Saturday, December 17, 2022

When We Come to the Complete

 If I talk in human and angelic languages, but do not possess devotedness, I have become a reverberating gong or clanging cymbal; and if I possess prophecy and recall all of the secret things and all knowledge, and if I possess complete confidence so as to remove mountains, but do not possess devotedness, I am nothing; and if I dole out all my belongings and if I surrender my body in such a way that I might be proud, but do not possess devotedness, I have benefited not at all.

Devotedness is bold, serviceable; devotedness is not jealous; devotedness is not boastful, not inflated, not formless; it does not seek its own, it is not exasperated, it does not keep track of injuries, it does not take joy in injustice but rejoices with the truth. It covers all, confides all, anticipates all, endures all.

Devotedness never at all collapses; but prophecies will be superseded, languages will end, knowledge will be superseded, for we know by part and prophesy by part, but when we come to the complete, what is by part will be superseded. When I was an infant, I was talking as an infant, I was judging as an infant; when I became man, I superseded the infantlike. We see for now through a mirror in obscurity; but then, person to person. Now I know by part; then I will recognize as I am recognized.

And for now remain confidence, anticipation, devotedness, the three; but greater than these is devotedness.

[1 Corinthians 13, my very, very, very rough translation, at Cat's request. This is an immensely difficult passage! Agape is a Christian term of art, rarely used outside of Christian texts; related words mean things like, 'to prefer', 'to esteem', 'to show esteem'. 'Charity' and 'love' are good translations, except colloquial English misuses both, treating 'charity' as the same as alms-giving (the 'doling out' that is contrasted with agape in this passage) and just making up meanings of love that are completely foreign to this passage. In any case, when I do these things, I am often looking less for ideal translation (which is well beyond my ability even with all the resources I use) than for a translation that breaks out of the prison of familiarity while still being more or less in the vicinity. So faith, hope, and love/charity are given different translations here. But there are lots of other tricky bits here -- particularly the somewhat brain-breaking last line, in which we are literally told that agape is greater than pistis, elpis, and agape. Most translations take the comparative to be a loose usage, and translate it as superlative. A solution for which I have quite an affection, without much confidence in its being the best translation, however much I would like it to be, reads it as 'Now abide faith, hope, and love, these three; but greater than these is the love [i.e., the divine love]'. It's not absolutely impossible that a distinction is being made between agape without a definite article and he agape, the love; but it doesn't seem particularly likely given the way Greek uses articles, and accepting this requires rethinking the entire passage, since it opens with the former but the middle part is all definite-article love. Perhaps one should read it is as continuing what went on immediately before: For now [in the infant/partial period], the enduring things are faith, hope, and love; but [complete/adult] love is greater. That is, we are in our infancy, our partial period; the things that endure now are faith, hope, and love. But when we have the whole, love will be greater than all these infant/partial things -- i.e., it is the one thing that will not be superseded even when completed. This is something like how it was traditionally interpreted.

In any case, everything here should be read as just a possible different way of looking at the whole passage rather than necessarily the best way to translate it, which I don't have the competence to say.]

[ADDED LATER: I forgot I wanted to say something about the attributes of love here. Makrothymei literally means 'great-spirited' or 'greatly driven'. Your thymos is the part of you that likes overcoming challenges, so 'patient' and 'long-enduring' are certainly right, but the whole thing could also be loosely paraphrased as 'love loves challenges'. Likewise, the usual 'kind' is a reasonable translation of chresteuetai, but the word literally indicates being useful. 'Patient and kind' are easily susceptible of a very sentimentalist reading, in which love is a kind of passive benevolence; but the Greek is the reverse: love is very active. Love seeks out challenges and makes itself useful.]

Friday, December 16, 2022

Dashed Off XXX

 The point of communicating is not to change the behavior of others but to have something in common with them, at which one aims for a wide variety of reasons (one of which may be influencing behavior).

Knowledge of being is itself an expression of being; knowing is an implicit possibility of being.

As Hume notes, honor is a powerful check on individual, not concerted, action.

the book of Job as about the problem of argument

Prolific and productive are not the same thing.

cresme (chrism) -> cream
biddan (to pray) -> bead

the sacraments as civic participation in the Kingdom of God

the productive idea of the artisan as pre-representative

Through sacramentals we catch the world in a net of grace.

John the Baptist as a symbol of minor sacraments (sacramentals), making ready the way
-- the heraldic character of sacramentalia

Utile, lex, humile, res ignorata, necesse,
Haec quinque solvunt anathema, ne possit obesse.
-- the traditional list of things that excuse from interaction with excommunicates
(1) utile -- humanitarian advice or assistance, either spiritual or temporal, in either direction
(2) lex -- marital interactions
(3) humile -- subjection as pupil, ward, servant, employee, or subject
(4) res ignorata -- being unaware of the excommunication
(5) necesse -- unavoidable
-- a distinction grew up between tolerati (no obligation to avoid) and vitandi (obligation in force, usually for serious cases due to notoriety of fact, in which the excommunication was nominal, i.e., by name or other clear identifier, and by public denunciation in accordance with canon law)

Everyone's knowledge of ritual is impressionistic.

It has always been the case, and because of original sin, will always be the case, that some portion of most people's pursuit of justice will include some kind of injustice.

Gn 19:24 -- 'The Lord rained down fire from the Lord in heaven'
Ps 109:1 -- 'The Lord said to my Lord'

willing suspension of disbelief as playing an important role in our interactions with other people

Aristotle thinks that there are natural slaves because he takes it to be obvious that there are people who cannot participate fully as citizens (in making decisions and holding office), contributing to civil society rationally as a society based on reason, and thus who can only contribute physical good, not rational good, to the city as such. It is easy to find people rejecting the name of the doctrine of natural slavery, but more difficult to find people accepting that every healthy person without exception is capable of fully fulfilling responsibilities like holding public office in a rational civil society. 

Pr 31:10 // Rth 3:11

Obligations get their force and applicability within a hierarchy.

necessity of participating in humanitarian traditions -> right to legal, medical, and spiritual counsel

Intentional act flows into intentional act.

Much of the world repeats other parts of the world, so one experience under good conditions gets you much further than merely what you experience.

consensus gentium explanations
(1) traditionary
(2) innatist
(3) convergentist

"The methods applied in extreme democracies are thus all to be found in tyrannies." Aristotle

Aristotle on the aim of tyrants (1314a)
(1) break the spirit of subjects
(2) breed mutual distrust
(3) make subjects incapable of action

"There are two causes which are most responsible for attacks on tyrannies: hatred and contempt. Of these, hatred is something all tyrants are bound to arouse, but contempt is often the cause by which tyrannies are actually overthrown." Aristotle

A great deal of success in society is knowing when and under what conditions cheating is accepted or tolerated.

There is Passion, Death, and Resurrection in all of the sacraments, but in different ways.

artificial design -> art/skill -> divine art

To hear the voice of reason requires recognizing that it is not merely your own voice.

thinking the actual through the lens of the possible and the necessary through the lens of the actual

the expressionward elements of a scene -- these are part of the picturesque

the brain as an instrument of prayer

Seeking a good more and greater than common good, we ruin even our private good.

the modern age as the age of running away from oneself

-- the largest known black hole is TON 618; it has 66 billion solar masses, making it more massive than the entire Milky Way, and has a Schwarzschild radius of 1300 AU (Sun to Pluto is about 39 AU). It is about 18.2 billion ly from Earth, in the constellation Canes Venatici. It is believed to be the nucleus of a galaxy, but as a hyperluminous quasar, it outshines the whole galaxy, making the latter impossible to see -- it is one of the brightest objects in the known universe.

True peace takes a valor that is harder to see than the valor of war.

hieratic fictions ('fiction' as in legal fiction) -- often happens in matters of sacred time and sacred space, as well as with ascetic practices -- distinct from canon-legal fiction; hieratic fictions arise specifically for ritual and liturgical purposes, e.g., counting a given time as if it were another time for ritual purposes

Pleasure alone does not suffice for friendship even in a friendship of pleasure.

the homeless as domestic refugees

The artisan's idea is more properly that in which than that through which the work is done.

progress as that transcendence that is also involution

"Those who have worshipped their own kings as gods have deserved as their penalty to lose all knowledge of deity." Salutius

A well-designed legal code will tend toward specifying common sense.

Christ is the wisdom of God to us
(1) as justice: meritorious cause of salvation
(2) as purification: efficient cause of salvation
(3) as ransom: moral cause of salvation

The atonement is simultaneously moral, jural, and sacral.

atonement < adunamentum = reconciliatio

adversarial collaboration projects as essential to the health of republics

The natural tendency of people is to define by synonymy, i.e., to locate a word in a constellation of similar words.

the three acts of teaching
(1) correcting error
(2) assisting the student's own thinking
(3) supplying the missing pieces

Chrysippus' df of fate: "Fate is a sempiternal and immutable series and chain of things, rolling and unravelling itself through eternal sequences of cause and effect, of which it is composed and compounded." (Aulus Gellius 7.2.1)

It is not impossible for there to be something that both is non-evident and yet appears, as in subtle appearances, dim appearances, brief and flickering appearances, and peripheral appearances.

Between the non-evident and the self-evident is the evident.

Zeno's argument for rational cosmos:
The rational is better than the nonrational; nothing is better than the cosmos; therefore the cosmos is rational. (He gives the same argument for intellectual and animate.)
Alexinus's response:
The poetic, grammatical, etc., is better than non-, therefore &c, which is absurd.
Stoic response:
'Better' here is in an absolute sense, not relative; e.g., poetic Archilocus is not better than nonpoetic Socrates, etc.
[see Sextus Emp., Adv MAth 9:109ff; cp also On God, 138]

(1) We have independent reason tot think that virtue requires something at least like religio.
(2) Religio bears the marks of a virtue.
(3) If there is nothing divine, religio should be neither required by virtue in general nor bear the marks of virtue.
(4) Therefore there is something divine.

Free will is reason expressed outward into behavior.

Human beings can trade without shared language, but it is difficult to handle trade disputes without shared language.

Drawing and painting seem to arise as a sort of visual storytelling.

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Power and Wisdom

 For the word of the cross is, to the annihilated, stupidity; to us, being saved, it is God's power. It is written: For I will annihilate the wise man's wisdom, and the intelligent man's intelligence I will set aside. Where is the wise one? Where is the literate one? Where is the debater of this era? Has not God made stupid the universe's wisdom? For as in God's wisdom, the universe through wisdom did not know God, so God was pleased through the stupidity of the proclamation to save the faithful. Now Jews request signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, to the Jewish very much a stumblingblock but to the nations stupidity -- but to the invited, Jew and also Greek, Christ, God's power and God's wisdom.

For God's stupidity is wiser than humanity and God's weakness stronger than humanity. For examine your invitation, brothers, how not many fleshly-wise, not many powerful, not many well-born, but the universe's stupid have been picked out by God that he might disgrace the wise, and the universe's weak have been picked out by God that he might disgrace the strong, and the universe's low-born and ignored have been picked out by God, and the substanceless, that he might neutralize the substantial, so that no flesh at all may boast before God. Because of him, you, however, are in Christ Jesus, who has been made wisdom from God to us, justice, and also holiness and ransom, that it may be as it is written: Who boasts, let him boast in the Lord.

[1 Corinthians 1:18-31, my rough translation.]

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

El Doctor Místico

 Today is the feast of St. John of the Cross, Doctor of the Church. From his Ascent to Mount Carmel (Book I, Chapter VIII):

Desire blinds and darkens the soul; for desire, as such, is blind, since of itself it has no understanding in itself, the reason being to it always, as it were, a child leading a blind man. And hence it comes to pass that, whensoever the soul is guided by its desire, it becomes blind; for this is as if one that sees were guided by one that sees not, which is, as it were, for both to be blind. And that which follows from this is that which Our Lord says through Saint Matthew: Si caecus caeco ducatum praestet, ambo in foveam cadunt. ‘If the blind lead the blind, both fall into the pit.’ Of little use are its eyes to a moth, since desire for the beauty of the light dazzles it and leads it into the flame.And even so we may say that one who feeds upon desire is like a fish that is dazzled, upon which the light acts rather as darkness, preventing it from seeing the snares which the fishermen are preparing for it. This is very well expressed by David himself, where he says of such persons: Supercecidit ignis, et non viderunt solem. Which signifies: There came upon them the fire, which burns with its heat and dazzles with its light. And it is this that desire does to the soul, enkindling its concupiscence and dazzling its understanding so that it cannot see its light. For the cause of its being thus dazzled is that when another light of a different kind is set before the eye, the visual faculty is attracted by that which is interposed so that it sees not the other; and, as the desire is set so near to the soul as to be within the soul itself, the soul meets this first light and is attracted by it; and thus it is unable to see the light of clear understanding, neither will see it until the dazzling power of desire is taken away from it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Three O'Clock on Friday III

 This is the third part of a short story draft. Part I, Part II.

Howard woke with a start on a bed. What bed it was, he did not know. There was no bed that was his own, properly speaking, since it was dangerous to spend the night too often in one place; but this bed was most definitely not his own, as he could not recall having ever seen it before. It was a four-poster with an elaborate headboard. The columns were ornately carved in a most ugly fashion, like badly designed totem poles, with a vertical series of gargoyle heads. At least, Howard assumed that they were gargoyles. The headboard had some kind of carved design on it, and that was as clearly as Howard could make out what it was; it was heavily worn, as if it had survived, but only barely survived, a long struggle with time. The curtains around were dull, thin, and had unidentifiable flowers on them. It was, for all this, a decent enough bed. Howard could not remember waking in a better one.

The room in which the bed was found had large windows and sunlight was dustily glittering through those windows and across the floor. Howard did not recognize the room, either. This bothered him greatly. He did not know he had come to be in the room, either, but this bothered him less, since he never knew how he had come to be wherever he was when he awoke. 

As he sat up, the door opened and a woman entered. She was short and somewhat plain of face, but had a truly enviable mass of auburn hair somewhat messily adorning her face and shoulders in a way that had a certain minor charm. She was wearing barely anything, and ignored him. she went to a mirror on the other side of the room and began brushing her hair in a leisurely way.

Howard breathed a sigh of relief, because the woman, at least, he knew.

"Good morning, Ronnie," he said.

Veronica looked back at him briefly with a sardonic look, then returned to her mirror and the brushing. "Tough night, I suppose, Howie?" she said.

"Like every other," Howard replied. He got out of bed and sorted through his clothes, which were piled pell-mell upon the floor. He dressed, and, as he put on his shabby fedora, dug in his pocket for money, which he then put on the dresser.

As he left, Ronnie said, "There's a party somewhere on the Riverfront today; are you going?"

Howard paused. "I don't know," he said. "I guess I will."

"The passphrase is, 'Sticky wicket'," she said. He thanked her and, after cautiously peering out into the hall, left as quietly as he could.

The apartment that Ronnie was using was just around the corner from Our Lady of Sorrows, and as Howard left, the church bell let out a long tone. It was the old recognizable note that said that it was three o'clock in the afternoon on Friday. He wondered what in the world had possessed Ronnie to take room so near the church; it was not a safe neighborhood. But he supposed that the rooms were always available there, and probably not heavily used. Most places to stay in the city were heavily used and in consequence heavily worn; others, like those near the Duke's casino, were well maintained but always crowded.

Howard skirted around the church as quickly as possible, slouching down into his trench coat in the hope that it would make him more nondescript, then made his way to the Riverfront. It had been a long time since he had been in that part of the city.

The city had a Riverfront, but no river. There must once have been, since there was a dusty riverbed, rocky and very broad. Standing on one of the cliffy sides, one could barely see across. Howard had never been across, but he had heard a rumor that if you did cross the riverbed, you found that the land you could see was in fact a sort of island; if you crossed it, you saw more riverbed. Howard had no idea whether that was true, but it had certainly not inspired him to see if it were. There was no cover if you crossed the riverbed; anyone could see you, and it would not have been worth being seen just to satisfy a curiosity about the other side, even if Howard had had any curiosity about the matter at all.  The bank of the non-river was lined with buildings of many different kinds. Down one way there were great mansions and estates of every kind. There were parties in them occasionally, because they were all usually empty. A mansion on Riverfront would be a very conspicuous place to live. Thus they all stood in a dust-gathering silence, their windows looking out blankly like the eyes of a man in a fit of distraction. Down the other were office buildings of what was probably once an impressive architectural style. They had a run-down, disreputable air; parties were sometimes held in them, too, because they too were usually empty. What possible value could there be in having an office overlooking a dry riverbed, an office in which one could do nothing except wait for the day your presence there drew the attention of the Ducal Guard?

Howard hesitated a moment, trying to decide whether it was more likely that the party would be held in one of the office buildings or one of the mansions and, flipping a mental coin, decided to try the offices first.

As it happened, the mental coin toss was right. The party was not difficult to find; it was obviously in the only office building with lights blaring out of every window. That alone almost made Howard turn around. He looked around, almost expecting the Ducal Guard to be arriving. The street was empty, as far as he could tell. But what really led him to go inside was the question: What else would you do?

The building on the outside had been shabby and drab, but inside was breathtaking and gaudily ornate. The whole building was three stories tall, and ever story was the same, brightly lit and filled with ornaments and food and drink and people mixing and mingling. It was overwhelming, and Howard hugged the wall, making his way around to get a drink.

He found himself near a Cardinal talking to a small crowd of people. At least, he looked like a Cardinal. Perhaps the man was insane, though, because Howard could not imagine the mentality of someone going around the city in unmistakable red robes. Everybody would always be seeing you.

"Well, yes," the maybe-Cardinal said, "it's progress, is what it is. All our history, humanity has sought to find peace, and now we have it, as well as community of goods. And I dare say, more than that; this is an age in which people are really seen as people. Everyone is welcome in the city; no one is excluded. Tolerance for all, because we are bound together by a solidarity constituted by mutual accompaniment, arising from the lived encounter of person with person. A community of goods, and people are the most important goods; we all have each other in common....."

The Cardinal kept talking, but Howard was already getting twitchy about being so near someone who was so flagrantly dressed and attention-drawing, so he sidled away and began making his way along the wall to the other side of the room. 

He did not make it, however, because he soon ran into a familiar, very sarcastic face.

"How are you, Tom?" he said.

"Quite well," said Tom, his sarcastic face under his red hair becoming somehow even more sarcastic. "How are you, Howard?"

"Well enough," said Howard. He took a sip of his drink and Tom did the same.

After a moment, Tom said, "I'm glad you got away, Howard,"

As was usually the case with Tom, Howard could not tell if he was being sarcastic. Tom probably was. But Howard said, "Thank you. I am glad you got away, too." He looked narrowly at mocking-faced redheaded man. He did not like ginger men at all; too untrustworthy, or something. Actually, Howard did not know any other redheaded men, as far as he could recall, so he probably just did not like Tom, but when he thought of other, hypothetical, redheaded men, he did not like them because of their Tomlikeness. It just seemed like there was something indecent about reminding other people of Tom.

Howard merely waited, and, unsurprisingly, Tom broke the silence. "I think Sam may have turned us in," he said.

"I don't think so," said Howard. "He accused me of doing it and stabbed me."

Tom laughed. "Well, I know you did not do it." He somehow made it sound like an insult, as if he was certain of Howard's innocence because he thought that Howard was too stupid to merit suspicion. "Huh," he said. "John. Who would have thought? He always seems shifty and smarmy, but you'd think you could frighten him with a feather. I hope he someday gets carried off to the Castle for it."

Howard endured Tom's company for a while. It prevented him from looking alone at the party, which might have made him stand out, and Tom did most of the talking, as Tom always did, making sarcastic comments, or at least comments that sounded sarcastic when made by Tom, on the minor happenings of the party around them. Finally, Howard detached himself by saying he needed to get some fresh air. Tom seemed relieved, and Howard was startled a moment with the recognition that Tom had only been enduring his company, as well, probably for the same reasons.

Howard had only said he needed fresh air to get away from Tom, but having committed himself on the point, however vaguely, he continued on that vector, and made his way to a side door which was propped open and opened out to an alleyway with dumpster bins. He breathed deeply. The air was not refreshing; it was warm and dry and stale, and had perhaps a hint of rottenness to it from the dumpsters, but it was the idea of fresh air more than any actual freshness of the air that motivated him, in any case. 

There was a sound further down the alleyway, and Howard peeked cautiously around the nearest dumpster to see what it was. It was the Cardinal, talking to someone where the alley met the street. The Cardinal's stance was strange, as if he did not want to look at the person to whom he was talking. Then the interlocutor stepped into view and Howard's heart froze in terror inside him, because the other erson was not a person at all but one of the Ducal Guards. 

"Yes," said the Cardinal. "The building is full. There are plenty of pickings if you want them. Mostly drunk, too, so they should be easy enough to catch."

Howard did not hear the Ducal Guard say anything, but the Cardinal apparently did, because he replied in a voice that took on a whining tone, "No, I am totally apolitical; the faith should have nothing to do with politics. I am a loyal subject of the glorious Duke, I tell you; I am only here to do my duty and do a service to him. I find troublemakers for your benefit. I should be rewarded."

There was a pause, and then the Cardinal said again, "Yes, but sir, surely I deserve something for my services?"

Again there was a pause, and the Cardinal said, "Yes, that would be lovely, thank you. All glory to the Duke!"

The Ducal Guard left, and Howard, released from his freeze but not from his terror, rushed back inside. He could not escape down the alleyway, because he might be seen, but he needed to find another exit, something not in the alley and not the front door. He cursed his folly of not having first checked all the exits to the building as he rushed from room to room trying to find another door. 

Rushing into one room, he ran smack into Ronnie, almost knocking her down.

"Howard!" she said. "Have you lost your mind?"

"I can't talk," said Howard, "I think the Ducal Guard is about to raid the party."

She said nothing at this, but turned and fled. Howard continued searching for exits and cursed his luck when he encountered Tom again. When he saw Howard's face, however, Tom asked, "What's wrong?"

"I think the Ducal Guard is outside."

Tom said, "I know an exit. Follow me." Howard did, and, true to Tom's word, they were soon outside.

"Good luck, Howard," said Tom as he broke into a run.

"Good luck, Tom," Howard said automatically. Whether Tom heard him or not, he did not know; Howard, too, broke into a run and was running as fast as he could. He ran and ran and ran, until he could not run any more, using a nearby wall to hold himself up as he gasped huge breaths.

In the distance, the bell of Our Lady of Sorrows let out its dull note. It was three o'clock in the afternoon on Friday.

to be continued

The Foe of Every Cruelty (Re-Post)

This is re-posted, with some revisions, from 2011.


Today is the feast of St. Lucy of Syracuse, Virgin Martyr; she is one of the saints who is often easily picked out because she is usually represented as carrying her eyes on a plate, like so:

Saint Lucy by Domenico di Pace Beccafumi

The reason is that the stories of her martyrdom tell that her eyes were gouged out during the Diocletian persecution, although this is not in the earliest layer of legends we have. She was killed with a dagger or short sword, which she also usually holds. She is also often represented with a lamp, because her name is related to the Latin word for 'light'.

She was extraordinarily popular. She has an important, although mostly offstage, role in Dante's Divine Comedy (Dante, who had eye troubles, was highly devoted to her); she is the saint that the Virgin Mary sends to Beatrice, telling her to send Virgil as Dante's guide through hell; or so we are told by Virgil himself:

" 'That Lady called on Lucia with her request
And said: "Your faithful follower has now
Such need of you that I commend him to you."

" 'Lucia, the foe of every cruelty,
Started up and came to where I was,
Sitting at the side of the aged Rachel.

" 'She said, "Beatrice, true credit to our God,
Will you not help the man who so loves you
That for your sake he left the common crowd?

" ' "Do you not hear his pathetic grieving?
Do you not see the death besieging him
On the river which the ocean cannot sway?"

She is also conspicuously mentioned in the Paradiso, where Beatrice confirms Virgil's story:

"And opposite the eldest family father
Lucia sits, who stirred your lady when
Your head was nodding downward, to your ruin."

Thus in the Mystical Rose of Heaven she is directly across from Adam.

John Donne also has a famous poem on St. Lucy's Day:

A Nocturnall upon St. Lucie's Day, Being the Shortest Day
by John Donne

'Tis the year's midnight, and it is the day's,
Lucy's, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks ;
The sun is spent, and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rays ;
The world's whole sap is sunk ;
The general balm th' hydroptic earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the bed's-feet, life is shrunk,
Dead and interr'd ; yet all these seem to laugh,
Compared with me, who am their epitaph.

Study me then, you who shall lovers be
At the next world, that is, at the next spring ;
For I am every dead thing,
In whom Love wrought new alchemy.
For his art did express
A quintessence even from nothingness,
From dull privations, and lean emptiness ;
He ruin'd me, and I am re-begot
Of absence, darkness, death—things which are not.

All others, from all things, draw all that's good,
Life, soul, form, spirit, whence they being have ;
I, by Love's limbec, am the grave
Of all, that's nothing. Oft a flood
Have we two wept, and so
Drown'd the whole world, us two ; oft did we grow,
To be two chaoses, when we did show
Care to aught else ; and often absences
Withdrew our souls, and made us carcasses.

But I am by her death—which word wrongs her—
Of the first nothing the elixir grown ;
Were I a man, that I were one
I needs must know ; I should prefer,
If I were any beast,
Some ends, some means ; yea plants, yea stones detest,
And love ; all, all some properties invest.
If I an ordinary nothing were,
As shadow, a light, and body must be here.

But I am none ; nor will my sun renew.
You lovers, for whose sake the lesser sun
At this time to the Goat is run
To fetch new lust, and give it you,
Enjoy your summer all,
Since she enjoys her long night's festival.
Let me prepare towards her, and let me call
This hour her vigil, and her eve, since this
Both the year's and the day's deep midnight is.

This poem is usually thought to have been written in 1627, a year in which Lucy Donne, his daughter, and Lucy, Countess of Bedford, a close friend, both died. The reference to the 'year's midnight' is to the fact that St. Lucy's feast was at one time more-or-less the Winter Solstice (in England in Donne's day, and for quite some time before it, St. Lucy's would have been the closest major saint's day to the Winter Solstice -- you need to keep in mind, of course, the difference between the Julian and the Gregorian calendar). St. Lucy's as liturgical Winter Solstice creates an interesting series of juxtapositions given that her name is derived from the word for 'light'; exactly suitable to the poetic conceits of a metaphysical poet like Donne.

Monday, December 12, 2022


 * Murray Shanahan, Talking about Large Language Models (PDF)

* Urban Hannon, Last Supper Metaphysics: The Causality of the Vine and the Branches

* Elissa, Journaling as a Means of Research, at "Women in Theology"

* Mark Windsor, Not Circular: Hume's "Of the Standard of Taste" (PDF)

* Luis Oliveira, Defending the Free Will Defense: A Reply to Sterba (PDF)

* Kevin Cawley, How to become wise, on Korean philosophy, at ""

* J. H. Lesher, On the Role of Guesswork in Science (PDF)

* Jennifer A. Frey, Get Real, on Anscombe, at "First Things"

* Justin E. H. Smith, Walking, Seeing, Thinking

* Elena Comay del Junco, Aristotle on multiple demonstration (PDF)

* Johanna Winant, A Century of Serious Difficulty, on modernism in art, in "Boston Review"

* Marta Jimenez, Empeiria and Good Habits in Aristotle's Ethics (PDF)

* Elliot Samuel Paul, Cartesian Intuition (PDF)

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Fortnightly Book, December 11

I decided to get started on a fortnightly book, although I have no idea exactly how long this 'fortnight' will last; but it should give me a running start for 2023. The book that I'll be doing is Sigrid Undset's The Winding Road, which was published in two volumes, The Wild Orchid (1931) and The Burning Bush (1932). The novel follows a young man, Paul Selmer, who is raised in a freethinking household before World War I and attempts to navigate the chaos of the world as the Great War expands and the rebuilding afterward begins, particularly with the difficulties (with which Undset herself was very familiar) of his own conversion to Catholicism. Other than that, I know very little about the novel, beyond the fact that it is a novel about loves. The wild orchid (gymnadenia) symbolizes a kind of love that is attractive in idea but is fairly empty and disappointing in hand; the burning bush symbolizes a love both true and perfective.