|Pieter Bruegel, The Hunters in the Snow - Kunsthistorisches Museum - Vienna|
Announced by all the trumpets of the sky
Just a quick Hello to everyone! I’m sure you’ll enjoy the above beautiful poem.
P.S. Light blogging until January 10, 2012
|Pieter Bruegel, The Hunters in the Snow - Kunsthistorisches Museum - Vienna|
|Gentile da Fabriano, Pala dell'Adorazione dei Magi (part. Natività)|
Uffizi Gallery - Florence
This is more an Easter story than a Christmas story, but then again, as the French saying goes, “tout se tient” (“to some degree everything is connected to everything else”), and that’s one more reason why we need to pay attention to it, rather than pretend nothing happened, as the mainstream media seem to be doing. Unfortunately for them, though, there is someone who doesn’t observe the rule of silence:
The image on the Turin Shroud could not be the work of medieval forgers but was instead caused by a supernatural “flash of light”, according to scientists.
Italian scientists have found evidence that casts doubt on claims that the relic - said to be the burial cloth of Jesus - is a fake and they suggest that it could, after all, be authentic.
Skeptics have long argued that the shroud, a rectangular sheet measuring about 14ft by 3ft, is a forgery dating to medieval times.
Researchers from Italy’s National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development spent years trying to replicate the shroud’s markings.
They have concluded only something akin to ultraviolet lasers - far beyond the capability of medieval forgers - could have created them.
This has led to fresh suggestions that the imprint was indeed created by a huge burst of energy accompanying the Resurrection of Christ.
“The results show a short and intense burst of UV directional radiation can colour a linen cloth so as to reproduce many of the peculiar characteristics of the body image on the Shroud of Turin,” the scientists said.
The image of the bearded man on the shroud must therefore have been created by “some form electromagnetic energy (such as a flash of light at short wavelength)”, their report concludes. But it stops short of offering a non-scientific explanation. Professor Paolo Di Lazzaro, who led the study, said: “When one talks about a flash of light being able to colour a piece of linen in the same way as the shroud, discussion inevitably touches on things such as miracles.
“But as scientists, we were concerned only with verifiable scientific processes. We hope our results can open up a philosophical and theological debate.”
|Duccio di Buoninsegna, The Nativity with the Prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel|
National Gallery of Art - Washington
This is because a 1795 performance of the hymn by Samuel Webbe was first heard by the Duke of Leeds at the chapel of the Portuguese embassy in London, one of the few strongholds of Catholic culture in the country at that time. The Duke was so impressed that he commissioned a fuller arrangement by Thomas Greatorex. This arrangement was performed at a "Concert of Ancient Music" (a.k.a. the Ancient Concerts) on May 10, 1797. According to Vincent Novello, the hymn was identified as "The Portuguese Hymn" since the Duke erroneously assumed that Portugal was source (Novello also wrote a popular arrangement).3 Soon the carol became very popular throughout England, Europe, and the United States.
|Giotto, La Natività (The Birth of Christ) - Assisi Lower Basilica|
|Candles illuminate a portrait of former Czech President Vaclav Havel|
Prague - December 19, 2011 (AFP PHOTO/ STR)
Western governments, he said, are organized on a flawed premise not far removed from the Soviet system that had just collapsed. "The modern era has been dominated by the culminating belief," he said, "that the world ... is a wholly knowable system governed by finite number of universal laws that man can grasp and rationally direct ... objectively describing, explaining, and controlling everything."
These bureaucratic structures are profoundly dehumanizing, Havel believed, striving to control choices that should be left to human judgment and values. This "era of systems, institutions, mechanisms and statistical averages" is doomed to failure because "there is too much to know" and it cannot "be fully grasped." The drive towards standardization is fatally flawed, Havel believed: "life is nonstandard."
[A] Protestant theologian, the Waldensian Fulvio Ferrario, which is striking not only for the rare clarity and richness of its exposition and its narrative efficacy, but also for the prominence given to some great theologians who are, among non-Catholics, precisely those closest to the vision and sensibility of the current pope, himself a theologian.
I have one consistency, which is [being] against the totalitarian - on the left and on the right. The totalitarian, to me, is the enemy - the one that's absolute, the one that wants control over the inside of your head, not just your actions and your taxes. And the origins of that are theocratic, obviously. The beginning of that is the idea that there is a supreme leader, or infallible pope, or a chief rabbi, or whatever, who can ventriloquise the divine and tell us what to do.
That has secular forms, with gurus and dictators, of course, but it's essentially the same. There have been some thinkers - Orwell is pre-eminent - who understood that, unfortunately, there is innate in humans a strong tendency to worship, to become abject. So we're not just fighting the dictators. We're criticising our fellow humans for trying to short-cut, to make their lives simpler, by surrendering and saying, "[If] you offer me bliss, of course I'm going to give up some of my mental freedom for that." We say it's a false bargain: you'll get nothing. You're a fool.
| Friedrich Overbeck, "Italy and Germany"|
Neue Pinakothek - München
Frances Chesterton (1869-1938) was married for 35 years to G.K. Chesterton. Here is a Picture Album tribute to her (by the American Chesterton Society):
According to Scientific American’s Kelly Oakes, the Higgs boson is the smallest part of the Higgs field, which physicists believe gives all matter the property of mass. Translated and oversimplified, that means that nothing would have weight without the Higgs field. For academics, finding the particle would complete a puzzle about the universe that’s been bugging them for decades.
Honestly, very little, said University of Maryland physics department chairman Drew Baden. It is “merely a look-see as to where the experiments are in looking for new particles, not seen since the first trillionth of a second after the big bang,” he said.
But Baden said that the technology that CERN developed for its research has spun off other valuable advances.
“Much of the progress in accelerators comes out of this kind of basic research,” he said in an e-mail, pointing to technology used in food radiation and cancer therapy. People are now working on laser-powered accelerators, he said, and future applications of that work could create sci-fi-like particle beams.
This is the time of year when most of us celebrate God, Love, Family, Sharing and Giving. It’s also the time of year when Atheists and Bigots celebrate Intolerance and Hate. To do that, there have to be a lot of lies. The one that is gaining momentum is Santa Claus…
|Elsa Fornero's crying|
If any reminder was needed that the fate of Italy lies outside the country, it was Prime Minister Mario Monti's decision to hold a highly unusual separate news conference for foreign reporters on Monday to explain his economic programme.
Monti, the respected head of a technocrat "Save Italy" government, impressed investors with a 30-billion euro package of painful and rigorous austerity measures unveiled on Sunday.
Italian bond yields, which had flirted last week with eye-popping rates above 7 percent, dropped back almost a full percentage point on Monday.
But it was difficult to separate the impact of Monti's measures from a broader mood of optimism that euro zone leaders may finally have summoned enough resolve to provide a concerted plan to restore investor confidence in the euro at a summit at the end of this week.
All along, much of Italy's fate has remained outside the control of Monti despite the sighs of relief that met his appointment last month after mounting exasperation over the antics of his billionaire predecessor Silvio Berlusconi.
So Monti's decision to hold a long and detailed news conference on Monday for the foreign press before he presents his measures to parliament was astute.
He knows they play a vital role in the crucial foreign perception of whether Italy can fight the two-headed dragon of huge debt and a decade of almost stationary growth.
In a clear drive to win over the foreign reporters, Monti said he had brought forward his cabinet meeting by a day specifically so he could talk to the foreign media on Monday before going before parliament.
He also emphasised that he was speaking to them before his scheduled appearance on Tuesday night on one of Italy's most watched television programmes to explain his austerity package to the nation.
In Monday's news conference, Monti said his government intended to set up special structures for dealing with foreign journalists, who have been deeply frustrated for decades by the reluctance of Italian officials to give out information.
Official spokesmen are reluctant to be quoted in anything but the vaguest terms, even when the inquiry is mundane.
Whatever the new prime minister's motives, his change of style compared with the scandal-plagued and flamboyant Berlusconi was clearly appreciated.
Some members of the foreign press, many of whom felt ignored by Berlusconi and reciprocated with scathing coverage, were so happy to have a prime minister visit their association in Rome that they broke into respectful applause when Monti entered and left the room.
While reading Mitt Romney’s No Apology: The Case for American Greatness a few days ago—a very interesting read by the way—I came upon this passage:
During my tenure as governor of Massachusetts, I had the opportunity to join a small group of people in meeting Shimon Peres, Israel’s former prime minister and current president. In casual conversation, someone asked him what he thought about the ongoing conflict in Iraq. Given his American audience, I expected him to respond diplomatically but with a degree of criticism. But what he said caught me very much by surprise.
“First I must put something in context,” he began. “America is unique in the history of the world. In the history of the world, whenever there has been war, the nation that is victorious has taken land from the nation that has been defeated – land has always been the basis of wealth on our planet. Only one nation in history, and this during the last century, was willing to lay down hundreds of thousands of lives and take no land in its victory – no land from Germany, no land from Japan. America. America is unique in the history of the world for its willingness to sacrifice so many of its precious sons and daughters for liberty, not solely for itself but also for its friends.”
Everyone in the room was silent for a moment, and no one pressed him further on his opinion about Iraq. I was deeply moved. And I was reminded of former secretary of state Colin Powell’s observation that the only land America took after World War II was what was needed to bury our dead.
Are we to assume that there will be guidelines set on which eyes are deemed the most alluring? And will the thousands employed by the committee to ensure Islamic laws are upheld get the job of deciding which eyes are sexy and which aren’t?
It could lead to all sorts of trouble, this. Those poor men landed with the job of gazing into all those sexy, lash-framed pools; how will they stop themselves from being overcome with lust?
And what about the poor women whose eyes aren’t deemed sexy? They could be well offended.
Can’t they see that the only reason eyes become extra seductive is because everything else is covered up?
If Saudi men cannot resist a pretty pair of eyes, why don’t they get the veils?
|Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Allegory of Good Government|
Palazzo Pubblico, Siena (click to enlarge)
“You can be sitting quietly in a chair and suffer an attack of wonder, simply because you are alive.”
An imaginary monologue in the voice of G.K. Chesterton, in which a Catholic priest of these times, Michael Paul Gallagher SJ, tries to capture aspects of Chesterton’s vision which can help us revive our language of religious wonder for Advent. A short excerpt:
In short my life has been a mystery-story, blessed with gratitude in spite of sorrow and with joy in spite of sin. Existence has remained such a strangeness opening me to the only One who can work such a miracle. So I have tried to live a simple religion of gratitude, but this gratitude needed a theology to ground it. It needed a tradition to go beyond a vague sense of purpose and presence. And so I found my own mystical, imaginative hunches confirmed in Christianity and Catholicism. The Church dared to go down with me into the depths of myself, healing my self-hurts with absolution and restoring me to joy, a joy that stays in touch with reality and with responsibility. Here in Christ is God’s answer to the riddle of the universe, the perfect fit for the human heart, swinging as it does like a pendulum between guilt and glory.
‘The less a man thinks of himself, the more he thinks of his good luck and of all the gifts of God.’ I am a large man, but thank God I have felt happily too small for life, for the life that wells up into eternity. ‘I have experienced the mere excitement of existence in places that would commonly be called as dull as ditchwater. And, by the way, is ditchwater dull? Naturalists with microscopes have told me that it teems with quiet fun.’
Rick Perry interviewed by Sean Hannity (November 16, 2011). A video with other videos inside it:
SCOTT PELLEY, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: Governor Perry, you advocate the elimination of the Department of Energy. If you eliminate the Department of Energy --
PERRY: Glad you remembered it. (APPLAUSE)
PELLEY: I have had some time to think about it, sir.
PERRY: Me too. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
In a mini-documentary from the Center for Freedom and Prosperity Foundation a student at the University of Milan speaks about her country’s economic troubles and explains how many European welfare states have been caught in a downward spiral of taxes, spending, and debt. Key lessons for policymakers seeking to avoid the inevitable fiscal crisis caused by the welfare state.
“So what is it about history that grabs you?” I ask.
“I’m fascinated by people,” Bush says, “and a lot of history is the study of individuals making a difference. … I haven’t really sat and tried to figure out why I was interested. All I can tell you is I have been for a long period of time.”
“When I got elected governor and president, history gave me a chance to study the decisions of my predecessors,” Bush says. As governor, he read The Raven, by Marquis James, a biography of Sam Houston, the father of Texas statehood. “I was fascinated by the story of Houston voting against secession, and reading a description of him basically being driven out of town by angry citizens. … My only point is that one lesson I learned, if they’re throwing garbage on Houston, arguably Texas’s most famous politician—Sam Houston Elementary School, where I went to school in Midland, was named for him!—if they’re throwing garbage on him, they can throw garbage on me.”
Bush remained calm and confident during his tumultuous presidency. Critics saw him as delusional; defenders saw him as self-assured. Bush believes that one of the most important stage requirements of the presidency is indeed never to signal weakness or self-doubt or confusion: “One of the things you learn about great leaders is that they never project the burdens of responsibility on others.” He remembers Richard Carwardine’s Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power (one of 14 Lincoln biographies Bush read while he was president), which recounts the 16th president’s perseverance through not only military defeat after defeat, stupefying troop casualties, and public ridicule, but also the death of his son Willie and the debilitating emotional turmoil of his wife.
“You’re not the only person that’s ever gone through hard things,” Bush says of the lessons he has learned from history. “In other words, can you imagine the signal I would have sent had I said, ‘Ah, why me? Why am I thrust in the middle of all this stuff?’ And they had kids on the front line of combat who were actually having to do all the work.”
“You faced some vicious personal attacks,” I say.
“I did. But so did Abraham Lincoln.” He recalls opening the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois. “There’s an exhibit, and the voices of opposition to Lincoln were being played. I said, ‘Wow!’ This guy, America’s—remember now, I got Lincoln’s portrait on the wall at the White House and I got a bust of Lincoln—and I hear the people calling him a baboon, just vicious.”
“Willingness to stand on principle, the notion that public opinion changes back and forth and that you shouldn’t chase public opinion. … Lincoln had a set of principles that were important to him. ‘All men are created equal under God’ is the ultimate. It’s the ultimate principle for America’s freedom. … But Lincoln acted on it in a difficult political environment. People forget that he was in a very tough reelection campaign, and it wasn’t until Sherman makes it to Atlanta that his prospects brightened. Secondly, Lincoln had a strategic vision for the country. One of the great presidential decisions ever was to keep the country intact. … The question oftentimes in history is what would have happened if a different decision were made. We’d have been Europe.”
“One of them was ‘freedom is universal,’ which was unbelievably controversial for a period of time during my presidency, which, frankly, astonished me, given my reading of history.” He paraphrases his Second Inaugural: “We’ll resist tyranny at all times, all places, basically. Well, to me, you could say that was inspired by Lincoln. … Based upon the principle that deep in everybody’s soul is the desire to be free. And what’s interesting is, it’s playing out right now,” he says, referring to the populist uprisings in the Middle East.
“Some people walk up and say, ‘Oh, man, history is going to judge you well.’ And my quip is, ‘I’m not going to be around to see it.’ And to me, that’s one of the most important lessons you learn through history—you’re just not gonna be around to see it. … I’m confident of this: that those conclusions will be more objective with time than they could conceivably be now.”
|Italy's new government|
|Mario Monti and Italy's head of state Giorgio Napolitano|
After the approval of this finance law, which has amendments for everything which Europe has asked of us and which the Eurogroup has requested, I will resign, to allow the head of state to open consultations.
In the Senate, the center-right still has a good majority. However with the defection of seven members of the ruling majority today, the government does not have the majority we thought we had and so we have to take account of this situation realistically.
The Metaphysical Peregrine