Of Miranda and Monks

As I was pacing my lawn and mediating this morning, two interesting thoughts came to me. As I pace I push the lawn mower and its steady noise makes a reassuring backdrop to my thoughts.

The other night I watched the last ever episode of Miranda, staring Miranda Hart. It was a most satisfactory conclusion to her story but it did remind me of all the times Mum and I laughed ourselves to tears watching her. She was reminiscent of the old-fashioned physical comedy that is beyond most so-called comedians nowadays. It occurred to me this morning that I can now remember things I shared with Mum and it makes me happy, not tearful. I am at that stage where memories cause me joy.

The second thought was concerning monks. I was given the complete set of Cadfael DVDs for Christmas. There are 13 episodes over four series and I have three left to see. I have enjoyed them immensely. Derek Jacobi was so brilliant in his hey day, and yet he is still brilliant now, and there are many other actors who had bit roles at the start of their careers in the mid 1990s. People like Hugh Bonneville and Hermione Norris etc. They are based on the novels by Ellis Peters and set at Shrewsbury Abbey in the 11th century.

Cadfael is a medieval monk, a herbalist and healer, who is also an amateur detective and solves murders. One of the interesting things I have learned from the extras on the DVDs is the incredible skill of these monks. They knew what the plant world was capable of, they treated gangrene successfully, made a potion of poppy to cure pain and treated knife and arrow wounds so that men hurt in battle would heal. Of course they didn’t have to deal with gunshot wounds in the 11th century. They had tremendous gardens full of life-giving plants and recipes that were hundreds of years old.

The scribes had copied the Gospels, they didn’t write down the recipes of the ointments and pulses and tonics that their herbalists used. Then in the 16th century the Reformation happened and the Abbeys were “Dissolved”. Most of the monks were killed or driven away and the ancient gardens were destroyed. The knowledge that was lost set man’s ability to heal himself back for two hundred years, maybe more. He resorted to ‘bleeding’ bodies to rid them of bad humours and isolating lepers instead of healing them. Science has had to rediscover these cures all over again and I’m pretty sure it hasn’t found them all yet. Isn’t that fascinating?

It makes me wonder what the world would be like if the Reformation hadn’t happened and the Church was still the powerful force, people were God-fearing because they knew nothing else. Would we be backward, with no electricity and the majority of people being illiterate, no contraception, no airplanes, no computers….or would science and faith have found a way to co-exist in harmony? Would the discoveries still have happened? Would man have learned compassion or would he still be as cruel as ever to his own race?

I don’t come up with any answers and I am bathed from head to toe in sweat, but at least I have short lawns.