History

I’m now a proud custodian of these three important records of Mansfield College history–Mansfield College, Its Origin and Opening by Robert William Dale et al. (1889), The Life of Andrew Martin Fairbairn by William Boothby Selbie (1914) and Mansfield College, Oxford: Its Origin, History and Significance by Dr Elaine Kaye (1996).

There’s something reassuringly immutable about words printed on paper. The specter of an Orwellian revisionist hell runs heavy at the back of my mind.

The Prophet

With the statue of Isaac Newton at Trinity College, Cambridge, circa 1998

God speaks to humanity through selected people; some call them prophets. He endows prophets with the capacity to decipher the knowledge that he wants to channel to. To pursue the truth is thus the purest and the noblest of the man’s undertaking, the servitude to the purpose of the divine. For you, a prophet, are the chosen vessel of untinctured wisdom, through which God is speaking to humankind.

Newton was a prophet.

Mayday 1997

Last week I had happened to watch Shadowlands–the story of C.S. Lewis and his wife Joy Gresham with the backdrop of Oxford in the 1940’s.

The movie was released in 1993, and so it predated my arrival at Oxford by merely six years. The views were, of course, strikingly familiar to that of memory. Lewis was a don at Magdalen College; I had the privilege of visiting it a couple of times due to my friendship with Ernest Lee.

Oxford very light on traffic on Christmas Day

The Magdalen Tower was perhaps a permanent fixture of my years at Oxford; I had to cross the Magdalen Bridge a couple of times a day on the way to college and back to my abode on Cowley Road and Dawson Street. I’d remember waking up in the wee hours of the first day of May in 1997, walked to the bridge, joined my friends (and thousands of others) to hear the choristers singing from the Tower at six in the morning. Ending which, the madness began where the mayday revelers would go delirious with some jumping off the bridge into the Isis. I remembered a young man (Scottish, presumably) who flipped his kilt, mooned everyone and took off into the muddy river.

I would have forgotten that if it wasn’t for the movie–which depicted similar shenanigans as witnessed by C.S. Lewis. It was one of the things that made Oxford Oxford, I suppose. Maybe I’d get to relive this experience again, watching the sun rise on Isis serenaded by the Magdalen College School choirboys, marking the first day of summer in the northern hemisphere.

Addendum: Found out in the Wikipedia entry for May Morning that someone ended up paralyzed in 1997 from jumping into the river. I wonder if it was that Scottish fellow.

Life in Oxford Circa 1997

Found a newspaper cutting that I had saved since 1997:

It was an article written by Tan Soo Chuen which I had republished here on my blog.

Here’s another picture, taken after a friendly footie match with Cambridge University’s Malaysia & Singapore Society:

And yes, that’s Khairy Jamaluddin in the middle of the picture in case one is wondering.

Wisdom of Adrian Lester

Adrian Lester, inside the March 21st issue of Saga Magazine:

I had to match what I thought I would be at that age with what I actually am. Then I had to work out what I could possibly achieve in the future and let go of a few things.

What profession you’re in – you always imagine (a certain accomplishment) and you live every day thinking that’s possible.

But at 50 a bell goes off in your head you should hold with lighter fingers those aspirations that belong to a 23-year-old.

I seldom watch the telly, but I had been a fan of Hustle on BBC. I had watched every episode (some repeatedly) for each of the eight seasons. The other show that I liked was Life – which I had “binge-watched” on the BBC iPlayer, all six episodes of it.

A common denominator of those shows? Adrian Lester, of course. He had this stupendous overflow of charm and wit which made him such a joy to watch.

About five weeks ago, I had my chest cut open to get my ailing heart fixed.

As the old saying goes, when you’re at death’s door, there’s no more things to hide. No more pretense, just a sober look at what you had got to show for your years, and the regret which would come with the things that you wished you had not gotten done.

And like Adrian Lester, I had somewhat taken a more realistic look at my goals and consoled myself to let some go – I may (only?) be 44, but I am no longer under the illusion that I have decades (or years) left before I draw my last breath.

The problem is you think you have time.

Jack Kornfield

Of course, I still maintain a laundry list of “Things To Do Before I Die”, but knowing that I might just not see tomorrow, as long as I move an inch closer towards getting those things done today, I’m happy.

Tomorrow is promised to no one.

The Orwellian Future

1984 has been a tough read. It’s not by any means difficult to read, but the fact that many of its prophecies have come true one by one that it leads to this question –

Is our future inevitably Orwellian?

Maybe the Orwellian future is already here. It’s just not that widely distributed.

The war on the sovereign, independent-thinking individual is real.

Travis

I was browsing through my shelves for a good read, and found a copy of Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan – bought nearly 23 years ago in Oxford.

Flipped it open and saw this note from my friend Travis:

Being the oaf I was I had foolishly tried to debate him on the utility of knowledge, and why certain things were worth learning “more” than others (“My engineering will beat your philosophy up, Travis!”). He showed me the error of my ways, after which I had promptly trotted down Broad Street and bought a couple of philosophy books from Blackwell’s, one of which was Leviathan.

Thank you, Travis. I stand corrected.

Jennifer Pike at Mansfield College Library

A couple of hours ago, Jennifer Pike (and the London Mozart Players) had performed Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” inside the Mansfield College library.

What’s not to like? I think Vivaldi was probably the best Baroque composer there ever was, and hearing the Four Seasons performed inside the hallowed halls of Mansfield was a real treat.

And, the icing on the cake was getting to see the table where I had toiled over my engineering problem sheets for a couple of years. Nostalgic.