Saturday, July 9, 2016

Chicago - Rio de Janiero

July 9, 2016 Peace and Good, Last Sunday I flew to Chicago to be present for the opening of the postulancy located there. I have been at that friary so often over the years that it feels a lot like home. This is the first year that all four US provinces are participating in this program. It took a lot of work to get here, but I am pleased that it is going well. I presided at the opening ceremony. There are 18 young men in the program, which is way up from previous years. Let's hope it is the beginning of a trend. On Thursday evening I flew down to Rio. It is quite cool here. This is winter below the equator. The temperature during the day is in the low 60's. I am hoping that keeps the mosquito's sleeping. I will be here for about 10 days to a set of meetings and the 70th anniversary celebration of the presence of our friars in Latin America. This is the first time I am in Brazil. Last night there were fireworks in part of the town. I asked one of the friars if it was a celebration. He explained that sometimes the drug lords bring their drugs to a neighborhood and set off fireworks to let the people know. This morning they had a huge celebration in the parking lot of the church for the children of the neighborhood. It was like carnival all morning with loud music and dancing. I like the spirit of the people down here. I have finished some books: Lawrence’s Arabia by Scott Anderson This is a short journey to a few places which were significant in the life of Lawrence of Arabia, including some of what we could call archaeological sites in Jordan and Saudi Arabia where he led the Arabs to blow up the railroads that were supplying the Turks in those countries during World War I. We hear some of the tragedy of Lawrence – how he tried to be faithful and honest with the Arabs even while his government was secretly negotiating with the French to double cross the Arabs. He died a lonely, disappointed man. Fallen Founder by Nancy Isenburg This is a biography of Aaron Burr which is written to show that he was not such a bad character. It is clearly revisionist history, re-reading the original sources. The difficulty of the book is the author’s a priori stance that Burr is really a hero and a virtuous person. Every person who declaims him is a lier and a political hack. Every thing that Burr does is for the good of those around him. Even his flaws are not as bad as others. At one point the author even implies that he was attacked because he was a budding feminist. The scholarship seems terribly flawed and I find it difficult to believe anything the author posits (or creates from whole cloth). The Sound of Silence by Lisa Abend This is a pleasant short story of a traveler who goes to an isolated Scottish village by hiking in the hope of running away from humanity for a while. What she finds when she arrives is that it was not humanity that caused her annui, as much as technology. Being out of range of any wifi signal helped her find her balance among the villagers and other hikers in the inn in which she was staying. Masterpieces of the Imaginative Mind: Literature’s Most Fantastic Works by Eric Rabkin This is a Great Courses treatment of literature which features the fantastic. This includes fairy tales and myths, utopian literature, early horror fiction (Frankenstein, the works of Edgar Allen Poe), early science fiction (Jules Verne, Edgar Bouroughs), more modern science fiction (Heinlein, Asimov, etc.) and even punk rock science fiction. The science fiction part is quite good, speaking not only of what is there but also why. Some of the earlier lectures get a bit too much into the literary study of Semiotics for me, a science that has always seemed a bit too contrived for me. Overall, the course presents a good amount of valuable information. Along the Bosphorus by Orhan Pamuk This is a short excerpt from Pamuk’s book Istanbul about the city of his birth. He deeply loves his home city, but he recognizes an annui in its citizens from the fact that they are living in an imperial city that has lost its empire. Unlike Vienna which is kept up and looks like an empty museum for imperial might, Istanbul has lost its glitter. Pamuk speaks of the draw the people of this city have to its waterway, the Bosphorus. They recreate there, find their meaning there. Even the ship accidents seem to draw them to gaze and wonder. The book is filled with antique photographs of the Bosphorus and its shores. Hope you have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude


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