Far from the mad crowds of the city, Blaise Pascal passed comment on the strange behaviour of this urban contemporaries in his Provincial Letters. The connection between them and this blog is somewhat tenuous.
So I wrote as the description of this blog when I started it, just over 2 years ago; however, it was 351 years ago today that the inspiration for the title — if not the tone of the content — of this blog first appeared. It begins:
Paris, January 23, 1656
We were entirely mistaken. It was only yesterday that I was undeceived. Until that time I had laboured under the impression that the disputes in the Sorbonne were vastly important, and deeply affected the interests of religion. The frequent convocations of an assembly so illustrious as that of the Theological Faculty of Paris, attended by so many extraordinary and unprecedented circumstances, led one to form such high expectations that it was impossible to help coming to the conclusion that the subject was most extraordinary. You will be greatly surprised, however, when you learn from the following account the issue of this grand demonstration, which, having made myself perfectly master of the subject, I shall be able to tell you in very few words.
His basic observation is that seemingly illustrious and important organisations are often obsessed by the mundane, trivial and ridiculous. How things have changed.
You could do worse than read some of his letters — you may need some historical clues to get the fine nuances — as a celebration of this day. They're all available on-line at Oregon State University, amongst other places.
Raise a glass to M. Pascal and celebrate the Provincial over the Metropolitan — these people in the big cities think themselves so important.
I had intended to celebrate the occasion with an updated version of Provincial Letter I but I find that I am incapable of achieving the correct tone or sufficient expertise with prose. But, we cannot let the event pass unnoticed or unrecognised.
It is probably timely to extend my apologies to all those serious students of the Provincial Letters who find this site through Google searches and wonder if it's at all relevant to their subject. I wish it could be.