Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Regarding Journals

Syncretism is in my nature. It is my great blessing and my curse. It allows me to learn new concepts quickly. It also makes any error in my understanding disturbingly persistent. Take, for example, the relationship between King John and the Albigensian Crusade. King John fought a losing land battle at a proximate time to the eradication of the Cathari. As both the King and the Cathari lost, I had assumed an alliance between them, and have even argued in favor of it. No such relationship existed. I formed similar misplaced opinions about the relationship between the Paduan reformers and the firebrand Italian Protestants. I had assumed that their similar radicalism was a direct offshoot of both being spurned at Trent, when in reality people like Martyr Vermigli and Ochino would never have rejoined the Rome of their time. They would have gone to the extremists regardless. What looks like conspiracy is more often coincidence. There is never a big picture, and if there is, the actors of history never glimpse it from where they stand. Such was the death of my belief in ideology as an historical force.

Often, in defiance of my gifts, I plunge into byzantine levels of detail, an act that is at once painful and educational. From the detailed process I sometimes gather a syncretic understanding, more often I do not. My thesis is an example of where I did not. No matter how much detail one gathers, it does not prove intent. The theological reformers of Padua had no longstanding plan to join with the rueful wiliness of the Church in England. Gathering a detailed process of how airline trips are made does not give one an understanding of why they happen, or of how a travel agency reserves seats on an airplane. These processes just happen, and can only be truly understood by joining with them.

So this journal is not centered on detail. It is a syncretist account, the form of my mind after being subjected to the details of the trail. Some things may stand out enough to be assimilated into a journal entry. Most will not. This is not a crisis, as everything there is to say about rain, cold, hostels, mud, hotels, food, snoring, and the countless other physical trail experiences has already been said, and probably better, by more concise journal keepers than myself. This journal is an account of my mind, and not my body.

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