14 July 2000
No aurora to be seen. One green firefly, one near-full moon, and a sky full of interesting clouds slipping about among the stars. Beautiful night.
This week I'm on the learning curve-- and it's a steep one this time. I love learning, but I really, really, really hate the feeling of being profoundly stupid that is the precursor of the acquisition of the knowledge. Really. I've been feeling stupid all week. Computers. Pfui.
And to add to it, I'm on the T'ai Chi learning curve, too. I know all 24 forms now, but, of course, I perform them badly-- no, that's not true. I perform them as a beginner does. Badly, but only by reason of being a beginner. Now that I have the idea of the forms, though, I have to work on the execution-- the practice. And that means the instructor is going to correct me. And he does. And that means I feel stupid. (But I still really, really enjoy T'ai Chi.)
I escape to books. Jim Muldoon at the JCB Library has lent me his book Canon Law, the Expansion of Europe, and World Order. I can hear you now: Oh - my - god...! Well, too bad for you, it's pretty darned interesting. And Jim is a good writer-- talks exactly the same as he writes. Lucidly. Amazing. He's a Medievalist, expert on Ecclesiastical Law of all things-- the footnotes in his book are going to give me a run for my money, though. At least half of them are in Latin with no translation. (Why would anyone who doesn't speak Latin want to read this book, anyway?) But, the ideas are worth pursuing. For instance, on page 2:
"As for the sophistication of medieval political thought, the failure of scholars to analyze medieval political thought on its own terms has led to a failure to appreciate the contributions of medieval thinkers, especially lawyers, to political thought. Gaines Post rightly observed that 'one of the principal errors of modern scholarship on medieval law and institutions has been that of interpreting in accordance with contemporary notions'."
Ain't that the truth! I don't know how many times I've argued with my old Professor about the interpretation of Shakespeare's plays, expecially Romeo and Juliet (That's the final avatar of Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter, to you pop-culture buffs.). Dave, my Professor, would have it that Mr. Capulet was a tyrannical SOB, and Mrs. Capulet was a cold, unfeeling woman who didn't give a fardle for her daughter, Juliet. I argued that, in the context of the time, Mr. and Mrs. C. were doing the very best they could for their daughter, and themselves, by arranging an advantageous, high-profile marriage-- in effect, setting her up in clover for life. Further, Mrs. C., even though she might be in sympathy with her daughter's wishes, in context of the times, she wouldn't dare argue with Mr. Capulet for fear that, had she opposed him, she could have been "put away" in a tower somewhere for the rest of her natural life, or perhaps even killed. And I'm sure that, in those times, neither of Juliet's parents could fathom her opposition to the scheme-- they must find her behaviour both stupid and ungrateful--
Listen, tell you what you do: read a little history of Shakespeare's times, get a feel for the social and economic climate-- emphasis on the dynamics of personal and family relationships-- then make an effort to forget everything you've ever been told, seen, heard, or read about Romeo and Juliet, then read Romeo and Juliet. Now, if you're like me, and if you don't bring any preconceived notions to the reading (I read it a million years ago before I even knew who or what Shakespeare was), I guarantee you're going to start to suspect you're reading a satire. Really. Try it. See if I'm not right.
Or you could try reading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams and interpreting that. It's an oldy, but a goody. I'm going to bed.
Ma and I watched Dogma last night. Very funny. Ask Ma. She loved it.
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