Saturday, November 4, 2023

Ellicott City, MD

November 4, 2023 Peace and Good, I have spent these days at Elicott City. Last Wednesday I had an operation to remove two masses from my lungs. They are being studied, and I meet with the surgeon on Monday to see what the next step might be. There are another two masses on the other side of the lungs, and he might want a second surgery to remove them as well. I got through the surgery very well. The worst day was the one following the operation. After that, there was very little pain or discomfort. I am back up to my 40 minute walk each day. For all the health problems I have had in these weeks, I am really doing quite well on a day to day basis. I have been working on my next book: a series of short meditations on the Proverbs of the Old Testament. It is coming along quite well, and I hope to have the first draft finished in a month or so (depending on what sort of treatment the doctor recommends). I finished some reading and listening: The Sayings of the Holy Desert Fathers, trans by Wallis Budge This is a rather long collection of the saying of the Egyptian desert fathers and mothers from the 5th and 6th centuries. They are very repetitious, and some of them either didn’t make any sense to me or were of a spirituality which seemed questionable to me. I guess the idea that these men and women rejected the world to serve God would necessarily carry a sense that the world was evil, but it seemed almost Manichean in its tone. Machiavelli by Patrick Boucheron This is a short account of essays on the life and work of Machiavelli. The author’s premise is that he has gotten very bad press over the ages, and that he was not really as bad as he has been portrayed. Rather than proposing that any means was legitimate to rule, he was actually speaking about how to better the very confused state of Italian politics (with the rivalry of Spain, France, the Holy Roman Empire, the papacy, etc. tearing the country apart). Eleanor of Aquitaine by Kelly Mass This short biography presents the life and career of this queen of Aquitaine who married first the king of France and later the king of England, Henry II. The film, “A Lion in Winter” speaks of their strange relationship as well as that of their children which included Richard the Lion Hearted and King John. The Athenian Democracy by Robert Garland This is a great courses presentation on the “democracy” which was to be found in Athens during the centuries during which the Persian invasions and the Peloponnesian were fought. The professor tries to present both the positive and negative aspects of this form of government in a theoretical manner, but also in the practical development of an Athenian Empire that was kind to Athenians but much less so to the other members of the league. Rome and the Barbarians by Kenneth Harl This is a thorough treatment of Rome and its Empire and its interaction with the barbarian peoples who lived near the empire, and who “invaded” it to bring it to its ultimate destruction in the West. Harl is an excellent presenter who gives a tremendous amount of detail without ever being boring. Rather than presenting a melodramatic story of hordes of barbarians crashing across the borders, he explains how the Romans coopted many of them to be part of their armies (thus training them in the techniques of Roman warfare) and how many of them simply wanted to settle in parts of the empire that were underpopulated and safer from more ferocious barbarians at their backs. Exploring the Mayan World by Edwin Barnhart This is an 8 part video presentation of a trip to the part of Mexico where the Mayans lived. It is a combination of an archaeological study, a travelogue of interesting sites, and an introduction to modern Mayan culture and gastronomy. The program really is more of an entertaining segment rather than being academic. Operation Greif by Charles River Editors This is a study of the attempt to confuse allied troops by infiltrating Germans dressed in American uniforms who spoke English across the front lines to confuse the allies and assist the capture of important military objectives. There were some successes, and there was widespread fear, but the results of this program were not what the German had hoped it would be. Marie Antoinette by Kelly Mass This is a short biography of the queen of France who was executed during the French revolution. The presentation neither defends nor attacks her. It simply presents the details and helps one see how she was incapable of responding to a very confusing and fluid situation. The Artist, the Philosopher and the Warrior by Paul Strathern This is an incredibly good study of Cesare Borgia, Leonardo da Vinci, and Niccolò Machiavelli and how they interacted. Leonardo at first cooperated with Borgia in inventing war machines, but he later withdrew his assistance when he saw first hand the terrible character of his patron. Machiavelli served as a type of ambassador to the Florentine state which gave him the opportunity to see Borgia up close. Borgia, the son of a pope, was a man who did whatever was good for him and his father. This is not the first book by Strathern that I have read, and I have always been pleased with them. The Kraken Project by Douglas Preston This is the story of an artificial intelligence program which escapes its bounds and alternatively threatens and is threatened by governmental organizations, evil people wanting to use it for their own purposes, etc. It is saved by its programmer and by a young boy who adopts it when it enters a toy robot. As the story proceeds, one comes to see the personality of the program and how it becomes more and more human. Cicero by Anthony Everitt This is a thorough study of the life of the famous Roman orator Cicero. Born to middle class parents, he fought to acquire the dignity he sought in a very class-conscious Roman republic. He became counsel and defended the state against the machinations of a young aristocratic, Catolina, who wanted to overthrow the system. He found himself in the midst of a failing government (due to the selfishness of many of the people in that system). He was eventually murdered by Mark Anthony (with the contrivance of Augustus) for his frequent attacks on him. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude


Post a Comment