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Errantry: Novak's Journal
...Words to cast/My feelings into sculpted thoughts/To make some wisdom last
Theological Notebook: Leontius of Neapolis' Vision of Creation 
31st-Oct-2007 02:37 pm
Meanwhile at the Watchtower...
Office hours. Wheeeee... I don't know what the deal is: I get semesters where my office hours are like a coffeehouse, with students showing up to hang out and talk class stuff and anything under the sun, and then I get semesters of utter disuse. I would have mostly said that's a spring/fall distinction, respectively, but at least one time I can think of, that was utterly reversed. This is a dead semester: I've had one student come in all semester. No. Two. A one-hundred percent increase from my earlier assessment, but not much better, really.

So chicken noodle soup for a late lunch and reading during office hours today. Check out this gem:
Through heaven and earth and sea, through wood and stone, through relics and church buildings and the Cross, through angels and humans, through all creation visible and invisible, I offer veneration and honour to the Creator and the Master and Maker of all things, and to Him alone. For creation does not venerate the Maker directly and by itself, but it is through me that the heavens declare the glory of God, through me the moon worships God, through me the waters and showers of rain, the dew and all creation, venerate God and give Him glory.
– Leontius of Neapolis, Cyprus, c. 590-650
What a doctrine of Creation is at work there! It's everything the neopagans try to create in making their new religions, but here with the (potential) added benefit of being true (or not), and not merely a subjective, consumerist spirituality. Rahner articulates some of the same ideas, in a much more complicated German spiel, of not allowing the modern, rather gnostic, distinction to be made between humanity and the rest of creation (which one often, curiously, hears in those environmentalists who try to insist there's no distinction between humanity and the other animals). Instead, humanity becomes the voice of the universe: that locus or portion of matter that has attained to Mind and Spirit. How much more integrated a view is that? It's also the strongest metaphysical basis for an environmental ethic I can conceive of....
31st-Oct-2007 08:11 pm (UTC)
Hey, at least you don't have weepers... right?

We discussed epistemology in class today. Oddly, in a class where we're discussing Katharine Hepburn's relationship with Spencer Tracy...
31st-Oct-2007 08:53 pm (UTC)
Weepers, no. You?

How were Kate and Spence the subject of your class?
31st-Oct-2007 08:59 pm (UTC)
Weepers: Not yet, but close... too close. Do you get weepers at all? I get one every few semesters.

We're doing two weeks on biography -- last week on Johnson, this week on Hepburn. Monday was Me, today was Berg's Kate Remembered, and Friday is the recent one that says that Hepburn made up the whole Tracy/Hepburn thing, or was in a beard relationship with Tracy, or some such.

So my students started the week by saying Great Kate was ... well, they were not exactly complimentary. Today the word was "codependent" in my morning class... my afternoon class (the one that went into epistemology) was all, "oh, what does it matter? we'll never know for sure about anything"...

31st-Oct-2007 09:14 pm (UTC)
No. No weepers, ever. Are they weepers or do you just reduce your students to tears? This is now the awful question I'm considering....

Poor Kate. But then, I'm sure she's long used to her name being kicked around.... I remember reading this part of your syllabus, now that you've described it.

Yeah, it can be a real curveball when you have two classes go in such distinct directions, especially if you weren't foreseeing some particular possibility. I trust you did not let the second classes cheap relativism go unchallenged? Have you had a class struggle with any such challenge to "what everybody knows... (...to be true, except that there is no truth...)"?
31st-Oct-2007 09:19 pm (UTC)
Are they weepers or do you just reduce your students to tears? This is now the awful question I'm considering....

What do you think? :)

I trust you did not let the second classes cheap relativism go unchallenged?

Of course I didn't. I ended class with a reminder that we can't just leave questions of belief up in the air, because there are consequences for beliefs. I may have gotten a tad political -- not in the sense of one side or another, but in the sense of reminding them it's a battle of ideologies out there, and even though it's hard to figure out what to believe and what we know, we have to try.

Have you had a class struggle with any such challenge to "what everybody knows... (...to be true, except that there is no truth...)"?

Basically every day, Mike.
31st-Oct-2007 09:30 pm (UTC)
Do you get much positive response – students liberal enough to challenge even their own fundamental assumptions?

One angle that seems to work for me in getting kids to consider such possiblities, in a simple move back to very elementary philosophy, is that while they'll deny the very possibility of Truth if they're really infected with Modernity's relativism, and particularly ethical norms (at least "personal" ones), they nevertheless have been taught to be very ethical and activist in other arenas. Obviously this is part of the internal conflict of Modernity. But I find I can build on that, and that they will very much perk up when I point out that any ethics is built on a metaphysics – that you cannot get to what we ought to do until you determine what do you believe to be true – and that therefore the questions about the truth of any given worldview is a vital one. That seems to break through to some of them.

I also seem to get some mileage out of pointing out that it's contradictory to deny there's any Truth in the ethical/metaphysical level, but to insist on the existence of Truth on the physical level, as they all believe in light bulbs. The Enlightenment's hostility to Christianity notwithstanding, that's where I see the increasing alliance growing between Christianity and the physical sciences: they both affirm the truth of an objective order to reality – of Logos – over and against Modern and Post-Modern philosophy. (This is not to deny that there are real insights in both Modernity and Post-Modernity, but that they cannot be absolutized, like people are tending to do with PoMo's "observer" or "metanarrative" principles.)
31st-Oct-2007 09:33 pm (UTC)
You would use that icon, Novak.

Which is not to say I disagree with anything you've put down here.
31st-Oct-2007 09:35 pm (UTC)
What's wrong with my icon?! I like having an icon apropos to such a subject!
31st-Oct-2007 09:38 pm (UTC)
Knee-jerk guilt -- or a shadow thereof.
31st-Oct-2007 09:42 pm (UTC)
You have out-Freuded me: I'm so obstructed, I cannot even conceive of what it is that you might be perceiving or alluding to, here. Or if there's a good joke in here, I'm afraid I'm so lame that I missed it entirely! :-(
31st-Oct-2007 09:45 pm (UTC)
I'm really not that deep, Mike -- I merely meant it reminded me of the ND conference, which if I'd gone to I'd've met a woman I need to talk to about Richardsonian hoo-dah.
31st-Oct-2007 09:51 pm (UTC)

And I just had to cancel on this year's conference for me. My unexpected $1000 dental bill really ate (ouch – sorry, I didn't intend that one!) into my travel budget for the rest of the year.
31st-Oct-2007 09:56 pm (UTC)
Oh God, travel costs... I'm scrambling to hit Portland and Toronto this spring, thanking my lucky stars that the other two conferences I go to are driveable (and that D is willing to drive!)

Then hopefully a month in Montreal this summer as the dissertation wanderjar begins... *hides*
31st-Oct-2007 08:28 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this! It's beautiful -- and on topic, as I'm currently writing a paper about 7th century holy men.
31st-Oct-2007 08:54 pm (UTC)
Boom! Very on topic! What's the assignment/for what class? And ouch – now I'm back home and I don't have the actual citation in front of me....
1st-Nov-2007 03:42 am (UTC)
It's actually a book review/critical review of Peter Brown's Society and the Holy, which is really just a collection of essays centered around his The Rise and Function of the Holy Man in Late Antiquity. For my Early Middle Ages class.

That's okay! Since it's based on the book and reactions to it, I don't need the citation -- but it'd be great to get it nonetheless! I Googled him just now trying to find more of his work (only found Symeon the Holy Fool, is this from that?), and I've been meaning to ask you, do you happen to know where I might be able to find sermons by Anthony of Padua? Online? Or in a book? In English? lol
3rd-Nov-2007 04:03 am (UTC)
Very cool: sounds like a great reading list/set of topics to go through. And, no, sorry, I still don't have the reference: I got it through the Department Chair, and with the week already finished....
3rd-Nov-2007 04:05 am (UTC)
Oh, and no: I don't know Anthony of Padua stuff at all. I'd just start searching Amazon....
1st-Nov-2007 04:14 pm (UTC)
That post works in so many ways. Gem, indeed!

That blew my mind. Consider that office hour extremely beneficial to at least one person.
3rd-Nov-2007 04:06 am (UTC)
Yay! I'm glad that worked out: and that you made me think of it in terms of a "successful office hours," which ideas I wouldn't have put together! :-)
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