burns out.


3 November 2013 at 21:49  
Blogger Owl said...

Brother Ivo,

Thank you for your excellent article!

I have a bit of a problem with the following statement:

"What the elephant study teaches us is that the social disruption of families has long-term consequences, and these consequences were unforeseen by those who promoted them with short-term thinking."

When I look back on the sentiments of the Fabian founders, I can't help thinking that that this is very much in line with their long term thinking.

Shaw and his cronies were very much "anti family" and pro "big society".

I can't help feeling that their plan is, gradually of course, coming along nicely.

I do agree that some useful idiots help to keep things going.

3 November 2013 at 21:56  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

David B

Crackers? Heh. Have a nice day anyways. Me and my tinfoil hat didn't take any offense. The aliens tell me they aren't even sure if you were serious


3 November 2013 at 21:57  
Blogger David B said...

Carl, I forgot you were American.

Over here in Britain Jacobs is a well known brand of the sort of crackers commonly eaten with cheese. So it was a joke.

Google 'Jacobs Cream Crackers'.

Mind you I do think some of your views are a bit eccentric, but I suppose you think the same of some of mine.


3 November 2013 at 22:43  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

David B

Ah. See, I thought it was a joke but I didn't understand it. I don't expect ad hominem from you so a straight reading would have been out of character. I tried to make light of it and I hope I succeeded. I retrospect I probably should have included a smiley icon.

Anyways, how could you forget I am an American? I fit all the American stereotypes I see on British TV. Well, except for loud clothes and an excessive concern for money.


3 November 2013 at 22:53  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

David B @ 21:49

Lifted from a humanist funeral service, perhaps ? One does maintain that a belief in a life to come is only secondary to this man’s thinking. He finds it difficult to comprehend we are here through sheer chance. So, with that, we have a creator but not necessarily a continuation of our own existence in a spiritual form. In that, he is therefore an ancient Roman, of sorts. But that Christianity offers a continuation for the select is really a bonus. But it counts for nothing to him when being switched off when worn out after a life on this earth is nothing more than the release from the rigours and pain of old age.

3 November 2013 at 22:58  
Blogger Mr Integrity said...

Bro. Ivo,
So nice to find a page of comments with so little animosity. Well done to all communicants.

As to the elephants tale, I would just say; Despise not the hoary head.

BTW any one got an elephants foot? I need one for my walking stick and umbrella.

3 November 2013 at 23:11  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3 November 2013 at 23:20  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

OIG wrote:

So, with that, we have a creator but not necessarily a continuation of our own existence in a spiritual form. In that, he is therefore an ancient Roman, of sorts.

*Watches all the RCs on the board do a facepalm.

Somewhere the shade of dear departed Dodo just smashed his forehead into his screen.


3 November 2013 at 23:22  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Carl dear chap. As you Americans would say, the Inspector just ‘lurvs’ the way you quote him out of context...

3 November 2013 at 23:34  
Blogger carl jacobs said...


I read that post three times to make sure of what you said. The only way that quote is out of context is if you are not the 'this man' in 'this man's thinking.' But you frequently refer to yourself in the third person.

If I have misunderstood you, then I will gladly apologize and delete the post.


3 November 2013 at 23:45  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Carl, there was a sentence after that quote, which should have informed. Let your post stand, you scallywag...

4 November 2013 at 00:10  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

Carl Jacobs is an American gentleman! Is he an American preacher man? He writes with such certainty and authority.

Happy Jack finds American's most generous, especially when Jack plays his gospel songs for them. The women are most kind too when he asks if they have any requests and when he agrees to have his picture taken with them. They have very big cameras. Jack finds the men tend to do what their ladies tell them.

Happy Jack wishes him and all Americans well and says if you're ever in the Durham area, near the Cathedral, keep an eye out for Happy Jack - and notes only please.

4 November 2013 at 00:55  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...


Your four paragraphs on the god of Self is excellent.

Worthy of CS Lewis?

But why does CS Lewis and others of similar ilk have so little influence today.

My Vicar supplied an answer. He suggests that the majority of people today are two stupid to understand writers such as CS Lewis. It is the result of two or three generations with brains addled by TV and other media.

He says our arguments must be short and simple to have any influence in today’s society. Like it or not this is the world we live in. E.g. Read DanJo’s responses to arguments put forward on this blog. He is effective, because he does not often argue points but tries to destroy them with a tagline. Successful Politicians/newspapers are no different. Pretend that you are talking to a 12 year old and your arguments have far more impact.

I think we need as Christians to have our taglines ready, rather than 1000 word responses.


4 November 2013 at 02:06  
Blogger carl jacobs said...


DanJ0 knows what he is talking about and he is consistent. He isn't particularly effective if you understand his presuppositions. He does often substitute condescension for argument. But it would be wrong to to suggest he resorts to simplistic arguments - tag lines. Only with opponents he doesn't particularly respect.

If CS Lewis has little influence it's because modern man has rejected the religion that formed the basis of Lewis' argument. He has internalized the logic of evolution and now sees himself as a self-created being. He no longer sees himself as under authority. He is his own authority. That's why our arguments make no sense to him. We appeal to an authority that sets boundaries and he responds that he is the only authority.

God becomes extraneous in this conception. His only real purpose is to validate man's autonomy. That is the essence of theology proper in liberal religion. But most people don't want or need that validation. They have reduced God to a harmless philosophical abstraction - controlled, contained, and hermetically sealed off from the 'real world.'

This will go on until the money runs out. And then things will change. Materialism can sway people who are rich but it has no answers for suffering and deprivation. The problem is 'What comes after?'


4 November 2013 at 02:53  
Blogger Gnostic said...

Brother Ivo, you have written yet another most inciteful and agreeable article. Thank you.

Dreadnaught and IanCad; The elephants illustrating Brother I's piece are not Indian elephants. They are definitely African elephants. You can tell by comparing the shapes of the ears and skull even with juveniles of which the two given examples most certainly are.

4 November 2013 at 07:40  
Blogger David B said...

One of the reasons why C S Lewis is not highly regarded is that he presents a pretty obvious false dichotomy regarding the nature of Christ.

A couple of other little points - I too was surprised by Inspector's Roman para, and it doesn't seem very orthodox to me regardless of the succeeding para.

And my views are not taken from a humanist funeral service, though they might have something in common. More a lot of contemplation of the human condition, with a lot of written and spoken influences.

Not least that remarkable work that has two authors separated by hundreds of years and very different baqckgrounds - a Muslim astronomomer/mathematician/mystic and a Victorian English freethinker.

"And fear not lest Existence closing your
Account, and mine, should know the like no more;
The Eternal Saki from that Bowl has pour'd
Millions of Bubbles like us, and will pour."

I did like a lot of carl's response to Phil of 02.53. Except that as I see it we don't see ourselves as so much self created as created by the blind algorithms of evolution. Though emerged from fluctuations in a ground of being might fit the bill, too, at a slightly deeper level of reduction.

Dawkins' 'Blind Watchmaker' is quite a nice analogy.


4 November 2013 at 08:28  
Blogger David Hussell said...

The question why does C S Lewis have no influence today is fascinating, especially as I have just finished reading one of his excellent clear books.

However I think that the points raised by both Carl Jacobs and Phil Roberts are valid, each explaining different parts of the total reason.

One can see from politicians that it is strap lines and sound bites nowadays that people are influenced by, not full, proper arguments. Even an A4 sized length of reasoning is to much for most people. And this is because Television etc has addled their brains. That is way it is here in the UK, and throughout much of the English speaking world I suspect. Whereas in developing countries, say the African ones where the faith is growing rapidly, there is a respect for education and learning that we have lost, and there people are not yet, spending their free time glued to mindless entertainment.
19th century workmen, who had just learnt, as adults, to read and write, but who had a deep yearning for education, could cope with more sophisticated arguments and writings than the average school product of today. Educationalists now accept that the standards attained by those now retiring in the UK exceed, for the first time ever, the standards of school leavers. Reversing this trend is what Gove has set out to achieve with his controversial reforms opposed by the left wing teachers unions. The US may be very different I accept that. But for us here in the UK the clergyman is right.

However Carl is also completely right also as we no longer gaze up at the heavens or nature with the wonder regarding the creator, in the way we did; since we vainly think that the popularized ideas of "science" which are wide of the mark, explain everything, which they do in a process and mechanism sort of way, but not in other ways regarding prime causes and meanings. Science is the misrepresented to the ignorant who know nothing about it really to lull them into thinking that they have no need to connect to anything outside their own lives, smug lives. Even those who believe in God have tamed him, into a distant, fuzzy, loving , everything is forgiven , sort of God. Morals and standards and even doctrines are but details. But yes, when the money runs out, then they may turn again searching for true meaning in our condition.

4 November 2013 at 08:42  
Blogger IanCad said...


Sometimes I just have too much time on my hands.

OK, Google Images has both African and Asian elephants on its pages, and Yes! the ears are significant as to their ancestry.

It seems to me that Dumbo on the left is an Indian and the baby - according to the size of its ears - could be African.

Now, it seems obvious that some familial relationship is evidenced.
Could I suggest that infant elephants have well-developed ears; much like puppies have large feet?

4 November 2013 at 08:43  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Happy Jack,

Are you a musician or merely relying on your happy aura to attract "support".

The precincts of Durham Cathedral is one of my favourite English urban spots. It is a pity that it is so far from me.

4 November 2013 at 08:45  
Blogger Gnostic said...

IanCad. Indeed you could. But those elephants are still of the African variety. Their skulls are not domed as they would be if they were of the Indian variety. :0)

4 November 2013 at 08:52  
Blogger IanCad said...


I'd better stick with carpentry.
Your zoological expertise trumps my ramblings.
Looking again at the baby, I notice it has tusks.
Are they born with them?
And to think how painful it is for humans to give birth!

4 November 2013 at 09:11  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

Dear David Hussell, have you lingered awhile amidst the splendours of Barchester at all? The central tower was built in the 13th century by the Master of the Doubtful Virgins, whose erections dazzled the Europe of his day. Our cloisters witnessed many historical scenes, such as the stomach-churning confrontation between Piers Gavescon and his accusers the trial of the Barchester Muggletonians in 1648. Amongst many splendours we have the Chapel of St Peter of Tatchell.which is a blaze of rainbow-coloured stained glass (Burne-Jones) and boasts the carved oak misericords showing quite clearly what really did happen to Edward II. I am currently revising our guide book and will send you a copy.

4 November 2013 at 09:23  
Blogger Gnostic said...

IanCad, you produce excellent and sensible commentary. I have a lot of time for your point of view. That you are a craftsman rather than some dry and dusty academic is to your credit. My grandad was a carpenter too. He was one of the most sensible, down to earth people I ever met. I hope some of it rubbed off on me.

Elephant newborns tend not to have tusks that have already erupted although it's possible that some do, just as some human babies are born with a tooth or two. African ears are bigger and more rounded whereas Indian ears are shorter, look a little ragged and are more squared. Africans have flatter skulls and Indian skulls sport a very distinctive double dome. The tips of their trunks are different too; Africans have two pointed tips and the Indian variety ends in a single point. Of course none of this matters if you are caught in a stampede of elephants.

Forgive me for being an elephant anorak. I have a liking for the creatures. :0)

4 November 2013 at 09:39  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Mrs Proudie,

As one who takes a keen interest in our architectural heritage, especially of the ecclesiastical variety, I can only express my most effusive thanks for that short tour de force of the glories in stone and glass awaiting me in Barchester. I look forward with barely controlled enthusiasm to receiving yet more information from your kind self.

In the meanwhile there's the winter logs to barrow in and stack in the woodshed ....... now where did I park my trusty wheelbarrow ?

4 November 2013 at 09:48  
Blogger The Explorer said...

Fleeting revisit to Cranmer; I was intrigued by the elephant picture.

David B re C S Lewis.

The trilemma is in 'Mere Christianity' Its validity rests on gospel validity, which Lewis did not have the space there to consider. He does so, though, in essays like 'Fern Seed and Elephants', or 'Rejoinder to Dr Pittinger'. Craig Blomberg's 'The Historical Reliability of the Gospels' is a good defence of the
trilemma argument.

Lewis is not forgotten. Books like 'The Magician's Twin' or Peter Kreeft's latest consider his relevance to C21. (Especially 'The Abolition of Man'.) In the States, they are proposing a theological college named after him; he's getting a plaque and memorial service in Westminster Abbey on 22nd November, and there's a conference about his literary criticism in Cambridge on 23rd November.

Hope to be back on Cranmer on a regular basis next year. In the interim, regards to all.

4 November 2013 at 10:05  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

Dear David H, I almost forgot to mention the fine poker work on the reredos...

4 November 2013 at 10:23  
Blogger bluedog said...

Mr Proudie @ 0932, it is heartening to see your interest in rewriting the guide book to your Lord's incumbency. Rarely does one get a chance to rewrite history and it is an opportunity to be seized at all costs. One notes that many rather controversial events have taken place within the tranquil surrounds of Barchester. Do you perchance have any relics as a consequence? Italian churches in particular always seem to be full of ghoulish body parts from obscure saints, which rather adds to their tourist appeal. It's a habit that has never really caught on in England for some reason. Perhaps Signora Neroni would be able to provide some EU funded counselling to you, complete with an appropriate study tour. One does feel we are getting left behind by our EU cousins on this front.

4 November 2013 at 10:37  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

Alas dear Bluedog, the Reformation swept away most of our Holy Relics in an orgy of vandalism. Our lost treasures included the Dandruff of St. Timotei, the Holy Earwax of St. Audio and the Two Fingers of St. Bernard Manning...all gone! We did put in a bid for the remains of Richard III but could not prove a connection -my Lord the Bishop was most put about taking the hump! I do find merit in your suggestion that Signora Neroni might be useful EU wise: I will ply her with hobnobs and see what can be wangled. Just in case anyone thinks I have totally ignored the thread of this post, we do have a splendid 17th century Italian altarpiece of Hannibal Crossing the Alps with his Elephants, though why the artist included a bottle of chianti and a plate of fava beans in his composition is beyond me. I shall write to Sir Nicholas Serota immediately.

4 November 2013 at 10:50  
Blogger Len said...

'Being a Christian aint `easy.'

Following Jesus Christ ain`t easy in fact it is impossible! That is, if we rely on our own strength to do so.It is only through the 'new birth' when God breathes His Life into our spirit that we become empowered to follow Christ.
many try to be' a Christian' relying on their own strength to do so and eventually 'give up' or become hypocrites pretending to be something they are not .This can either be through not realising that God can give them the Holy Spirit to guide them and empower them or just through sheer pride in their 'own abilities'.

In God`s Kingdom many things are reversed as compared to the way this World does things.

IF we have faith THEN we will see.
IF we are weak THEN we are strong

IF we rely on our own 'goodness' our 'own abilities' then we are setting ourselves up to fail in God`s Kingdom.

4 November 2013 at 10:59  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

The elephant on the left has the depigmentation to pink characteristic of the Asian which led me to make my remark. If I am wrong about the one on the right, I apologise to Bro Ivo unreservedly.

4 November 2013 at 11:36  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Methinks you are right, Dreadnaught; these are Asians. Africans have much larger ears.

4 November 2013 at 12:12  
Blogger Gnostic said...

Mr. Dreadnaught, I believe the pink pigmentation to which you refer is a coating of dried mud.

4 November 2013 at 12:14  
Blogger IanCad said...

Thanks for the kind words Gnostic.
You are one of the old hands who have contributed so much to this blog which daily enlightens and sometimes enrages us.

They come. They go.

But, HG, and his curates, are still there. Intrepid, devoted and - may I say - Indispensable in this age of transience and shallowness.

Long may they continue to feed us meat.

4 November 2013 at 12:18  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

Fair point MsG.

4 November 2013 at 12:24  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

Hello David. Happy Jack is who he says he is and says what he says. We all have this thing you call an "aura". Yes, Happy Jack plays a guitar and sings songs. If this means he is a “musician", then this is what he is. Jack thinks everyone is a musician in one way or another. He has already said creation is one big symphony and we all have a place in the orchestra.

Happy Jack thinks the big church on the hill is beautiful too and he loves sitting outside it on sunny days watching the world go by. Happy Jack does not sing too close by it as he was told by a nice man this would be “bad form”, whatever that is.

4 November 2013 at 13:32  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

Happy Jack wonders when he reads all this stuff Carl writes about “modern man” having no time for thinking about God and not believing he exists and all of this about “modern dogma” and people not caring about others but just themselves.

Happy Jack thinks this is all a bit over the top. Carl writes like an old time preacher telling people off and trying to scare them. Jack has talked to many people and he does not see this in them. People will not listen to this. No. And Happy Jack thinks most people are just confused and do want to try to do the right thing but don’t know what this is or how to do it.

Happy Jack thinks it is no good writing long sermons telling everyone how bad they are and what they should do. Many people become very unhappy in life and when they are they often think about how this has all come about. As Jack has said before, the best way for Christians to preach and teach is to leave all their books at home and just meet people where they are and help and talk things over with them.

And David you don’t need “sophisticated arguments” to help people know about God. This can come later when they ask questions. Happy Jack thinks people do have a sense of awe about creation. Okay, so maybe they don’t use words like “prime causes” but they do sense something big is going on and you don’t need a good education to learn about this or about Jesus. It should be kept simple.

Sorry for going on but Jack thinks this is important.

4 November 2013 at 13:39  
Blogger Hannah said...

Hello Happy Jack,

Well you've survived the 'initiation ceremony' of this blog by managing to hold your own against Danjo (whose intelligence is sharper than a Katana, more wit than Charlie Chaplain and greater gravitas than John Stuart Mill and takes on Jews, Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Evangelicals meglomaniacs & anyone else five at a time and doesn't even sweat at the prospect*).

So you only wants notes, when you are outside of Durham Cathedral. That means you won't want, say, a standard gold bar, or a a Krugerrand put into your busking hat?

Keep smiling!

*Danjo, before you start, those are compliments.

4 November 2013 at 14:08  
Blogger Hannah said...

Hello Carl,

To add further info, 'Jacob's Crackers' were originally made in Dublin, but are similar to and inspired by Jewish Matzos...

4 November 2013 at 14:18  
Blogger Hannah said...

I think Elephants are such wonderful, strong and graceful animals. Couldn't tell if they were Asian or African, but does it really matter?

4 November 2013 at 14:19  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

Hello Hannah. Happy Jack is feeling Jacobs cream crackered today after all his writing on here.

Happy Jack thinks everyone has been polite and kind to him - except the Inspector when he was rude but he did say sorry. No, Happy Jack would not want gold as it is too heavy to carry around and he cannot use it in shops or share it with his friends.

As for the elephants, Jack agrees they don't mind if they are mistaken for African if they are Asian. Jack doesn't think elephants are as sensitive about their ethnic origins like people. These poor young ones just want a good mummy and daddy to show them the ropes and food and water.

Off out now for a stroll along the river bank as the sun is shining.

4 November 2013 at 14:34  
Blogger Hannah said...

PS, Happy Jack,

I think Carl is from the same place as Captain Kirk of the Starship USS Enterprise- Kansas or Iowa- I can't remember which one.

It's a funny place America a my American relatives are from the South, so are politically democrats, not republicans and are conservative, genial, deferential and are very courteous and know how to treat people properly. More English than English, really.

4 November 2013 at 14:39  
Blogger Hannah said...

Hello Happy Jack,

Sounds like a wonderful idea, going for a walk. The sun is out, but it is crisp and cool. So enjoy your walk, back to work for me!

4 November 2013 at 14:51  
Blogger IanCad said...


I should probably stay in my holt after being so wrong about elephantine heredity, but, I understand that the African variety is far more likely to cause you harm than its Hindu cousin.

4 November 2013 at 14:54  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

Dear Len,
'Following Jesus Christ ain't easy in fact it is impossible.' Nonsense man, pull yourself together. All that's needed is a good SatNav, a moral compass and a Baedeker.

4 November 2013 at 14:59  
Blogger Hannah said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4 November 2013 at 15:00  
Blogger Hannah said...

Hello Ian,

Aren't Elephants vegetarian? It isn't as if they are going to eat or hunt you, like lions or tigers. I guess the problem would be a stamped or the elephant equivalent? Then I guess one should just watch from a safe distance?

Unless you are hunting them, which I don't think is allowed nowadays. Have got an ivory chess set, pre ivory ban, btw. Must remember to clean my uncle's old tiger rug too (although Tigers are much nicer being alive and are really cuddly pussy cats when you get to know them)...

4 November 2013 at 15:03  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Greetings Avi, one agrees, Asian elephants they are.

The Inspector recalls a tale from years earlier when he researched the East India Company, the forerunner to the Raj. The English settlers were keen to put down roots and build bamboo homes. In some cases, they would square off a piece of ground, only to find the locals begging them to stop. These being early days and with translators in short supply, the English did what any Englishman would do in these circumstances: Completely ignore the fellows and carry on regardless.

Anyway, it transpired that the locals were trying to warn them that they were building on a long established elephant path. Now, the elephants might not use the path for a year or two, but when they did come, and it could even be night time, they completely ignored the bamboo construction obstacle, and walked into, and them over it, as if it wasn’t there, and after the whole herd had gone through, it well and truly wasn’t…

4 November 2013 at 18:18  
Blogger Hannah said...

Hello Inspector,

Amazed at how people know what type of elephants they are. Trust you to be a big game hunter ! (:

4 November 2013 at 18:45  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Good evening Hannah, one would would hazard a guess that there are elephants in the sub continent at all bear witness to their inedibility...

4 November 2013 at 19:30  
Blogger Hannah said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4 November 2013 at 19:53  
Blogger Hannah said...

Hello Inspector,

Carry on as this site's Allan Quatermain, just let me know when you've found King Solomon's mines...

4 November 2013 at 20:14  
Blogger Gnostic said...

Amazed at how people know what type of elephants they are.

Only some of us, Hannah, only some of us.


5 November 2013 at 08:14  
Blogger Len said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5 November 2013 at 10:28  
Blogger Len said...

Ms Proudie,(4 November 2013 14:59)

' All that's needed is a good SatNav, a moral compass and a Baedeker.'

Not exactly sure what a' baedeker' is but why rely on the inventions of man when the Holy Spirit is available and willing to help those who place their trust in Him?.

5 November 2013 at 10:30  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

Dear dear Len, my tongue was firmly in my cheek...

"Verlag Karl Baedeker, founded by Karl Baedeker on July 1, 1827, is a German
publisher and pioneer in the business of worldwide travel guides."

5 November 2013 at 16:11  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

Well Happy Jack chuckled at your little teaser Mrs Proudie. Jack considered the SatNav to be the Holy Spirit; the moral compass our conscience and the travel guide the bible. Jack had to ask Jeeves what a "Baedeker" was. Jeeves knows so much.

5 November 2013 at 19:35  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

Dear Happy Jack, you can still by Baedeker Guides in the travel section of most bookshops. Baedekers were the standard travel guide in my day. I am so glad you enjoyed my little does try, and my dear husband says I am very trying...whatever could he mean?

5 November 2013 at 20:09  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

Happy Jack makes it a rule never to comment on intimate matters between spouses.

5 November 2013 at 20:35  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

A rule more observed in the breech(es) than in the observance, methinks.

5 November 2013 at 21:01  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

Mrs Proudie, Happy Jack must assure you he never observes intimate matters between spouses, with or without breeches!

5 November 2013 at 21:55  

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