Sunday, January 25, 2015

Moderation and a Pythagorean Dribble Glass

Today's second reading reminded me of Harold Camping's high-profile End Times predictions, a few years back:
"12 I tell you, brothers, the time is running out. From now on, let those having wives act as not having them,

"those weeping as not weeping, those rejoicing as not rejoicing, those buying as not owning,

"those using the world as not using it fully. For the world in its present form is passing away."
(1 Corinthians 7:29-31)
About "... the world ... is passing away...." — I do not think the end of the world is at hand: not any more so than usual, at least.

It's been a few years since Harold Camping became momentarily famous for yet another failed 'Bible prophecy.'

This post is not about the Last Judgment — but I'd better clear the air about my take on apocalyptic predictions.

I'm a Christian, a Catholic, so I take the Last Judgment and Mark 13:32 seriously.

That's why, the next time an 'End Times Bible prophecy' hits national news, I may write about it — but I won't believe it.

Our Lord didn't know the timetable — so I won't assume that someone who follows, consciously or not, the traditions of Monatus, Hippolytus of Rome, and Edward Irving does. That doesn't make sense. Not to me.

My guess is that we've got a long wait ahead of us.

"Wait" isn't the right word. Just before leaving, our Lord gave us standing orders. For anyone else, we'd have given up long ago. But Jesus is — unique — and that's another topic. Topics.

A False Alarm, and Points for Originality

Hyppolytus of Rome is Saint Hippolytus of Rome now. The last I heard, his feast day's in August.

Saint Hyppolytus of Rome said the Second Coming would happen in the year 500. He died a martyr more than two centuries shy of another spurious Parousia.

A messy death doesn't guarantee Sainthood, many Saints died of natural causes, and that's another bunch of topics. (February 14, 2010)

'End of the world' false alarms aren't unique to Christianity. Wikipedia lists apocalyptic predictions from the last two-dozen-plus centuries. I'll grant that most items listed are by Christians.

I give Emanuel Swedenborg points for originality. He suggested, in 1758, that the Last Judgment had occurred in the previous year. (February 28, 2014)

This post was going to be about something, and it wasn't wannabe prophets. Let's see: 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; "the world in its present form is passing away." Right.

Pythagorean Cups: The Thinking Person's Dribble Glass

I've read that Hero of Alexandria used Pythagorean cups in his robotic systems. That's probably a reference to Heron's fountain, Heron is another version of Hero's name, and I am not going to wander off-topic again. Not for another paragraph or two, anyway.

Pythagoras of Samos didn't invent the Pythagorean theorem, but he's the first chap to show why it works - - -

Let's try this again. It's one of those days.

A Pythagorean cup is a thinking person's dribble glass, sort of.

It looks like the result of a cup and bundt pan committing crimes against nature. The cup's central column is hollow, with a little pipe inside, and a hole near its base.

The cup works fine, as long as you don't fill it past the top of that inside pipe. If you do, Pascal's principle of communicating vessels kicks in, and you've got the cup's contents pouring out the bottom.

Pascal's principle of c. v. is also called Pascal's law, which is not to be confused with Pascal's rule about binomial coefficients. Blaise Pascal didn't draft Pascal's law the way Robert A. Taft and Fred A. Hartley, Jr., sponsored the Taft-Hartley Act: and that's yet more topics. (January 2, 2015)

The cup, pan, and ladle in the photo are in Ashikaga District in the Tochigi Prefecture, but it's not there any more. 足利郡, that is. I'm pretty sure the cup's still there.

Anyway, it's a learning tool. Empty, it's tilted. Pour a little water into it, it goes upright. Pour in more, and it tilts again.

That, finally, gets me to the point of this post. Moderation is a good idea.

Love, Money, and Not Going Crazy

Money isn't the root of all evil. It's love of money that gets us in trouble:
"For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains."
(1 Timothy 6:10)

"Let your life be free from love of money but be content with what you have, for he has said, 'I will never forsake you or abandon you.'"
(Hebrews 13:5)

Some Saints have been poor as the proverbial churchmouse. Others, like Louis IX of France and Sir Thomas More, were anything but.

A trait they share with Francis of Assisi is that they had their priorities straight: God first, everything else second. (Luke 10:27; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2083)

It's like humility: the idea isn't going crazy in one direction or another, but having a firm grip on reality. (September 1, 2013)

Speaking of St. Francis of Assisi, he took vows of poverty: but that's not what he focused on:
"Saint Francis of Assisi's concern with poverty was secondary in his life and stemmed from his utter reliance on and love for God, a priest familiar with the saint said.

" 'The usual image of Francis and poverty is skewed...poverty is important, but it is secondary to something else for Francis, which is absolute dependence on God,' Dominican priest Father Augustine Thompson told CNA March 21.

"While many associate the 13th century saint with poverty, he wrote little about it and when he did, he was pointing to the humility of the Incarnation and the death of Christ...."
"St. Francis' poverty often misunderstood, priest explains," Carl Bunderson, Catholic News Agency (March 24, 2013)

"Pleasant Valley Sunday" and Psalms 49:6-8

Gerry Goffin and Carole King were in their '20s when they wrote "Pleasant Valley Sunday." I was in my teens at the time, still in high school, and trying to make sense out of a none-too-steady world.

Many folks around my age realized that there was, or should be, more to life than buying stuff we didn't need, to impress people we didn't like, with money we didn't have.

That upset some of our elders, particularly when songs like this caught on:
"...Creature comfort goals
They only numb my soul and make it hard for me to see
My thoughts all seem to stray, to places far away
I need a change of scenery...
("Pleasant Valley Sunday," written by by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, performed by The Monkees in 1967; via A-Z Lyrics)
Again, the problem isn't money. It's loving the stuff.

Then there's this snarky bit from the Bible:
"Why should I fear in evil days, when my wicked pursuers ring me round,

"Those who trust in their wealth and boast of their abundant riches?

"4 One cannot redeem oneself, pay to God a ransom."
(Psalms 49:6-8)
It's okay for Catholics to be rich or poor, healthy or sick, sharp as a tack or dull as dishwater. Wait — that's not quite right. Never mind. The point is that what matters is what we do with what we've got. (November 16, 2014)

Detachment from riches doesn't mean being poverty-stricken. It's not depending on wealth for happiness. (Catechism, 2544-2547)

The idea is living in moderation. (Catechism, 2264, 2405, 2496, 2522)

I suppose moderation could be carried to extremes, too — or used as an excuse for sloth: which doesn't mean being lazy, quite. (August 10, 2014)

Ecclesiastes, Kansas, and Beyond

I like rock 'n' roll: also bluegrass; jazz; and Bach, J. S. and P. D. Q. — and I am not going to wander off on another tangent. Some rock is about as profound as a rain puddle, some isn't. (August 26, 2012)
"...There's a feeling I get when I look to the west,
And my spirit is crying for leaving.
In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees,
And the voices of those who stand looking....
"Stairway to Heaven" (1971)
Led Zeppelin, via

"...All my dreams, pass before my eyes, a curiosity
Dust in the wind, all they are is dust in the wind...

"...Don't hang on, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky
It slips away, all your money won't another minute buy...
"Dust in the Wind" (1977)
Kansas, via

I'd be astounded if those songs are remembered in, say, the 44th century. But I'm confident that this will:
"3 What profit has man from all the labor which he toils at under the sun?

"One generation passes and another comes, but the world forever stays.

"The sun rises and the sun goes down; then it presses on to the place where it rises.

"Blowing now toward the south, then toward the north, the wind turns again and again, resuming its rounds.

"All rivers go to the sea, yet never does the sea become full. To the place where they go, the rivers keep on going."
(Ecclesiastes 1:3-7)

"13 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal.

"But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal.

"For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be. "
(Matthew 6:19-21)
I could quibble about "the world forever stays" in Ecclesiastes, but that'd be applying 21st-century standards to prose poetry from more than two millennia back: and I've been over that before. (February 26, 2012)

Anyway, verses like Isaiah 38:12 and 2 Corinthians 4:18 talk about life and the universe; what doesn't last, and what does.

There's wisdom in enjoying the beauties and pleasures of this world: in moderation.

There's also wisdom in remembering that this universe won't last forever: and that, for good or ill, we will. (November 2, 2014)

More about taking the long view:


nothingprofound said...

Brian, always a pleasure to read your thoughtful, scholarly and multi-faceted posts. The Book Of Ecclesiastes has been a personal favorite since childhood. There was a time when I thought it summed up everything one needed to know about the human condition. I don't think our understanding has advanced very much beyond it:

"I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all."

Brian Gill said...

nothingprofound, sorry about the delay in responding. I'm still learning to notice comments.

And - agreed. I think the Book of Ecclesiastes is still among the best summaries of what it is to be human, and sane.

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