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A blog entry by [livejournal.com profile] bikerbar 's wife prompted me to start reading a collection of translated essays by Karel Čapek. My Kindle tells me I'm not even 12% in but already it is a delight. Such a generous spirited, optimistic man. Incredible that the Nazis considered him a threat. After the takeover of Czechoslovakia the Gestapo arrived at his house to arrest him, only to discover that he had already died of natural causes.

I loved his thoughts on education. As you may know, I often resent my formal education. Much of it did nothing to prepare me for paid employment, or even unemployment. I'd be hesitant to encourage my daughter to pay for university study in anything not strictly vocational. Yet, I love learning stuff. Not necessarily in an organised manner; informally learning from newspapers, the radio, talking to people and reading other people's blogs. Knowledge which is of no use to me whatsoever, except perhaps in TV quiz shows. Indefensible time wasting? Well, Čapek has an answer to that:

"Education cannot be defended by anything, except perhaps when the one on whom it descends as an ecstasy and a tongue of fire finds that it is, in some mysterious way, worth it - indeed, that it is worth more than any successful, profitable and generally respectable activity."
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As some of you will know, [profile] raywelly and I recently represented our university on the BBC quiz show 'University Challenge' (for my American readers, this is the British version of 'College Bowl'). Click here for the studio picture. We beat a team of medical students from Imperial College and then got thrashed in our second round by a team from York. As nurses, beating those medics was victory enough for Ray and I, haha. Our team captain was a pleasant law student called Nigel. He has to act as representative for the rest of the team and so any repercussions from our 'five minutes of fame' have tended to reach him first, much in the manner of a tsunami. The other day he received a book and a letter from a lady vicar, which he scanned for me and I have reproduced below. It really is a gem; I had to share it.

I'm an atheist but I have a soft spot for nice, literate religious people. They are so reassuringly middle class (like me). I'm not so sure about their taking credit for 'western civilisation' though. Should I write back to her and point out that the birth of christianity was followed by at least 1700 years of barbaric feudalism and obscurantism?



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