Prague and the Cross

An Advent walk through mediaeval Prague

It was a crisp, cold November evening yesterday as we walked with our Czech guide through the dark windswept streets of Prague. Most sensible people were passive-smoking in the warm, crowded bars; we headed for the Old Town, then across Charles Bridge. On the parapet of the almost deserted medieval bridge we found our first cross: bronze, and set into the stone of the parapet. ‘Place your hand on it,’ I was told, ‘any wish you make will come true.’ The location was where, in 1393, the tortured body of Jan Nepomucký (John of Nepomuk), confessor to the Queen, was thrown into the river on the orders of a suspicious Wenceslas IV for failing to divulge the confession of his wife. I placed my hand on the baroque cross with two horizontal bars: it was worn smooth by centuries of touch. I made a wish which will remain secret. Continue reading “Prague and the Cross”

Healing society—the ethics of desire

The recent rioting and looting on the streets of England have triggered an avalanche of comment from politicians of all persuasions, peppered with phrases such as ‘social deprivation’, ‘the breakdown of family values’, ‘no stake in society’, and so on. Deep conversations try to fathom why, within certain localities, there is an inbuilt desire for self-destruction — the social equivalent of a disturbed teenager slashing her wrists with a kitchen knife. Some have even tried to paint a Dickensian picture of social stratification, equating today’s looters with those that, until not so long ago, were hung for stealing a loaf of bread. The solution — according to this analysis — is simply to pump more money into deprived housing estates, presumably so the kids can go out and buy their own designer clothes without the trouble of stealing them. Continue reading “Healing society—the ethics of desire”