I just finished reading a book called ‘Dissolution’ by C.J Sansom. It’s about a lawyer named Shardlake who worked as a commissioner at the time of the dissolution or shutting down of the great but largely corrupt monasteries in England under Cromwell and King Henry VIII. Shardlake, along with his young assistant Mark Poer, is sent to investigate a series of murders which occurred in a monastery. Most of the way through the book Shardlake is fired with reformist zeal and belief that he is working to make England a better place. In the course if his investigations, he uncovers information about the powers that he is working for, Cromwell, the king, the reformed Church of England and the wealthy lords and landowners, that horrify him. He begins to see the world a bit more through the eyes of the ordinary people. In the end, Shardlake solves the murders. But he also decides to leave the courts and the power centres of the time and to try to live as quiet life as possible as an ordinary lawyer. It was a good read, and I’d recommend it, though I was a long way into the book before I could warm to any of the main characters.
I finished the book late last night and woke up this morning thinking about it. It occurred to me that there are parallels Shardlake’s experiences with things that have happened to me during my life. The difference between the title of this post and the title of the book is on purpose. The book ‘Dissolution’ is about the dissolution of a monastery. Disillusion is what happened to Shardlake and to me.
My life story isn’t anything like Commissioner Shardlake’s. But I am or was one of those idealistic baby boomers who thought I could do something to make the world a better place. I was involved in anti-war protest against the Vietnam war, got involved in a local cooperative movement while in University and dabbled on and off in politics. I went to the Philippines and worked in community development there, as well as working in Church reform there and in other countries. I’ve met with politicians, Catholic cardinals on three continents, worked hard for causes I believed in. In almost every case meeting people in power accomplished little, and the impression I went away with is that their main motivation was to keep and extend their own power, influence and wealth, with little regard for the average person or the poor.
Now I find, like Shardlake, and like the vast majority of the human race, that I only want to be allowed to live my life in peace and some comfort. Is there anything else?