Friday, June 22, 2007

Unfortunate Collocation

Out on the web tonight, I catch out of the corner of my eye a line of icons for social networks. They were, in order, Facebook, YouTube, and Flickr. Unfortunately, the icons all ran together into something I think I may have shouted at TV sets that were going dead in past decades.

I've clipped a screenshot. See for yourself.

Cicero on Blogging

...mandare quemquam litteris cogitationes suas, qui eas nec disponere nec inlustrare possit nec delectatione aliqua allicere lectorem, hominis est intemperanter abutentis et otio et litteris.

...for someone to entrust their thoughts to writing, someone who can neither order nor clarify their thoughts nor win over a reader with some kind of pleasure, this is the mark of a person who flagrantly abuses both leisure and writing.

Tusculanae Disputationes 1 III 6

Classics and Anthropology

The journal Arion might better be entitled Phoenix. It has risen from the ashes twice. But the name Phoenix is already taken by a different journal of classics. So now Arion carries on more than a decade into its third incarnation under the name of a poet who miraculously evaded death, rather than under a name of resurrection. So be it.

Arion’s first piece of Advice to Prospective Contributors includes the lines, “If you propose submitting a paper that has been rejected by one of the professional journals, we urge you to rewrite it. The fact that it wasn’t quite dull enough to be accepted there doesn’t mean that it is lively enough for Arion.” If you’re interested in Classical Antiquities and prefer a livelier read, Arion might be the journal for you.

Back when it had arisen the second time and just started the Third Series, there was a very nice article by James Redfield. No, not the therapist-turned-novelist James Redfield, but the Professor James M. Redfield who does ancient Greek studies at Chicago. Redfield’s article is a brief of what anthropologists and classicists can and should learn from each other. It also includes a good bit of compare/contrast of the disciplines, including their initiation rituals. It’s a delightful read to nearly anyone who has spent time with the linguists and archaeologists, the literary theorists and the crypto-psychiatrists who inhabit the world of Ancient Studies.

Here, I give you only the second paragraph of the article. Feel free to go dig up the rest. It’s well worth it.

Redfield, James, “Classics and Anthropology,” Arion, Third Series, vol. 1, no. 2, Spring / May 1991, pp. 5-6.

I have spent most of my academic career hanging about the edges of departments, particularly (at Chicago) the departments of Anthropology and of Classics. It often seems to me that these two are structural opposites. Take, for example, the question of the consumption of alcohol. Both professions include heavy drinkers—indeed the profession of Classics seems to me to have more than its share of helpless drunks (not at Chicago, needless to say). But Classicists tend to be solitary drinkers; when they meet together socially it tends to be in the afternoon, over tea. The anthropologists, on the other hand, gather at midnight, and drink grain alcohol and grapefruit juice out of plastic waste baskets. To this difference correspond others—for example, on the rhetorical level. Anthropologists like to conduct their controversies in open meetings, where they ride and make flamboyant, unforgivable speeches. Classicists are almost always polite—with the result that it is frequently impossible to find out what they think. Anthropologists seem to enjoy conflict, whereas classicists prefer to pretend that it does not exist. Anthropologists tend toward exuberance, classicists toward irony. To give them the most gross kind of physical characterization: the classicist is typically dusty, the anthropologist, sweaty.

Cicero on Political Flip-Flopping

Some AP-related poking around in Cicero has intersected with overblown political rhetoric about “primary conversions” (candidates whose views seem to change as soon as they enter the season of primary elections) and “flip-floppers.” While one hopes that a change of heart and mind is not cynically intended to garner more votes, I see nothing wrong with politicians changing their minds. In fact, I think it’s a very good thing for a politician to be able to be swayed by good argument or new evidence. Apparently, I’m not alone.
...numquam enim in praestantibus in re publica gubernanda viris laudata est in una sententia perpetua permansio....

...for persistence in a single permanent opinion among men [sic] active in the governance of the republic has never been praised....

ad Familiares 1.9.21
nemo doctus umquam ... mutationem consili inconstantiam dixit esse.

No educated person has ever said that a change of mind was inconsistency.

ad Atticum 16.7.3

Of course, Cicero ended up with his head and hands mounted on the Rostra, so caveat lector.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Serious Sin

What is it in us that wants to rank sin? Any sin of any degree separates us from God, be it lust, murder, or pride—even pride that my sins aren’t nearly as bad as yours (Lk. 18.9ff.). Usually when I’m thinking about what a horrible sinner someone else is, it’s a way of distracting myself from my own sin—not to mention an example of active sin in my own life. And I’m not saying that there aren’t degrees of sin, only that our rankings are not usually those of God.

One of the things that let me know that my theology of the Lord’s Supper / Communion / the Eucharist needed some work was when I realized that the God of the New Testament is still a “smiting” God, and seeing what he smote people over. I think that most people remember the story of Ananias and Sapphira (not the same disciple Ananias from chapter 9). I’ll let you refresh your memory on that one and say no more about it here.

But it was the example from 1 Cor. 11 that caught my attention. With all the junque going on at Corinth, including possible incest (cf. 5.1), why is it that some are dying? Because they take Communion in an unworthy manner (vv. 29-30). All the immorality and strife in Corinth, and this is why God smites some of them. Hmmm... Sounds like God takes the Eucharist a whole lot more seriously that I did back in my Fightin’ Fundy days. (And I suppose that some day I might have to post a rumination on John 6, but not tonight.)

But what provokes me into posting my own thoughts for once instead of just quoting someone else is a statement in the inventory I posted below this one. When I took the “quiz” the statement showed up at #24; revisiting now it’s at #53. So the order apparently changes when you visit quizfarm. Be that as it may, this was the prompt:
Homosexuality is one of the worst sins
Even as a Bible-thumping Reagan Republican (I was precinct party chairman at age 18), I knew that this was simply not true. Stick with me for a moment, and I’ll show you how I know that there are far worse sins.

Way back in the day, my co-religionists typically referred to homosexuality as “Sodomy,” named obviously for that horrid city of wickedness that had fire and brimstone rained down upon it for its sins. And like my co-religionists, I assumed that the sin that broke the camel’s back was the attempted homosexual rape of God’s messengers. But then God told me otherwise.

Oh, don’t worry. I didn’t hear His voice in my ear while meditating with recreational chemicals. No, I just read the prophets. And among them, I read Ezekiel. Ezekiel 16 in particular, where God is sternly warning His people about what they deserve. Verses 48-50 run like this:
As I live, says the Lord GOD, I swear that your sister Sodom, with her daughters, has not done as you and your daughters have done! And look at the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters were proud, sated with food, complacent in their prosperity, and they gave no help to the poor and needy. Rather, they became haughty and committed abominable crimes in my presence; then, as you have seen, I removed them.
So what sins were most important in the mind of God? Which did He feel the need to specify? Sins very similar to those by which He separates the sheep from the goats (Mt. 25.31ff.).

So next time you find your knickers in a twist over something as boring and unoriginal as sexual sins and “perversions” born of simple attraction and loneliness, take that energy and turn it positive. Go to a hospital, a prison, a shut-in. Take a homeless person to lunch. God apparently takes our own lack of active compassion much more seriously than he takes acts of homosexuality.

Theological Worldview

I’m putting this up mainly because question 24/63 is prompting a post I’ve been thinking about for a while (see above). But notice that the creator of this quiz would probably say that, based on my worldview, swimming the Tiber almost four years ago was the right decision for me. Does this make it any more official?


You scored as Roman Catholic, You are Roman Catholic. Church tradition and ecclesial authority are hugely important, and the most important part of worship for you is mass. As the Mother of God, Mary is important in your theology, and as the communion of saints includes the living and the dead, you can also ask the saints to intercede for you.

Roman Catholic


Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan




Neo orthodox






Classical Liberal


Reformed Evangelical


Modern Liberal


What's your theological worldview?
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