I have just been to Jena, Germany, to do a lecture at the Friedrich Schiller University and preach at a service to open the winter semester. A bit of a trek – there yesterday, back today. But, it was worth it for all the wonderful people I met. (The texts are in German only.)
Not only did Schiller and Goethe meet in Jena, but Napoleon paid a visit in 1813 – and he wasn't doing a spot of tourism. The hall where I did my (faltering) lecture is fronted by a huge painting of the slaughter he brought.
Being somewhere for the first time always impresses upon me the need to 'read' and 'think' theology in the context of the particular place. Thinking and speaking in Jena (German, Reformation, Enlightenment, Nazism, Communism, etc.) shines a different light on which questions matter from some of those elsewhere (England, for example).
But, as I repeated in Jena, being compelled to look through someone else's lens/eyes enables us to look afresh at (and think about) our own situation and preoccupations.
What amused me over the last couple of days, however, was reading Stella Gibbons' wonderfully funny Cold Comfort Farm on the planes. It isn't comfortable laughing aloud at 37,000ft, but there are some wonderful lines:
Never confront an enemy at the end of a journey, unless it happens to be his journey. (p.47)
Adam shook his head. A curious veil, like the withdrawing of intelligence from the eyes of a tortoise, flickered across his face. (p.56)
… there'll be no butter in hell! (p.98)
[They] were so flabbergasted, so knocked clean out of the perpendicular by the bosom-shattering stupendosity of the event,… (p.221)
And did the goat die? (p.223)
You've just got to read it to get it. And I note it here just so I won't lose it.