Have you ever had a moment in your life where multiple experiences clash together, in the way a Sigur Ros song, to merge into a single, ultimate, beautiful experience? I read the short story Sonny Blues to Sigur Ros music and dim lights causing my heart and soul to cleave to the words on the page. Incredible of experience. But that experience has nothing on what happened to me last Friday in Oxford, England…
For my spring break, I made my way to Folgaria, Italy, Paris, and London (more on the other places later). But I want to focus solely on my only 6 hours in Oxford.
While in Rome, I really only wanted to visit the pub that C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and their group of friends known as the Inklings hung out in from the late 30’s to the 60’s. I wanted to sit in the room they sat in, drink the beer they drank, talk about the things they talked about, and enjoy company as they did. I mean, I was excited about the Colosseum, St. Peters, and such but for some strange reason, I wanted to lounge in the very place that the greatest Christian mind (Lewis) of the 20th century lounged. I had read about the Eagle and Child pub in Lewis’ biography about his conversion in Surprised by Joy.
Why would I really want to go to such an obscure place in the vast history of the church? Honestly, I don’t know. Other than the temporal desires previously mentioned, I think I desire to meet friends in a place that I call my own and talk about Theology with people who you love and who love you; a company who is not afraid to tear down your idea in the search for Truth. So count this as my stepping stone to fulfilling my desire one day back in the States.
So while in London, a few of us decided to make the hour train ride to Oxford. Everyone made fun of me in my unfettered excitement for this Pub, to the point that it frustrated me. But that is beside the point. When we arrived in Oxford, we set out on finding the pub. To all of our surprises, Oxford is not a small town. Hoping to find the pub on a leisurely stroll is not quite possible without a little luck. So after we asked for directions, we found our way to the Eagle and Child pub.
I literally spent all 6 hours of our time in Oxford sitting in the pub. When we went in, the room where the Inklings met had an open table for all 5 of us to sit. The others went to walk around before they would eventually come back but I stayed not wanting to lose the table.
When my friends left to go explore the town, I stayed at the table in the Inklings’ room and took some time to read Lewis’ Mere Christianity, while sipping on a nice, but strange, green ale. I don’t know if he churned out some of his logical, rational arguments on the law of nature in the room, but to read his arguments there definitely was a treat. As Steve put it, it seemed as if you got smarter for just sitting in the room.
Greatest of all was the friendship we built with the manager of the pub. In our time there, he shared with us stories he heard about what kind of conversations went on with the Inklings and things of that nature. Through the conversations, I assumed that he was a Christian. I mean, he told us he jumped on the opportunity to manage the pub when his boss offered it to him because he loved to read Tolkien and Lewis as a kid.
Once American politics came into the conversation, things started to get interesting. He made some jokes and jabs at Bush and Texas but we let them blow over in order to avoid conflict. He also asked us about our point of view on Obama. We kind of tip toed around that one too with a non-committal answer like “we just need to wait and see.” But with all of this side stepping, Jennifer’s blood pressure boils past her tolerance line since she avidly supports pro-life, and rightfully so. It showed deeply in her face. As calmly as possible, she mentions her pro-life stance in order to show her dissatisfaction with Obama.
This took our discourse in a completely different and incredible tailspin towards Religion and Christianity. Soon do we find out, our friend is an agnostic. But this conversation was not a harsh or irrational or angry discussion. Our manager friend asked sincere questions and added constructive thoughts that every thinking man or woman, Christian or non-Christian should ask and think about in their search for Truth. Questions and comments that involve the problem of pain, the nature of evil (if it exists) and how it pertains to death, the validity of the Bible, and so on and so forth. Amazing, a conversation like this usually delves into the irrational with random Christian phrases being thrown around with no substance or spit spewed out in anger because of the disconnect between the two opposing sides.
Here is the greatness of the day summed up: A few friends and I sat in the Inklings’ pub, in their exact room, read Mere Christianity, drank a beer, talked about life and God to each other as well as to a man who did not believe in God. Amazing, huh?
More to come later on the rest of my spring break as well as something on Love (Christian, not marital/sexual), which I thought a lot about while on my break. It will probably be jumbled and incoherent, but hopefully not. Also, more pictures on Picasa later.