Sunday, May 19, 2019

Cousin Bob

I'll make this brief. I have a cousin Bob, half a decade younger than me. We've met as adults only once or twice, but are Facebook friends and I've kept up with him through his blog. Bob is what people who are more cynical than I am would call "drunk on religion." That is to say, far more than I, he anticipates an afterlife and considers this life a kind of prologue to it.

We have some serious differences of opinion, but I greatly like and admire him. In fact, his life reminds me of the parson in "The Canterbury Tales." You might recall that Geoffrey Chaucer was quite hostile to most of the clergy he depicted in his great poem, all those pompous people who made a good thing from religion and had the trappings to show it. The parson, however, after a lifetime of ministering to his little congregation, was left in his elder years with hardly any material possessions, and was hard pressed to keep body and soul together. What he did have was the respect and admiration of his parishioners.

Here's a little more about the parson from the Wikipedia article about him.

The Parson is considered by some to be the only good member of the clergy in The Canterbury Tales, while others have detected ambiguities and possible hints of Lollardy in the portrait.[4] Chaucer, in the General Prologue calls him a povre Persoun of a Toun. His depiction of a man who practices what he preaches seems to be positive:
He was a shepherde and noght a mercenarie.
And thogh he hooly were and vertuous,
He was to synful men nat despitous,
Ne of his speche daungerous ne digne,
But in his techyng discreet and benynge.
(Gen Prologue, lines 514–18)
if also rather forbidding; for instance, Chaucer's parson is no respecter of persons in demanding ultimate adherence to moral principles:
But it were any person obstinat,
What so he were, of heigh or lough estat,
Hym wolde he snybben sharply for the nonys.
(Ibid, lines 521–3)
None of the explicit criticism of clergy that marks many of the other tales and character sketches is obvious here. The Parson is throughout depicted as a sensible and intelligent person. Chaucer elsewhere is not uncritical of the clergy; for example, he describes flatterers – those who continuously sing placebo – as "develes chapelleyns".

That's about it. Take it as a compliment, Bob. That's how it's meant. Just don't go snybben people.

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