Same as It Ever Was

I once met somebody (a native of the US) who’d never seen anybody swab her plate with bread before. I don’t remember if this was toast at breakfast cleaning up remnants of egg, or garlic bread at dinner gathering the last bits of spaghetti sauce. But it was a bit boggling for me to be boggling him.

I spent a good deal of boggle-time rewinding to see if I’d been doing anything bad with my table manners, but no. He was genuinely interested. Since bread-swabbing seems to have been around about as long as bread, I still find it hard to believe that I was such a novelty.

Which brings me to another great moment of academia. 🙂 Okay, not really anything ludicrous, but it’s almost like someone declaring that there is this thing called rain in Spain, without seeming to think that it might happen elsewhere:

“Devout medieval people collected prayers the way twentieth-century cooks collect recipes.”

Somebody named Reinburg, in an article called “Prayer and the Book of Hours”, said this, which was fine — but then somebody else quoted it in their article, like it was news that needed supporting evidence. I realize that academics love quotes and documentation, but I seriously worry about this one.

Collecting prayers? How would that would be different from the habits of a good chunk of devout Christians in other ages, or devout folks of other religions, for that matter? Obviously not all of the devout would; obviously not all prayer collectors would be devout. But if there were no market in collecting prayers, would there be a market in prayerbooks and devotional books and weird little chain emails over the Internet? Would there be clay tablets in Sumerian with collections of prayers if nobody wanted ’em? Would there be weird little books in weird little Mexican botanica shops? Do you have to have every volume of Carmina Gadelica dropped on your head to know that this stuff is always around for those who want it?

Fylme ane hour bifor mydniht. *

Another annoying thing: apparently some academics speculate that these devout medieval people had lots of prayers written down (and/or memorized, for most of history) because they were “distant” from the Mass. These people have obviously never met any of the daily Mass people stuffing St. Jude novenas into the hymnal racks on the pews.

Sigh. I’m the one who’s supposed to be so geeky as not to understand human nature. These days, I’m starting to feel like part of the mainstream. Stop making me normal, people!

* Yes, I can’t be bothered to make sure all of this is spelled correctly for a certain era and area. I know it’s wrong. I do feel guilty about this, but even I can’t obsess about everything.

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