Monday, January 30, 2006

Babel - or Pentecost?

Well, actually, neither. There is an Italian proverb - unfortunately I cannot put my hand on the original - which is roughly translated as "to translate is to betray". And perhaps even more to the point is that most excellent line from Father Brown: "No machine can lie - nor can it tell the truth."

In this case, we may definitely add, "nor can it translate"... though it makes at least some attempt at it!

As I told you yesterday, I am no linguist. So in order to get some hint as to how well the mechanical translations worked, I did the only obvious thing, which will probably make you laugh... I fed the foreign language versions back into the machinery, but with the switch running the other way! so now I get back the English version of the other languages! Hee hee.

This proved to be VERY interesting:

From the French:
The Favourite Of GKC
Frances Blogg was devoted to G K Chesterton. Is thus this blog - and thus you can expect anything "of the pig to the pyrotechny" which "the truth of the only true philosophy illustrates..." [ GKC, The Thing ]

From the Spanish:
Favorite Of GKC
Frances Blogg was dedicated to G. K. Chesterton. He is so this blog - and so you can tell on any thing "of the pig the pyrotechnics" that "illustrates the truth of the only true philosophy..." [ GKC, the Thing ]

From the Italian:
Favorite Of the GKC
Frances Blogg has been dedicated to G. K. Chesterton. Therefore it is this blog - and so as to you can preview qualche.cosa "from pig to the pyrotechnics" that "illustrate the truth of only philosophy to align..." [ GKC, The Thing ]

From the German:
Favourite GKCs
Frances Blogg was inaugurated G. K. Chesterton. Is like that this blog - and thus you can expect everything "from schweinefleisch to pyrotechnics", "illustrate the truth of only applicable philosophy...", [ GKC, the thing ]

Of course this is a very short test, and was kind of unfair because of the meaning running through the quote-marks. But it is instructive, and I may wish to play with it again.

But I must call your attention to the very amazing result of the Italian, which is so good I think I may have to use it elsewhere: the truth of the only philosophy to align... then again, perhaps the computer has been reading Chesterton, for here we find that very same idea:
It is always simple to fall; there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands. To have fallen into any one of the fads from Gnosticism to Christian Science would indeed have been obvious and tame. But to have avoided them all has been one whirling adventure; and in my vision the heavenly chariot flies thundering through the ages, the dull heresies sprawling and prostrate, the wild truth reeling but erect.
[GKC, Orthodoxy CW1:306]

Saturday, January 28, 2006

We Advance Into a Bigger KOSMOS

Thanks to my e-friend Rhapsody, and to some technical wizardry of the Googles, I have set up the arrangements to cause my blogg to appear in other languages!

You can find the buttons in the box called `O KOSMOS on the right. (That's Greek for "the universe"!)

It was quite impressive to see. As yet they do not have either Latin or Greek or Vietnamese... but I expect they will be adding more as time goes on.

I am not enough of a linguist to comment on the correctness, though I do see that when I mis-spell a word, it goes over untranslated. I am sure this will be a real source of delight, and I heartily express my thanks to all those "behind the curtain" who have helped accomplish this marvel.

Just for my amusement and edification, I will post four versions of the "header" for my blogg, as produced by this marvellous toy:

Le Favori De GKC
Frances Blogg a été consacré à G. K. Chesterton. Est ainsi ce blog - et ainsi vous pouvez vous attendre à n'importe quoi "du porc à la pyrotechnie" que "illustre la vérité de la seule philosophie vraie..." [GKC, La Chose ]

Favorito De GKC
Frances Blogg fue dedicado a G. K. Chesterton. Está tan este blog - y así que usted puede contar con cualquier cosa "del cerdo a la pirotecnia" que "ilustra la verdad de la única filosofía verdadera..." [ GKC, La Cosa]

Favorito Del GKC
Frances Blogg è stato dedicato a G. K. Chesterton. Così è questo blog - ed in modo da potete prevedere qualche cosa "da porco alla pirotecnica" che "illustra la verità di unica filosofia allineare..." [GKC, La Cosa]

Liebling GKCs
Frances Blogg wurde G. K. Chesterton eingeweiht. Ist so dieses blog - und also können Sie alles "von Schweinefleisch zu Pyrotechnik" erwarten, der "veranschaulicht die Wahrheit der einzigen zutreffenden Philosophie...", [ GKC, Die Sache]

Amazing. Now I am going to see how these translate...

(I hope it won't explode in my face.)

What would you have of Me, Thomas?

In order to properly celebrate the feast of the great Angelic Doctor - Saint Thomas Aquinas - one of the patrons of this blogg, I am posting a small excerpt from a text on Scholastic Philosophy. (This was also brought on by my friend at New Victorian to which I direct you for more details.)

93. These three self-evident truths are implied and necessarily admitted in every judgment, viz.: the existence of the thinking subject, the principle of contradiction, the natural capacity of our reason to know the truth, i. e., the first fact, the first principle, the first condition of certain knowledge.

Proof. If any of them be denied or doubted, there can be no certitude. For there can be no thought without an existing thinker. There can be no certitude if two contradictories can be simultaneously true. There can be no certitude, if the mind is incapable of certitude.

These three truths cannot be demonstrated without begging the question; for they are, and must be, assumed in every demonstration, since there can be no certain premise in which they are not implied and necessarily admitted.

NOTE (1). - Nor need they be demonstrated, for they are self-evident, and in their very denial are affirmed.
(2). - Hence the absurdity of Kant's criticism or examination of the reliability of reason in its perception of truth. In his examination he employs the very faculty of whose reliability he professes to doubt, and hence involves himself in the contradiction essential to all scepticism.
(3). - Hence, too, the absurdity of Descartes' "Methodical Doubt," as he calls it. He held that a philosopher should try to doubt about all things, until they are demonstrated. Finding he could not doubt of the existence of his own thought, he takes this as the one principle of all philosophy, and thence argues, "I think, therefore I am." But this argument is good for nothing, unless the principle of contradiction and the infallibility of the reason, which perceives and affirms the fact of its own existence, be admitted as true. And even granting the premise, how is the conclusion certain if reason which deduces it be unreliable ? Further, if all our other natural faculties are unreliable, why should not the faculty of consciousness, which tells me I think, be so too?
[Shallo, Scholastic Philosophy 101-102]
If this seems a little complex, it ought not be so. (Children reading this do not have to worry, as you always follow these rules. It's grown-ups who have problems here!) You MUST believe this, and accept it fully and completely unreservedly, if you have any hope of doing anything with your mind, whether it is computing, physics, biology, philosophy, music, math, or even playing football!

As wonderful and compelling and useful as this is, it hardly tells us much about St. Thomas Aquinas. So I will quote from Chesterton's biography of him - a book which the great Thomistic scholar Etienne Gilson remarked:
I consider it as being without possible comparison the best book ever written on St. Thomas. Nothing short of genius can account for such an achievement. Everybody will no doubt admit that it is a "clever" book, but the few readers who have spent twenty or thirty years in studying St. Thomas Aquinas, and who, perhaps, have themselves published two or three volumes on the subject, cannot fail to perceive that the so-called "wit" of Chesterton has put their scholarship to shame. He has guessed all that which they had tried to demonstrate, and he has said all that which they were more or less clumsily attempting to express in academic formulas. Chesterton was one of the deepest thinkers who ever existed; he was deep because he was right; and he could not help being right; but he could not either help being modest and charitable, so he left it to those who could understand him to know that he was right, and deep; to the others, he apologized for being right, and he made up for being deep by being witty. That is all they can see of him.
[Gilson's quote is from Chesterton by Cyril Clemens, pp. 150-151, quoted in Ward's Gilbert Keith Chesterton 620]
The difficulty is to select a singular jewel for my presentation from this rather small yet very rich treasury. It will be a little lengthy, but since it deals with our Lord, I think you will find it over far too soon.
... probably the most representative revelation of this side of [Aquinas'] life may be found in the celebrated story of the miracle of the crucifix; when in the stillness of the church of St. Dominic in Naples, a voice spoke from the carven Christ, and told the kneeling Friar that he had written rightly, and offered him the choice of a reward among all the things of the world.
Not all, I think, have appreciated the point of this particular story as applied to this particular saint. It is an old story, in so far as it is simply the offer made to a devotee of solitude or simplicity, of the pick of all the prizes of life. The hermit, true or false, the fakir, the fanatic or the cynic, Stylites on his column or Diogenes in his tub, can all be pictured as tempted by the powers of the earth, of the air or of the heavens, with the offer of the best of everything; and replying that they want nothing. In the Greek cynic or stoic it really meant the mere negative; that he wanted nothing. In the Oriental mystic or fanatic, it sometimes meant a sort of positive negative; that he wanted Nothing; that Nothing was really what he wanted. Sometimes it expressed a noble independence, and the twin virtues of antiquity, the love of liberty and the hatred of luxury. Sometimes it only expressed a self-sufficiency that is the very opposite of sanctity. But even the stories of real saints, of this sort, do not quite cover the case of St. Thomas. He was not a person who wanted nothing; and he was a person who was enormously interested in everything. [emphasis added!] His answer is not so inevitable or simple as some may suppose. As compared with many other saints, and many other philosophers, he was avid in his acceptance of Things; in his hunger and thirst for Things. It was his special spiritual thesis that there really are things; and not only the Thing; that the Many existed as well as the One. I do not mean things to eat or drink or wear, though he never denied to these their place in the noble hierarchy of Being; but rather things to think about, and especially things to prove, to experience and to know. Nobody supposes that Thomas Aquinas, when offered by God his choice among all the gifts of God, would ask for a thousand pounds, or the Crown of Sicily, or a present of rare Greek wine. But he might have asked for things that he really wanted; and he was a man who could want things; as he wanted the lost manuscript of St. Chrysostom. He might have asked for the solution of an old difficulty; or the secret of a new science; or a flash of the inconceivable intuitive mind of the angels; or any one of a thousand things that would really have satisfied his broad and virile appetite for the very vastness and variety of the universe. The point is that for him, when the voice spoke from between the outstretched arms of the Crucified, those arms were truly opened wide, and opening most gloriously the gates of all the worlds; they were arms pointing to the east and to the west, to the ends of the earth and the very extremes of existence. They were truly spread out with a gesture of omnipotent generosity; the Creator himself offering Creation itself; with all its millionfold mystery of separate beings, and the triumphal chorus of the creatures. That is the blazing background of multitudinous Being that gives the particular strength, and even a sort of surprise, to the answer of St. Thomas, when he lifted at last his head and spoke with, and for, that almost blasphemous audacity which is one with the humility of his religion; "I will have Thyself."
Or, to add the crowning and crushing irony to this story, so uniquely Christian for those who can really understand it, there are some who feel that the audacity is softened by insisting that he said, "Only Thyself."
[GKC, St. Thomas Aquinas CW2:505-506]
PS: I am very sorry to have to add a postscript after such a Chestertonian cadence, but I feel I should refer you to my posting on New Year's: the poem by Francis Thompson called "New Year's Chimes" which I would like you to re-read. I think you will find it quite fitting and extremely Thomistic.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Greek at Home

While I wait for my machinery to process through some ten thosand files, I will let the various software kettles stew for a little while I take care of a very important matter. You see, I completely forgot to do something the other day!

I promised some of our young readers to post an interesting point about something they brought up over in one of the home-schooling bloggs, where they mentioned our Uncle Gilbert and this blogg (so of course they mentioned our dear Aunt Frances as well!!!)

Anyway, in order to explain the thing I am going to post, I had to look up something about GKC, and I found it - but it is almost more interesting than the first thing I was going to post! So like Elisha, you will get a double portion today.

First, I will remind you that up until not terribly long ago, about the time of our grandparents, just about EVERYONE learned Latin and Greek if they went to school more than just a few years (those few which we now call "grammar" school). And GKC was like that. But! Since his parents were very unusual, he also learned some things at home... And one of the things he learned very early was the Greek Alphabet! Here is the story:
The change from childhood to boyhood, and the mysterious transformation that produces that monster the schoolboy, might be very well summed up in one small fact. To me the ancient capital letters of the Greek alphabet, the great Theta, a sphere barred across the midst like Saturn, or the great Upsilon, standing up like a tall curved chalice, have still a quite unaccountable charm and mystery, as if they were the characters traced in wide welcome over Eden of the dawn. The ordinary small Greek letters, though I am now much more familiar with them, seem to me quite nasty little things like a swarm of gnats. As for Greek accents, I triumphantly succeeded, through a long series of school-terms, in avoiding learning them at all; and I never had a higher moment of gratification than when I afterwards discovered that the Greeks never learnt them either. I felt, with a radiant pride, that I was as ignorant as Plato and Thucydides. At least they were unknown to the Greeks who wrote the prose and poetry that was thought worth studying; and were invented by grammarians, I believe, at the time of the Renaissance. But it is a simple psychological fact; that the sight of a Greek capital still fills me with happiness, the sight of a small letter with indifference tinged with dislike, and the accents with righteous indignation reaching the point of profanity. And I believe that the explanation is that I learnt the large Greek letters, as I learnt the large English letters, at home. I was told about them merely for fun while I was still a child; while the others I learnt during the period of what is commonly called education; that is, the period during which I was being instructed by somebody I did not know, about something I did not want to know.
[GKC, Autobiography CW16:60]
Very interesting. I learned the Greek alphabet (both capital and small) when I was about 8, from the appendix of a science book. Here you can see them:

Smalls: abgdezhqiklmnxoprstufcyw

I thought it was so cool because there were these other very cool letters which were NOT the same as English letters and in a strange order (Z comes after E, near the front!) And at the very end I saw that strange looking thing called "Omega" which I could see on the main altar of our church, opposite from the Alpha. (Oh, so that's why Jesus said that He is the Alpha and Omega!) Yes, the Greek alphabet is a very handy thing to know, even if you do not learn Greek, or math, or science, or join a fraternity or sorority. They are just very neat to lok at, and to write. (You can usually find it in your dictionary under "alphabet", where you will find out why it's called "alphabet"!!!)

Now, I have told you this because there is something you need to know about a certain English word. That word, which was used by one of my young e-friends, is "enthusiasm". And I will again quote GKC to show you why:
I myself have little Latin and less Greek. But I know enough Greek to know the meaning of the second syllable of "enthusiasm," and I know it to be the key to this and every other discussion.
You can scurry off to your dictionary to look it up, if you like. But I will tell you what it means. The Greek work QeoV, or Theos means "God". "Enthusiasm" literally means "to have God within"!

(I would quote a much more profound discussion of this from GKC, but it is reserved for posting on St. Patrick's day, which is not all that far off.)

So "the second syllable" of enthusiasm is "the key to this and every other discussion"... so you may take any subject (for there is no such thing as a different subject!) from pork to pyrotechnics, from geography to computer science, from cable TV to literature, from poetry to theology, and you will still find there is just one key. And it is the right key, because it opens the door.

I told you at the start that it was important. And now I think my "kettles" have stewed long enough so I will go back to my cooking, uh, I mean, coding.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Who is J. K. Prothero?

Another warning! First, if you still want to try getting the answer to the question, do NOT read this posting! Second, I will again post something really funny.

At least I thought it was funny. Maybe it's because I saw Chesterton and Shaw on stage together - not for real, of course, as I am not that old - but as character actors. I laughed myself silly. Then again that is nearly my normal state of existence. Ahem! Anyway, it is said that when Shaw and Chesterton met, this was what happened:

The Meeting of GBS and GKC

Dramatis Personae

GKC: an exceeding large and plump man, clean-shaven, with hair incredibly askew, probably crumbs of lunch on his shirt-front, not completely tucked in; a cigar in one hand and a mug of beer in the other. He looks as if he either just stopped laughing, or was about to start.

GBS: a thin, almost emaciated bearded man, rather tidily dressed in rather threadbare clothes. If you saw him you would think he had not eaten for over a week, and so would be moved to buy him a sandwich. He looks angry about something - or about everything.

Scene one

GKC: (Looks at GBS, noting his thinness) "to look at you, there was a famine in the land." (chuckles to himself, drinks some beer.)

GBS: (Looks at GKC, noting his girth) "and to look at you, - why - you're the cause of it!" (groans to himself, shaking his head.)

The Beginning

Well, it wasn't the end, but how they met, or at least the story of how they met. What can I say? (Oh, yes - sorry I don't have the reference; when I find it I will post it. It was not put in this very elegant little playlet, which I suggest you might stage someday...)

OK, so that's really funny, but it is not the funny part I meant when I started. I will tell that - oh, sorry. First, the answer to the question.

I will begin by paraphrasing Virgil's opening of his mighty Aeneid
"I sing of pens and the woman."
For the answer to our little challenge in the previous posting - "Who is J. K. Prothero?" is none other than Ada Jones Chesterton - the wife of GK's brother Cecil - who was a journalist and writer herself. Maisie Ward introduces her with these words:
Just before leaving England for the Front, Cecil had married Miss Ada Jones, who had long worked with him on the paper, and who continued to write both for it and later for G.K.'s Weekly, doing especially the dramatic criticism under the penname of J. K. Prothero. Later on she was to become famous for her exploit in spending a fortnight investigating in the guise of a tramp the London of down-and-out women. She wrote <[t]In Darkest London> and founded the Cecil Houses to improve the very bad conditions she had discovered and in memory of her husband. [Maisie Ward, Gilbert Keith Chesterton 425]

OK, now that I told you the answer, I can tell you the other really funny thing I found when I was thinking about this pen-name business. You see, GKC and GBS were friends even though they disagreed about nearly everything. Chesterton wrote about about Shaw - sometimes critical, youy might expect - and so of course Shaw then had to write a review of GKC's book, where he could be nice and critical of Chesterton... The newspapers, of course, like nothing more than a good fight, especially when it involves really public and well-known people. So here is what happened, as told by Maisie Ward:

"But when Shaw reviewed Chesterton on Shaw, more than one paper waxed sarcastic on the point of royalties and remuneration gained by these means. The funniest of the more critical comments on the way these men wrote of one another was a suggestion made in the <[t]Bystander> that Shaw and Chesterton were really the same person:"

... Shaw, it is said, tired of Socialism, weary of wearing Jaegers, and broken down by teetotalism and vegetarianism, sought, some years ago, an escape from them. His adoption, however, of these attitudes had a decided commercial value, which he did not think it advisable to prejudice by wholesale surrender. Therefore he, in order to taste the forbidden joys of individualistic philosophy, meat, food and strong drink, created "Chesterton." This mammoth myth, he decided, should enjoy all the forms of fame which Shaw had to deny himself. Outwardly, he should be Shaw's antithesis. He should be beardless, large in girth, smiling of countenance, and he should be licensed to sell paradoxes only in essay and novel form, all stage and platform rights being reserved by Shaw.
To enable the imposition to be safely carried out, Shaw hit on the idea of residence close to the tunnel which connects Adelphi with the Strand. Emerging from his house plain, Jaeger-clad, bearded and saturnine Shaw, he entered the tunnel, in a cleft in which was a cellar. Here he donned the Chesterton properties, the immense padding of chest, and so on, the Chesterton sombrero hat and cloak and pince-nez, and there he left the Shaw beard and the Shaw clothes, the Shaw expression of countenance, and all the Shaw theories. He emerged into the Strand "G.K.C.," in whose identity he visited all the cafés, ate all the meats, rode in all the cabs, and smiled on all the sinners. The day's work done, the Chesterton manuscripts delivered, the proofs read, the bargains driven, the giant figure retumed to the tunnel, and once again was back in Adelphi, the Shaw he was when he left it - back to the Jaegers, the beard, the Socialism, the statistics, and the sardonic letters to the Times.

[Maisie Ward, Gilbert Keith Chesterton 236-7, quoting The Bystander 1 September, 1909.]

Now that's funny.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

On names - a difficult question

Caution: I laughed a lot at this post. It contains some very funny Chesterton writing. Put the drink down now! You have been warned.

As I have hinted several times, I am busy with lots of work (thank God!)

I have work which I do for employment. I am done for today; I wrote a very nice little addition to a program which should make my users happy.

I have work for my friends - I am not allowed to say who they are, and while at least one is a world-famous author, some others have never been heard of across town. (That's the nice thing about friends!)

I have work for - well, let's call them chores - I get to do the dishes later.

And I have my own writing. The really hard writing I am doing at present is a book on Subsidiarity, and I will keep blaring it here so that I will force myself to get further ahead on it!

But I also have some other writing, which is fiction. I have at least three or maybe seven different story-lines running at present. And, as you will know if you have ever tried to write stories, one of the hard parts is coming up with plots. That is, "what happens" in the story. Sometimes this is hard, sometimes it is easy - because I am a computer programmer/scientist, I can use some of the tricks of my own discipline to help me. But to explain that would take another book which I do not have time to write. So I will just say sometimes it is easy, and sometimes hard. (In computing we call this kind of thing "complexity" and we use a very funny thing called "Big O" to measure it... someday I will tell you more.)

But the thing I would like to talk about, before I have to go wash the dishes, is a somewhat different hard part of story writing. And that is picking names for your characters.

One of the very interesting things that our Uncle Gilbert Chesterton told me about was how someone got into trouble with the Law when she wrote a story, and picked a nice made-up kind of name - except that the person in the story was bad - and the REAL PERSON with that name thought the author was talking about him!

So picking names is hard. Now I gave you a warning at the beginning that this would be funny, and here comes the funny. You see, Chesterton wrote a whole essay about this event - it was in his ILN essay for February 11, 1911. As you know, GKC wrote stories too, so it was something he had to be concerned with - so he thought about the problem, and here is what he said...

what is a novelist supposed to do? Is he to leave blanks for the names, or number them? Should he advertise first for all the claimants to a title and square them moderately beforehand? The only other way I can think of would be to give the characters names that no one of ordinary strength could possess, pronounce, or endure - say, "Quinchbootlepump" or "Pottlehartipips." One might cherish a hope that few prosecutors could establish a claim to these. How far they
would enrich or weaken the style of the author it would, of course, be more difficult to say. One must think mainly of the average romantic novel; one must imagine some paragraph like this: "As Bunchoosa Blutterspangle lingered in the lovely garden a voice said 'Bunchi' behind her, in tones that recalled the old glad days at the Quoodlesnakes'. It was, it was indeed the deep, melodious voice of Splitcat Chintzibobs." It seems to me that this method would ruffle, as it were, the smooth surface of the softer and more simply pathetic passages.

(Hee hee hee cough, gag! laugh, hee hee, laugh! gag!) Sorry, that is some of the funniest Chesterton I know of. What a great name: "Splitcat Chintzibobs" - whew! (hee hee hee)

Another trick is to do what computers do - and use numbers. All those file names, and web addresses, and those kinds of things are just tricks the computer uses so us poor humans can understand the silly old numbers it uses. Strange to say, Chesterton thought that might work in a story: "I remember, in the course of the controversy, that I suggested that we should have to fall back on some alternative to names, such as numbers, in describing the ringing repartees leading up to the duel in which the subtle and crafty 7991 died upon the sword of the too-impetuous 3893; or the vows breathed by the passionate lips of 771 in the ear of 707." [GKC Autobiography CW16:183]

but that would be jsut as bad a programming in object code (that's the REAL language of computers, and just about nobody ever uses it any more; I did for a little, and can still read some of the older kinds... yuck.)

Now you may wonder why I said that the author was a "she" when I told you about the court case. You see there was a follow-up essay which did not come out until December 9, 1911. And in that essay, GKC told the name of the author - except that the author used a pen name! (Like I do on this blogg.) The author was "J. K. Prothero" but I happen to know who that really was. I will tell you in another posting. (If you DO know, you are not allowed to post the answer in the comments unless you are presently being home-schooled in a grade lower than 13.) But there is more to tell than just blabbing the answer, so you will have to watch for my posting to explain it...)

The follow-up essay showed one of the very interesting ways around the problem of names. Our heroine, "J. K. Prothero", rewrote the story in question, but then went around to all her friends and asked them to sign an official document authorizing her to use their names in her book!!! What a great idea. And she had a lot of friends. And so, as GKC reported, "the author has republished the offending romance, called "Motley and Tinsel" with all the names altered to those of quite celebrated people, who gave their permission as a protest against the judgment. It says something for the swing and spirit of the story considered as a good melodrama that one can still read it as a story, original and romantic, although the aged box-office man is called Bernard Shaw, the second stage-manager Hilaire Belloc, and an entertaining cabman George R. Sims."

I might try that sometime, but meanwhile I use other tricks for my stories. Sometimes I just use "Smith" or some other nice name like that.

But even that can be misleading: to conclude this little story about names, let us just see why Smith is not a common name at all:

I remember a long time ago a sensible sub-editor coming up to me with a book in his hand, called "Mr. Smith," or "The Smith Family," or some such thing. He said, "Well, you won't get any of your damned mysticism out of this," or words to that effect. I am happy to say that I undeceived him; but the victory was too obvious and easy. In most cases the name is unpoetical, although the fact is poetical. In the case of Smith, the name is so poetical that it must be an arduous and heroic matter for the man to live up to it. The name of Smith is the name of the one trade that even kings respected, it could claim half the glory of that arma virumque which all epics acclaimed. The spirit of the smithy is so close to the spirit of song that it has mixed in a million poems, and every blacksmith is a harmonious blacksmith.
Even the village children feel that in some dim way the smith is poetic, as the grocer and the cobbler are not poetic, when they feast on the dancing sparks and deafening blows in the cavern of that creative violence. The brute repose of Nature, the passionate cunning of man, the strongest of earthly metals, the wierdest of earthly elements, the unconquerable iron subdued by its only conqueror, the wheel and the ploughshare, the sword and the steam-hammer, the arraying of armies and the whole legend of arms, all these things are written, briefly indeed, but quite legibly, on the visiting-card of Mr. Smith. Yet our novelists call their hero "Aylmer Valence," which means nothing, or "Vernon Raymond," which means nothing, when it is in their power to give him this sacred name of Smith - this name made of iron and flame. It would be very natural if a certain hauteur, a certain carriage of the head, a certain curl of the lip, distinguished every one whose name is Smith. Perhaps it does; I trust so. Whoever else are parvenus, the Smiths are not parvenus. From the darkest dawn of history this clan has gone forth to battle; its trophies are on every hand; its name is everywhere; it is older than the nations, and its sign is the Hammer of Thor.
[GKC, Heretics CW1:54-55]

(Ooo, Latin. Any of our homeschoolers know what arma virumque means? And where it is from?)

So if you want to write a very unusual story, just use names like Smith, Ferrer, Herrera, Kovach, Schmidt, Ferrier, Ferraro, Kovacs, Kusnetzov, Kowal...

Or else make them up yourself, my dear Bunchusa!

Hee hee.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Today's Word: Anastomosis

I have been busy with work - both the employment kind and the real kind - that is, stories and also Subsidiarity... and I know you are anxiously awaiting more about this topic. I'll give you a sample, just to keep you informed of my progress.

Here is a word - anastomosis - which comes out of the wonderful branch of biology called anatomy, but it is so much more important! Indeed, it is very high tech. We even use it at work to describe our intricate multi-path mechanisms for keeping watch over our machinery as it provides our services to our customers. And if you think about it a little, you will have a hint about where it applies to Subsidiarity.

(This is a draft of my "Glossary" entry from my forthcoming book on Subsidiarity.)
Anastomosis is the union or intercommunication of any system or network; in biology, it is such a union between hollow vessels such as blood vessels; also called inosculation. "This communication is very free between the large as well as the smaller branches. The anastomosis between trunks of equal size is found where great activity of the circulation is requisite, as in the brain and the abdomen. In the limbs the anastomoses are most numerous and of largest size around the joints, the branches of an artery above inosculating with branches from the vessels below; these anastomoses are of considerable interest to the surgeon, as it is by their enlargement that a collateral circulation [italics in original] is established after the application of a ligature for the cure of aneurism. The smaller branches of arteries anastomose more frequently than the larger, and between the smallest twigs these inosculations become so numerous as to constitute a close network [my italics] that pervades nearly every tissue of the body.
[See Gray's Anatomy, 474]
Perhaps it may seem funny for a guy with a doctorate in computer science to be reading anatomy texts. If I had my way, human anatomy, including the developmental aspects, would be required for degrees in computer science. After all, except for the Universe, what system is more complex than the human body? And Whose design is more beautiful, practical, efficient, clever, than God's? Why not learn the tricks of the best Designer of all?

(You look at it and say to yourself, how the heck does He get all that code in just 3 gigs of DNA? Highly parallel, too: some 100 tera-cells (1e14), or so I am told. It's mighty impressive.)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Books, Ancient and Modern

Books, Ancient and Modern

[A note from Dr. Thursday: This poem appears by special permission from the Editor-in-Chief of Something Good To Read.]

They call it "electronics" this gold boom,
The word for amber from the Greeks we get;
And keyboards now weave books upon its loom.
To Manisa of Turkey is our debt
For now their "northbound stone" is our diskette
Whereon a million letters spin and whir;
No dog-eared floppies you have seen, I bet...
Dale says it's tactile books that most prefer.

Though books on disk make certain searches zoom,
They may succeed too well, to your regret,
A tenth of each book with ten words does bloom,
And paraphrase remains a constant threat,
And 'modern' scanned as 'modem' makes one fret,
This soup of letters I would rather stir
And eat - with a detective novelette.
Dale says it's tactile books that most prefer.

No glowing AMBER words lift sleepless gloom,
Though saving scholars loads of time and sweat,
No CRTs are thrown across the room
When readers' expectations are not met,
Or leather-bound, with gold and jewels set
When with the written word one does concur.
The magnet serves, but print is foe or pet...
Dale says it's tactile books that most prefer.

Oh fly caught in the web, trapped in the net,
Just scan a page which line noise cannot blur,
That touch and smell beyond all hardware yet...
Dale says it's tactile books that most prefer.

(April 11, 1999)

(Yes, that "Dale" means Dale Ahlquist, president of the American Chesterton Society. But I also like "tactile" books. Perhaps you do too.)

Monday, January 09, 2006

A Voyage to Discover the Earth

As you may know if you have been reading this Blogg, I do not generally follow the usual advertising of interesting Bloggs I have found... but sometimes there is one which excels in its Bloggishness - which means our Uncle Gilbert would take extra delight in it.

For a young person has decided (with his mother's approval and assistance) to go on a very exciting and very Chestertonian journey: the journey to discover the Earth.

You can read about it in the new Blogg called The Map Guy.

The reference I have in mind is one which Chesterton alludes to in several places. He makes a whole chapter of his Manalive out of it, and a whole story in his The Coloured Lands. He starts his very important book called The Everlasting Man with hinting about it:
There are two ways of getting home; and one of them is to stay there. The other is to walk round the whole world till we come back to the same place...[CW2:143]
But his funniest and perhaps most important exposition is this:
I have often had a fancy for writing a romance about an English yachtsman who slightly miscalculated his course and discovered England under the impression that it was a new island in the South Seas. I always find, however, that I am either too busy or too lazy to write this fine work, so I may as well give it away for the purposes of philosophical illustration. There will probably be a general impression that the man who landed (armed to the teeth and talking by signs) to plant the British flag on that barbaric temple which turned out to be the Pavilion at Brighton, felt rather a fool. I am not here concerned to deny that he looked a fool. But if you imagine that he felt a fool, or at any rate that the sense of folly was his sole or his dominant emotion, then you have not studied with sufficient delicacy the rich romantic nature of the hero of this tale. His mistake was really a most enviable mistake; and he knew it, if he was the man I take him for. What could be more delightful than to have in the same few minutes all the fascinating terrors of going abroad combined with all the humane security of coming home again? What could be better than to have all the fun of discovering South Africa without the disgusting necessity of landing there? What could be more glorious than to brace one's self up to discover New South Wales and then realise, with a gush of happy tears, that it was really old South Wales. This at least seems to me the main problem for philosophers, and is in a manner the main problem of this book. How can we contrive to be at once astonished at the world and yet at home in it? How can this queer cosmic town, with its many-legged citizens, with its monstrous and ancient lamps, how can this world give us at once the fascination of a strange town and the comfort and honour of being our own town? ... But I have a peculiar reason for mentioning the man in a yacht, who discovered England. For I am that man in a yacht. I discovered England.
[GKC Orthodoxy, CW1:211-212, 213]

So I wish our young friend a safe and happy voyage of discovery, and hope you will find his writing interesting...

Ahem. Now that I have introduced "The Map Guy", I wanted to add a further comment to his posting about the North Pole, which Mr. Chesterton often used as a point of reference, though not in the geographical way! I took a quick glance through the AMBER collection and found some quite hilarious things like this: "the Pope has three legs ... Rome is situated at the North Pole" [GKC, The Catholic Church and Conversion CW3;75] which is not what one would expect to find in such a book - but it shows how handy the North Pole can be. EVERYONE knows where it is!

GKC was writing his column for the Illustrated London News when Peary actually got there on April 6, 1909, and a little later wrote a column about it. As usual, GKC talks about everything, but it suffice for me to merely quote its beginning:
The finding of the North Pole is a really suitable subject for a column such as this, because it cannot possibly matter a rap to any reasonable human being whether it has been discovered or not. It is a safe and soothing subject; there is no heat about the North Pole. Certainly people have killed themselves trying to find the North Pole; but that does not make the matter particularly serious; they have killed themselves trying to find a fox. A fox is a much more solemn and sacred affair than the Pole; it is alive, and runs about, while the Pole (I think) keeps still; but I am not a scientist. What the people in question were really hunting was neither the Pole nor the fox, but fun...
[GKC, ILN Sept 25, 1909 CW28:396]

So go hunt some fun with the Map Guy, and help discover the Earth.


The Map Guy has been joined by his sister, the History Girl. It's about time! (Hee hee)

Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Year's Chimes by Francis Thompson

New Year's Chimes
by Francis Thompson

What is the song the stars sing?
(And a million songs are as song of one)
This is the song the stars sing:
(Sweeter song's none).

One to set, and many to sing.
(And a million songs are as song of one)
One to stand, and many to cling,
The many things and the one Thing,
The one that runs not, the many that run.

The ever new weaveth the ever old,
(And a million songs are as song of one)
Ever telling the never told;
The silver saith, and the said is gold,
And done ever the never done.

The Chase that's chased is the Lord o' the chase,
(And a million songs are as song of one)
And the Pursued cries on in the race;
And the hounds in leash are the hounds that run.

Hidden stars by the shown stars' sheen;
(And a million suns are but as one)
Colours unseen by the colours seen,
And sounds unheard heard sounds between.
And a night is in the light of the sun.

An ambuscade of light in night,
(And a million secrets are but as one)
And a night is dark in the sun's light,
And a world in the world man looks upon.

The world above in the world below,
(And a million worlds are but as one)
And the One in all; as the sun's strength so
Strives in all strength, glows in all glow
Of the earth that wits not, and man thereon.

Braced in its own fourfold embrace
(and a million worlds are but as one)
And round it all God's arms of grace,
The world, so as the Vision says,
Doth with its great lightning tramples on.

And the thunder bruiteth into thunder,
(And a million sounds are as sound of one)
From stellate peak to peak is tossed a voice of wonder
And the height stoops down to the depths thereunder,
And sun leans forth to his brother sun.

And the more ample years unfold
(With a million songs as song of one)
A little new of the ever old,
A little told of the never told,
Added act of the never done.

Loud the descant, and low the theme,
(A million songs are as song of one)
And the dream of the world is dream in dream,
But the one Is is, or nought could seem;
And the song runs round to the song begun.

This is the song the stars sing,
(Tunéd all in time)
Tintinnabulous, tuned to ring
A multitudinous-single thing
(Rung all in rhyme).

Why Mary Wears Blue

Happy New Year 2006!

I may have posted this before, but it does not matter. Since the celebration of the Octave of Christmas was changed to a Marian feast - well, when in Rome... eat.

Why Mary Wears Blue

When they told me that Mary doesn't wear blue,
I ran home and asked; she said: "That isn't true."
So I said, "Dear Mother, oh please tell me why
Your robes always rival the clear summer sky."

"Oh, my dear little one," she said with a grin,
"I've worn many robes, and green isn't a sin.
But there are good reasons why I now wear blue,
And I'm very happy to tell them to you."

"In ages of knights, when but few men could read,
A sign of identity each one did need.
The coat of arms stood, like his name, for a man -
With seven bold colors they drew up the plan,
Giving meanings to each, and when they chose blue,
They meant, like the sky and sea, faithful and true."

"I see, my dear Mother, because I have heard
How blessed are those who hear and keep the Word.
You said, `Be it done unto me as You will';
You stood at the Cross there on Calvary's hill;
At Cana you said `What He says, you shall do';
So faithful and trusting, your color is blue."

"You know in your day that men walked on the moon
And seen in its night sky the sun's glaring noon;
When your Father and mine planned our lowly earth's sky,
He arranged it to be much less hard on the eye;
As I sheltered my Son in my robe at His birth,
The sun, wrapped in blue, sends its light to the earth."

"Yes, dear Mother of God, so our poor science sings
Of the wonderful truth found in such common things:
Dust in the air scatters sunlight around,
Brings the sky colors that art has not found;
A daily apocalypse - blue sky, golden sun -
An icon of you and Christ physics has spun.

"Water, the humble, always seeks lowest place;
A sign of rebirth which Christ gave to bring grace.
The mighty blue ocean, deep beyond measure,
Full of life, wondrous, full also of treasure;
Risky and dangerous, the sea can wreck and kill -
But Christ calmed its waves, commanding `Peace! Be still!' "

"Mary, my Mother, star of the blue sea!
Humble like you please help me to be.
Like the ocean, unsounded by plumb-lines or hooks,
Your depths only glanced at by thousands of books;
As truly the ocean repeats sky's blue shade
You're the mirror of God, whose will you obeyed."

And while I was thinking about what she said,
And hoping to find out why Jesus wears red,
She faded as did the faint light I had seen
And I only saw my computer's blue screen.

Then one final fragment alone I did hear
As from a great distance though quiet and near:

"Just like the sky, the Church, spread out from west to east,
Directs daily colors that are worn by the priest -
Sunset purple and red; gold and white sunrise new;
But Mary alone shall be always in blue."

(March 9, 1995)

And just in case you thought this blue-wearing was non-Biblical, I ought to add this very interesting reference, which (like that vision of Elijah with the "tiny whispering sound") I think refers to Mary holding the infant Jesus on her blue robe:

Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abiu, and seventy of the ancients of Israel went up:. And they saw the God of Israel: and under his feet as it were a work of sapphire stone, and as the heaven, when clear. [Exodus 24:9-10]

Upon reading the poem again, I have to add a note, since for some people a "blue screen" refers to a certain kind of error - not at all my intention! Actually, the word processor I used when I wrote this shows white text on a blue screen - and that's what I mean here.