England, below the Ribble and Tees, is special, thanks to the Domesday Book of the invading, tax-loving Normans, and their general propensity to good record-keeping. The towns and villages ennumerated in 1086 can be traced to the present day; more than nineteen-in-twenty are still there. Having figures to start, and through the parish books later, we can track an economic and demographic history with an accuracy possible in no other country. We can know, for instance, of the population boom through the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, which had slackened well before the “Black Death.” And with that boom, impressive advances in farming, technology, and building, as today. Nothing conduces to technical improvement, as a bit of crowding.
The urbane have perhaps always been busy erasing death from their picture of life. We imagine farms as places “full of life.” But the old farmers could tell you that is less than half the story: just a brief passage in the history of death. The groaning table of reunion, at harvest and thanksgiving, is death on turkeys and geese; our daily bread is golden death on the green and waving corn. Finally the grim reaper appears, and it is death on us. Our winter is death; death then resurrection.
This proportion I cited — the nineteen-in-twenty — which I have from reading in economic history mostly years ago, fascinates my attention. We know large tracts were depopulated, we find the archaeological evidence easily enough. They were planting rye within the walls of Winchester, and many other towns. Everywhere, they had elbow-room again. Our deep ecologists would have been pleased — those who think life on this planet would be better had a few billion souls not been born, or would politely disappear. As Christianity, and environmentalism, are mortally opposed, and the fourteenth century was overwhelmingly Christian, I expect complaints of overpopulation were differently expressed at the time. Mostly it would have been moaning from younger brothers about the distribution of inherited land.
My parents’ generation failed their children; we failed ours; our children are failing theirs — so far as they even get born. Only in this sense is progress real: a kind of progress towards the Hell-gates. Imagine where we’d be if God were not constantly intervening, in His unimaginably reactionary way.
The essay focuses on the prejudices of Amy and her mother.
Yet while living and travelling in England and Europe, I often went into a church. Never on a Sunday or Holy Day, however. My interest was archaeological. A history buff: I wanted to see the art and architecture while it still stood. I was also curious about the music, and drawn in sometimes by the sound of an organ. But if I found a choir, too, and a “church service” in progress, I would take flight.
Person to person." -- Mother Teresa.
She used to pull me closer whenever we'd encounter a begging homeless person on the subway and drop her eyes, focusing on the stray paper and chewing-gum medallions--blackened with soot of the city--that decorated the floor.
Teresa, patroness of missionaries.
In 1979, she received the Nobel Peace Prize for “ The most wretched have received compassion without condensation.” Looking at what Mother Teresa did for others, I wish I could be just like her.