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Friday, July 29, 2011

Happy St. Ignatius day

It's almost St. Ignatius's feast day. Here's something that I first read when I was making that online retreat "in everyday life". It's written by John Veltri SJ but is meant to be thought of as a letter from Ignatius of Loyola. Here's what Fr. Veltri wrote about the letter ...

This letter is written in the name of Ignatius of Loyola for the person who desires to make the Spiritual Exercises journey according to notation [19] .... I composed this letter in the early eighties as a result of reading "Ignatius of Loyola Speaks to a Modern Jesuit" in Ignatius of Loyola (London: Collins, 1979) by Karl Rahner, S.J., and translated by Rosaleen Ockenden, pp.11-14. The first three pages of my composition (pp.270-273 in this manual) were adapted from Ockenden's translation of Rahner's work and in it I have used some of her very effective rhythms and phrases which capture well Ignatius' spirit and his deep conviction in God's desire to communicate personally with us. My present letter was initially formatted by Ruth McLean. -- John Veltri

The original letter at Fr. Veltri's site has a lot of hot links and is quite long, so it would be worth a visit to read the whole thing. It expresses so well what I like best about Ignatius -- his belief that God wants to and will interact directly with us. Here's just the beginning of the letter ....


To You . . . From Ignatius

As you know, my great desire was always
to tell people about God and God's grace,
and about Jesus ... both crucified and risen,
so that my brothers and sisters
would experience
the freedom of God.

I wanted to bring the same message
as the church had always brought
... and yet,
I felt I could put this in a new way.

Why was this so?

I had a direct encounter with God,
particularly during those months at Manresa,
where, as I told you in my autobiography,
God personally taught me like a school boy.
Yes, I, Ignatius of Loyola, Inigo as they called me,
I knew God ... Father, Son and Spirit ...
nameless and unfathomable,
mysterious and yet near ...
bestowing themselves upon me in a manner
beyond all concrete imaginings.

I knew God clearly in such nearness and grace
as was impossible to confound or mistake.

God, God's very self ...
I knew God,
not simply human words describing God.

I knew the Divine Majesty.

I knew God,
as you would say in your modern world --
even if knowing God face to face, as I do now,
is again different ... and yet ...
somehow the same.

This is grace ... gift ...
I believe that God ... Father, Son and Spirit ...
desires to give this gift of God's self
to all who desire to be open to it.

This grace that I received during those days
at Manresa,
was not something that I considered
a special privilege
for myself or a chosen few.
Therefore, I set down the structure of this experience
in a little manual which I called
The Spiritual Exercises.
I gave these exercises to anyone
for whom such an offer of spiritual help
might seem profitable.
I did this as a lay person,
long before I went to school
to learn theology for ordination.

I gave these Exercises on the conviction
that God desires to communicate directly
and personally
to the generous person,
eager to discover God's will
and ready to act responsibly in the world
with deliberate choice.

Over the years, it has been observed
that, if persons are willing to dispose themselves generously
according to the directives of these Exercises,
in time ... God personally leads them.

God can and does communicate personally to human creatures
who are open-hearted.

A person knows God truly when this happens,
and that person
will experience the sovereign power
of God's freedom in one's own life.
This very simple and yet
stupendous conviction of mine
is a key to my spirituality ..........


Die fledermaus and more ...

Here's some stuff I've come across recently:

* found what looks to be an interesting book, which I've sent for from the library ..... Angels and Angelology in the Middle Ages by David Keck. It can be found at Google books too.

* this video of 50 academics talking about God, courtesy of Feminist Philosophers. There's a list of who's on it, but I'll just mention it includes Oliver Sacks, Peter Singer, Bertrand Russell, Stephen Hawking, David Attenborough, John Searle, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Carl Sagan, and Brian Cox (a bit depressing, as most think belief is dopey) .....

* an interesting paper (you can find it here) -- "Resurrection, Reassembly, and Reconstitution: Aquinas on the Soul," in Die menschliche Seele: Brauchen wir den Dualismus? Bruno Niederberger and Edmund Runggaldier (eds.), (Ontos Verlag, 2006). Here's just the beginning of it ....

"In his entry on the immortality of the soul in the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Richard Swinburne calls our attention to a problem often raised in connection with the Christian doctrine of resurrection. He says: [...] if I come to live again, the question arises as to what makes some subsequent human me, for [at death] my body will be largely if not entirely destroyed. If the answer is given that (most of) the atoms of my original body will be reassembled into bodily form, there are two problems. First, many of the atoms may no longer exist; they may have been transmuted into energy. And second, what proportion of the atoms do we need? Sixty per cent, seventy per cent, or what? If it is mere atoms which make some body mine and so some living human me, then no body will be fully mine unless it has all my atoms. Yet some of my atoms, even if not destroyed, will have come to form other human bodies."

* here's a paper I saw by John Courtney Murray SJ -- The Issue of Church and State at Vatican Council II

* and fianlly, the flying mouse :). My sister sent me this photo and story from National Geographic about this cute little Hardwicke's woolly bat and i's symbiotic buddy, the carnivorous pitcher plant ...

More of my hollyhocks ...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The toll of war

Pacifist me is still thinking about war and I saw that Nancy Sherman, a professor of philosophy at Georgetown, has a couple of posts at the NYT's philosophy blog - The Moral Logic of Survivor Guilt and Shame and Responsibility: A Response. Her area of interest is both Greek philosophy and war and the emotional effect it has on soldiers (one of her books is Stoic Warriors: The Ancient Philosophy behind the Military Mind). You can find a list of her books and articles at her site, and there are a number of videos of her to be found at YouTube.

Here she talks about Aristotle and war in this short bit from a longer video from Big Think ....

Monday, July 25, 2011

What's up?

* Amy Davidson has a post at The New Yorker about gay marriages in New York and funerals in Norway -- Rituals: Many Weddings, Many Funerals ...

Sunday was a day of rituals, from New York to Norway—ceremonies of love and mourning, both intimate and public. In our city, a cheering crowd gathered outside the City Clerk’s office on Worth Street, where hundreds of same-sex marriages took place on the first day they were legal; at Gracie Mansion, Mayor Bloomberg officiated for two of his aides, who are the fathers of two small daughters. (Michael Schulman has more on the scene.) In a cathedral in Oslo, there was a memorial for more than ninety people; some were killed when a man named Anders Behring Breivik set a bomb in a government building, more when Breivik opened fire at a youth camp a few hours later. More people came to the cathedral than it could hold, and the square outside was filled with flowers. The pictures were of parents who won’t see their children alive again, and of King Harald V crying ...

* You can read about the Cloyne report at US Catholic: Irish sex abuse: From bad to worse, and here's a video of the speech given last Wednesday by Ireland’s prime minister, Enda Kenny, about the report. The Vatican has recalled its ambassador over the speech, but I thought it was a good speech ....

* There's an editorial in The Los Angeles Times with which I agree - Covering contraception makes sense ...

[...] Close to half of all pregnancies in this country are unplanned, and about 40% of those result in abortions. In addition, according to a University of Michigan study, a third of all births in the country are unintended. In many cases, those births are nonetheless welcomed, but studies have found that pregnant women are more likely to smoke and drink during an unplanned pregnancy, two activities that are dangerous to the fetus, and that they tend to be less attentive to the babies born of such pregnancies.

Abortions and unwanted pregnancies are not only more expensive than contraception, they are sad events in a family's life. Removing the financial barriers that keep many women from using contraceptives is both smart preventive medicine and a social good. The Obama administration has wisely indicated that it will adopt the recommendation.

The Roman Catholic Church and conservative religious groups predictably object, seeing this as a government endorsement of contraception. Pregnancy is not a disease, they note, and most preventive care is aimed at warding off medical problems. But once a medication or medical device is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it should not be treated differently by the government, or by insurers, based on religious beliefs. The person who should make the decision on whether to use contraception is the patient .....


There's a nice black and white photo at Bilgrimage of Bill and Steve - Cooking to Save the Planet: Poison the Old Lady Torte. It reminded me of the one photography class I took -- B&W photography - in which we developed our film and made enlargements. I took a lot of photos for the class but I only seem to have a few left now. Here's one of them, my dog Puppy with his rubber ball in his mouth ....

Some of the photos in my grandmother's photo album are in black and white. Here's one from her album of my grandfather when he was young. He's at the far left, then there's his father who immigrated from France, and his two brothers. By the time I got to know grandpa, his father and brothers were dead ....

I guess I still like color photography best. Here's a photo I took today of one of my sister's plants :) ...

Angel density

I cam across this odd paper today in my travels -- it deals with how many angels can be in a tiny space :) ... Quantum Gravity Treatment of the Angel Density Problem

- detail of an angel mural at The Mansfield Traquair Centre

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Thinking today about animals

Here are some places that I try to give a few bucks to now and then - they're worth checking out ...

Happy Tails Pet Sanctuary

Alley Cat Allies

The National Anti-Vivisection Society

Farm Sanctuary

Defenders of Wildlife

Angie Estes poem


How many in a field
of wheat, and to whom
do they belong? O death, O
grave, Bright star, thou bleeding piece
of earth, thou shouldst be
living at this hour
, world without
synonym, amen. But I
digress, turn away like Giotto's
contrapposto Christ, apostle
of contrecoeur—nothing like the cardinal
calling this morning, the third
fifty-degree day at the end
of December, to his cinnamon
mate. The headline says, "Pope Calls
Cardinals to Rome." But will they
come? It is written above—superscript, sign,
omission—a gentle tender insinuation
that makes it very difficult to definitely
decide to do without it. One does
do without it, I
do, I mostly always do, but
I cannot deny that from time
to time I feel myself
having regrets and from time to
time I put it in
. This do in remembrance
of me, your only wick
to light. For where two
or three are gathered in
my name, like snow in April, lid
on a coffin, ice on the lake, I'll come
between you and yours; I give you
my word.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Beauty: Elaine Scarry and Jonah Lehrer

Thinking about beauty. I wonder about the connection between beauty and goodness/truth. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that beauty is the mark God sets upon virtue, and John Keats wrote that beauty is truth, truth beauty, and Elaine Scarry wrote about the connection between beauty and justice (see the bottom of this post). I just don't know. I saw an interesting post today at The Frontal Cortex by Jonah Lehrer -- Why Does Beauty Exist?. It's a long article but here's just a little bit of it ...

[W]hy does beauty exist? What’s the point of marveling at a Rembrandt self portrait or a Bach fugue? To paraphrase Auden, beauty makes nothing happen. Unlike our more primal indulgences, the pleasure of perceiving beauty doesn’t ensure that we consume calories or procreate. Rather, the only thing beauty guarantees is that we’ll stare for too long at some lovely looking thing. Museums are not exactly adaptive.

Here’s my (extremely speculative) theory: Beauty is a particularly potent and intense form of curiosity. It’s a learning signal urging us to keep on paying attention, an emotional reminder that there’s something here worth figuring out ..... It’s what happens when we see something and, even though we can’t explain why, want to see more. But here’s the interesting bit: the hook of beauty, like the hook of curiosity, is a response to an incompleteness. It’s what happens when we sense something missing, when there’s a unresolved gap, when a pattern is almost there, but not quite. I’m thinking here of that wise Leonard Cohen line: “There’s a crack in everything – that’s how the light gets in.” Well, a beautiful thing has been cracked in just the right way ........

The aesthetic emotion might have begun as a cognitive signal telling us to keep on looking, because there is a pattern here that we can figure out it. In other words, it’s a sort of a metacognitive hunch, a response to complexity that isn’t incomprehensible. Although we can’t quite decipher this sensation – and it doesn’t matter if the sensation is a painting or a symphony – the beauty keeps us from looking away, tickling those dopaminergic neurons and dorsal hairs. Like curiosity, beauty is a motivational force, an emotional reaction not to the perfect or the complete, but to the imperfect and incomplete. We know just enough to know that we want to know more; there is something here, we just don’t [know] what. That’s why we call it beautiful.

About Elaine Scarry -- you can find videos of her giving a lecture on her book about beauty and justice, but interesting is a short video (sadly unembeddable) someone made, commenting on Scarry on beauty and being wrong, using Susan Boyle as an example ... she writes that there are two mistakes people make about beauty: one is judging something beautiful at first but later seeing it's not; and the other more serious mistake is not attributing beauty to something that is, due to a lack of generosity. Jonah Lehrer's post above quotes Nabokov as saying that beauty makes your hair stand on end -- when I first saw the original video of Susan Boyle singing, it did make my hair literally stand on end :)

Priests support Fr. Roy Bourgeois

In the news yesterday, Mary Magdalene's feast day, In 3 Countries, Challenging the Vatican on Female Priests. Here's just the beginning of The New York Times story ...

More than 150 Roman Catholic priests in the United States have signed a statement in support of a fellow cleric [Fr. Roy Bourgeois] who faces dismissal for participating in a ceremony that purported to ordain a woman as a priest, in defiance of church teaching. The American priests’ action follows closely on the heels of a “Call to Disobedience” issued in Austria last month by more than 300 priests and deacons. They stunned their bishops with a seven-point pledge that includes actively promoting priesthood for women and married men, and reciting a public prayer for “church reform” in every Mass. And in Australia, the National Council of Priests recently released a ringing defense of the bishop of Toowoomba, who had issued a pastoral letter saying that, facing a severe priest shortage, he would ordain women and married men “if Rome would allow it.” After an investigation, the Vatican forced him to resign ..... for the first time in years, groups of priests in several countries are standing with those who are challenging the church to rethink the all-male celibate priesthood ...

Will anything come of this - will Fr. Bourgeois get to keep his job, will an open discussion on women's ordination be allowed by the Vatican? I'm not holding my breath. But still, I think people should speak against what they see as unfair, whether anyone listens to them or not.

Friday, July 22, 2011

John P. Meier at GTU, Berkeley

Saw this today - John P. Meier giving a talk, "Surprised by Law and Love: Second Thoughts on A Marginal Jew with a Glance Forward", at the 19th Annual Reading of the Sacred Texts at the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley (introductions by Arthur Holder, Dean of GTU, and David Johnson) ....

John P. Meier, Surprised by Law and Love: Second Thoughts on A Marginal Jew with a Glance Forward from GTU Archives on Vimeo.

Mary Magdalene

- Mary Magdalen announcing the resurrection to the apostles (St. Albans Psalter, St Godehard's Church, Hildesheim)

"[W]e must give great weight to the fact that all four evangelists, but especially John, place the testimony of the women, and especially Mary Magdalene, in prime position in their accounts of Easter. It is to these women, and particularly to Mary, that the risen Lord entrusts the good news, not to the male apostles themselves. It cannot be overemphasized that this was hugely counterintuitive in the ancient world. Had the narratives been invented later, this would never have commended the account; had the evangelists had any doubt that women were to be regarded as primary witnesses of the resurrection, they would never have allowed such a story to remain in their texts. Yet there it is, in each gospel. If, with Paul, we regard 'apostleship' as primarily constituted by witness to the resurrection, Mary Magdalene is the 'apostle to the apostles', as indeed some Roman theologians have styled her."

- Women Bishops: A Response to Cardinal Kasper, by Tom Wright, Bishop of Durham and David Stancliffe, Bishop of Salisbury

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Keith Ward on Thomas Aquinas

My philosophy classes in college went straight from Aristotle to Descartes -- my teachers didn't think medieval philosophy was philosophy but theology and not worth studying. I'm still pretty much of that mind :) but I'm willing to consider the opposing view, so here's Keith Ward on Thomas Aquinas (sorry, the sound's not great) ....

The Medieval Synthesis - Professor Keith Ward DD FBA - Gresham College Lectures from Gresham College on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Human rights and the Euthyphro dilemma

There's an article -- The Sacred and the Humane by Anat Biletzki -- at the NYT's philosophy blog about human rights and the different views religious and non-religious people have on the subject: one example of this is the way the Vatican rationalizes away it's refusal to sign the UN declaration on sexual orientation and gender identity. The article is long, and I don't agree with all it states nor am I sure I completely understood it, but here's a bit of it .....

"[W]where do human rights come from, and what grounds them?" There are two essentially different approaches to answering that question — the religious way and the secular, or philosophical, way ..... The question boils down to who or what is the source of moral authority, God or the human being, religion or ethics? I want to say that that makes a great difference. And I want to ask: If we — the religious person and the secular person — end up engaging in the same activity and also, more so, do it by thinking of ourselves as available to another’s neediness, why does it make a difference?

The problem arises not when we act together, but rather when we don’t. Or put differently, when we act together, the problem stays in the realm of theory, providing fodder for the philosophical game of human rights. It is when we disagree — about abortion, about capital punishment, about settling occupied lands — that the religious authority must vacate the arena of human rights. This is not to say that all religious people hold the same views on these issues or that secular persons are always in agreement (although opinion polls, for whatever they are worth, point to far more unity of thought on the religious side). It is rather that an internal, secular debate on issues that pertain to human rights is structurally and essentially different from the debate between the two camps. In the latter, the authority that is conscripted to “command” us on the religious side is God, while on the secular side it is the human, with her claim to reason, her proclivity to emotion, and her capacity for compassion. In a sense, that is no commandment at all. It is a turn to the human, and a (perhaps axiomatic, perhaps even dogmatic) posit of human dignity, that turns the engine of human rights, leaving us open to discussion, disagreement, and questioning without ever deserting that first posit. The parallel turn to God puts our actions under his command; if he commands a violation of human rights, then so be it. There is no meaning to human rights under divine commandment. A deep acceptance of divine authority — and that is what true religion demands — entails a renunciation of human rights if God so wills. Had God’s angel failed to call out — “Abraham! Abraham!” — Abraham would have slain Isaac ......

I wonder if this touches on the Euthyphro dilemma - is the good loved by God because it's good, or is it good because God loves it? I'd say God loves what's good because it's good, and not that what's good is good because God loves it. Thomas Aquinas has something to say about this but I didn't really understand it, and perhaps I'm just getting all mixed up about this, but I fear the Vatican won't sign off on human rights for gays/lesbians because the Vatican doesn't actually care about the good, human rights, but instead they care about their interpretation of what God wants, and they name that good. I find this idea discouraging :(

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Might doesn't always mean right

From Camelot :) .....

Stanley Hauerwas on C.S. Lewis

Today I read an article by pacifist Stanley Hauerwas about C.S. Lewis (not a pacifist) and his views on pacifism and war -- Nonviolent Narnia: Could C.S. Lewis have imagined a world without war? About half way through it I was struck by a bit under the heading "Why C.S. Lewis was not a pacifist" ...

It is certainly true, Lewis acknowledges, that the lesser violence and harm is to be preferred, but that does not mean that killing X or Y is always wrong or can be avoided. Nor can it be shown that war is always a greater evil. Such a view, Lewis argues, seems to imply a materialistic ethic, that is, the view that death and pain are the greatest evils. But surely Christians cannot believe that. Only people parasitic on liberal societies can afford to be pacifists, believing as they do that the miseries of human suffering can be eliminated if we just find the right cures. But Lewis contends it a mistake to think we can eradicate suffering. Rather we must "work quietly away at limited objectives such as the abolition of the slave trade, or prison reform, or factory acts, or tuberculosis, not by those who think they can achieve universal justice, or health, or peace."

I don't know - I think the violence of war could be grouped with the other particulars he mentions, like slavery or TB, and worked against rather than accepted. And anyway, I think universal justice, and health, and peace are all worth working toward, whether they can ever be completely achieved or not. While I do agree with David Foster Wallace that some things are worth dying for, I believe the majority of suffering (including that in war) isn't endured for some greater good but would instead fall into the "meaningless' category and should be striven against.

The second half of the article is Hauerwas explaining how Lewis could have been/should have been a pacifist.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Admire and do otherwise

In reading an article by Philip Endean SJ on Ignatian prayer, To Reflect and Draw Profit, I saw mention of a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins that I hadn't read before. Here's the reference in the article ....

The Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins once wrote an extended sonnet setting the world-view of the Greek philosopher Heraclitus against Easter faith. The end of the poem is famous:

In a flash, at a trumpet crash,
I am all at once what Christ is, ' since he was what I am, and
This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, ' patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,
Is immortal diamond.

When subsequently a friend put it to Hopkins that the poem hardly resembled Heraclitus, Hopkins responded: 'The effect of studying masterpieces is to make me admire and do otherwise'.17 The contrast between these two statements brings home the distinctive nature of Ignatian prayer. The poem may be more vividly expressed, but its theology is one of identification with Christ. By contrast, the sentence from the letter expresses the movement of Ignatian prayer: as we admire the events of Christ's life, we should be stimulated to 'do otherwise'."

17 - The letters of Gerard Manley Hopkins to Robert Bridges, edited by Claude Colleer Abbott, second edition (Oxford, 1955), p 291.

I'll let you figure out what that means :) by reading the whole article -- it can be downloaded at Fr. Endean's website, on the "Publications" page.

Here's the whole Hopkins poem ....

That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the comfort of the Resurrection
By Gerard Manley Hopkins

CLOUD-PUFFBALL, torn tufts, tossed pillows ' flaunt forth, then chevy on an air-
built thoroughfare: heaven-roysterers, in gay-gangs ' they throng; they glitter in marches.
Down roughcast, down dazzling whitewash, ' wherever an elm arches,
Shivelights and shadowtackle in long ' lashes lace, lance, and pair.
Delightfully the bright wind boisterous ' ropes, wrestles, beats earth bare
Of yestertempest’s creases; in pool and rut peel parches
Squandering ooze to squeezed ' dough, crust, dust; stanches, starches
Squadroned masks and manmarks ' treadmire toil there
Footfretted in it. Million-fuelèd, ' nature’s bonfire burns on.
But quench her bonniest, dearest ' to her, her clearest-selvèd spark
Man, how fast his firedint, ' his mark on mind, is gone!
Both are in an unfathomable, all is in an enormous dark
Drowned. O pity and indig ' nation! Manshape, that shone
Sheer off, disseveral, a star, ' death blots black out; nor mark
Is any of him at all so stark
But vastness blurs and time ' beats level. Enough! the Resurrection,
A heart’s-clarion! Away grief’s gasping, ' joyless days, dejection.
Across my foundering deck shone
A beacon, an eternal beam. ' Flesh fade, and mortal trash
Fall to the residuary worm; ' world’s wildfire, leave but ash:
In a flash, at a trumpet crash,
I am all at once what Christ is, ' since he was what I am, and
This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, ' patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,
Is immortal diamond.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Robert J. Sawyer on FlashForward

- Joseph Fiennes as an FBI agent ... I'd like Agent Mulder back! :(

The latest Question at Cif belief is What can science fiction teach us about God? ... Speculative fiction ought to be a wonderful way to think about philosophical questions .... Science fiction can be powerfully atheistic, as in the work of Ken MacLeod. It can illuminate a faith in progress across geological time, as in Olaf Stapledon; it can write about religion, as Ursula Le Guin does often. Sometimes, as in James Blish, Philip Pullman, or CS Lewis, it can attack specifically Christian questions about atonement and sinfulness.

Coincidentally, my DVD rental for this week is from the genre of science fiction -- a past tv series, FlashForward, adapted from a novel by Robert J. Sawyer, and starring Joseph Fiennes, Courtney B. Vance, and John Cho. The storyline raises questions about God, destiny, providence and free will -- is our future determined and immutable or is it within our power to change what will happen?

I've just seen the first few episodes, but so far it seems ok, though sadly it's no X-Files. Here's the basic plot from Wikipedia ...

[A] mysterious event has caused nearly everyone on the planet to simultaneously lose consciousness for 137 seconds, during which time people see what appears to be a vision of their own life approximately six months in the future: a global "flashforward". A team of Los Angeles FBI agents, led by Stanford Wedeck (Vance) and spearheaded by Mark Benford (Fiennes) and his partner Demetri Noh (Cho), begin the process of determining what happened, why, and whether it will happen again.

Here's a video interview with science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer on the set of FlashForward ....

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Angelicum

I came across an interesting place by accident today - the Angelicum. Also known as The Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, it's the Dominican university of Rome.

I don't know a lot about the Dominican order -- sometimes I visit the Godzdogz blog and I know there's a Dominican college at Oxford, Blackfriars, and I know that it was the Domicans who were appointed to carry out the medieval Inquisition (yikes!), and lastly, I know that Thomas Aquinas, Fra Angelico, Herbert McCabe, Timothy Radcliffe, and James Alison are/were Dominicans. It's interesting to learn more :)

The Angelicum has its own YouTube Channel, and here's a really nicely done video from the Dominicans of the British Province ....

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Why no Ignatius movie?

I've never been an avid follower of the saints and I'm really only aware of those famous enough to have had movies made about them -- movies like the film Vision about Hildegard of Bingen ...

... or the film Becket about Thomas Becket ...

... or the film Brother Sun, Sister Moon about Francis of Assisi ...

As far as I'm aware, there's not yet been a movie made about Ignatius of Loyola. As Fr. James Martin SJ wrote in Saints on the Screen ...

The lives of other saints, especially founders of religious orders, are more difficult to dramatize, since they often move from dramatic conversion to undramatic administration. It was long rumored that Antonio Banderas (the cousin of a Jesuit) was set to play St. Ignatius of Loyola on screen. But any marketable screenplay would end after the founding of the Society of Jesus. Few moviegoers would want to slog through an hour of Ignatius sitting at his desk composing the Constitutions or writing one of the 6,813 letters he penned during his lifetime.

I don't know, though -- I think a pretty exciting film could be made about Ignatius ...... he was wounded in a battle with the French
and could have met (but didn't) the famous Bayard in said battle, he possibly suffered unrequited love of a noble lady, he was thrown into prison by the Spanish Inquisition for being thought an Illuminati, he had a serious mystical experience, he went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, he went to school (sort of) with John Calvin (and Nicolas Cop?) in Paris, he hung out with the Borgias, and he got into dust-ups with some popes .... the guy led an exciting life! But sadly all we have so far are documentary videos like this one ;) ...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Eucharistic adoration and Baudelaire

- a monstrance from Holy Cross Monastery (Wikipedia)

There's a post at In All Things about eucharistic adoration By coincidence, I'm also reading a novel right now in which the main character is a sister in a convent that practices perpetual adoration. This subject really disturbs me. I've tried talking to a few other Catholic bloggers about it but nobody's been interested in discussing it, so I guess I'll just babble away to myself here and maybe get it out of my system.

I think there's something not quite right with the emphasis given by B16 to eucharistic adoration. I'm not sure I can articulate why I believe this, and maybe part of the problem is that I don't understand what adoration means, but I think adoring Jesus in the form of a wafer is weirdly reductive. Seeing him as physically present yet not intentionally present leaves out everything about him that makes him him -- what he preached, what he did, and any chance of interaction. It puts God in a box and objectifies him in a way that I worry allows people to believe that through devotions they can control their level of holiness.

There's a story at NCR on this issue, Vatican tries to revive Eucharistic adoration, but the In All Things post links instead to a story at The Christian Century on this, which is essentially the same as the NCR story. Here's a bit from The Christian Century ...

[S]ome theologians object to adoration as outdated and unnecessary, warning that it can lead to misunderstandings and undo decades of progress in educating lay Catholics on the meaning of the sacrament.

Eucharistic adoration by the laity originated in the 13th century as a substitute for receiving communion at mass, said Monsignor Kevin W. Irwin, dean of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America.

At the same time, he said, the church often encouraged a believer's sense of "personal unworthiness" to receive the sacrament—which Catholics believe to be the body of Christ—so many resorted to so-called ocular communion instead.

Eucharistic adoration was also used as a teaching tool to reaffirm the doctrine of the "real presence" of Christ in the Eucharist, said Richard P. McBrien, a noted theologian at the University of Notre Dame. .... According to McBrien, adoration distorts the meaning of the Eucharist: "It erodes the communal aspect, and it erodes the fact that the Eucharist is a meal. Holy Communion is something to be eaten, not to be adored." ....

One of the comments at the In All Things blog post defends eucharistic adoration by stating that it's beautiful. I know beauty is one of the transcendentals, but it's the weakest one -- not all that is beautiful is good or true -- if a wafer in a gold monstrance in some rococo chapel is worth worshipping because it's beautiful, what then will one feel about that eventually crucified Jesus who trudged around first century Palestine with his ragged followers?

I guess I just don't get it, but this all reminds me of a poem by Baudelaire

I am as lovely as a dream in stone;
My breast on which each finds his death in turn
Inspires the poet with a love as lone
As everlasting clay, and as taciturn.
Swan-white of heart, as sphinx no mortal knows,
My throne is in the heaven's azure deep;
I hate all movement that disturbs my pose;
I smile not ever, neither do I weep.

Before my monumental attitudes,
Taken from the proudest plastic arts,
My poets pray in austere studious moods,

For I, to fold enchantment round their hearts,
Have pools of light where beauty flames and dies,
The placid mirrors of my luminous eyes.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Joseph Tetlow SJ on spiritual direction

Soon it will be St. Ignatius day (July 31) and I'll be posting about Ignatius and Ignatian spirituality as we get closer. Here's a short video interview with Jesuit Joseph Tetlow on spiritual direction ....

Autism at the movies

- Bruce Willis and Miko Hughes

While I await new movies which aren't available, I've been watching older ones I missed. This week's movie rental was - Mercury Rising. This 1998 film was directed by Harold Becker (The Onion Field) and starred Bruce Willis, Alec Baldwin, and Miko Hughes. Based on a novel by Ryne Douglas Pearson, Simple Simon, it tells of Art Jeffries (Willis), an undercover FBI agent who protects an autistic nine year old targeted by the NSA after the boy solves a cryptographic government code called "Mercury" (sort of like the solving of the RSA Secret-Key Challenge).

Ebert didn't like the movie much, but the stuff about autism was interesting (if sometimes sad) and I found the difficult relationship created between the boy and the FBI agent touching.

Here is the trailer ....

More flowers in the yard

This is one of the plants my sister gave me - don't know what it is ...

Another photo of the trumpet vine ...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Repairing the world

I saw this bit of an Adrienne Rich poem today ....

My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
So much has been destroyed.
I have to cast my lot with those
Who age after age, perversely,
With no extraordinary power
Re-constitute the world.

... and it reminded me of something I read in Daniel Silva's book, A Death in Venice. Gabriel visits a friend in Safed who tells him about Tikkun Olam ......

[She] told him the midrash of the broken vessel. "Before God created the world, there was only God. When God decided to create the world, God pulled back in order to create a space for the world. It was in that space that the universe was formed. But now, in that space, there was no God. God created divine sparks, light, to be placed back into God's creation. When God created light and placed light inside of creation, special containers were prepared to hold it. But there was an accident, a cosmic accident, the containers broke. The universe became filled with sparks of God's divine light and shards of broken containers .... The midrash teaches us that until the sparks of God's light are gathered together, the task of creation will not be complete. As Jews, this is our solemn duty. We call it Tikkun Olam -- repair of the world.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Red Market

Wonder what Thomas Aquinas would say about the body parts market? (Kidney for sale by owner: human organs, transplantation, and the market, Mark J. Cherry .... p. 118, "Thomas Aquinas: The Principle of Totality and the Selling of Body Parts")

I ask because I listened to a podcast at NPR today with journalist Scott Carney about his book, The Red Market: On the Trail of the World's Organ Brokers, Bone Thieves, Blood Farmers, and Child Traffickers (thanks to a post at In Living Color).

Remember the Indian Ocean tsunami about which David Bentley Hart wrote The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami? -- here's a quote from the NPR storyy that gos with the interview ....

As part of his research, Carney visited an Indian refugee camp for survivors of 2004's massive tsunami. Today, the camp is known by the nickname Kidneyvakkam, or Kidneyville, because of how common it is for the women who live there to sell their kidneys. "The women are just lined up," Carney says. "They have their exposed midriffs and there are all these kidney extraction scars because when the tsunami happened, all these organ brokers came in and realized there were a lot of people in very desperate situations and they could turn a lot of quick cash by just convincing people to sell their kidneys."

It's when people are at their most desperate that they consider selling off body parts (as opposed to gifting body parts) and it's people with money who benefit. I think this is true not just for selling off parts, like blood or kidneys (or hair - The Gift of the Magi), but for selling sex and for "leasing" one's body as a surrogate.

You can read an except from Scott Carney's book at the NPR link. Here's just the first paragraph ....

I weigh just a little under two hundred pounds, have brown hair, blue eyes, and a full set of teeth. As far as I know, my thyroid gland pumps the right hormones into the twelve pints of blood that circulate in my arteries and veins. At six feet two inches, I have long femurs and tibias with solid connective tissue. Both of my kidneys function properly, and my heart runs at a steady clip of eighty-seven beats per minute. All in, I figure I'm worth about $250,000.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

How to remain a pacifist

- Jude Law as a Russian sniper

I watched a movie from the library tonight - Enemy at the Gates. The 2001 war film was directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, and starred Jude Law, Joseph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz, and Ed Harris. From Wikipedia ...

The film's title is taken from William Craig's 1973 nonfiction book Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad, which describes the events surrounding the Battle of Stalingrad from 1942–1943. It is based on a duel mentioned in the book that developed between the legendary Soviet sniper Vasily Grigoryevich Zaitsev and his German counterpart, Major Erwin König, as they stalk each other during the battle.

You might wonder why a peace-nik like me watches so many war movies. Maybe I'm testing myself to see if I want to remain a pacifist. This film was a grim and troubling reminder of both why people fight and of how dehumanizing war is. The movie begins by introducing Vasily (Jude Law) as a young Russian shepherd who gets sent to a horrifically besieged Stalingrad that's burning like Gehenna, where many of his comrades are killed by German bombers before leaving their transport, and where many more are shot by their own troops for retreating in the face of brutal German fire -- all in the first ten minutes. It was a Saving Private Ryan beginning, and though I've read that it's unlikely this kind of thing actually occurred at the Battle of Stalingrad, Wikipedia states: The Battle of Stalingrad ... was amongst the bloodiest battles in the history of warfare with the higher estimates of combined casualties amounting to nearly two million deaths.

Early on, Vasily saves the life of political officer Danilov (Joseph Fiennes) with his superior sharpshooting ability, he and Danilov become friends, and Danilov, exhorted on by Khrushchev (Bob Hoskins), makes Vasily a public hero for morale purposes. Vasily, under a crushing amount of pressure, wreaks such havoc on the Germans (the real Vasily was said to have killed 225 of the enemy), that they sent for their own super-sniper, Erwin König (Ed Harris), to kill him. The movie is about the ongoing cat and mouse stalking between the two snipers, with a love triangle as well between Vasily, Danilov, and Tania Chernova (Rachel Weisz), a Jewish militia member whose parents have been killed by the Nazis.

Roger Ebert gave the film (rated R) 3 out of 4 stars in his review, and here's a trailer ....

Friday, July 08, 2011

Biology isn't destiny

Saw a post at Feminist Philosophers mentioning Dan Savage, and in the comments section, mentioning Sex at Dawn

Dan Savage had given an interview to Sunday’s New York Times magazine in which he blamed the decline of marriage on feminists who dislike consensual adultery and apparently much of his belief is based on info in the book Sex at Dawn -- the idea that early humans were not monogamous .....

“The mistake that straight people made,” Savage told me, “was imposing the monogamous expectation on men. Men were never expected to be monogamous. Men had concubines, mistresses and access to prostitutes, until everybody decided marriage had to be egalitar­ian and fairsey.” In the feminist revolution, rather than extending to women “the same latitude and license and pressure-release valve that men had always enjoyed,” we extended to men the confines women had always endured. “And it’s been a disaster for marriage.” -- Married, With Infidelities

It's kind of strange ... in a way, I suppose evolutionary psychology can be seen as an enemy of feminism (for instance, the idea that it's natural to rape, and what's natural cannot really be said to be wrong), but I'm not sure that's true. I'm not going to contest the idea that early human were not monogamous (see this at the blog of Darcia Narvaez - What you think about evolution and human nature may be wrong).

But I will contest Savage's idea that there's more divorce now, that the institution of marriage is failing, because feminists have demanded monogamy from men who are unable to be monogamous. Aas Martha Nussbaum noted in a talk on same-sex marriage given at Cornell (see my post), the reason why there have been more divorces is not about the degeneration of the institution of marriage, but about women now having more options, about women being more able to leave bad marriages without being financially or physically ruined. And as Nussbaum mentions, this is saying something good about marriage in the now, not something bad --- marriage can now be more honest.

I also disagree with Savage's idea that men can't be monogamous now (and shouldn't be expected to be) because early humans weren't monogamous. There seem to be two assumptions made: that the way things were in the hunter-gatherer past is (1) the way they *should* be now, and (2) the way they *must* be now.

Does the fact that early humans weren't monogamous mean that's the way it should now and ever be, does "natural" = good or right? I don't think so, and I find it weirdly confusing that liberal Dan Savage seems to be using a sort of argument from nature (evolutionary ethics) to back up his beliefs ... that's the kind of argument also used by religious conservatives to back up thei beliefs (Christian natural law). But as Hume so famously opined, no ought-judgment may be correctly inferred from a set of premises expressed only in terms of ‘is' -- most evolutionary psychologists would say, I think, that evolution cannot tell us anything about what "ought" to be in a moral sense, only about what worked (sometimes) to promote survival of the species.

Are we the behavioral slaves of genetic determinism? I don't think so. As psychologist David J. Ley writes in Biology is NOT destiny .....

I've been concerned of late, when several people have written me, or approached me in my practice, feeling that biological processes have already determined the fate of their relationships. My concern peaks when these folks tell me that my writing has increased their worry.

Much of my writing addresses the underlying biological processes that run in the background of things like infidelity, mate selection, and sexual relationships. I like to explain these things, with the goal of normalizing them for people. I have seen people in so much pain, over feelings like jealousy, over the decline of their sexual relationship, etc., that I believe it helps, takes the pressure off so to speak, for them to understand that some of this is just biology, working the way it does.

But, apparently these arguments are perhaps too successful, because people approach me now, concerned that these biological indicators are actually the death knell for their relationships. One man wrote me, saying that his wife showed all the signs I wrote about, and that it must be inevitable that she would be unfaithful. After all, who can stop biology? ......

Biology may subtly influence your choices, particularly if you go through life on automatic pilot. But, if you are aware, and conscious, making thoughtful, considered decisions, it is you in charge of your life. Not your cells, genes or gonads. Biological influences on our behavior dispose us towards certain decisions or behavior, in the short-term. The blessing of being human though, is that we can make long-term decisions, and override those biological compulsions. Yes, biology and our gonads may drive us to mate with this person, now, instead of our husband or wife later. But, the ability to make long-term decisions, and to consider the lifelong impact of these different options, allows us to make decisions based upon will, ethics, love, compassion and respect. These are things not covered in biology. At least, not yet. Hopefully not ever. They reside in the existential ability we have, to make our own decisions. To decide our own fate. At least, we have this ability, when we decide to exercise it ......

Thursday, July 07, 2011

My trumpet vine is blooming ...

(click to enlarge)

Wednesday, July 06, 2011


Still watching Frasier episodes. Seven minutes that made me smile ...

Mama cats

Susan has a post, Mama Gato y La Leche, that reminded me of when Grendel the stray cat adopted me and my mother. Tthis is my first (pretty bad quality) photo of Grendel, and L to R, Data, Kermit, and Spot ....

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

More improbable British food

Tonight I watched an episode of Frasier in which Niles was staying at his brother Frasier's apartment (with Frasier, their dad, and Daphne) while he looked for a new place to live. It was thus I first learned of Bovril .....

- nope, that's neither chocolate syrup nor axel grease ... eek!

The problem of evil and non-believers

Usually the problem of evil is a problem for those who believe in a good and powerful God, but Marilyn McCord Adams thinks it's also a challenge for optimistic and idealistic atheists -- she makes an argument that is analogous to Kant's argument for immortality* in this past podcast from Philosophy Bites .....

[the problem of evil] is also a problem for unbelievers because the world is riddled with what I've called horrendous evils -- they're not a rare thing. it's easy to become a participant in them, and thousands, millions of people are participating in them now even as we speak. And so, what I want to say to people who don't believe in God is this: if you're optimistic and idealistic, if you think life is worth living and you have high purposes in your life, this is not a rational posture unless you think there is some super-human power who is capable of making good on the many and various horrors that human beings perpetrate every day on one another .... if you really open your eyes and see how riddled with horrors the world we live in is, and you still find yourself deeply optimistic and idealistic, then a condition of the possibility of your posture in life being reasonable is a belief in a God who is good enough and resourceful enough to make good on it all.

The guys at Philosophy Bites didn't seem to buy this argument, and I agree it's not compelling. But still I do wonder how it's possible for caring people to be aware of how very badly things are going for so many and yet to feel positively about life.

* In the Critique of Practical Reason, Kant argued that this Highest Good for Humanity is complete moral virtue together with complete happiness, the former being the condition of our deserving the latter. Unfortunately, Kant noted, virtue does not insure wellbeing and may even conflict with it. Further, there is no real possibility of moral perfection in this life and indeed few of us fully deserve the happiness we are lucky enough to enjoy. Reason cannot prove or disprove the existence of Divine Providence, nor the immortality of the soul, which seem necessary to rectify these things. Nevertheless, Kant argued, an unlimited amount of time to perfect ourselves (immortality) and a commensurate achievement of wellbeing (insured by God) are “postulates” required by reason when employed in moral matters. -- Kant's Moral Philosophy

Monday, July 04, 2011

The Revolutionary War and Native Americans

I hate the 4th ... it's the fireworks. I know that's abnormal -- even Gandalf did fireworks -- but still I think they're stinky and noisy. For those who love the 4th, though, National Geographic has an interesting page on some misconceptions about the 4th. Here's one of them ....

9. Native Americans Sided With the British

"(He) has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions."

The Declaration of Independence made this claim against King George III, and many Native Americans did eventually fight with the British. But many others sided with people in the colonies or simply tried to stay out of the European conflict altogether, according to Dartmouth College historian Colin Galloway, author of The American Revolution in Indian Country: Crisis and Diversity in Native American Communities.

Most New England Indians supported the Continentals, and the powerful Iroquois Confederacy was split by the conflict. Native "redcoats" fought not for love of King George but in hopes of saving their own homelands—which they thought would to be the spoils of the War for Independence.

Those who allied themselves with the British saw their lands lost in the Peace of Paris treaty, but Native Americans who supported Americans fared little better in the long run.

Here's a little more about this from Wikipedia ....

During the American Revolution, many Tuscarora and the Oneida sided with the colonists, while the Mohawk, Seneca, Onondaga and Cayuga remained loyal to Great Britain, thereby marking the first major split among the Six Nations. Joseph Louis Cook offered his services to the United States and received a Congressional commission as a Lieutenant Colonel- the highest rank held by any Native American during the war. However, after a series of successful operations against frontier settlements – led by the Mohawk war chief Joseph Brant, other war chiefs, and British allies – the future United States reacted with vengeance. In 1779, George Washington ordered the Sullivan Campaign led by Col. Daniel Brodhead and General John Sullivan against the Iroquois nations to "not merely overrun, but destroy," the British-Indian alliance.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Let only she who is without sin make a rape accusation?

I'm sorry to see the case against DSK collapsing because the alleged victim has been found to have lied in the past. Is it any less wrong to decide she must be lying now because she lied before, than to decide he must be guilty now because he's been known to have harassed other women? Further reading - Dominique Strauss-Kahn: prejudice and politics shape a rape case again and What Strauss-Kahn and His Accuser Risked.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

For those interested, I came across Elisabeth Johnson's commentary on the readings for Sunday - Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30. It can be found at here.

Instant empathy and transparency

I saw an odd movie at the library and decided to give it a try. Brainstorm is a 1983 science fiction film directed by Douglas Trumbull and starring Christopher Walken and Natalie Wood.

A bit of the plot from Wikipedia ....

A team of scientists invents "The Hat", a helmet that allows sensations to be read from a person's brain and written to tape so that others can experience them. The team includes estranged husband-and-wife, Michael and Karen Brace (Walken and Wood), and Michael's colleague Lillian Reynolds (Fletcher).

The team demonstrates the device and gains financing for more development. One of the team members creates a "sex tape," which he shares with other colleagues. This results in one of them being forced to retire after an intense session that almost kills him from sensory overload. Tensions increase as the possibilities for abuse become clear. Reynolds is pressured by backers to admit a former colleague, Gordon Forbes, to the team whom she sees as a hack and part of the military industrial complex. She refuses to have the invention taken over for military use and an argument ensues. This stress, coupled with the cumulative effects of her lifestyle, causes Reynolds to suffer a heart attack while working alone. As she dies she records her experience ....

- Walken's character makes a recording of how he feels about his estranged wife, remembering their wedding, so she can play it and feel how he feels about her

So strange to see Christopher Walken so young :) The video display of the film is interesting -- the normal part of the movie is shown in a rather small size, but the parts showing the "experiences" are displayed in a larger size, I guess to make the borrowed experiences of surfing, hang gliding, being a fighter pilot, etc., seem more real (see Trumbull's showscan). While the film did seem sort of dated, and while the ending was kind of weak, still I thought it was pretty entertaining.The most interesting part of the movie was that The Hat allowed people to record their feelings and for others who then wore The Hat to replay those feelings and feel them as if they were their own ... instant empathy and transparency.

Here's a bit from a review in The New York Times ...


[...] Douglas Trumbull, the special-effects wizard, has devised an unusually varied high-tech look for ''Brainstorm.'' The laboratory where the scientists work looks amazingly sophisticated but also very lived in; the helmet itself is refined from a collection of lights and wires and lenses to something streamlined and sleek. Later on, when an automated assembly line is established to mass produce these machines, Mr. Trumbull makes its very immaculateness seem sinister. And when the place is sabotaged, it becomes a sudsy mess, which in this orderly and detail-conscious film, seems even more wicked than it would anywhere else.

The most special of the effects are, of course, reserved for those images provided by the helmet. To say that this device captures the ultimate sensation is hardly hyperbolic, since one of the scientists, while experiencing a heart attack, manages to slip into the apparatus and switch on its recording equipment. Mr. Trumbull can't convey this for real, thank goodness. But he can certainly make believable the frightening and then euphoric fireworks that explode across the screen .....

Mr. Walken is misplaced, never convincingly seeming the brilliant inventor. However, he's better in the later action sequences than in the early lab scenes, where his vaguely dissipated air clashes with the crisp surroundings. He and Natalie Wood make more sense as an estranged couple, early in the film, than they do as reunited lovers later on. In any case, this is the sort of film in which we learn more about the Brace family by watching the bicycle-like contraption Michael rides to work or the house he has custom-designed with an indoor swimming area than by listening to anything they say.

However adversely it must have affected the morale of those involved in making ''Brainstorm,'' the death of Natalie Wood hasn't damaged the film. Her performance feels complete. Playing a more mature character than she had done before, Miss Wood brought hints of a greater sturdiness and depth to this role, which is pivotal but relatively small.

- an early version of The Hat

Friday, July 01, 2011

Goran Visjnic is Spartacus

This week's movie rental was the 2004 adaptation of Howard Fast's novel, Spartacus, directed by Robert Dornhelm and starring Goran Visjnic, Alan Bates, Angus Macfadyen and Ben Cross.

Here's the trailer for the movie ...

The film really brings to life the utter degradation of being a slave, and it's worth a watch if only to remind us how awful slavery is/was. I know the movie's events take place before the onset of Christianity, but still the movie reminded me of how the Catholic Church -- from Paul to Augustin to Aquinas and up to the Church in the US South -- has signed off on slavery (Catholic Church and slavery) :(

But back to part 1 of the movie (there are two CDs) -- I found the acting fine, the history interesting, and the romance between Spartacus and the slave Varinia seemed gentle and fresh, so I do recommend the movie, though I'm not looking forward to the second part of it in which the slave rebellion fails and Spartacus gets killed.

Here's a little from Wikipedia about the historical Spartacus ....

Spartacus was a Thracian .... an auxiliary from the Roman legions later condemned to slavery .... trained at the gladiatorial school (ludus) near Capua belonging to Lentulus Batiatus. In 73 BC, Spartacus was among a group of gladiators plotting an escape .... the Romans considered the rebellion more of a policing matter than a war. Rome dispatched militia ... which besieged the slaves on the mountain [Vesuvius], hoping that starvation would force the slaves to surrender. They were surprised when Spartacus had ropes made from vines, climbed down the cliff side of the volcano with his men and attacked the unfortified Roman camp in the rear, killing most of them. The slaves also defeated a second expedition, nearly capturing the praetor commander, killing his lieutenants and seizing the military equipment. With these successes, more and more slaves flocked to the Spartacan forces, as did “many of the herdsmen and shepherds of the region”, swelling their ranks to some 70,000.

[T]he Roman Senate, alarmed by the defeat of the praetorian forces, dispatched a pair of consular legions ... [they] were defeated by Spartacus .... Alarmed by the apparently unstoppable rebellion, the Senate charged Marcus Licinius Crassus, the wealthiest man in Rome and the only volunteer for the position, with ending the rebellion .... Spartacus now turned his forces around and brought his entire strength to bear on the legions in a last stand, in which the slaves were routed completely, with the vast majority of them being killed on the battlefield. The eventual fate of Spartacus himself is unknown, as his body was never found, but he is accounted by historians to have perished in battle along with his men. Six thousand survivors of the revolt captured by the legions of Crassus were crucified, lining the Appian Way from Rome to Capua.

Berries and leaves

The Boysenberries are getting ripe ...

The pecan tree leaves are so green :) ...