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Hallo again to all.

In 1820, the American writer Washington Irving published The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., which was a collection of short stories. Two of those stories, 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow' and 'Rip Van Winkle', made him famous. Another story in that book is rarely mentioned, though it is often quoted without credit. Entitled 'Stratford-on-Avon', it begins:

To a homeless man, who has no spot on this wide world which he can truly call his own, there is a momentary feeling of something like independence and territorial consequence when, after a weary day's travel, he kicks off his boots, thrusts his feet into slippers, and stretches himself before an inn-fire. Let the world without go as it may, let kingdoms rise or fall, so long as he has the wherewithal to pay his bill he is, for the time being, the very monarch of all he surveys. The armchair is his throne, the poker his sceptre, and the little parlor, some twelve feet square, his undisputed empire. It is a morsel of certainty snatched from the midst of the uncertainties of life; it is a sunny moment gleaming out kindly on a cloudy day: and he who has advanced some way on the pilgrimage of existence knows the importance of husbanding even morsels and moments of enjoyment.

A lionIrving's description of a man who enjoys being 'the very monarch of all he surveys' was a pithy description of what seems to be part of the essential nature of man. There is something universally appealing to men (and occasionally to women) about being the very monarch of all one surveys. It is a realistic dream as long as the surveyor does not get ambitious.

The 21st century is only about 5% gone, but we've seen enough to get a sense of it. Part of its essence, its foundation, is that all of us can now survey much more than our ancestors could. A bishopThere's something very homespun (if sexist) about a man wanting to be master of the entire room that he surveys. For the first 90% of the 20th century, the only major addition since Irving's time to what most would-be monarchs surveyed was the well-guarded remote control to the telly near the (unlit) fireplace. This notion of male territoriality is well documented and well understood in the animal kingdom. We see it in lions, wolves, caribou, bears, and more. In studying zoology, we learn that animals mark their territory to warn away intruders, and we learn that sometimes there are fights over territory. But a lion cannot mark what it cannot survey; a lion in India would never want to claim ownership of a forest in Senegal.

Perhaps the Indian lion cannot click on in Senegal.* But we can. We see more and we survey more. Satellite television, global newscasting, web pages and webcasting, global text messaging, and cheap air travel have enabled many people to survey vast numbers of places. When more can be surveyed, the effect can change from being homespun to being hostile, since the surveys start to overlap when they get to be too big. When two men's surveys overlap and each wants to be the very monarch of the same place, trouble is inevitable.

We continue to understand the squabbles in the Anglican Communion as being mostly about power, and (despite the rhetoric) hardly at all about sex or theology or scripture. Too many people are able to survey the same places, and too many of them want to be the very monarchs of most or all that they survey. When it was a week's journey from the see of one diocese to the see of another, no one questioned the division into principalities (for indeed bishops were 'princes of the church'). If we never survey your diocese, we'd likely not feel much of an urge to be its very monarch.

Monarchs make and enforce rules; would-be monarchs have made their rules and are itching to enforce them. We wonder sometimes if the real reason for many objections to women bishops is from fear that they might set a bad example by not having any desire to be monarchs of all they survey.

See you next week.

Cynthia's signature
Brian's signature
Cynthia McFarland
Brian Reid

Last updated: 17 April 2005

*Note that it's actually, and is not about lions, but is rather the website of the Senegal Lions, a football team.

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