Friday, December 22, 2023

Ellicott City, MD

December 22, 2023 Peace and Good, This has been quite a couple of weeks for me. A week ago today I had surgery on my right lung to try to remove a tumor there. This took place at Johns Hopkins in downtown Baltimore. The doctor was not able to remove the tumor because it was entwined with the nerve controlling the diaphragm. It looks as I will be doing radiation and chemo and/or immunotherapy instead. This surgery is taking me longer to get over. The incision was much larger than the one in October, and the body was probably not fully recovered from that one. I am getting stronger every day, and today was the first day I was able to do my 40 minute walk. I finished my meditation book on wisdom literature. I have already seen the proofs of the first third, and it should be complete toward the end of January. I am pleased with how it has turned out. I will be staying here in Ellicott City for at least the next couple of weeks, continuing to recover. After Christmas I hope to have enough energy to return to my taping of daily reflections and writing various projects. I have been reflecting on being ill and what it all means. It is teaching me to surrender more and more, realizing that I certainly cannot control everything. It has also reminded me that there are so many people out there who care for me and are praying for me, and I have to minister to them by sharing information, gratitude, etc. I don't want this illness to make me totally self-centered. I finished some reading and listening: Heaven and Hell: a History of the Afterlife by Bart Ehrman This is a review of what Sacred Scripture and the Jewish and early Christian authorities say about heaven, hell and purgatory. It is a good overview, but the interpretation that the author gives is sometimes confusing. He interprets one verse allegorically, and another as literal (whatever it takes for him to make his point). What really hurts his credibility is that he confesses at the end that he does not even believe in the afterlife. Ten Christian Mystics and What They Tell Us of God by Murray Bodo Murray Bodo is a Franciscan poet. This Learn25 course presents the biography and teachings of ten mystics (a few of them contemporary). Some of the lectures lack significant content, but some of the latter ones are quite well written. Overall, I could say it is worth reading, but not the best book I have ever read. Brutus by Kathryn Tempest This is the history of the man who led the plot to kill Julius Caesar. He was considered to be a man of great virtue (as opposed to most of the other plotters who were seeking their own privilege. He fought against Anthony and Augustus (then known as Octavian). The author presents a very good portrait of the man and his reasoning (to kill Caesar and what he did after that). The Man Who Knew the Way to the Moon by Todd Zeillitch This is a short book about a man who worked at NASA, the space agency. He fought for the idea that the only way that Americans could reach the moon by 1970 (the goal set by President Kennedy) was to use a lunar module instead of trying to land the entire mother ship. He was right, but he faced only opposition in the process. He does not come across as a great hero, but his tenacity enabled a successful landing. Ancient Greece’s Most Important Islands by Charles River Editors This book is a history of the various islands in the Mediterranean which were part of the greater Greek world, such as Crete, Rhodes, Sicily, etc. It gives a history of that period when there was the greatest Greek influence (especially in Sicily which at that time and even today is given the title of Magna Grecia, Greater Greece). The account is well written, although it emphasizes the warfare aspect above all other details of their culture and history. San Francisco is Burning by Dennis Smith This is an account of the famous San Francisco earthquake and especially of the conflagration that followed it. It deals with the politics of the response, and especially of the actions (and failures) of many of the critical figures in the attempt to fight the fires. The army general in the area, General Funston, took control of the situation, but his orders were at times capricious and even dangerous. There were many innocent people shot as looters at this time, and many buildings lost because soldiers decided to evacuate unwilling residents. Gettysburg by Stephen Sears This is a thorough account of the battle of Gettysburg. It deals mostly with the movements and successes and failures of various brigades and divisions. It also tries to enter into the minds of the two combatting generals, Lee and Meade. This battle could rightly be said to be the worst defeat of the South under Lee, and the worst days of general service by Lee. At the end of the account is a good historic overview of the importance of the battle and its aftermath. Brunelleschi’s Dome by Ross King The beautiful dome over the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Flowers in Florence is a masterpiece of the early renaissance in Italy. This book by Ross King (who is a very good author, especially on art) speaks about how the Florentines were able to construct this dome without the use of interior supports during the construction process (which had been used on all other domes made in this era). The process is described in details, especially the rivalry among the various architects and artists involved in the process (as well as the political events during the construction which greatly influenced the history of Florence). The book is very well done. The Man who Haunted Himself by Ishmael Reed This is a novella of an African American scientist who realizes he is dying, and who has his brain transplanted into a young white high school athlete (without permission or the knowledge of the young man’s family). It deals with the confusion of trying to fit into a family whose father is somewhat racist. The book is well done, at least to the end when the author produces an ending too much like a fairy tale (and they lived happily ever after). John F. Kennedy by Hourly History This is a short biography of JFK, dealing with his father and his expectations, his political career, his marriage to Jackie, and of course his assassination. It does not go into depth with anything, but provides a good outline. The Battle of Lookout Mountain by Charles River Editors This is the story of how the Federal forces defeated the rebel forces at Chattanooga during the civil war under General Grant. The rebels had blockaded the federals in the city, and Grant first of all broke the blockade, and he then attacked the forces on the mountains to the south of the city. He originally intended this to be a minor attack, but it met with incredible success, largely due to the fault of the Confederate General in charge. Inca Lands by Hiram Bingham This is a book written about an exploration of the Inca territory at the beginning of the 20th century. It is dated, but it does provide an entertaining travel account. The most important detail is that Bingham discovered the ruins of Machu Pichu which probably served as the royal court for the Incas after the conquests of Pizzaro and before the Incas were finally defeated. The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaur by Steve Brusatte This is a very entertaining book by a paleontologist concerning the history of dinosaurs, told especially from the point of view of archeological discoveries around the world. Brusatte presents a very personal account, presenting many of the people involved in this field. It is half travelogue, half scientific explanation. You are all in my prayers. Merry Christmas fr. Jude


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