The Steampunk Vicar

A Presbyterian Pastor on Neo-Victoriana and American Faith

Month: April, 2012

The Twenty-third Psalm

The Lord is my Engineer, I shall not break down.
He shuts me off in well-stocked workshops.
He runs me beside full refineries.
he repairs my soul.
He leads me on straight rails
for his Name’s sake.
Even though I chug up the darkest mountain,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your wrench and your driver –
they comfort me.
You prepare a workbench before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my gears with oil;
my tank overflows.
Surely I shall pull goodness and mercy
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the garage of the Lord
my whole life long.

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De Nepore

I must apologize for the gross portmanteau of the title – the word “smog” has no analogue in the Vulgar tongue, and so I find that, like Dr. Des Voeux, I must combine the two concepts in language. Nebula and vapor are the chosen sufferers of Latin’s proud history, and while the result does, in some ways, resemble the word for “grandson,” I feel that I may be pardonably pleased with pride in the result. Nepor, neporis, f. 

The reason, of course, that is on my mind, is that I have just lately had a close encounter with a Smog…not a smog of the vapors and clouds, not of coalsmoke and river mists, the scourge of London’s breath even in your, less hydraulic time line. No, the Smog of today’s adventure is a Smog of the Mind. I had reason to sit, today, with a woman who would have been described, in my milieu, as “senile.” Her age had caught up to the workings of her reason. And as I sat, and listened to her tell me the same tiny fragment of a story, the same factoid, for what must have been the sixth time, I came to imagine what all-pervasive Smog had overtaken her faculties.

For this is what dementia – and Dr. Alzheimer’s Disease – do to your elderly. You have dragged them through wonders of medicine past the dangers of influenza, the pox, plagues, and other ailments. More and more of your grandparents and great-aunts are surviving longer and longer, and so, for more and more, as they age, the industry of their minds and the ravages of nature combine their by-products to produce a miasma, a swirling grey mist which envelops and cocoons, which protects and shields. The Smog of absence from one’s mind covers like a woolen blanket, and seals away the Person from the World, ever tightening, until, at last, the afflicted one forgets how to swallow, and breathes in the last cold nepores of the Lethe.

I will confess – I fear this fate. My mind, mechanical though it may be, in parts, is one of the greater gifts the Lord bestowed upon me. To lose it…to feel the corrosive Smog eating away at gears and workings, at foundations and pillars, to have the structures and springs rust and fall apart, is one of the worst deaths I can conceive.

And yet. My companion in this mission of mercy, a Dutchwoman of sturdy character and firm convictions, claims it as a great gift. “How wonderful,” she says, “to have forgotten.” To worry no more, to have one’s anxieties slip away into the endless clouds…I see her point. Thank you, Anke. Rightly said.

What will you do, when Smog rolls o’er your eyes?
When Morpheus’ Vapors slip into your Chest? 
When Fire which runs your motive Forces dies?
When choked, forgetting, will you finally rest?  

De Creatione

As is often the case, the best conversations start on one of the more bizarre (and brilliant!) inventions of this 21st Century, the Avian Medium of Society, “Twitter.” We encountered against one another a brief working out of the distinction between creation and manipulation with Mr. Smith at @NSFChurch (a note – it is possible that Mr. Smith is more appropriately styled Rev. Smith – I have no way to confirm this easily. I am quite pleased to be corrected). I made a rather snide offhand comment – some of my best friends and acquaintances being rather on the “Mad” end of the Scientist Spectrum. I’m sorry, sir, if I came across as more serious than I intended to do.

Nevertheless, I feel that the ensuing exchange was worth exploring. Purely from the perspective of the physical sciences, nothing has been created – or destroyed – since the very Beginning. All the matter and energy of the universe are all that there has ever been, or will ever be, allowing for some translation from one state to another – thus relativity. EnergyisMass, with the interruption of a constant.

Mr. Smith’s point seems to be a vigorous defense of creativity – an endeavour to which I am thoroughly sympathetic, to wit, my current occupation. However, I would prefer a nicer distinction between creativity and creation. I have never created anything, as my physical analysis above should prove. I have been creative on multiple occasions, as have both the Bohemian Artists and the clever Mechanics of my acquaintance. It is in the cunning rearrangement of the elements that true Creativity is to be found.

Having established in the necessary brevity the difference in our arguments, the topic turned slightly to my initial, rude comment, which was that some persons I know have been creative to the Detriment of themselves, their offspring, their monstrous Creations, and any innocent villagers who happened across the paths of said Abominations.

The points victory went to Mr. Smith, who rightly indicates that our creativity is ultimately bad – or, rather more to the point, Evil – when it becomes self-serving. Poor Dr. Frankenstein’s error may well have been not in creating a monster, but in creating one to serve his own ego, and not the needs of his neighbours. And, also, I suspect, in failing to control it. There’s a message of humility in there for any Creative Persons, particularly those of the Post-Modern bent. It is worth reflecting on how your Art or Work will affect those who encounter it…as well as for Whom you are making it, and with Whose materiel.

At any rate – well played, @NSFChurch. Thank you for the inspiration, and the correction!

De Divortio, v. I

I must say that one of the moments I am most looking forward to on a return to my own Time Line is the conversation I intend to have with Mechano-Lord Byron and Mr. O. Wilde (who has become much Wilde-er, apparently, since that nasty were-badger-bite). I think both gentlemen will be frankly astounded at where modern society, both British and American, has come to in the past few decades – and don’t get me started on how Shakespeare’s Brain-in-a-Jar will feel on the subject. Most particularly I highlight those gentlemen because of historical links on the issue of homo-sexuality.

I will admit, I was frankly shocked when I first arrived by such Radiovisual comedies as “Will and Grace,” and by the populations of “Project: Runway.” among other things. But I’ve had a chance, since I arrived in this Land of the free, to explore their social and theological thinking. I will not say that it has been always a particularly EASY process, but I am coming to terms with the license of this age – and, in fact, coming to embrace it.

Over the next few postings from the Aether, I will be exploring the following topics:

I. The Scriptural Arguments for Accepting Gays, Lesbians, Transsexuals and Transgendered Persons, and the Queer Community
II. A Brief History of This Acceptance in the American Churches of the Reformation
III. The Good News for the Proclamation of the Gospel and My Connexion Thereto

I may, due to erudition, take more than one post for each of these topics, and those whose interest is more in my neo-Victorian pursuits may be disappointed for some weeks to come. Rest assured – I will return to the subjects most dear to your hearts, but as a portion of this weblogue’s purpose is the freedom to speak out on topics otherwise taboo, I must share what is on my Mechanical Heart first.

Walk with me, first, then,on a Journey to the Centre of the Word of God…

De Bellos Astrae

I’ve had a spot of bother, lately, on this Electro-visual Difference Engine of mine. Having made Connexion with the Transcontinental Optico-Radio Arachno-Network, I have been thoroughly astounded by the profusion of Weblogues, informational broadsheets in non-analogue formats, aetherial Newspapers, and the like.

That were bad enough, but the forms of Entertainment to be had! I would not consider myself a gamester, by any stretch of the imagination, but this is no form of gaming that I have ever before encountered. Most lately, I’ve been taken up with a sort of theo-political Fantasy, a retrograde visual novel of the genre I believe to be called “Space Opera” (though it suffers from the most abominable lack of the music of the human voice). I speak, of course, of, Belli Astrae: Republica Veteris, or, in the language of my home, Star Wars: The Old Republic.

I am sure that I will write again – and often! – concerning my adventures in these Flights of Fancy. But I felt moved to share this single Anecdote.

Early in one’s adventures on the world of Tython, the wisdom of the Jedi Order is stated: that Justice requires Emotionlessness. The Just Person, they argue, must strip anger and compassion from action, in order that true Justice must be obtained.

I struggled for some time against this Dictum, first in the confines of the entertainment, but then more concretely in my theological reflexions. This, finally, I concluded, opposes entirely the Christian Gospel – for did not our Lord and Savior suffer upon the Cross in order that Justice might prevail? It was through the Christ’s Compassion that he was able to endure, and to serve as sacrifice, and it is through our own Compassion with Christ that we are called to preach and practice Justice.

Perhaps I refine too much on the Philosophy of that which is intended merely as a Novel, but I have ever felt that our Fiction reflects on our Society, and that, especially in a Work as binary and moralist as this one is, we should pay the closest attention to the finer points of our Differences in Belief.

I believe that Justice – true Justice, on the model of Our Lord’s Justice – requires our Emotion. It is not objective or rationalist, but truly humanist, in that it acknowledges all parts of the Imago Dei within us. Justice, as she is portrayed in public art, is blind – she is not heartless.

The Steampunk Vicar

Greetings, travelers and wanderers, adventurers and exoticists, rationalists, spiritualists, moralists all! Welcome to a catalogue, a travelogue, a weblogue, a counterlogue – an essay into the world of the fantastic, the Romantic, the Gothic, the entropic, the myopic. Welcome to this religious, prestigious, prodigious endeavour – the articles and histories of the Steampunk Vicar.

Who, I hear you ask, is this amazing man – this Romantic Renaissance man, this insightful and inciteful man, this erudite and recondite man? Is he fully depraved? Fully, are you quite sure? Is he entirely saved? Most entirely? Who is he, I hear you ask, and, so I echo: who am I?

Consider me an alter-ego, who says what must not be said, who knows the God but dare not speak His Name, who inquires and replies. My other parts may remain shrouded in mystery, but all that you must now, o best beloved, is that I am a man of many parts, of history, lost in time but not in Grace, and that my times and inquiries are most germane to the lives you lead.

For I am the Steampunk Vicar, and I am most glad to make your acquaintance.