Saturday, July 02, 2005

The Adherents of the Repeated Meme

Because of the History Carnival, I'm a bit backlogged in terms of posts I've been wanting to do; but I should be getting through some of that backlog in the next few days. Here's a meme I've been meaning to get to; there are others on the list. The low conscientiousness score surprised me, and is perhaps due in part to an affectation of carelessness, since I'm actually fairly good at detail-work; but on the other hand, I largely manage this by being careful about the details in sharp, short bursts and letting myself be unruly the rest of the time. Plus my total ambition is almost entirely to think a bit, teach a bit, write a bit, and enjoy what's going on in life, which I don't think they considered to be ambitious.


Overview: This post is a community experiment with two broad purposes. The first is to create publicly accessible data about bloggers' personalities, which may have sociological value in addition to being just plain fun. The second is to track the propagation of this meme through blogspace. Full details and explanation can be found on the original posting:

Instructions (to join in the experiment):

1) Take the IPIP-NEO personality test and the Political Compass quiz, if you have not done so already.

2) Copy to the clipboard that section of this post that is between the double lines, and paste it into your blog editor. (Blogger users may wish to use 'compose' mode to preserve formatting and hyperlinks. Otherwise, be sure to add hyperlinks as necessary.)

3) Replace the answers in the "survey" section below with your own.

4) Add your blog information to the "track list", in the form: "Linked title - URL - optional GUID".

5) Any additional comments should go outside of the double lines, including the (optional) nomination of bloggers you wish to pass this experimental meme on to.

6) Post it to your blog!


Age: 26
Gender: Male
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Religion: Christian
Occupation: Student
Began blogging (dd/mm/yy): 02/06/04

Political Compass results
Economic Left/Right: -0.13
Social Libertarian/ Authoritarian: -1.08

IPIP-NEO Results

EXTRAVERSION...............44 (average)
..Friendliness.............58 (average)
..Gregariousness...........35 (average)
..Assertiveness............28 (low)
..Activity Level...........14 (low)
..Excitement-Seeking.......37 (average)
..Cheerfulness.............94 (high)

AGREEABLENESS..............95 (high)
..Trust....................85 (high)
..Morality.................88 (high)
..Altruism.................63 (average)
..Cooperation..............99 (high)
..Modesty..................72 (high)
..Sympathy.................74 (high)

CONSCIENTIOUSNESS..........25 (low)
..Self-Efficacy............51 (average)
..Orderliness..............7 (low)
..Dutifulness..............51 (average)
..Achievement-Striving.....11 (low)
..Self-Discipline..........8 (low)
..Cautiousness.............83 (high)

NEUROTICISM................5 (low)
..Anxiety..................0 (low)
..Anger....................2 (low)
..Depression...............9 (low)
..Self-Consciousness.......46 (average)
..Immoderation.............17 (low)
..Vulnerability............24 (low)

..Imagination..............91 (high)
..Artistic Interests.......86 (high)
..Emotionality.............7 (low)
..Adventurousness..........30 (low)
..Intellect................91 (high)
..Liberalism...............18 (low)

Track List:
1. Philosophy, et cetera - - pixnaps97a2
2. Siris -


Feel free to join in, if you feel like it.

Disjointed Thoughts on the Mercy of Teaching

Recent discussions in the blogosphere have set me to thinking about doctrina, teaching, as a spiritual work of mercy. My thoughts are rather disjointed and rambling at this point, but, since I sometimes find writing to be clarifying, I thought I'd post them.

Julian of Norwich has an excellent little passage in Revelations ch. 76:

The soul that willeth to be in rest when [an] other man’s sin cometh to mind, he shall flee it as the pain of hell, seeking unto God for remedy, for help against it. For the beholding of other man’s sins, it maketh as it were a thick mist afore the eyes of the soul, and we cannot, for the time, see the fairness of God, but if we may behold them with contrition with him, with compassion on him, and with holy desire to God for him. For without this it harmeth and tempesteth and hindereth the soul that beholdeth them. For this I understood in the Shewing of Compassion.

In other words, for your own good you should regard no one's sin, even in thought, unless you regard it with sympathetic contrition, with compassion, and with "holy desire to God". I think this is right; but it is something exceedingly difficult to do.

Human beings are not good at sympathetic contrition, even setting aside times when we are too inclined to condemn. We have this sneaking tendency to try to substitute something else for contrition with our fellows -- forgiveness, oftentimes -- even when such a substitution would be a blasphemous presumption. Contrition with another is rare; it is something we usually only exhibit in the case of family and friends (and it is rare even then). Contrition is a melting of the hardened heart, a sorrow of the will, a tearing of oneself away from the merely apparent good so that one may pursue the true good. We normally think of it as something we do for ourselves; but, as Julian notes, we can also have contrition with another. How can one be contrite with another when one is not culpable? But, rare as it is, it does occur, as I said, when we are contrite with a family member or a friend simply because they are one of our own. And it is only rational that it should be so. When all the accounts are settled, and you are shown to be wholly innocent of an evil deed -- is it really a complete consolation that you were not the one who did the evil deed? When children are torn from their homes and blood flows like rivers, when the poor are trampled and the weak are destroyed, can you, as a reasonable person, rest in full comfort knowing that you are not the one causing these things? Does your innocence give you total relief, knowing that the ones who do these things are like you, that you are human and so are they, and that they are therefore, however distantly, one of your own? When we rest in our blamelessness is there not some part of us that we must actively distract from the sad and sorrowful truth: that the monsters who roam the earth are human, even as we are, and that because of that, their sin is the sin of one of us. When vindication comes and you find you do not need to say, "Lord, forgive me," is there not still some real meaning, however weak and faint, to saying, "Lord, forgive us," not because you are guilty but because, whatever horrible thing has happened, there is still this ineliminable us? Take the worst and most wicked, and look at their faces, and see it for yourself: they may be the guilty, but they are one of our own, and in them we are faced with this terrible thing: that, innocent as we may be, this deed was not irrelevant to us; we did not do it, but we are not free from it; it was done by one of our own. They too are human, even as we are. There is, in this sense, a deep and crushing sorrow to being human: that one of us can do such things is a terrible thing. This is only half the story, for there is an equisite joy to being human. We distract ourselves from that, too. But we go out of our way to distract ourselves from the melancholy of humanity, the sadness and grief of knowing that a human being, like ourselves in so many ways, can stoop so low. And that sorrow, even if merely recognized rather than felt, is the start of contrition, the beginning of tearing ourselves (not just myself, not just yourself, but ourselves) away from the apparent good that trapped us (not just me, not you, but one of us), the beginning of turning toward the good we (not just me, not just you, but we) truly need.

As with evil, so with serious error. Do not regard the serious error of another unless you can regard it having contrition with the one in error; the one in error is one of your own.

And such contrition is the ambience of true compassion; not the false compassion we have for someone we think of as being in no way connected with us, but the true compassion we have for one of our own who has in some way failed. For failure is what it is: they have failed to be as excellent in their humanity as they might have been; and that, too, is a sad and terrible thing, a cause for mercy. That someone, for instance, should deliberately mislead others on important matters is not merely terrible because people have been misled; it is terrible because one of us has fallen into such a state that they could do such a thing. That they are guilty cannot be ignored; and the 'they' is not someone indifferent to us, but one of us. They too are human; they are one of our own. We like to define things in terms of Us and Them. That is fine. Indeed, it is often the case. But it must never be forgotten that 'Them' is always just a more distant 'Us'. 'They', when they fail, are not so very different from one of us, when one of us fails; and the need for compassion, mercy, pity, whatever you wish to call it, is a flower that grows in the distant fields of 'Them' just as much as it grows in the nearer fields of 'Us'. And, again, as with evil, so with error; if it is possible in the stronger case, it is possible in the weaker case. If we were in error, and they were in the right; would it not be a worthwhile thing that they had compassion for us rather than contempt? How can we take their error as an occasion for dismissal when we would rebel against such a thing were our places reversed?

And it can never be wrong to wish one of us well. God knows we all need such well-wishing. There is an image in Dickens somewhere (A Christmas Carol, I think): the absurdity of the insect on the leaf begrudging his fellow insects in the dust their lives. It is meant, I think, to say something about social classes; but the principle encapsulated is general. If we find ourselves, by chance or by diligence, to be insects on the leaf, can we honestly, and reasonably, begrudge our fellow insects in the dust a bit of civility, a bit of well-wishing, a bit of merciful teaching, one more chance at coming to understand? However right we may be, however perverse they may have been, can we seriously consider it just too much to allow that they too can learn? Can the insect on the leaf without absurdity begrudge the insect in the dust one more chance at enlightenment?

Thus can teaching be an act of mercy: when we do not regard the follies of another unless we can do so having contrition with him (for when one of us goes astray, that is an occasion for both of us renewing our resolve to find truth, for they are not simply some distant thing of no concern, but one of our own), and having compassion on him (for it is a grievous thing to be in error, and we, too, might be in error one day; we and they are much alike), and having a holy desire to God for them (for it is always rational to hope that those of us who have failed may begin to do better). In all this, of course, I am talking about teaching those who do not know something truly important what they need to know; that is, the teaching of things needful. If it was needful for us, can we seriously begrudge it to others who find it needful?

Teaching begins not in the finding of people who already know; it begins in the hope that people who do not already know may yet come to know. Even when we are only talking about the most important things to be taught, it is possible to teach just by happenstance, or because that's just what you do to get by. But it is also possible to teach because the people you are teaching are your own, however tenuously the label 'your own' may be applicable to them. It is possible to teach because the people you are teaching are human, and you do not consider it acceptable that another human should not also have the chance to learn it (for you yourself are as human, perhaps even as absurdly human, as they are; no matter how conveniently you might sometimes forget it, you and they are thrown in together as both of one kind). Can we stand by idly when our own wander lost? Such mercy, like every other sort of mercy, is not the sort of thing that can be demanded; but it is the sort of thing to which we can find ourselves called.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

History Carnival XI

Welcome to the Eleventh History Carnival! We have a great selection of links this time around; thanks to all those who submitted or nominated the links that made this possible.

You have several reading options.

(1) You can read right through. You know you want to do it.

(2) You can focus on a special section. (UPDATE#2: Thanks to Richard for pointing out the obvious error in my name anchors, which goes to show how long it's been since I've used any. The section links should be more amenable now.)
Special Thanks
Main Attractions
Host's Discussion Pick
Procession of the Cliopatriarchs
Special Panel
Fun and Phantasmagoria

(3) You can read the posts marked , which are special picks, the (in my view) absolute must-reads for today's busy History Carnival crowd.

(4) If you are having trouble with the images, or just dislike images, I am posting a version of this Carnival at Houyhnhnm Land that will contain fewer images.

Because of the size of the Carnival, I arbitrarily capped the number of entries at 35. Unfortunately, this means that not all submitted and nominated links could be included. If yours weren't, apologies; something had to be done to make the list manageable. Posts that received multiple nominations (there were several) received an automatic place in the Carnival, once it was determined that they met the basic History Carnival criteria; after that I selected on the basis of my best judgment, aiming for a diverse but content-rich selection.

Special Thanks Section

Special thanks to James Davila of "Paleojudaica", Bora Zivkovic of "Science and Politics", and John MacKay of "archy" for their early submissions. Since they made my job much easier, it seems fitting to start with them.

1. At Paleojudaica, Jim Davila discusses a number of wild errors at the Egyptian State Information's "Jerusalem in History" website:
Speaking of Historical Revisionism

2. At Science and Politics, Coturnix reviews Jared Diamond's Collapse, correcting some of the more serious misinterpretations of the book's argument:
Books: "Collapse" by Jared Diamond

3. At archy, John discusses the important role of alcohol in civilization:
Friday night thoughts on booze

Main Attractions Section

4. Alun tells us about the illicit antiquities market:
You too can help fund Islamic terrorists with a few pretty antiquities
You should also check out Alun's discussions of Stonehenge:
Stonehenge astronomy

5. At Chapati Mystery, dacoit discusses some puzzling issues involved in historical narration by looking at Pakistan's first Governor-General, Muhammad Ali Jinnah:
Our Sahib

6. At Dissoi Blogoi, Michael Pakaluk discusses the method of history of philosophy:
Is There a Special Method in the History of Philosophy?

7. At Early Modern Notes, Sharon discusses the kinds and symptoms of the historian's illness:
Archive Fever

8. At The Elfin Ethicist, Wilson attempts to lay the foundations for a Christian view of history, in a series called "Glow-worm on a Grass Blade":
Glow-worm on a Grass Blade, I: Humility
This is the first part of a five-part series. You can read the other parts of the series by following the links at the bottom of the posts, or by clicking on the following:
Part Two Part Three Part Four Part Five

9. At Frog in a Well - China, Alan Baumler looks at some of the questions about what makes a nation:
Does China Exist?

10. At Horizon, Alan Allport looks at Thucydides's distinction between true and alleged causes:
Some Damn Fool Thing in the Balkans: Thoughts on the Origins of the Peloponnesian War

11. At Is That Legal? Eric Muller discusses the internment of Japanese Americans by looking at two Boy Scouts who attended a Boy Scout Jamboree sixty-two years ago:
Two Scouts

12. At Liberty & Power, Kenneth R. Gregg introduces us to "Red Emma" (1869-1940):
Emma Goldman

13. At Mode for Caleb, Caleb draws a lesson from Dorothy Day's first experience in an American prison:
Is this progress? Part I

14. At Ralph the Sacred River, Ed Cook looks at some issues relevant to the reporting of the oral word:
Rasheed Wallace and the Synoptic Problem

15. At Rites of Passage, Athena discusses quackery and the Afrocentric approach to Egypt:
Reasons behind Quackery, Great Zimbabwe and the Lost City

16. At Spinning Clio, Marc discusses French Canadians in the American Civil War era:
Immigrants and War: French Canadians in the Civil War Era I
This is the first part of a four-part series, adapting the traditional style of a research paper to blog format. You can read the other parts of the series by following the links at the bottom of the posts, or by clicking on the following:
Part Two Part Three Part Four

17. At World History Blog, Miland discusses a flawed argument used by Hawaiian separatists:
Hawaiian Independence?

Host's Discussion Pick Section

For this carnival, I've decided to highlight a post that raises issues that I'd like to see discussed more in the blogosphere.

18. At The Little Professor, Miriam Burstein raises questions about how one introduces historical issues into the literary classroom:
Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts
(cross-posted at Cliopatria)

19. The thoughts in Miriam's post are also discussed by Scott Eric Kaufman at Acephalous:
How Literature Registers, Reflects, Represents or Otherwise Transmogrifies Dull Dry History: A Query
(cross-posted at The Valve)

I'm interested in this issue in part because a similar set of questions arises in history of philosophy. Indeed, I suspect these issues are common. The precise form of the problem will vary from discipline to discipline, but will have broad similarities. When I discuss Berkeley's Siris, for instance, as I always try to do when I discuss Berkeley, I always face the issues that come from dealing with a text that in some sense requires a very multidisciplinary approach. It's a philosophical text in the tradition of early modern Christian Platonism, and needs to be discussed to correct a number of very common misperceptions about Berkeley's views. But how? Siris is a complicated work that starts with a speculative discussion about the medical properties of tar-water. To understand why the later, more philosophical, discussion is formulated the way it is, one needs some notion of the background: early eighteenth medicine and chemistry. That takes us back into a very different medical context than exists today; and it's pre-Lavoisier so the chemical approach is utterly foreign to anything anyone's already learned in school. And ultimately I won't be able to devote more than half a lecture, if that, to the subject. Since the whole point is to correct misapprehensions that are far too common, I don't want to introduce new ones by the way I introduce this historical background; but since I'm not seriously going to be able to devote more than half a lecture to it, there's not going to be much more than a sketch available to them anyway. That's just one complicated example, but these kinds of cases raise all sorts of issues about what priority one gives this historical background (in survey courses I deliberately give it a higher priority than most, but that still leaves the question of exactly how high to rank it), about the way in which this historical background is delivered, about what one can expect the students to be able to take in, etc. So I'm very interested in the form these questions take elsewhere, and would like to see more discussion of it.

Clioprocession Section

Some interesting nominations and submissions from the Queen of History Weblogs (and perhaps, un día de estos, in the far-off days beyond the Revolution, the undisputed Queen of History), Cliopatria. Let the Clioprocession begin!

20. Ralph Luker reflects on Billy Graham's final crusade and the civil rights movement:
A letter to Billy Graham....

21. Robert KC Johnson considers the factors involved in the decline of Congressional centrism:
Changing Congress

22. Greg James Robinson tells the complicated story of how same-sex marriage became the most public Gay/Lesbian issue:
Same-Sex Marriage: A Victory for Conservatives?

23. Nathanael Robinson discusses the sad decline of the grands magasins:
"La Samar"
(cross-posted at The Rhine River)

24. Rob MacDougall looks at some of the lists of the 'Greatests' that are going around:
The Greatest American Hero

25. Manan Ahmed looks at how a brave woman's refusal to keep silent has begun to crystallize a movement for women's rights in Pakistan:
The Rosa Parks Effect
(cross-posted at Chapati Mystery)

Special Panel Section

The topic of our special panel is The Post-Genocidal State.

26. At The Head Heeb, Jonathan Edelstein begins a discussion on the comparative study of post-genocidal countries:
On the commonalities of post-genocidal states

27. Bill Wallo continues the discussion at Wallo World in post belonging to a series on the complexity of the problem of preventing genocide:
Of Guns and Post-genocidal States

28. In his Livejournal, Randy MacDonald looks at how Turkey fits into Edelstein's criteria:
What's with Turkey and the Armenian Genocide?

29. And Edelstein looks at the issues again in light of the discussion:
Post-genocidal states revisited

Thus ends our special panel; thanks to Jonathan Edelstein and Sharon Howard for calling these posts to my attention. You are welcome to continue the discussion at the above weblogs or on your own weblog.

Fun and Phantasmagoria Section

30. At Ancarett's Abode, ancarett looks at the "Lorem Ipsum" dummy text that is so commonly used in showing off design templates, with several fun relevant links:
Fun for Dummies

31. At Cnytr, Lauren discusses the iconography of the Dominican, Saint Peter Martyr (with lots of links to images):
St. Peter Martyr vrs. Heresy -- shh!

32. At Digital Medievalist, Lisa Spangenberg points us to a new discovery in Lower Saxony:
A New Bog Body: "The Girl of the Uchter Moor"

33. At Japundit, Ampontan tells us about the revival of women's sumo:
When Girls Do It

34. At Philobiblon, Natalie Bennett gives us an interesting story told by Emily Hahn:
Miss Stuart anyone?

35. At Respectful Insolence, Orac looks at the issues involved in that most troublesome of historical analogies:
I fought the Hitler zombie, and the Hitler zombie won...maybe
He follows up with more (less serious) reflections on the Hitler zombie in:
And on the seventh day the Hitler zombie rested (I hope)
We certainly need to laugh sometimes at how clumsy we are in using historical analogies -- the Hitler zombie being the worst case. A thought for further research: If the Hitler zombie feeds on politicians' brains, how does it manage to find enough food to keep going? [UPDATE: And Orac has a plausible answer here.]

Thank you for attending this History Carnival!

History Carnival Button The next History Carnival (15 July) will be hosted by Caleb McDaniel at Mode for Caleb. Send your submissions to:


Carnivalesque ButtonCarnivalesque, the happening place for pre-modern history, will be hosted by Jonathan Dresner at Cliopatria on July 5. You still have time to send your submissions to:


Bullets are from Ender Design Go To Ender Design
Banners were created on Creative Connectivity's Free Online Banner Creator