The Steampunk Vicar

A Presbyterian Pastor on Neo-Victoriana and American Faith

Month: February, 2016

De ritibus v. i (Or, The Unity Candle)

The Business of the Pastor is, in many Parts, the very Substance of Ritual. Some of the most moving and meaningful Moments of my Ministry are composed of Rite and Sacrament; Baptisms, the Lord’s Supper, Funerals, and, of course, Weddings. These Things Done, these Practices ancient and redolent with Power therefore, are at the very Core of the Cleric’s Work, the Warp and Woof of a Pastor’s Tapestry.

It causes me Alarum, therefore, to note that Weddings, especially, are becoming overtopped, with vain or troubling Ceremony. Traditionally, each Part and Piece of the Service is carefully considered, contributing to the Unity of the Whole. As the wedding Industry has become a Creature of Fashion, and of the prevailing Winds of our Society, the Demand for Uniquity has proceeded apace, and the Art of Wedding Liturgy has become top-lofty with unnecessary, meaningless, and problematic Ceremony.

Thus, I begin my new Series, De ritibus, which explores some of the Options and Alternatives for additional Ritual in your Service of Marriage. In this first Iteration, we discuss the Unity Candle, its Meaning, and its Implications for your Marriage.

Candela Unitatis

When first I began to attend Weddings, I bore witness to this particular Rite – the Couple being wed, each having lit a Taper, would then, together, light a larger, single Column, to symbolize their Unity in Flame. Having lit the larger Wick, the Participants will then usually blow out their individual Tapers, as Words describing Symbol and Act are read out by the Officiant. The two Persons, in the old Tradition of Scripture, become One Flesh, leaving behind entirely their prior Lives and welding one another together into one Family. At least, that’s the Idea.

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A Traditional Unity Candle Assembly

As a Christian and inheritor of the Jewish tradition thereby, I am, of course, moved by Candles in General. That’s all well and good. Too, there is something fundamentally beautiful about the Creation of a single Thing from its disparate Elements, which lies at the very Heart of Marriage. Truly, there is much that is deep and powerful about this Ceremony, and I have no Objection to much of the Concept, but rather to a point of Execution.

Quantae Candelae?

My Difficulty lies with one particular Portion of the Act, as each Person blows out the Flame which represents their individual Personhood. I find this profoundly distressing, as I am a proponent of Individuals, and their Rights and Obligations to Self-Determination and -Differentiation. The Erasure of the Individual is a dangerous Fallacy – neither Party to a Marriage should or will cease to exist as any part of the Agreement between them. They will surely be altered by the process, but the Abnegation at play in this Rite as it is described above is a Falsehood, and a toxic one.

My Solution, if the Ceremony speaks to you, is a simple one. Mere change the centre Candle in the following Way – add a second Wick, thus:

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Looks it not delicious?

Of a sudden, the Candle which symbolises your Unity now names also your Duality. Like the Blessed Trinity, you are at once two Persons, and One. You lose Nothing, and gain Everything. This is a deep Mystery, exactly as Marriage is, and all the most precious Wonders of the Universe.

On Trinity Sunday, most Years, I present just such a Light to my Students, and ask them the Question: “How many Candles have I here?” Responding they “Three,” I  point out that there is but one Wax. Responding “One,” I indicate that the Lights are triune. It is this cyclical Movement, this Tide of Thought which is the Centre of Mystery, and which lives in a truly mystic Unity Candle.

I am not displeased to perform this Ceremony for you, but I pray that you will buy into the meaning that I here attach, and that each of you will respect the Other sufficiently that you can let them keep their own Light shining. Indeed – is that not why you loved them first?

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Blessings to you both

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De memoriis

Look you ever back upon the corpus of your opera and find that your greatest Works are, perhaps, behind you? That the Poetry of your Soul in the Past exceeded its present State? Yea, even deeper – that, needing to speak a Truth, you return to prior Days and discover that you spoke it in your mis-spent Youth?

My Grandmother is be-smogged – o’ertaken by a great Fog upon her Memory. The Locomotive of her Mind is in grave Danger of becoming derailed. I find a fragment of prior Thought, that I perhaps once wrote upon this very Subject.

Find attached my Reflexions on nepor from Times of Yore, and weep with me, as the Cloud seeks to claim yet another.

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De nepore. 25 April, A.D. 2012

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?  

Primer Codicoris

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Friends and Neighbours, members of the Mind Enhived, I crave your Indulgence. As some of you may know. I have been embarked on the Study of various Languages for the Programming of Electro-Differential Engines, notably the Grammars of Pythonidae and Carbunculus (better known to the illiterati as Python and Ruby). At this latest Juncture, I found I’ve hit something of a Wall, and am not sure how next to proceed.

The Academy of Code

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Imagine this with less Plato and more Tab

My first entre point into the Field of modern Coding was provided by Codecademy, who I highly recommend. Beyond the charming portmanteau of their name, their Primers on HyperText Markup Language (HTML, I am informed) and Cascading Style Sheets, as well as my first Foray into Ruby, were exceptionally good. The in-place Development Environment for Ruby was particularly helpful, and I feel that I’ve an excellent Groundwork, now.

Unfortunately, the next in their Succession of Projects is the Pursuit of Ruby upon Rails. I cannot begin to state my Excitement to learn this Skillset – for what red-blooded Victorian Man loves not Gemstones upon Locomotive Tracks? – but, alas – my Place of Employment does not support their Development Environment, and I was swiftly swamped by their Implementation.

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Sisyphus

Gentlemen, this is my Mountain. Find your own Hill to endlessly push a Rock up.

My next Endeavour was Learn Ruby the Hard Way, which has the Virtue of Honesty about it. Twelve Lessons in, I discovered that, indeed, the Gelatin of Ruby had been so compressed by these Methods that I was able to, successfully and independently, create my own Program of Interest to myself.

Sadly, I have now reached the Termination of the free (as in, free tea) Portion of the lessons. For nominally similar Fees, these two Web Sites will joyously offer me prodigious Excesses of increased Content – Codecademy in monthly Payments, Learn Ruby the Hard Way in a single one.

My Query to you all, wise Denizens of the Internet, linked in Mind by Optical Fibres and Aethernet – which of these should I pursue? Codecademy? Learn Ruby the Hard Way? Or some other Option I’ve not yet discovered?

The Floor is open, Friends. What think you?

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Ruby

Solvo Problemata

I turned to regard my Interlocutor as I waggled the Cursor across the limis between the Monitors. “Just so,” I said, indicating that, indeed, she would also be able to copy and paste Text across the Boundaries. “This Soft Ware will permit transference of Cursor, Key Board, and Data between the two Apparati.”

Mrs. Goldberg had a nearly indescribable Expression on her Face. “I find,” she said, “that I must rather restrain myself from dancing. Thank you, oh, thank you, Mr. Johnstone. You’ve no idea what a Difference this shall make to me.”

Yes, I rather think that I do, I thought wryly as I replaced my Hat upon my shiny Pate. I rather think that I do.

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Perhaps the single most frustrating Aspect of the Pastoral Work is the Crisis of Completion. Infrequently, at best, when one serves in the Parish, is one able to complete or succeed or repair. So much of Church Employment is pure Process, and rightly so. God is best understood as in Process and Perfect, Complete and in Motion all at once. So, too, the Person and Work of Christ, and the life of the Church, which is Christ’s Body in the World.

It is a Truth to which I must accede, but which I also detest, that a Pastor’s Work is Never Done. This speaks both to the Sisyphean Proportions of our Call, and to the daily and unending Rigour of its Execution.

And so, in this Hour of my own Transition, as I stand at a Multiplicity of Crossroads and work, possibly for the Nonce, possibly for the forseeable Future, at the Technology which was an early Interest of mine, I find the sudden, sharp Relief of proscribed Problems, to which there are definite and attainable Solutions. The Art of a Technician has Scope and Depth and Range, and an End – both in the Sense of Time completed, and in the Sense of Purpose.

My mission as a Differential Engine Professional is to help Users to succeed at their Objectives. Every Day, when I walk out the door of the Information Services Department, my Aim is to assure that Nurses, Doctors, Janitors, Purveyors of Food, Administrators, and, most of all, Patients are in a Position in which their Technology is completely invisible. I have failed when the Printer or the Computer or the Endoscope is a Thing Noticed, rather than a Thing Used.

For Mrs. Goldberg, her Technology had become an Obstacle. It was actively obtruding in the Flow of her Work. The Fix was complex – it required Time, and Tenacity to achieve, and the Courage to ask a Favor.

But the Light, the Expression of Joy in Mrs. Goldberg’s Eyes! Here is Triumph, here is the Victory! Not over the Children of Earth, but over their Creations. When I left Mrs. Goldberg’s Side, she was enabled, ennobled by a Sensation that her Life and Work were made easier by the Technology and Tenacity of her obedient Servant.

Treasure, too, has a Part to play in this Trifecta. All Hard Wares have Cost, and my Pay is not Insignificant. But grant me these three – Treasure, Time, and Tenacity, and I will ease your Burdens, restore your Services, make you User rather than Used. And I shall do so taking as little Treasure as I can conveniently arrange.

For I am the Steampunk Vicar. And I solve Problems.

Solvo Problemata

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Ave, Munde!

In the Interstices between Tasks in my current Employment, I am learning certain arcane and occult Arts. I have found an ætheric Academy and a sort of Forum for the Provision of differential Codes, and am embarking to learn what Needs must. In the near Term, I’ve a few Projects which would be greatly facilitated by Electromechanical Automation – in the more distant Future, I think it wise, even at the Expense of taking up an ungenteel Occupation, to diversify the Waterways of my Income.

In particular, I have been Amused and Fascinated by the extreme Persnickitiness of the various linguae programmantes. Such Peccadilloes as misplaced Punctuation, improper Capitals, even erroneous White Space can put my various Soft Wares into intolerable Fits of the Vapours!

Even so, slowly and surely, I feel as though I am approaching, if not Mastery, then certainly the Capability to achieve my – admittedly simple – Objectives. When I am aware that the Amount of Time that I spend acquiring Numbers and performing various mathematical Operations upon them could be vastly streamlined, I cannot but look to see how this Same might be Reached.

For the Nonce, I merely say to all the spinning Orb,

print “Ave, Munde!”

end.