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Jim's Memoirs
Notes from the Island of Jersey, April 2019

Jackie, my B&B host asked me if I was enjoying my stay in Jersey, and I had to say that "enjoy" isn't really the word. I'm too curious and analytical about everything I see, and falling into conversations wherein I explore further. “Excited by” is the expression that fits what’s happening.

For example, on Easter Sunday I went first to the main Catholic cathedral service at 9:30. It was packed--actually no seat for me, until a Portuguese family (many such immigrants here) made room for me with their two squirmy little boys. The service was entirely in English, and seemed very English/same as C of E type liturgy and hymns. But the congregation did not sing along at all. There was no liturgy to speak of; and very little reading of scriptures. Meanwhile, a massive organ and (amplified) choir heralded very stirring music.

At 11:00a.m., I went to one of the main C of E church services, It was only moderately attended, but the congregation sung the hymns loudly and with vigor. The average age at the Catholic service was about 52; at the C of E, it was about 65. Both pastors were very English and very polished and professional, even conversational in their "sermon": nothing like the dry, old hectoring or lecturing.

After the C of E service was over and the sanctuary was practically empty, I was accosted by a large, beefy man, about age 55, who was holding a document in his hand, "Do you know any Jewish people?" he asked me. Of course, I said yes, both truthfully and out of curiosity to see what he had in mind. Thereupon followed a tangled, incoherent monologue about Bible verses--in Daniel, in Numbers, and apparently how they are misinterpreted. "It says here, six years, but do you know how long that really is? In the Bible, one year actually means 260 years." The document was his own printout, of his incoherent analysis--with some points typed in red. After 5 minutes, he still hadn't made any point. As I pulled away, he seemed to get to his point, saying, "So you see, all this they're saying about homosexuality being okay and such things is all wrong." So okay: a rather deranged person, with weak mental organization abilities, but notice how unquestionably he had latched on to this document, the Bible, this tangled collection of words, legends, recollections, inventions, contradictions, translations, mistranslations as containing, somehow buried within it, the source of all truth. I asked him what religion he was, and he said none in particular. "Then where did you get your ideas?" I asked, pointing at his complex document. "By reading, studying," he answered. "I figured it out on my own." (I doubt he was a member of this C of E congregation. I think he dropped by at the end of the service).

So, an element of the human condition: our inclination to latch on--oh so firmly!--to obscure, distant formulations to validate whatever shallow prejudice we may have.

Neolithic tomb at Hougue Bie Neolithic tomb at Hougue Bie

Speaking of obscure, distant formulations, that afternoon I walked 4 miles to La Hougue Bie, the most dramatic Neolithic tomb/temple in Jersey. 4000 BC. I found it curious that--given how desperately people then had to struggle to get food to stay alive--they had the time and energy to move 20-ton stones, and lift them on top of each other--and then heap a 50-foot high mound of stone on top of this chamber. Hundreds of people working months on end when they should have been planting wheat. And then to top it off--literally--in around 1550 a Christian chapel was built up on top of this ancient religious site. So it seems, when it comes to religion, there's an impressive amount to ponder on one little island like Jersey!

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