Monday, April 11, 2011

Things I Did Today
  • Was born 28 years ago.
  • Had a nice dinner at Franny's courtesy of friends.
Thoughts -- Excerpts From The Middle Ages, Part 13: Peter Abelard
Abelard was one of the most fascinating personalities in a time that was inclined to suppress or disregard personalities. In intellectual history he remains an example of a mighty intellect; and in popular remembrance, a symbol of the great lover, although like other great lovers, he was more than a bit of a cad. Around the age of twenty he appeared in Paris, defied and confuted the learned doctors, and soon opened a school of his own. His popularity was immense, except among the teachers who found their classrooms deserted. He was nicknamed the Indomitable Rhinoceros. He fell in love with the learned and beautiful Héloïse, niece of a canon of Notre Dame. She bore him a son, who was pedantically christened Astrolabe. The angry canon seized and castrated Abelard, who had then no recourse but to enter a monastery, while Héloïse, at his insistence, became a nun. She wrote him beautiful, passionate letter expressing her love and longing, unquenched by her vows and by her lover's misfortune. (One historian points out that she was enabled to write at length because as abbess she could raid the convent's store of parchment.)

Abelard made important contributions to philosophy, to logic and ethics. His most influential book was Sic et Non (Yes and No or On the one hand and on the other). It is a list of apparent contradictions in the Bible and the Church Fathers, with suggestions for harmonizing the conflicting statements. Abelard also did something for the emancipation of women. As Friedrich Heer has written: "Abelard elevated Mary Magdalen, the patron saint of women sinners, above the militant saints of the feudal Middle Ages, and so initiated a Magdalen cult. . . . Abelard sought out the youth and the women of Europe, calling on them to think boldly and to dare to love with passion. . . . " And finally, his personal influence made the Paris Left Bank, the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève, the intellectual center of Paris and the Western world.

Abelard's chief enemy was that mighty battler for the Lord, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. Bernard repudiated human reason as a means for the attainment of divine truth. He was an intellectual anti-intellectual. He bade his clergy flee the Babylon of the Paris schools in order to save their souls -- "You will find more in forests than in books. Woods and stones will teach you more than any master." He represented that distrust of science, philosophy, and speculative intelligence that still agitates some earnest believers. Bernard brought Abelard to trial for heresy; but Abelard played his trump by dying before Rome could render a decision.
But Enough About Me

I've decided that this will be my last daily entry. I'm joining the ranks of the sporadic updaters; from now on I'll only open my post editor when I have something to say.

When I started this blog, I was doing routine, mind-numbing work day in and day out, and I sought a sense of fulfillment through thinking and writing. I also had the mental energy to spare.

Fortunately things have changed, and I'm now occupied with substantive, often challenging, assignments. I'd rather not have an obligatory blog post extending my daily to-do list.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this phase of my career in publishing, entertainment, and political advocacy. It almost lasted a month!

Story of my life.

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