24 July 2009

Things You Probably Didn't Know about London, part 1

This particular edition of "Things you probably didn't know about London" may contain very offensive language. I am sorry, but it's unavoidable.

This particular article could just as easily been named "Something You Probably Didn't Know about York" or any number of English cities. Many location names in England are very literal, even if the nature of what the particular place was named after over the years have changed. For instance, Fleet Street was named after the River Fleet which still flows beneath it, and Pudding Lane, source of the devastating fire in the 17th century, was not named after the baker who made delicious puddings and who started the fire, but the Middle English word for entrails spilled from carts on their way from the butchers on Cheapside.

Of course many English cities have what we now call a red light district. Well, they weren't so much districts as streets. And most weren't so much streets as little lanes were men could poke skirts, visit bordellos, and grope cunts. So, they were named things like "Puppekirty Lane", "Bordhawelane", and "Groppecountelane". The latter eventually evolved to "Grope Cunt Lane" and then onto things a little more polite like "Grope Lane" or "Grape Lane". I suppose it not only confined prostitution to an area to keep it out of the view of those who didn't want to see it, but it served as a way for travellers to know where to head when visiting a new city.

I probably should have written about this when I first found out about it, because, apparantly Wikipedia made Gropecunt Lane a featured article earlier this month. Ah well. It is a pretty cool article:



17 July 2009

The prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
-Commonly attributed to St. Francis of Assisi

Even when I was in the depths of my atheism, I could see the beauty and truth in this prayer. It's probably this prayer, along with a few other writings and prayers (not all of them Christian), that brought me back into spirituality.

Once I get past the simple yearning for this in my life, I wonder how my life would be different if I could truly live up to the ideals of this prayer. If I could let go of my own self-interests and neediness to look for others' interests or where I am needed. To see the opportunities to make the world just a tiny bit better.

But I rarely remember this in practice. Maybe there is some secret to link your spiritual ideals to your actions.