Tuesday, 24 February 2015
Spaces for the Sacred: Place, Memory, and Identity,
Philip Sheldrake, John Hopkins/SCM, 2001, page 11
Until relatively recently, the parish - where you were born, grew up, married, raised a family and, eventually, died and were buried - formed the boundary of your world. The village or valley that you belonged to defined your identity, how you thought and even felt.
The fact that identity has traditionally been so strongy 'placed' partly explains why travel is such an ambiguous reality. 'Well travelled' may be a metaphor for wisdom and moral authority. On the other hand, the people called 'travellers', the gypsies, are amongst the most feared and disliked of people in much of Western Europe.
Sheldrake then speculates about professional travellers and wonders whether that explains why being "in trade" is considered socially inferior to holding land.
However, what seems to have been equally significant, if not more so, was that Jews came to symbolise the classic 'strangers' who intruded into stable, fixed locations and disturbed the inhabitants. They might, individually, be people of wit and charm but they had no organic connections with established social frameworks through ties of kinship, place or role.