Monkey See Monkey Do -- The Simplest View of History


When one monkey admires something, it's hard for anything to pry open its clenched fist and escape. This is especially true when it comes to the intellectual life of these creatures. However, while ordinary barbarians are quick to accept challenges to their physical prowess, intellectualizing monkeys are unsure how to recognize their legitimate cerebral worth. Alas, there must soon follow the rise of academia to take the place of the tournament joust.

Even though the savage Saxons only had military strategy in mind when they settled a controlling location on the River Thames where it joins the Cherwell, they founded Oxford University there without intending to. The power of deep thought to adorn one's social status with became an unstoppable industry.

So, by the time the Normans had done to the Saxons (1066) what the Romans had once done to them, it was too late; thinking wasn't going to be just military anymore. The town that had once popularly become a site for schooling, eventually became a place to exercise the superior mind as a further token of dominate social status.

The key to this was dignity and decorum. The days of oaf as warlord would not play well. Brain vs brawn expressed as social superiority demands its ambiance. You can't just shoot excrement from the peanut gallery or achieve dominance by pinching your fellows. The full power of deep thought embellishing familial booty would need to reside in hallowed halls with ritualized traditions and exercised with a sublime bearing. Often the monkeys had to be beaten savagely before this conversion quite set in.

Moreover, now that manners had been formalized to dampen the occasional excitement of hearing oneself think, thinking could not be allowed to range just everywhere: There where no man had gone before might be deemed too unruly. The electricity needed to be grounded.

Besides, with no securing precedent or standard to measure one's self against; how could you be sure of thought worthiness? Definitely an agreed upon standard was needed to ensure the proper tone of thought.

It was to be found in the classics of antiquity. Their reverent adoption as a trade mark of Oxford would become so ingrained, that unless, you looked for something more holy in the prevailing religious waters, the place where oxen had first begun crossing the philosophical waters would belong to Aristotle and Plato, to philosopher kings and their vainglorious hubris.

This baby, once adopted, proved to be a harsh taskmaster and a dogmatic tyrant to the whole world of lesser men. We still struggle with its ramifications.

Anyway, by 1248, Oxford had a Royal Charter in hand from King Henry III and was so on the way to setting precedent for yet future intellectual aspirates. Taking their religiousness from the prevailing flow, Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites and Augustinians, settled in. By the time Henry the VIII came along to challenge the Pope's authority and such worthies disappeared, Oxford was still praying to its overriding classics. While it so languished, the Empire grew by a more primitive force of arms.


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