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Les Touristes?

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Bricks and mortar!

Cambridge colleges. Throughout the vicissitudes of the centuries - re-alignment in the 16th century reformation, civil war in the 17th century, the new science and philosophy of the 18th century and on into the new age of the industrial revolution and the modernity of the last two centuries - the search for the truth has, as it were, enshrined itself in the stones and wood, bricks and mortar that we see here today.

Because of the origins of many of these colleges as religious foundations in the Middle Ages it is perhaps not too imaginative - if you are not involved in reading for examinations! - to get the striking impression that a claustral spirit remains in these sites. Fanciful, of course! But energy poured into a dedication to the truth and to living alongside others is in many ways a modern version of the claustral life.

Of course there were many ancient foundations of monks who cherished learning as a part of their dedicated lives. Bede and Anselm are the best known, spanning the centuries and contributing to our knowledge of the world and of the mind.

Today it is our perception of the idea, mode and place of religion that has changed in the past century. So we may be chary of using the word 'secular' to describe the form of the colleges today.

For in this present age there still remains the pursuit of the 'infinite' - that which is by definition beyond our present understanding. And what if at some point in our life we stumble across the infinite within ourselves - an intuition, an unveiling of the truth we have been consciously or unconsciously seeking?

Then we may also hear the word of Christ -

                                "It is I. Do not be afraid."


© Aelred Arnesen

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