Merry Christmas

by Kieran Healy on December 24, 2005

Best wishes this Christmas to all our readers. Here’s a little bit from Alexander McCall Smith’s _At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances_ that I like to think about at this time of year. Plenty of time for shouting at one another in the New Year, but for the moment:

The Master then rose to give a short address.

‘Dear guests of the College,’ he began, ‘dear Fellows, dear undergraduate members of this Foundation: William de Courcey was cruelly beheaded by those who could not understand that it is quite permissible for rational men to differ on important points of belief or doctrine. The world in which he lived had yet to develop those qualities of tolerance of difference of opinion which we take for granted, but which we must remind ourselves is of rather recent creation and is by no means assured of universal support. There are amongst us still those who would deny to others the right to hold a different understanding of the fundamental issues of our time. Thus, if we look about us we see people of one culture or belief still at odds with their human neighbours who are of a different culture or belief; and we see many who are prepared to act upon this difference to the extent of denying the humanity of those with whom they differ. …

‘Here in this place of learning, let us remind ourselves of the possibility of combating, in whatever small way we can, those divisions that come between man and man, between woman and woman, so that we may recognise in each other that vulnerable humanity that informs our lives, and makes life so precious; so that each may find happiness in his or her life, and in the lives of others. For what else is there for us to hope for? What else, I ask you, what else?’



CM 12.25.05 at 12:45 am

Thanks for the lovely post and Merry Christmas, Kieran.


Jake 12.25.05 at 1:17 am

Indeed, indeed. Merry Christmas to all.


Ian Whitchurch 12.25.05 at 3:39 am

I spent a very enjoyable Christmas afternoon at Cronulla Beach in Sydney.

A reasonable number of people there, lots of kids, Australians of all shapes, sizes and ages. Very enjoyable feelings, seeing families have Christmas lunch and kids playing in the waves. Locals, Westies, Lebs and Tasmanians like me all enjoying the sun, surf and sand.

Special Christmas thanks to the railway staff and volunteer lifesavers who worked for part of Christmas day to allow people like me to celebrate their hopes for peace on Earth and good will to all on the beach.


Alexei McDonald 12.25.05 at 9:06 am

And God bless us, every one.


bob mcmanus 12.25.05 at 11:14 am

“For what else is there for us to hope for? What else, I ask you, what else?’”

A lottery win and a Maverick championship would do.

Merry Xmas.


Tad Brennan 12.25.05 at 4:58 pm

A quote about epistemic humility that often recurs to me:

“I beseech you in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken!”

Originally uttered by someone not famous for toleration or humility, i.e. Cromwell. Still, something resonant about the phrase, esp. when addressed to oneself….


farang 12.25.05 at 9:56 pm

Thank’s for demonstrating why the Right fears the Intellectuals so.


leszek 12.26.05 at 12:40 am

…and remember the golden algorithm, tic-for-tac. amen.


Daniel 12.26.05 at 6:32 am

Well now it’s boxing day and therefore time for the equally traditional reminder that although, as Kieran notes with due humility, it is entirely possible that we at Crooked Timber could be mistaken, we are as a matter of fact not wrong, so Merry Christmas and cobblers to all our political enemies.


Bro. Bartleby 12.26.05 at 9:13 am

Blessing all! And if your greatest fear is the fundamentalist Christians, then you are indeed blessed. For some are born into the world with real enemies with real swords or the far greatest enemy of all, circumstances. All these make the 21 Century fundamentalist Christian seem puny indeed.
Bro. Bartleby


Tad Brennan 12.26.05 at 10:45 am

Bro. Bartleby–

Can you point out to me the part in KH’s post where he singled out Christian dogmatism and intolerance for particular censure?

I had read his note as directed equally towards all forms of fanaticism and intolerance, e.g., the fanatics who put out a fatwa against Salman Rushdie, or the butchers in Darfur. Those are agents of intolerance, though not of Christian fundamentalism.

Intolerance in all of its forms is surely a leading source of “real enemies with real swords”.

As is the habit, common to many powerful groups, of portraying themselves as beleaguered victims of persecution.


jet 12.26.05 at 8:49 pm

It is a good time of year to stop and contemplate life in the hundreds of hell-holes that still contain uncountable suffering throughout the world. For everyone here enjoying modern life, Merry Christmas, and for those in less fortunate places, my prayers (and endless rhetoric convincing all I know of the need of your plight).

[Feeling a bit emotional after making a new Burmese friend and hearing his tales of home.]


y81 12.26.05 at 9:47 pm

It might also be a good time to remember that if absolute justice and righteousness ever did indeed take on human form, most of us would probably be able to put aside our political differences and crucify the human in question.


Tom T. 12.26.05 at 11:31 pm

It was ever thus, y81.

Best wishes to all. Here’s hoping that the holidays find all of you contented and loved.


Antti Nannimus 12.27.05 at 2:36 pm


Off with their heads!

Have a nice day,



John Quiggin 12.28.05 at 1:50 am

I spent my Christmas also at the beach in Sydney, at Avalon which is about as far from Cronulla as you can get. Even so, every kind of Australian was there, dressed in every way from barely anything to full-length dress and hajib. No-one looked liked they had anything much on their minds except gettting wet.


Bob B 12.28.05 at 6:11 am

Seasonal salutations.

This news report in Wednesday’s press really ought to prompt urgent wide debate on the implications:

“The upcoming chairman of the Russel Group of universities has warned the British government that home students at top UK universities are being displaced by a growing number of highly qualified students from Europe. . . Under EU laws, universities cannot discriminate between EU candidates.”

[Spelling as in the original EU Observer news report – more usually, it’s the Russell Group of universities.]


nofundy 12.28.05 at 9:36 am

And I thought he only wrote of “The #1 Ladies Detective Agency”! Thanks for the excerpt.

Man will occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of the time he will pick himself up and continue on. – Churchill

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