I have friends that have been known to laugh and mock me for reading “touristy” guide books, such as ones by Rick Steves, Lonely Planet, and, a PNW regional favorite travel guide: the late Gerry Frank (whom I personally met at my local grocery store!).
The primary reason for their jeering: The Internet.
And they have a point. The internet is, well, far more superior in terms of up-to-date content. By the time a book is written, edited, published and released, it is more than likely out of date. But, I am an old soul. I want to hold the book, flip its pages, and underline its yet-to-be-discovered gems. Such was the case with Paul Sullivan’s “The Secret History of Oxford.” One could simply, and unquestionably Google “Oxford” in order to find a wealth of responses (about 53,100,000 results) in a very short amount of time (about 0.60 seconds).
I know. I just Googled it.
But nothing beats an actual book. Having read Sullivan’s Secrets about Oxford, I can also confidently say: nothing beats an actual visit TO Oxford. The book made me want to walk the streets, gaze at its structures, sit in its schools (38 private colleges, 44 colleges in total). It got me very excited to experience it in person. Not YouTube it. Not Google Earth it. Not virtually…but actually and personally. September cannot come soon enough.
From Sullivan, I underlined the following secrets that I want to keep an eye open for, and delve into deeper before, during and after my time in Oxford:
• Research John Wycliffe and William Tyndall, famous Bible translators.
• Read up on John Wesley and Albert Einstein who were alumni of Christ Church College.
• Watch the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy again (it’s a family favorite)…thank you J.R.R. Tolkien.
• Watch the 1962 drama “Lawrence of Arabia” starring Peter O’Toole, because T.E. Lawrence ‘of Arabia’ attended Jesus College, Turl Street.
• Eat a bowl of Corn Flakes in front of Kellogg College.
• Read a page from the King James Bible (1611) – translated into English at Lincoln College. Honestly, it’s been about 35 years since I have read the King James Version.
• C.S. Lewis was an alumni of Magdalen College (along with actor Dudley Moore and writer Oscar Wilde), and graduate of University College (along with President Bill Clinton). I have decided that I will be listening to the audio version of The Chronicles of Narnia on my flights to and from London.
• Visit Pembroke College, specifically the Sir Geoffrey Arthur Building, which was overseen by Sir Roger Bannister, the Master of the College in 1985. For many years now, I have been telling the story of how he was the first man to run 1 mile under 1 minute. It’s a great illustration!
• Wycliffe Hall is of particular interest, in that, it gave us J.I Packer and N.T. Wright.
• And finally, without question, I will be enjoying a brew at The Eagle and Child on St. Giles, the famous watering hole for The Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. UPDATE: I now know this pub is not currently operational. Hopefully, it will be open by the time we arrive. This will happen, by prayer and fasting.
It’s incredible to think that one city and one collective of colleges could contain so much rich history. What an unbearable weight of a massive national treasure! I just went Nicolas Cage on all of you, in case you didn’t catch it.
Nick Cage has a storied reputation of showing up everywhere. He is the consummate leading man, as well as a sneaky cameo actor. Go ahead, Google his movies…it’s a massively extensive list. From 1982, with “Fast Times at Ridgemont Times” to the tear jerker “The Family Man.” From my personal favorite “Con Air,” to the fan favorite “National Treasure,” no one does it like Nick Cage. And like the illustrious Nick Cage, Oxford, with its landmarks, streets, colleges, and deep history, has a way of “showing up everywhere.” It has shaped not only European culture, but American culture as well. Many of our great authors have come out of Oxford (J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, J.I. Packer, and N.T. Wright).
As evidenced by the aforementioned authors, I really do need to start using my initials as my official name. From now on I want to be called J.E. Fehlen, thank you kindly.
The Scriptures and its interpretations have been shaped at the Oxford colleges. From the King James Bible being translated into English, to the deep study done by Bible translators such as John Wycliffe and William Tyndale. We owe a great debt to these individuals for the Scriptures we hold in our hands and hearts today.
Culture, literature and art have been shaped in and around the Oxford streets and colleges. I am an avid reader of Simon Winchesters historical works, who was an alumni of St. Catherine’s College. And, though I am not a fan of Harry Potter (having grown up in Christian legalism!), we cannot forget that Emma Watson of Harry Potter fame comes to us from Worcester College.
As long as we’re talking about movies, let’s circle back to Nick Cage: nothing, absolutely nothing, touches a candle to his masterful work in the movie rendition of the Christian series “Left Behind.”
Just kidding. The movie was a stinker. The book was way better. You can’t win them all, Nick Cage.