Modern pilgrims

I studied medieval history at sixth form college.  After starting the course, a book called The Medieval World appeared on my father’s bookshelf.  This was odd, I remember thinking at the time, because my father preferred more recent history.  It stayed there on the bookshelf, unread.

Only now, 24 years later, I realise that my father bought it for me – but never told me.  So now I’m reading it.

It features chapters about different sections of medieval society – monks, merchants, mothers, soliders.  I imagine there’ll be a chapter about pilgrims.

Pilgrims went on journeys to see relics, on the offchance that they’ll be on the receiving end of a miracle.  Despite arduous journeys full of lice, dyssentry, banditry and interrupted sleep on meagre rations with no employment, pilgrimages were a triumph of irrationality: none of that mattered.  What matters was that they had a shot, because there were no other chances.

Think about that: what matters was that they had a shot, because there were no other chances.

Apply the same logic to people who buy lottery tickets, or gamble, or pile up enormous debts on credit cards and consolidated loans.   In post-crisis UK, what matters is that we have a shot because there are no other chances.