Showing posts from September, 2011

Medieval Prudery

"Duke: I do not venture to inquire any further about sexual intercourse because the subject is not quite decent, but ask instead that you proceed to the other topics. "Philosopher: Nothing that is natural is indecent: for it is a gift of the Creator.  However, because our hypocrites, more in abhorrence of the name than of the thing itself, avoid talking of such things, we should leave the subject for the time being and discuss conception." --William of Conches (d. after 1154), A Dialogue on Natural Philosophy (Dragmaticon Philosophiae) , trans. by Italo Ronca and Matthew Curr (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1997), book VI, part two, chap. 8, p. 138.* *More notes from my reading, here something I learned this morning while trying to make sense of John of Garland's description of the generation of Mary's body in her mother's womb.

On believing oneself free of beliefs

"Since beliefs are largely unconscious and are not simply derived from experience, and since clearly, at least for most people, beliefs change, the question arises, how do they change?  This is too complicated a question to address, because the factors that create change are too numerous and because the possibility of change cannot itself be divorced from beliefs about change.  Moreover, it is difficult to distinguish change in belief from modification or refinement of belief or from simple exchange by which a person's present beliefs are inversions of former beliefs now rejected, as is so often true of atheistic beliefs.  Finally, it is as much to be expected that a person will become more entrenched in beliefs when they become conscious as that the person will reject them.  I would say that in our culture beliefs change primarily because of the lingering notion that to have them is to be unenlightened and that full enfranchisement in the culture is tied to dissolving them. 


And to think I would want to live anywhere else .

The Aim of (Christian) Education

"The key to a Christian conception of studies is the realization that prayer consists of attention .  It is the orientation of all the attention of which the soul is capable toward God.  The quality of attention counts for much in the quality of prayer.  Warmth of heart cannot make up for it. "The highest part of the attention only makes contact with God, when prayer is intense and pure enough for such a contact to be established; but the whole attention is turned toward God. "Of course school exercises only develop a lower kind of attention.  Nevertheless, they are extremely effective in increasing the power of attention that will be available at the time of prayer, on condition that they are carried out with a view to this purpose and this purpose alone. "Although people seem to be unaware of it today, the development of the faculty of attention forms the real object and almost the sole interest of studies .  Most school tasks have a certain intrinsic intere

1 Corinthians 13:11

Food  I used to believe that if I were thin, I would be loved, indeed, that being loved depended on my being thin .  Now, thanks to a month's-plus worth of reading Geneen Roth , I appreciate that this is not the case.  Being lovable has nothing to do with the size of my thighs or the strength of my appetite.  What I eat and how much and when is nobody's business but my own; likewise, my weight.  I will never please those who would judge me on this basis, particularly the members of my family who made it their business to comment on my weight when I was growing up .  Further, their need to comment on my weight and eating is their problem, not mine.  It is an expression of anxieties that they have about themselves and, as such, has almost next to nothing to do with me.  It is, therefore, not my responsibility even as their relative to respond in any way to such comments, either to correct them or, even worse, to apologize for being myself.  I am fully lovable whatever size I am.

The Courage to Feel

"The 'Zone' is that all-is-right-with-the-world feeling sought by the athlete on game day.  Like most things sublime, it is uncommon and elusive.  Its mystery and rewards come to those who diligently seek moments of near perfection through the daily grind of training.  If the zone is like the view of the victor from Mt. Olympus, then training is like the life of the soldier in the trenches.... "Striving to reach beyond one's limits, in sport and in life, does not come without some measure of personal suffering.  Thus the premium placed on toughness--the ability to get mind and body through the crush of chaos and uncertainty that is endemic to the competitive environment.  While not conspicuous in day-to-day behavior, tenderness is an implicit element in sport culture, a counterpoint to the denial of emotion that is inherent in toughness.  It is the moment of greatest threat and tension that gives way to the strongest emotion, be it the unbridled joy of the victo

On training the falcon-heart not to bate

We call it bating when the falcon, held by the jesses on the hand or perch, attempts to fly off .  This occurs most frequently in unseeled falcons held on the hand and indoors during the period of their wildness....  As some forms of bating are more serious than others, let us see which is the least harmful; for although we cannot altogether prevent the falcon from flying off the hand, we can train her to choose the least injurious acts....  In all cases of bating the falconer must use every effort to replace the falcon as quickly as possible in her normal position, for the longer she is pendant [on her jesses] the greater is the risk of serious injury.... Inasmuch as a falcon that is securely held on the fist or tied to a perch will not remain quiet under all conditions, especially while still in the wild state, it is good policy to accustom her to that form of bating that will do her least harm, viz., that which takes an upward direction toward the falconer's face.  With thi

Sortes Antoniae

"All human beings tell their life-stories to themselves, selecting and reinforcing certain memories, casting others into oblivion.  All human beings are interested in causation.  'Because I had a good Latin teacher, who caught my mind with incantatory grammar, I became a theologian, and because I chose Latin, I put aside the sciences of earth, flesh, and space.'  All human beings are interested in pure coincidence, which can act in life as surely as causation, and appear to resemble that, as though both were equally the effects of a divine putting-on.  Most of us know the flutter of the heart which comes when, out of a whole library, we put a random hand on the one necessary book , and--unerringly we should say, but what does that mean ?--open it, at the one necessary page .  In the Arabian Nights , it has been said, a man has his Destiny written on his forehead, and his character, his nature, is that Destiny and nothing else." --A.S. Byatt, A Whistling Woman (New

How to Eat Like a Bird

This is going to be the hard part ....  Particularly since the same thing applies to shopping.  Or reading novels.  Anything that one might do compulsively, in order to avoid feeling those uncomfortable feelings .  AWK!!!

Prayers of the People

St. Paul & the Redeemer Episcopal Church Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost Year A, Proper 19, RCL Genesis 50:15-21 Psalm 103:8-13 Romans 14:1-12 Matthew 18:21-35 Written by Rachel Fulton Brown Lord, to whom alone all your children are accountable, bless us as we stand before you remembering those who died ten years ago today, those who mourn and those who still hunger for justice to be done.  Teach us to welcome all those who come to us seeking you and to have patience with those who are in our debt, that we may live and die not to ourselves, but to you.  Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer. Lord, bless our nation and all the nations of the world, that we may learn to see your face reflected in both our differences and our similarities.  Teach us to live in harmony with each other, however much our worship of you and our reverence for your creation may differ from one country or culture to the next.  Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer. Lord, bless all those see

A Sobering Thought

"A tendency towards addictive behavior is a personality style.  People with addictive personalities tend to be perfectionist, obsessive, black-and-white thinkers who approach life in an all-or-nothing manner.  Moderation does not come naturally--if a little is good, more must be better.  People with addictive personalities also tend to be escapist, fleeing from discomfort through obsessive distraction or self-medication. "An addictive personality predisposes you to addiction, but it isn't all bad.  Some aspects are quite positive.  Think of all the interesting and talented people in public life who had to deal with alcohol or drug problems at some point.  The same single-minded focus that made them vulnerable to addiction contributed to their brilliance and success.  Both are manifestations of the addictive personality style--in one case it works for them, in another against them. " Addictive patterns similar to the diet-binge cycle can appear in many areas of li

Discomfort Zone

I suck.  One of my coaches* has been trying to get me to learn to change lines with my attacks, which means, for the moment, practicing holding my arm and hand in a much higher on guard than I am comfortable with.  It also means, as I learned last night at practice, that I have next to no game left at all.  Which sucks.  I cannot tell you how much. For months, since sometime in February or March , for the first time in my eight years of fencing, I felt like I had a game.  Okay, so not all of my attacks landed in the way that I hoped, but I had learned (finally, finally, finally, thank God!) how to asses what I was doing during a bout, think about the mistakes that I had made, and try something different: change distance, change tempo, feint, set up an attack.  I was fencing , God dammit!  Fencing.  Really and truly fencing.  And, let's not forget, enjoying myself.  It's all gone.  All of it.  I am back in the Pit, staring at frustration and despair.**  Nothing works.  I am

Things that I have learned in the past month or so about my relationship with food

I eat when I'm nervous, especially when I have work that I need to do.  Eating allows me to put off for just a little longer whatever it is I am nervous about, maybe even (if I'm lucky) until it simply goes away.... I eat when I want to read, especially if what I want to read has nothing to do with work .  Eating is important ("You have to eat") unlike reading novels or (heaven forbid) self-help books.  I will, therefore, keep eating (e.g. by having dessert) in order to have more time to read; otherwise, I might have to stop and go back to work. Until very recently, I rarely, if ever, enjoyed my food, whether because I was busy counting calories in my head or because I didn't feel like I was "allowed" to eat--ever. What other people experience as occasions for fun, I have spent the greater part of my life dreading: coffee hour at church, parties with snacks, cookouts, picnics, anything that might offer an opportunity to eat something unusual or unp

The Real Message of Advertising

Women are broken and need fixing; men shave and drink beer.  Hat tip to my husband for the link!* *Um, because he found it, not because he thinks it's true.  Um.  Although, it's true, he is brilliant...  And I could do with something to make my hair look better...and to smooth out these wrinkles...and that other diet/not-diet book looks promising...and that winter coat....

Who am I?

Exercise 1 from Geneen Roth, Why Weight?: A Workbook for Ending Compulsive Eating (1989) Introduction of Rachel Please don’t call me by my full name . I don’t like that. I don’t even really like my full name. “Lee” isn’t mine, it belongs to my father and siblings, it says nothing about me except that I am not myself, not unique, just one of a set. “Fulton” I hate because my dad left us and then his sisters spent the rest of my life trying to see how much Fulton I and my sibs had in us, even though we barely saw them after we moved away. “Brown” isn’t really mine either; it’s my husband’s name , but I wanted it because it is also my son’s. Sometimes I don’t even like “Rachel” because it was really my grandmother’s name. I am just a counterfeit Rachel, not a real one at all. I am a woman, although sometimes I’m not even sure about that. Women are beautiful and elegant and wear dresses and make-up and spend time fixing their hair. I’m just a lump, fleshy and solid. I am

Why Study the Past

So that we neither idolize it nor demonize it, neither expect it to provide all the answers (as in the Renaissance), nor blame it for all of the things that we see wrong about our own day (as in the Reformation).  There was never a Golden Age in which everything was idyllic or perfect; there has never been a Turning Point after everything went wrong (or right).  The past has always been just like the present, mixed up, contrary, the best of times and the worst of times all at the same time.  Traditions have always been both good and bad, institutions have always been subject to innovation and change.  There have always been people eager to take advantage of others; there have always been people willing to help.  It does no good, therefore, to pretend that we who are alive now are either better or worse, wiser or more corrupt, more or less virtuous or vicious than those who have come before us.  If we are wise, we will learn from them; such is the gift of civilization and the purpose of

Lost in the Crowd

After the (relative, material rather than spiritual) poverty, almost the first thing that anyone (that is, anyone from the States) who travels to India mentions is the mind-boggling numbers of people.  Certainly, that is what seems to have most impressed one of my roommates from college when she went there for a year back in the 1980s to study Sanskrit and Urdu.  "People!," she told me on her return, still in shock.  "More people that you can imagine.  Everywhere, all the time, filling the streets, people, people, people."  Other friends who have been there have made similar comments; likewise, medieval European travelers like Marco Polo and John Mandeville (or their informants).  Asia contains more people than you can possibly imagine.  " Where's Waldo ?" has nothing on India.  Or does it?  My brother is there now, experiencing (in his words) the unimaginable assault of the sights , sounds , smells , and tastes of India (I assume he will get to to

Ulmus vitifera

Who knew?  Elms really do support vines ; indeed, it is an ancient metaphor for the union between husband (elm) and wife (vine).  I'm going to pay better attention to the literal sense of what John is saying from now on.

Lesson of the Day

If you need to make a decision, eat something sweet .  The glucose will increase your willpower and help you think better about what you really want/need to do.  Guess what I'm going to do before starting work on today's translation session (a.k.a. making lots and lots and lots of decisions about words)?!