Three meninges bathe and sheathe my financially-valuable brain: the dura mater, arachnoid meninx and pia mater, in ascending order of intimacy.
Perhaps I’ll tell you about them sometime. Today I want to talk about something even more intimate: my alma mater, the place where I spent my formative 13th thru 18th winters.
I hate to love Trinity School for Boys, whereas what I really love is to hate her.
Last week I had occasion to return to Trinity’s picturesque Apple Chapel on sentimental business: a friend was getting married, or something. Like good little Trinitarians, my circle of mates has never really outgrown her. I suppose there’s no shame in having your wedding at your own high school—but please shoot me if I ever have my funeral there.
It was like stepping back in space to the 1990s.
As I entered the Chapel (a satellite of the much larger cathedral where morning assembly is held), you can probably imagine the various stigmata of Mariolatry that surrounded me.
Let me stop you right there. The sight that hit me in the apse was nothing like that, I assure you.
For, despite her name, Trinity is no den of Catholicism. Her founders and First Boys were High Anglicans, a type of Protestant best known for only protesting a little bit, reluctant as they were to rock the boat like their Lower brethren. (Readers confused by Christendom’s sectarian denomenclature may find succor in CN’s Mannsplainer® section below, which is prepared to answer any and all good-faith questions.)
In short, the Trinity I knew had nothing to do with the Father, the Warrior and the Stranger. No, the equilateral sigil of our school stood for one thing and one thing only: cricket, footy and assemblies—the three pillars of a private Anglican education (or to put it in Anglo-English, a public Anglican education).
As a young sportsman, assemblies were my forte.
To this day I still don’t understand all the fuss about footy. Apparently there was a ball involved somewhere—hence the sport’s full name, rugbyball—but I never did get my hands on this McGuffin. A fellow intellectual once got close enough to describe it as “an inflatable piece of cow.” How bathetic.
Cricket was more bearable, I suppose, because for the most part you could just mind your own business in the outfield. It was certainly easier to get your homework done when you didn’t have to keep one eye open for bearded behemoths bearing down on you like pituitary Panzers, bent on using your spinal column as a tackling pad. My Saturday mornings became even closer to tolerable once I’d attained the position I was born to play: twelfth man for the Last Elevens.
Of course it wasn’t all sport. The ideal Trinitarian divided his “life” at school equally between honing his leg spin in the nets, Growing In Stature And In Service To God And Man, and hitting the academics.
Which wasn’t much fun for an academic like me. Still, to quote Nietzsche word for word, what almost kills me almost makes me admire the Klebolds and Harrises of the world. At least they had the balls, ramrods and powder to turn the tables on the jockocracy.
Like most boys I wanted nothing more than to be an onward Christian soldier, so I was devastated when they exempted me from Cadets, forcing me to join the debating society. And it was all thanks to my fraidy-cat mother, who’d snitched about a condition I suffered from at the time (“haemophilia,” for the medical geeks).
Then as now, debating was the fallback activity for noncombatant Nigels. We asthmatic, bespectacled, Warfarin-blooded perorators could only listen in skeptical awe to the tales of what went on “on bivouac”—like the story of a certain Latin master who once in the safety of Belanglo National Forest no longer insisted on swearing in Classical tongues. “Fucking Abos!” replaced “indigenes in crucem, eos in crucem,” et yadda.
To my regret I never did find out what the recoil of an Enfield feels like, or if bivouac is an actual thing. (I have my doubts.)
Meanwhile at the local state school, Fairfield Boys High, they didn’t even have their own river for rowing practice. It must’ve been out of socioeconomic envy that they tried to beat us up on the bus every afternoon. Successfully, as a rule. Thank the Three Gods their parents couldn’t afford rifles and bayonets, or they’d have utterly routed us.
But there were good times as well [subs—need a bullshit example here]
They say it’s February 2018 now. Australian society has moved on a bit since the time of Hammer. The average employer is no longer quite so impressed by an applicant who can speak New Testament Greek or cover himself in glory as a front-row hooker in the four-man cox.
Meanwhile life at Trinity, or what passes for it, has proven to be reassuringly immutable. They tell me Latin is still the lingua franca of daily worship, sports practice and the English classroom. (Not the French classroom, obviously.) The great leafy Quadrangle is still one side short, as it has been since the 1960s—courtesy of a handful of rioting borders inflamed with school spirit or similar inflammation.
And me? I turned out all right. Anti-Catholic guilt eventually lost its hold on me. Like my idols Mao Zedong and Christopher Flannery, I realized idolatry was poison. It was the cursing of a drunken Irishman—”Mary mother of m*therfucking God!”—that tipped me off, of all things, to the fatuity of faith. How could anyone worship, with a straight face, a demigod born of a one-night stand between God and His own mother, I asked myself? You may as well be a Scientologist or a Presbyterian, for God Delusion’s sake.
But it was those six years, the Trinitarian years, that made me the man I am today, says my therapist.
CN Mannsplanation™ Zone!
What does ‘High’ Anglicanism involve?
The first High Anglicans earned their vertical denomination not only for their fondness for psychedelic stained-glass polyptychs but their insistence that all around them was continually turning into plasma, serum and bodily tissue. These hallucinations are thought to have been a side-effect of their signature vice: the recreational use of liturgical censers.
(Pass the thurible, said the bishop to the vicar, as they sat in a circle getting incensed.)
Ah, but I fear I’ve already lost my Muslim readers, haven’t I? Let’s rewind a tad—to the Middle Ages, which occurred in Medieval times.
It is the Middle Ages. The Catholic Church holds undisputed temporal and spiritual sway over the peoples of Europe. (‘Catholic’ literally means all-inclusive, indiscriminate, ecumenical; think holistic, Holocaust or holodomor.)
But one peoples, who call itself Anglicans, are none too happy living under the thumb of a fat man in a dress in Avignon. The final straw comes when the Pope refuses to relax the canonization criteria for their favorite candidate, the popular mystic Jesus. He simply doesn’t have the necessary number of magic powers, explains His Holiness with faux regret. (You can’t beat pancreatic cancer by praying to Jesus, for instance.)
So the Anglicans secede from the Mother Church, with understandable sequelae: centuries of internecine pogroms.
My grandparents in Germany still remember the Catho militias who traveled door to door cleansing the community of “Prods” (to use the hate-word they applied to devotees of St Jesus). But because all religions are about the same thing—being a better person and loving your neighbor—it was no easy task to tell members of one sect from another. Save for a certain lascivious avariciousness of the lips, the average Papist doesn’t look palpably different from the average Christolator. So the roaming Romists needed some kind of shibboleth to sift the wheat from the chaff of Christendom.
Their solution was as simple as it was fiendishly elaborate.
When you answered the door they’d either hit you on the thumb with a hammer or pretend to break some bad news, like “someone scratched your car,” or “you left your headlights on.”
Any homeowner who blurted out “Jesus!” was killed on the spot. Only if you blasphemed properly (“Mary mother of thr*ce-beshitten God,” or “Begorrah” for short) would they let you off with a savage beating in front of your family for sullying the name of the patron saint of teen pregnancy.
Naturally, this great Old World tradition was exported Down Under in an attenuated, half-assed form. I was too young to understand why, but I vividly recall Dad nailing a sign to the door of our house—a sign that was to save our lives more than once: No Salesmen, Charities, Death Squads Or Take-Away Menus Please. It worked wonders, thanks to the unique laziness of the Australo-ustashe.
The age of sectarian genocide was over by the time I started seventh grade, thank God. In the Vatican, a few years prior to the events of today’s post, a fiat† of Pope Lawrence had shuttered once and for all The Office for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, better known as the Holy Inquisition. (The site now houses a state-of-the-art burns ward.)
But the mistrust lingered. Even in an extremely moderate family like mine we weren’t allowed to have Catholic girlfriends. Since it’s not entirely clear what the point of dating a non-Catholic schoolgirl is, this was tantamount to saying your genitals are grounded for the next six years, young man. ■
†In religion a fiat is a kind of executive ruling, coming from the word fatwa.
We trust this CN Mannsplanatory Zone! has eliminated all your outstanding questions about world religions (not to mention your mediocre ones). If questions persist, please see your religion provider.