Sunday, October 16, 2011

Translations and Elements and Access to Specimens

I had an interesting idea to tell you - and by the time the "posting window" finally opened it had evaporated. All I can tell you is that it had something to do with the "Five Regular Solids" - that is, the tetrahedron, the cube, the octahedron, the dodecahedron, and the icosahedron - which I have recently been preparing models of, for a curious young man whom I see every so often on his way to school. I don't know if you've ever tried to make them - it may be worth your expending some energy the next time you are looking for an interesting little crafts project. I am thinking of making another set to use for a future Christmas project... hm. Very interesting... as you know, I pay attention to words and numbers and their inter-relation, be it of the classical (psephy) or modern (ASCII) approach... But I have no time to explore that just now.

Rather, I was pondering the idea of translations and their variants, especially as this touches critical matters like the Five Regular Solids, or the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. No, this is NOT a moan or a critical post - it is an observation about two translations I have noted of Biblical passages. Each has had a profound impact on me as I think and ponder my work or my writing - and I feel you ought to know about both. And no, I am not going to analyse them, or explain their other versions. I prefer you to consider them as they are.

The first is just a vrey brief phrase from the Divine Office:
Dedicate yourselves to thankfulness.
[cf Colossians 3:15]
The other is from the "Jerusalem" edition of the Bible:
...the elements fight for the virtuous.
[cf. Wisdom 16:17]
There was some chance alignment here - and somehow it was spurred on by the fact that just now the sun is shining on me as I sat at my computer - and then I recalled this sparkling gemstone from a wonderful book:
Considered as a collector of rare and precious things, the amateur astronomer has a great advantage over amateurs in all other fields, who must content themselves with second and third rate specimens. ... [he] has access at all times to the original objects of his study; the masterworks of the heavens belong to him as much as to the great observatories of the world.
[burnham, Burnham's Celestial Handbook, 5, emphasis added]
And then I recalled St. Francis and his Canticle of the Sun, and Chesterton's audacious literary analysis of the Gospels:
Even in the matter of mere literary style, if we suppose ourselves thus sufficiently detached to look at it in that light, there is a curious quality to which no critic seems to have done justice. It had among other things a singular air of piling tower upon tower by the use of the a fortiori; making a pagoda of degrees like the seven heavens.
[GKC The Everlasting Man CW2:332]
In fact, Burnham's thesis applies a fortiori to the sun. We humans have access at all times (that is, during the daylight hours!) to this most original object of study - that is, our local star, "Ole Sol" the Sun. Not for nothing does St. Francis seem to exalt it as a sort of Christian god... but of course you will note that he does not praise the sun, but God Who created the sun. And if we want to begin to grasp even in some faint fashion the amazing wonders of that creation, and the gift which is ours in our local star, we need to go and enjoy it, or at least read about it.

One little item - which ties into that mystical quote from Wisdom - is the curious fact that one of the chemical elements was disccovered on the sun before it was discovered on earth. Yes - the element we know as helium, which is just the Greek for "the sun-element", proclaimed its presence by its spectrum - certain lines of color (or of darkness) which could not be traced to any known element on earth! True, helium was later found to be present on earth; it can be obtained from certain natural gas deposits. But it is astounding to remember that the presence of helium was announced not in any test tube or chemical reaction apparatus, but from beams of light: it was (as Chesterton once pointed out in the case of the writer Alice Meynell:
She could always find things to think about; even on a sick bed in a darkened room, where the shadow of a bird on the blind was more than the bird itself, she said, because it was a message from the sun.
[GKC Autobiography CW16:269]

And with that observation, perhaps I have given you a little hint about something else... but for today, I will let you do your own sitting and thinking. Perhaps then you will also dedicate yourselves to thankfulness...


Post a Comment

<< Home