Finally, in terms of my own experience of these last twenty-five years, after the Republic I translated Rousseau’s Emile, the greatest modem book on education. Rousseau was one of the great readers of Plato, and from my time on that work I gained an even greater respect for the Republic. Emile is its natural companion, and Rousseau proved his greatness by entering the lists in worthy combat with it. He shows that Plato articulated first and best all the problems, and he himself differs only with respect to some of the solutions. If one takes the two books together, one has the basic training necessary for the educational wars. And wars they are, now that doctrine tells us that these two books are cornerstones of an outlived canon. So, I conclude, the Republic is always useful to students who read it, but now more than ever.
Here’s a short but engaging memoir of Thomas Merton by his first monastic novice, Patrick Henry Reardon. It’s a good look at the pre-VII and post-VII Merton and, perhaps, a practical warning about juggling too many interests at once. There’s a flavor of sloth or acedia that skims across the surface of things, fearful to do the work of diving down into the depths of just one thing.
An unidentified person gained access to the monastery’s food supply this evening, leaving behind eight boxes stuffed with Krispy Kreme donuts. Prosecution of this violation of monastic space and discipline will be difficult, as most of the evidence has been tampered with and key elements are simply missing.
My employer recently gave me a huge unexpected bonus upon my fifteenth anniversary of employment with them, so we bought a Nexus 7 tablet. Since it arrived I’ve been terribly busy downloading books! My current read is James Schall’s Another Sort of Learning [book, website], which is basically a guide to all the books you need. And in downloading and perusing hundreds of ebooks, I’ve found the essential problem with them: they’re hard to navigate. The Project Gutenberg Complete Shakespeare, for example, has no table of contents at all. Some ebook apps will attempt to build a table of contents but the results aren’t much more useful than blind browsing.
So, I’m hatching a project: given a Project Gutenberg text, convert it into a fully-usable and easy-to-navigate ebook.
Modern play-pagans would be horrified by the real thing:
Having read those, I see the need for a more serious and “physical” worship of God along the lines set out by Gabriel Bunge, OSB, in his Earthen Vessels: The Practice of Personal Prayer According to the Patristic Tradition.
That great river which once rolled through the life of Europe, fertilising so many generations, and working so many mills and factories for the enrichment of the human mind, has now, like Oxus, lost itself in stagnant shallows; and dreary pundits, like wading birds, peck and grub in it for their unappetising fare.
Hugh Trevor-Roper (1914-2003), The Wartime Journals, ed. Richard Davenport-Hines (London: I.B. Tauris, 2012), p. 35 (from “1940-41”), via the Laudator.
Surgical Instruments in Greek and Roman Times, 1908, new from Project Gutenberg. The equipment is often equivalent to modern medical instruments and the procedures show an astounding ingenuity, but there’s a disturbing lack of anesthesia, antibiotics, germ theory, electric lights, and so on. For mouth and throat operations, the ancient descriptions begin with “Seat the patient in the sunlight and direct him to gape wide.”
Here’s an unpleasant procedure that I would prefer to many others in the book:
Paul and Celsus describe a method of extracting foreign bodies from the ear by laying the patient on a board and striking the under side with a mallet. Paré mentions a hammer made of lead, and Fabricius describes one padded with leather, but neither of these is described by the ancients. There is, however, a Roman hammer of lead from the excavation at Uriconium in the Shrewsbury Museum.
I suppose every military surgeon had a Scoop of Diocles:
But a broad weapon if buried should not be extracted from a counter opening, lest to one large wound we add another; therefore it is to be extracted with a special variety of instrument which the Greeks call the Scoop of Diocles, since Diocles invented it. I have already stated that he was one of the most eminent of the old practitioners. Its blade of iron, or even of bronze, has at one end two hooks, one at each side turned backwards. At the other end it is folded over at the sides, and the end is slightly curved up towards that part which is bent. Moreover in it there is a perforation. This is introduced crosswise near the weapon, then when it comes near the point it is twisted a little so that it receives the point in the hole. When the weapon is in the cavity two fingers placed under the hooks at the other end simultaneously extract both the instrument and the weapon.
We will pass by bladder and gynecological instruments to quickly mention sponges, which “should be fresh and still preserve the smell of the sea.”
The book contains an thorough index and an extensive section of photographs of surviving tools.