11 September 2016

If I Were Pope for a Day

If i were pope for a day, i would reinstate the inquisition, anathematize the new theologians, mandate that catechists use only catechisms approved by the due authority prior to 1940, "revise" the Novus Ordo so that it was just the '62 mass with a vernacular option, and demand that all seminary professors of philosophy and theology make a solemn profession of faith (which would be written up in the style of Sacrorum Antistitum, but with updated content focusing primarily on historicism, spiritualism, ecumenism, indifferentism, and the necessity of faith) or face immediate dismissal. 

If I were pope for two days, I would issue definitive clarifying notae on Vatican II's documents on religious liberty, the church, the modern world, and ecumenism. 

If I were pope for three days, I would issue an apostolic constitution clarifying the proper understanding of the word "pastoral" and setting this in relation to the true functions of the Petrine office, invoking Pastor Aeternus at length. Then I would declare Vincent Ferrer and Domingo Banez doctors of the Church. 

And if I survived that long without being assassinated, I would begin to purge the Vatican of pagan religious artifacts, selling them off or destroying them, and giving the money to the poor.

Things on my reading list right now...

For my own sake, here's a list of books on the shelf devoted to things I'd like to read in the near future.  Most of these I have started reading at some point recently, but deferred based on the realization that I'd been starting too many books and not finishing them.  I am presently reading Vasily Grossman's Life and Fate, which I intend to finish before making a go at finishing any of the others.  I am including a rationale behind the selection of each work.

John Bowers, Introduction to Two-Dimensional Design: Understanding Form and Function
I bought a used copy of this at the beginning of the summer, because I would like to develop a better sense of the principles and considerations at play in the creation of things like advertisements, newsletters, and published materials generally.

Georgi Shilov, Linear Algebra
Read the first couple dozen pages of this recently during one of my regular urges to learn more mathematics.  My grasp of linear algebra is fairly weak, and linear systems come into play all over the place, so it seems a good place to begin if I want to learn more math, especially if what I learn is to be useful.  Shilov's approach is pleasant and engaging.

Tom Wolfe, Bonfire of the Vanities
I've never read any of Tom Wolfe's fiction, and Bonfire is one of his landmark novels.  I expect it to be fun and entertaining, while containing some useful social criticism of New York culture.

The Bhavagad Gita
It's a classic of eastern philosophy/spirituality in a tradition that I have never touched, aside from a brief encounter with the Upanishads in high school.

Vasily Grossman, Everything Flows
If I end up loving Life and Fate, I will read this.  Grossman's last work, it's supposed to be especially critical of the Soviet regime, and it's short.

Michel Foucault, The Use of Pleasure
I started reading this some months ago and found it very enjoyable.  I have a longstanding intention of writing more extensively on Foucault's ethical perspective with the intention of fusing his insights on the social formation and dynamics of pleasure/sexuality/bodies with more classical insights from the Thomist tradition.

Encyclicals of Leo XIII
I've read a few of Leo's encyclicals on political matters, but his influence is massive and he's a formative figure in modern Catholic social thought, which I have barely touched.  The relevance of Leo's thought is only increasing with time, and I expect his work to be illuminating and edifying.

Pauline Kael, I Lost it at the Movies
This is Kael's first and probably most noted collection of film criticism.  Readers of this blog know that I greatly enjoy more philosophical film criticism.  I'd like to see how it's done by a master, which I've been assured Kael is.

R. R. Reno, Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society
I began reading this in early August, enjoyed the first bit of it, and then was distracted.  The book is topical and close to pressing questions of the present.

Herman Melville, Moby Dick
Began reading this over the summer at the recommendation of a friend.  The prose is lovely.  I will return to it.

Marcel Lefebvre, A Bishop Speaks
This collection of articles by Lefebvre is of interest because of my longstanding and urgent desire to write something revisiting the question of traditionalism in the Catholic Church in light of the half-century-long legacy of Vatican II.

Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Marcel Lefebvre
Tissier's biography ought to be very illuminating in understanding both the formation of the FSSPX and the personal missionary background of Lefebvre.  Useful for reasons given above.

Claude Levi-Strauss, The Savage Mind
This analysis of totemism in primitive societies is one of the classics of structuralist anthropology.  I enjoy Levi-Strauss. He's a good thinker, and I expect to gain a lot from reading this.  I began it in the spring and, again, was distracted by other things.  Generally what happens in these cases is that I begin a book, become too busy or tired to continue with it for a week or two, and then some new item comes along that inspires a more urgent desire, displacing the previous item.  Levi-Strauss's anthropology will likely prove useful in the project mentioned in connection to Foucault's Use of Pleasure above.

Ludwig von Pastor, Leo X (2 vols.)
I finished reading volume one of The History of the Popes some months ago and got a good bit into this history of Leo X's pontificate.  The history of the reformation popes is interesting and useful.  Most of all I would like to read Pastor's history of Pius V's pontificate, but that will have to wait some time.

Gandhi, Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth
Gandhi is, to some extent, wonderful.  I expect to be edified by his autobiography, to gain some insight into the character of the man, and most importantly to get a deeper understanding of his notions of truth, swaraj, and "soul force".

Max Weber, Economy and Society
I've picked this one up a couple of times in the past year.  Weber is a lucid thinker who strikes me as trustworthy because of the critical self-awareness demonstrated in his definitions and explanations of sociological concepts.  Again, this is likely to be broadly useful.

Herman Melville, Typee and Omoo
Assuming I love Moby Dick, I will read these novels at some point.

10 September 2016

Places not our Own

One often hears talk about the dark, cold, empty expanse of space.  About how hostile and deadly it is, how quiet, how vast, etc.  This sort of talk discourages people from thinking too much about the larger cosmos, because it is unpleasant. Here we are on earth, sitting in our homes, watching rain drip from the trees—why think about such a vast array of alien and empty landscapes in which no one could survive a minute without being frozen to death or incinerated or crushed?

The asteroid 243 Ida, as imaged by the NASA probe Galileo in 1991.
Between us and Ida are millions of miles of virtually empty space.

This is not how I like to think about space.  You see, there are in the universe such things as "proper places"—some things belong in some places, and will tend to decay or lose their natures if removed from those places.  A fish out of water, a hot coal taken from the fire, etc.  Humans were made from the stuff of this planet.  We belong here.  We emphatically do not belong on Europa, with its icy sea at  -274 °F, or Venus with its welcoming atmosphere of high-pressure, superheated sulfuric acid.  The question of colonization of these other places (or more distant ones) is no good, to my mind,  first because it distracts from the fact that humans belong to the Earth and are part of this world, and second because it prompts us to think of places beyond earth under the aspect of possible inhabitation, which taints them because they are generally uninhabitable.

The icy surface of Jupiter's moon Europa, taken by NASA's Galileo probe in 1998.
When I get ready to go to bed I sometimes pull up NASA's stream of live video of the earth from the International Space Station.  The views are beautiful, but they often play into the normal mental constrast between the smallness of the glowing earth and the deep blackness of space.  Today I happened to tune in a few minutes before the sun set on the space station.  The sheet of clouds covering the landscape below slowly began to display a reflection of the sun shining above the station, out of its camera's view.  Then, as the reflection became brighter and the edge of dusk appeared on the cloudscape, the sun itself appeared.

The Sun in a false-color image in the ultraviolet spectrum.
Taken in October 2014 by the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory.

We tend to imagine the sun as a swirling mass of orange flame, but in the unedited visible-spectrum images from the camera I saw something different.  The sun was brilliant, warm, and white.  Its brightness was so intense that it overwhelmed the camera, covering large portions of the image with intense lens flare.  As it descended toward the horizon, the brightness intensified, suggesting neither fire nor chaos, but an overwhelming principle of life, something so powerful in its vitality that it might overwhelm us.

The sun sets on the International Space Station.  Photo taken 10 September 2016.

Something Out of the Ordinary

I needed to share this, because it's the best illustration I've seen of the development of antibacterial resistance.