Saturday, February 05, 2005

'Ignoto Deo'

It's so easy for me to picture Paul among the philosophers at Athens. The book of Acts records the scene at the Areopagus beautifully:
Then the brethren immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there. Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed.

Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. So he argued in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the market place every day with those who chanced to be there.

Some also of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers met him. And some said, "What would this babbler say?" Others said, "He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities" -- because he preached Jesus and the resurrection. And they took hold of him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, "May we know what this new teaching is which you present? For you bring some strange things to our ears; we wish to know therefore what these things mean."

Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new. So Paul, standing in the middle of the Areopagus, said:

"Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along, and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, `To an unknown god.' ('Ignoto Deo') What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything. And he made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us, for `In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your poets have said, `For we are indeed his offspring.' Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the Deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, a representation by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all men by raising him from the dead."

Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked; but others said, "We will hear you again about this." So Paul went out from among them. But some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

Acts 17:14-34 (RSV)

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Harry Potter... in Ancient Greek

My intention was to recreate a version of the book which would make sense to a Greek from any era up to the 4th century AD who had managed by some magical process (such as would only be taught only to very advanced students at Hogwarts!) to reach the 21st century. Objects and ideas would be unfamiliar - but once he'd got used to his new surroundings, the book would make complete sense. So I thought it was very important to have this time-traveling Greek in mind at all times, and continually ask myself "would that have any meaning for him? what would he make of that?" In other words a cultural transposition is involved, not just finding the words.
Classicist Andrew Wilson discusses how he translated Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone into Ancient Greek, published last October. Check out his website.

Harry Potter is also available in Irish Gaelic, and I have the Latin translation sitting on my bookshelf. I'll get to it eventually when I feel more confident!

I am randomly reminded of that scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where, having escaped with the Jones Diary, Marcus Brody finds himself lost in Iskanderun trying desperately to communicate with the townsfolk:
Does anybody here speak English? Or even ancient Greek? No thank you sir, no water for me--fish make love in it. No thank you madam, no chicken I'm a vegetarian! Does anybody here understand a word I'm saying...?
Lost in his own museum.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

In Full Compliance...

According to an independent audit:
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has been found to be "in full compliance" with all aspects of the U.S. Bishops' "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People".
Pray for JPII

According to Italian media, the Pope has come down with the flu and related respiratory problems and was taken to the hospital today.
L'enfer, c'est les autres

n'est-ce pas?

I promised I would comment on this. I like how my earlier post about la rue des Blancs-Manteaux immediately followed the one about Danny and Armi's music video. They kind of cancel each other out -- or maybe they compound each other, it depends. But that really wasn't the intention. It was more of a preparation for Lent.

Jean-Paul Sartre's classic Huis Clos was an attempt to illustrate his rather atheistic assertion that Hell (l'enfer) is other people (les autres). That is, Sartre's existentialism held that man can only define himself (or ascertain his image) according to how he is perceived by other people. However, what is fundamental to Sartre's beliefs is that man's existence has no universality: He is born, he lives, he dies; there is no second life, no afterlife, and no eternal life. Therefore, he has nothing to prepare for and no grand ideal to measure himself against, save what the others see. And so, he is therefore responsible for determining who he is to be.

According to Sartre, because man must gauge himself according to what the others perceive, he is doomed because other people only see the superficial -- they don't see what drives the man. Though man may strive to obtain heroic virtue, all it takes is one cowardly act for him to be branded a coward by the others for the rest of his life. And so man is trapped between the loneliness of himself and the judgments of the others. If he is to engage the world, he must contend with the others, and if he cares about their perceptions of himself, he abdicates his liberty.

In Sartre's world, man creates his own values. But Sartre's world is characteristically selfish. Man is focused on himself and his needs, he is subject to judgment by the others who care only about themselves, and there is a constant battle between what man keeps as his own liberty and what he sacrifices to the bondage of the others. Sartre's world can only exist if there is no grace, no love, no redemption, and no reconciliation. Sartre, being an atheist, would have no trouble admitting this, but when Christ enters Sartre's world, it ceases to exist.

I was reflecting on this recently because there are times when my observations about the world mirror Sartre's. A world that is morbid, dark, and weak. It is at those times that I find myself to be the most most selfish and the most superficial, even while I call myself a Christian, and I despair -- Thus, I enter Sartre's world. But, that is a lie. Sartre's world doesn't truly exist. It represents man's world at its worst, but there is a deeper, spiritual reality that is part of the physical world. And there is a grace that moves us beyond despair and into repentance and reconciliation. If we allow ourselves to be transformed by grace, which is unmerited favor granted to us by God, we can enter Christ's world. This is the world we encounter even at the height of our prayer in the Sacrifice of the Mass. It's a world that doesn't mask Sartre's world, but rather redeems it through self-sacrifice and the supreme self-sacrifice of Christ.
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. - John 15:11-13
Sartre observes a world without grace, unloved, and beyond redemption. Christ observes a world greatly loved and therefore, purely out of that love, worthy of grace and redemption. Sartre observed a selfish, physical world in which man is left to his own devices. Christ observes a spiritual world that is fundamentally transformed by the most unselfish act possible, where man is given everything he needs to know God, love God, and be with God forever. Christ obliterates the darkness forever because He has given us hope.
Santa Maria

Santa Maria, California, my home for about 10 years before coming to Santa Barbara, is back on the map again. I was there this past weekend to visit family, and yesterday, I drove past the courthouse to check out what had been setup. At that time, not many people had moved in, aside from some news crews.

Members of the community are renting out rooms in their homes at outrageous prices to die-hard Jackson fans who want to be near the courthouse. A local attorney, whose law office is right across the street from the courthouse and has the only nearby building with a flat roof, has rented out portions of the roof to 4 or 5 different news crews. And it was a little surreal to see a stand dedicated to CNN and Larry King Live. It's all a little too overwhelming for a modest town such as Santa Maria. Imagine the OJ Simpson trial in Mayberry... Okay, maybe Santa Maria is not that modest!

We'll see if I know anyone who ends up on the jury. :)


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