Finishing up "The Praise of Folly," I have to say that I've read better satires (Swift's "A Modest Proposal" comes to my mind). Now, one or two of you might be saying "But Robert! don't you love everything from this time? How could you dislike something so illustrious from the period? It's Erasmus, for crying out loud!" Well, to you I say THIS: I have two major problems with the work, and I think both have a common ancestor.
First, there are times, mostly in the second half or so of the piece, where Erasmus (as Folly) will get so wrapped up in attacking something that he (Erasmus) disapproves of, that as I was reading it, I was wondering if he had forgotten why he was talking about it in the first place, and kept going just because he was so mad at the topic. I'm thinking primarily of the entire section from pg. 57 onwards, when Folly first begins speaking on theological matters.
Compare the tone of voice near the beginning: "One thing is for sure, without a dash of folly there'd be no fun in it at all. If there's nothing to raise a laugh, in the form of real or simulated foolishness, the revellers will send out to hire a 'comedian' or call for some ridiculous buffoon who by cracking a few jokes and tickling a few funnybones will lift the company out of their morose and dumpish silence."(p. 20)
to her diatribe against professed religious:
"What can be funnier than their habit of doing everything by the book, as if following mathematical rules that it would be a sin to break? ... The greater number of them insist so vehemently on their own ceremonies and petty traditions that they think a single heaven will hardly be adequate reward for such outstanding merit - never imagining that Christ, despising all these observances, will judge by his own standard, which is that of charity."(pp. 62-63)
Where in the beginning Folly is playful, laughingly pointing out our foibles, once she gets into the religious sphere she gets mean, and fast. Which makes sense, because Erasmus was a putative reformer, who did not like monks. As quoted in the Roper essay in the Norton edition, “Monachatus non est pietas” - Monkery is not piety.(p. 274)
Secondly – and this is an issue I have with another satirist, Voltaire – is the fact that Erasmus will sometimes just make stuff up, that I'm pretty sure don't correspond to reality. The first that struck me was the assertion Erasmus makes, speaking for Christ, that he “[spoke] openly and using no intricate parables”.(p. 63) Now correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't the parables one of the defining features of Jesus' ministry in the Gospels? And that even the disciples were confused as to the meaning of them at some points? There was another near the end, but it relies on how people in the Middle Ages interpreted the Mass, so I won't go into it here. But if you're interested, I can find you the article on JSTOR!
What connects these I think is Erasmus' ardor. On these religious topics he's so invested that the referential and playful style of the first half seems to go out the window, replaced with Erasmus wagging his finger at the people he didn't like. And it's that disconnect between the two that I found disappointing.
Running around the internet as I have, I've run across evidence for the actual existence of Hellenic/Roman neo-pagans. As in, worshipers of Zeus/Jupiter, and the rest of those Olympian assholes.
Hard to believe, I know, but here are a few links:
I'm sure if I wanted to actually spend time, I could find more, but you get the idea. Now, you read the "About" section of the Hellenion site, and you'll get some wonderful liberal platitudes such as respect for people without discrimination (forgetting the fact that the Greeks were inveterate discriminators), and a nice, simple moral code based off the aphorisms of Delphi.
Let's take a look at some REAL pagans.
In 363 AD, Julian the Apostate, last pagan Emperor of Rome, and devout devotee to the old rites, went on campaign against the Persians, where he was killed. Here's Theodoret (Ecclesiastical History, Bk. III, ch. 21) with what he did before getting there:
"Julian had left Edessa on his left because it was adorned with the grace of true religion, and while in his vain folly he was journeying through Carræ, he came to the temple honoured by the impious and after going through certain rites with his companions in defilement, he locked and sealed the doors, and stationed sentinels with orders to see that none came in till his return. When news came of his death, and the reign of iniquity was succeeded by one of piety, the shrine was opened, and within was found a proof of the late emperor’s manliness, wisdom, and piety. For there was seen a woman hung up on high by the hairs of her head, and with her hands outstretched. The villain had cut open her belly, and so I suppose learnt from her liver his victory over the Persians.
This was the abomination discovered at Carræ." (emphasis mine)
This was the ancient rite of extispicy, or the reading of the future in entrails. Usually done with animals, sometimes it was performed on women & children of various ages, as this sick episode proves.
I wonder how many "neo-pagans" would practice such magic?
The Beast, known as the First Draft, has been put down for the moment. Now it's time to write a paper on Horatian Odes.
Truly, my excitement strains against my breast.
Billings does not change. It is so static, that when I am here, life feels like it goes into standby mode. I'm awake, I walk around, but I feel like my life is on hold while I'm here. I can't do anything. I came in with this grand plan for getting shit done, and I had some damn momentum getting in, but through a combination of events I've been robbed of all energy. It's damn frustrating, it is. I'm trying to do what I can, but it all feels so useless. I just have to think that in about 4 weeks I'll be gone, back to Minnesota where I need to be. I'll do what I can here, read what I can, write what I can, but I'll only real feel like myself when I'm out of this place.
It's funny, being up here in Maine has really allowed me to take time and take it easy, and I've found that I've been on for so long, that I need to reacquaint myself with just being able to relax, and not having to worry about anything. Granted, I haven't been helping it along, running around trying to get things done, but slowly and surely I am starting to take it easy.
There are certain albums that I have that epitomize the summer months for me. They sound like the season. And this summer I'm going to listen to them while I sit around in Maine, reading War & Peace. It's going to be wonderful. Here's the list off the top of my head
Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon
Genesis - The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
Yes - Tales From Topographic Oceans
Boards of Canada - Acid Memories EP; Twoism EP; Music Has the Right to Children
Smashing Pumpkins - MACHINA/The Machines of God
Something For Kate - Echolalia
Mogwai - Happy Songs For Happy People
Eluvium - Copia
Interpol - Antics
Mark Seymour - Embedded
Goddamn Electric Bill - Swallowed by the Machines
Joanna Newsom - Ys
Blonde Redhead - 23
A Shoreline Dream - Coastal EP
I'm sure there're more, but I can't remember all of them right now. You, dear reader, ought to get these albums by some means available to yourself, and listen along!
Or, the lack of it.
I finished up the last of my classes last Thursday. I am now officially on Easter Break until the beginning of May, which is exams month. Damn near every CSBSJU person is taking this time to hit up Europe, and go traveling around in France, Italy, Germany, etc. I'm not going to be following them.
I think it shows a lack of understanding in why these folks came here this semester. If you're going to use Ireland as a kind of airstrip to see the rest of Europe, why study here in Cork? Why not do the semester in Spain, or France, or Austria? It doesn't make any sense.
I came on this program because I wanted to spend time in Ireland. 5 months isn't long at all, but I felt it would be enough to maybe get a feel for the country. Now I realize that 5 months isn't enough to get a feel for my apartment complex, let alone the city, never even minding the rest of the island.
So for this break, I will be seeing a few key places: the Aran Islands, Croagh Padraig, stuff connected to me family, a few others. But I have come to the understanding that even if I spent my whole time in Cork, I wouldn't feel as if I missed out on anything. There's enough to learn just by being here and being open to the city, listening to it and the people who live here. I know I can't see all of Ireland, so I'm not even going to try and see all of it. If I can see a few places important to me, then I can consider myself having done what travel I needed to.
Cork is that cool of a city.
It's getting a little frustrating, having to say "I would be there, if I wasn't in another country right now." Because frankly, I would! I would love to go see your play on campus, I would love to come visit you at the coffee shop, I would love to hang out, I would love to be a part of your life! It's a stupid thing to worry about, but when I get back next fall, there's going to be a disconnect between me and the folks who stayed on campus all year, or who studied abroad in the fall, and it's going to be a disconnect built out of small, day to day experiences that you wouldn't think of telling other people because come on! They're shit that happens every day, tiny little things, why would you talk about them? Except that those are what shared experiences are! Waiting in the bus until it's your turn to get up, saying "thank god it's getting warmer!" the tiny things, the insignificant things, those make up a life in a certain place, and I will have a radically different one from other folks. This is not an apocalyptic "OH NO," no, this is rather a realization that I'm going to just have to spend some time with my friends, physical time in a physical space, so we can sort of rebuild those small shared experiences. Going to Brother Willie's pub, going to an ASC show, going to the library to 'study', it's the small things that matter. And it's the small things I miss about folks back home. So yes, when I get back, I WILL visit you at the coffee shop, I WILL go see your play, I WILL hang out at your apartment and drink closet wine, because I'll BE THERE.
I may have had half a bottle of mead this evening, please don't hold it against me.
Just finished "For Whom the Bell Tolls" by Hemingway this afternoon. Like all the rest of his stories and novels, it ends with a nice swift kick to your balls. Emotionally, that is. I'd be a little more surprised if an actual foot grew out of the book and kicked me.
Anyway, I think it may be my favorite Hemingway novel now. The writing is excellent, and although it's a pretty decent size, it keeps the pace swift and consistently. The dialogue as well is amazing, and each character has a unique way of speaking and thinking. God damn, it's just so good. Go, pick up and read! Tolle, lege!