Friday, April 29, 2016

Mentoring Initiatives in Medieval Studies: Kalamazoo Deadlines Today and Tomorrow!

by Mary Kate Hurley

One of the things I’ve always said about medieval studies as an area of expertise is that the mentoring one gets in this field is brilliant – both in and out of one’s home institution, medievalists are among the kindest, most generous people I’ve ever known. Medievalists also have a variety of mentoring initiatives that take place at conferences and beyond. As I perused my Facebook feed this week, and saw how many initiatives are available this year, I thought it might be helpful to have a short list of all the mentoring options that are open to scholars of medieval studies attending Kalamazoo.

First, the Society for Medieval Feminist Studies’s Mentoring Exchange. it's too late to sign up for this year, but never fear! The mentoring exchange is a yearly event at Kalamazoo, so if you didn't have a chance to sign up this year you can do it next time!
Information: Graduate students, independent scholars, junior and senior faculty members - anyone at any stage in his/her career is welcome to participate as either mentors or mentees (or both). The aim of the mentoring exchange is to bring people together at Kalamazoo. Relationships can continue after the Kalamazoo congress, but we stress that the congress itself is intended to be the main venue of the exchange.
Second, the Medieval Academy of America has formed a mentoring initiative, and are accepting participants through 5 pm today, April 29th. It is broadly intended for graduate students to meet with faculty, but this year they are ALSO piloting a program for undergraduates to meet with current graduate students at the conference, so if you know an undergrad attending Kalamazoo, take a look at this form as well.
Information: The intent of the mentorship exchanges is for experienced scholars to welcome and briefly connect with newer members of the medievalist community and to help facilitate social and professional interaction. The mentorship program thus offers students an additional opportunity to expand their professional network beyond their own academic institution. The initial extent of the commitment would be for mentees and mentors to meet for a brief conversation at an agreed-upon time during the conference in question. The continuation of the mentor relationship after the conference is at the discretion of the parties involved.
Finally, the mentoring initiative I know most about because - along with Megan Cavell, Damian Fleming, and Peter Darby – I’m helping run it: The Old English Mentoring Initiative. Presently, we will run mentoring exchanges (based on the SMFS model) at both Kalamazoo and Leeds, and we’re hoping to add an online component over the summer. We’re accepting applications to mentor or be mentored at Kalamazoo through April 30, and longer for Leeds (which you can also sign up for now!). You can sign up for both sides – mentor a more junior scholar or be mentored by a more senior one. I’m extremely pleased with how this new initiative has come together – we’re getting great support from the community of Anglo-Saxonists, the MLA Old English Forum, and the International Society of Anglo-Saxonists. We’re looking forward to seeing how this initiative develops!
Information: We are very pleased to announce a new mentoring network that aims to encourage a positive sense of community among Old English and Anglo-Saxon studies scholars. We feel that the mentoring of the next generation of scholars is essential to keeping our small field healthy and happy, and we are committed to the importance of community-building that spans all career levels. To launch this network, we will be matching up our first round of mentors and mentees in time for this year’s medieval congresses in Kalamazoo and Leeds. In the future, we plan to include an online mentoring component, so stay tuned if you can’t make it to either conference this year. If you are attending Kalamazoo, please sign up no later than April 30th.Find out more about our code of conduct and the specifics of the program here. Have a question? Email us at oldenglishmentoring[at]gmail[dot]com!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Medieval Muteness

by KARL STEEL

First, congrats Jeffrey on your excellent review, cited below. And second, GOOD LUCK to all prepping for Kalamazoo: may your papers cohere easily, and may you be grabbed and whirled by fun.

Schöneberger Südgelände Nature Park, Berlin.
The first biography of Thomas Aquinas had the job of turning this Christian Aristotelian and theological systematizer into a saint. As ideas themselves, sadly, cannot be sanctified directly, the scholar must be furnished not with a scholastic, but with a personal halo. Thus Willliam of Tocco has a nurse fail to convince the infant Aquinas to give up a wadded-up cartulary that, as it turns out, "contained nothing else but the Ave Maria, the greeting to the glorious Virgin" [nichil aliud continentem nisi Ave Maria, salutationem Virginis gloriose]. Thus the face of the young Aquinas shines like the sun, illuminating all around him. And most famously, Aquinas so humbly shuts up his genius in silence that his fellow students call him a "bouem mutum," a mute ox, as they are "ignorantes de eo futurum in doctrina mugitum" [ignorant about his future mooing in teaching/doctrine]. Only after witnessing a series of precocious intellectual feats does his teacher, Albert the Great himself, proclaim "we called this one a mute ox, but he will give such a mooing of teaching that it will resound throughout the world!" [Nos uocamus istum bouem mutum, sed ipse adhuc talem dabit in doctrina mugitum quod in toto mundo sonabit]. The story would be repeated in the second life of Aquinas, penned by the famous inquisitor Bernard Gui, and so on into G. K. Chesterton (who, in 1933, declared that his hero's big, square head  - like those of Napoleon or Mussolini or a "head waiter" - elevated him above the common run of otherwise thin and noisy Italians). And medievalists should be grateful for the superbly named Dumb Ox Books, dedicated to publishing English translations of Aquinas's Aristotle commentaries.
Unsuspected excellence is a hagiographical commonplace. Medievalists should know not to take the story of Aquinas's schooldays any more seriously than that of his mother's desperate efforts to keep her son from joining the Dominicans, a story whose chase, capture, and escape recall nothing so much as a romance (which is to say that the story can be taken seriously, as a romance). The quality of heroes is commonly misrecognized by their young playmates: as boys, Cyrus of Persia and Cú Chulainn alike startle and dismay their fellows with their innate sovereignty, while Moses, before he lays down the law, first complains of being tongue-tied. Narrative needs surprises, and it also wants us to feel that we're in on the secret (I knew who Aquinas was before it was cool). Sanctity also demands this quality of concealed genius, not just because the saint has to be persecuted, but also because true genius, like true sanctity, requires the cloak of sprezzatura
Thus Aquinas must be a bouem mutum. I am avoiding translating the adjective as "dumb," both because the Latin "mutus" has a wider range of common associations than the English "dumb," and because the English "dumb" (and the German dummin some historical uses), combines silence and stupidity in a way that the Latin does not. To be mutus in Latin is not necessarily to share the qualities of a stupid person, but rather to have the qualities of speechlessness or, crucially, incomprehensibility. This is how Aquinas could moo and still be mute: it is not that the muteness would give way to mooing, but that the mooing would finally be understood for what it really was, the voice of a genius. Misunderstood noise gives way to astonished understanding. 
Not only animals are "mute," and not only humans (as the word "mutus" unsurprisingly tends to travel with "surdus," deaf). To be mutus is to share the qualities of an animal, or even of a stone (while I'll simply mark, without further development, the word's use as professional terminology in the grammatical manuals of Donatus, Priscian, and others). The condition of muteness slides from irrationality into inanimacy, from a life whose noise cannot be understood to one that has no life and no voice at all. It traverses the conditions of human impairment, animal inability, and material inertness. To be mute is not necessarily to be silent; in many instances, it is rather a condition of being silenced: not listened to, not taken seriously, ignored.
The muteness of things goes almost without saying. Habakkuk 2:18 mocks those who believe that the "simulacra muta" they themselves made possess divine power. (Though Habakkuk splits the silence of idols from the voice of the humans who made them, we postmodern sophisticates know that all distinctions between autonomous subjects and secondary objects are themselves fetish constructions and mere ontotheological baggage). 1 Corinthians 12:2 contrasts devotion to, again, "simulacra muta," to an appropriate devotion to spiritual things. All an idol can do is sit there, inert, and wait for someone to give it a little tap. And then it keeps waiting.
But that muteness is just one of its varieties. Consider Augustine's troubled response to Psalms 144:10. Faced with "Let all thy works, O lord, praise thee: and let thy saints bless thee," he insisted that no one should "think that the mute stone or mute animal has reason wherewith to comprehend God." Certainly not. Everything has its own place in the scale of being, and most things were created on the wrong side of the tracks. Yet, barring God, it turns out that everything is at least a little bit mute:
God has ordered everything, and made everything: to some He has given sense and understanding and immortality, as to the angels; to some He has given sense and understanding with mortality, as to man; to some He has given bodily sense, yet gave them not understanding, or immortality, as to cattle: to some He has given neither sense, nor understanding, nor immortality, as to herbs, trees, stones: yet even these cannot be wanting in their kind, and by certain degrees He has ordered His creation, from earth up to heaven, from visible to invisible, from mortal to immortal. This framework of creation, this most perfectly ordered beauty, ascending from lowest to highest, descending from highest to lowest, never broken, but tempered together of things unlike, all praises God.
Augustine's goal is clear enough: to sort kinds of being hierarchically according to their capacities. But his scheme suffers from an inconsistency caused by the problem of conceptualizing the voice. One of Augustine's scales establishes a set of discrete, hierarchically arranged types: at the top, God, then angels, humans, beasts, and finally, in one group, plants and stones. As I observed long agothis arrangement is not dissimilar, even not dissimilar enough, from Heidegger's division between da-seinweltarm (world poor, like the lizard on the rock), and weltlos (worldless, like the rock itself). This Augustiggerian scheme splits beings between those that have understanding, and therefore a voice of their own, and those that do not. One the one side, God, angels, and humans, and on the other, "mutus lapis aut mutum animal” (PL 37:1877), the mute stone or mute living thing (a word perhaps even translatable as "animal" in the modern, colloquial sense of the word).
With this scale is another one, still hierarchical, but in this case not discrete. Augustine likely did not intend this other "never broken" [nusquam interrupta] hierarchy to function differently than the first; but a scale that neatly splits sense from mere being, understanding from mere sense, and immortality from mere mortality cannot work like the second, uninterrupted scale, which, below the level of the Divine Itself, sorts without splitting. Continuity means contiguity, which means a basic point from poststructuralism: contiguity means that qualities are shared, however faintly, across the whole scale before stopping, as all things do, at the Great Infinite of God. At the bottom is  "a kind of voice of the dumb earth" [vox quaedam est mutae terrae]; but that quality must run across the whole scale, because everything but God can only have a vocem quaedam. When Augustine demands that we admire the fecundity of creation, and its beauty, and that we ask of it how it got these qualities, not just the earth, but everything in "one voice" [una voces] would respond  "I myself did not make myself, but God" [non me ego feci, sed Deus], for nothing has anything in itself, unless it comes from that Creator [non potuit a se esse, nisi ab illo Creatore].
Again, barring God, everything has just enough voice to speak of its own fundamental secondariness. Even those things that seem to have a voice - us, that is - have a voice that is only the effect of God's divine voice. We are therefore more like rocks that like God. Here is one quality of the voice, then: to have a voice is to have been granted a voice, that is, to be secondary. To have an inbuilt inability. To always carry a silence within the gift of the voice, because the voice you believe to be your own is not, finally, all yours. It is granted, at least in part, by the conditions that make it possible to be heard as a voice: as when, for example, Augustine calls on us to listen to all of Creation.
My second consideration on this point concentrates on the listener rather than the speaker. Augustine does not distinguish between mute stones, mute plants, and mute animals, but between things with understanding and those without. The same adjective applies either to a "mutus lapis aut mutum animal," so that "muteness" distinguishes not between sound and silence, but between sense and senselessness. Things we think of as noisy could be, in medieval writing, "mute," because - to belabor the point - muteness has less to do with silence than with incomprehensibility. Old French uses “mue beste” as a virtual pleonasm. The word "mutum" (to choose the accusative singular as my representative), which appears 469 times in the Patrilogia Latine, appears with the word "animal" 43 times. This is not more often than it appears with "surdus" (deaf) -- 160 times! -- but more than it does with any other word.
Of course, animals bark and hiss and low. They make noise. Sometimes, medieval writing distinguishes between silent and noisy animals, calling only the former mute: this is what Beroul's Tristan does, when Iseult saves Husdent's life by convincing Tristan to train him not to bark: for a dog that cannot keep quiet (1552; ne se tient mu) is of little value in the hunt. But in general, animals were still mute (or "dumb" in Middle English, def. 5), because the noise they made was assumed to be meaningless, or because it was indivisible into letters or even words.
This later characterization of animal muteness comes from the professional cant of grammarians. Isidore puts it like this: "every voice is either articulated or confused. Articulated is the voice of humans, confused is the voice of living things [or, again, simply "animals," in the modern sense]. Articulated is what can be written, and confused what cannot be written" [Omnis vox, aut est articulata, aut confusa. Articulata est hominum, confusa animalium. Articulata est quae scribi potest, confusa quae scribi non potest, PL 82:89B].Notably, Isidore sets out the division in two ways, with two distinct responsibilities for the fault of unwritable sound. Either the vox confusa is inherent to the voice itself, which is itself a sonic materialization of the irrational limits of the spirit: this classification divides human from animal. Or the vox confusa, by dividing writable from unwritable, becomes a problem of technology, and, in a larger sense, inadequate anticipation, training, effort, and care on the part of the listener (for more, on accessibility and accommodation, compare this and this). The former formulation assumes that the speaker is at fault; the second suggests that the listener, or scribe, might be.
Animals are either mute because they are irrational, or because humans make the mistake of assuming they have nothing to say. Anyone who's lingered in a birding guide ("'prreet,' 'prrlhr', 'prrūt-ūt,' and 'preeh-e,'" is what mine says the skylark says), or anyone who's listened to Messiaen's piano works, knows that bird sounds can be written down. Certainly, modern ethnography has demonstrated that some nonhuman animal species really do have, if not languages - with all that implies about trading second-order ideas about, for example, philosophy or sports - then at least dialect, so that specific groups of animals have their own vocalizations distinct from those of their conspecifics. A training in dialect requires distinguishing between sounds; it requires the divisions and differences necessary to any concept of writing, which operates within the supposedly primary function of the voice, too (again, elementary poststructuralism). Writing is possible, necessary even, even among these supposedly mute things.
The same might be said of other mute, presumably inanimate things, like the earth. Within a certain crowd, with my own training and inclinations, this final proposal would probably pass without much comment. I'm going to at least feign reluctance (without forgetting my debt to Cohen, for example, via Oppermann).While it might be tempting for scholars of a certain theoretical instinct to use impaired people as a figure for the "silenced" "voice of the earth," and so on, I cannot easily accept the advantage of reaffirming the mistaken medieval habit of using the same adjective, "mute," to characterize both impaired humans and mortal and submortal nonhumans, like animals, plants, and stones. Now that my work is belatedly straying into matters of disability, I am eager to emphasize the obvious: that humans face particular dangers of being rendered mute, of not having their reason recognized, of being treated like objects. The problem of muted humans is obviously a problem of justice of a different order than what nonhumans routinely face (and yet see Sunaura Taylor and Sue Walsh).
Yet there still may be an advantage in the word "mute." It has typically been applied from outside: someone hearing an animal's  voice as only noise, someone thwapping a stone and hearing only that. But William of Tocco's gives us the perspective of the bouem mutum. Here is a "mute" figure whose thoughts we know. No one would read this life of Aquinas without already knowing Aquinas as a thinker. As a mute ox, Aquinas is moving more slowly than his fellows; as William of Tocco tells us, he is ruminating. Given enough patience, given enough time of his own amid the expected metrics of his training and institution, his thoughts will burst forth, and astonish the world. In that gap between Aquinas's supposed muteness and his thoughts, we have at least a figuration of the split between subjective impairment and objective disability. In the gap between what they think they know and what we know, we have a hint at what might be muted.
In that gap, the word "mute" becomes a call to imagine, to wait, to meet others on their own terms (see a related move here, from Dominic Pettman). Jonathan Hsy has approached this problem brilliantly from the side of the voice. He has observed that medieval wordlists of animal sounds sometimes included nonanimal noises too: crows croak, donkeys whinny, and fire crackles: muteness and the possibilities of translation, or at least classification, encompass noise in a variety of ways; ultimately, Hsy argues that these and other, related texts show how "Earthly creatures, human and nonhuman alike, can creatively adapt to and accommodate all kinds of sonic utterances and diverse vocalizations that register as alien to their ordinary lived experience." Also essential is Robert Stanton's engagement with Anglo-Saxon riddles alongside classical Skeptic philosophy, which discovers in them an exploration of animal vocal performance that recognizes in these animals the deliberation that performance requires. Projection, patience, meeting (more than) halfway, and a transformation of understanding: even medieval texts could do this. 
I have approached a similar problem from the side of muteness, a word that at once means silence, noise, and, as I have pushed it, misunderstanding. We need not think of "mute" anymore as it's normally presented in medieval Latin. It does not have to paired with "surdus"; it does not necessarily need to be cured. In its not being the opposite of sound, in being on the side of what is experienced as noise, muteness can invite us to wait in the possibility it offers, and to rethink the difference between what we think we know and what we might come to know if we let ourselves suspect our own ignorance and its habits of muting. 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Stone: An Ecology of the Inhuman reviewed in Choice

by J J Cohen

A nice, quick review of Stone: An Ecology of the Inhuman appears in the latest issue of Choice magazine (under "Philosophy" -- that is a first for me!)


Cohen (English and Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute, George Washington Univ.) explores the unrelenting vitality of the inert, i.e., stone, and challenges the human desire to view it as external to and separate from humans. He postulates that stones are never completely inert; they have interior and exterior lives, like humans, which is an assertion that challenges the human tendency to view stone as “other” and “natural,” two categories of existence that engender exploitation, commodification, and consumption. Cohen hypothesizes that rocks, stones, minerals, and gems possess inner lives and agency, as revealed by their use in medieval texts, that are useful in solving human problems and understanding human interconnectedness with nature. Punctuated by and organized with clichés, metaphors, and concepts used commonly to reference stones in human experience, the text consists of an explanatory, reflective introduction; seven chapters that explore sociocultural, political, literary, geological, and personal history in an effort to uncover the puissance of stone and consider human experience in non-human terms; and immensely useful notes, bibliography, and index. Rendered eloquently, Cohen’s text is a useful attempt at crafting a unique theoretical framework for challenging assumptions about the differences between humans and nature. 
--H. Doss, Wilbur Wright College, City Colleges of Chicago 
Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through researchers/faculty; general readers. 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Chag Sameach

by J J Cohen

Wishing all those who celebrate a happy Passover.

Here is the shirt I am wearing as we prep our seder.


Friday, April 22, 2016

For Earth Day: on viewing a home planet at great distance

by J J Cohen

Science enacts knowledge that we have long had: that the round Earth, should we ever be able to look back upon it, would be beautiful. Or so I once said on Twitter. I was thinking about this image, and this one.


Below you will find an exchange between Lindy Elkins-Tanton and me about such images. The conversation unfolded as we sat in her office at the School of Earth & Space Exploration at ASU, chatting with each other by text even though we were in the same room. This dialogue occurs in the middle of our short book Earth, which will be published by Bloomsbury in the not too distant future as part of their wonderful Object Lessons series. Enjoy ... and happy Earth Day!





The climates of the Earth (Macrobius)
J: In a letter to you earlier in this book I described how beauty invites the hand to grasp before the mind apprehends the motion of palming a smooth pebble. I wrote a book on stone because its beauty won’t leave me alone. I also think a great deal about the relation of medieval people to the planet they inhabited. On the one hand the cosmological diagrams they drew are wrong: the Earth is at the center! The moon and the sun are orbiting around the planet at nearly the same distance! There are not enough planets! There’s a god or some angels placed in Outer Space! And yet those concentric rings revolving around each other, drawn with precision and often vibrant in their colors, make we want to know more about this world view, and maybe even recover from it something that is not error, something that might be a spur to telling better stories about our Earth now. And it is interesting that your answer about science and beauty is full of Earth fragments (lava, the molten planetary heart, subatomic particles) and personal fragments (not everyone gets to choose between law and physics as a career, for example -- and not everyone is drawn to rocks or to inhuman forces). We write our own experience best. We are embodied and we compose from our lived perspective. But I am also wondering how we widen that personal point of view to embrace objects on a scale that exceed us and yet guard ourselves from losing the words to narrate, or the desire to connect. I wonder how we trigger communal widenings of perspective in the hope of a more just or at least more sustainable world. Let me ask this specifically of Earth: do beautiful images of the planet impede or enable?

Blue Marble
L: I suddenly see the old maps of the cosmos with Earth as the center a more true representation of our experience, in a way I have not before. I do think that the same unconscious constructs that can impel us to therapy also drive our passions and what we find beautiful. Devoting one’s life to the pursuit of knowledge and education, as an academic often does, or to a singular art, or any intense, large, driven pursuit, is a pure reflection of the strength of the unconscious construct. So suddenly I see that the Earth-centered cosmos is not a simple scientific misunderstanding but a true expression of our lives inside our heads, of our necessarily individual, separate experiences. OK. So, to your question, do beautiful images impede or enable widening of communal determination to produce a more just and sustainable world (in my paraphrase)? I suspect they may impede, unless connected to a far broader dialogue. What does a beautiful image do but connect to and thus reinforce our existing interior constructs and beliefs? How to share our sense of the meaning of the beauty, the message of the beauty. How to share, with those who don’t immediately apprehend this themselves, that our beautiful little world can be better. We can so easily ruin this world for ourselves (though the world and other life will persist, no worries!). We can also so easily make improvements that lead to less suffering. I am not sure an image of the world speaks those words to most people.

J: Sometimes, in fact, the desire to see the Earth as if you are not living upon it can be a way of escaping those tough questions: pretending you can inhabit a disembodied perspective, pretending you are not part of the object you behold. Can we really escape the planet on which we dwell? Can we know Earth more factually, more dispassionately when we look back from the moon? This morning when you were on a teleconference and I was sitting in the visiting faculty office, thinking about what we might chat about today, I found myself re-reading Cicero’s Dream of Scipio, in which a Roman general dreams that he is lifted into space to look back upon the dwindled Earth. The Milky Way shimmers around him and he can see that his beloved city of Rome has from this distance shrunk to insignificance. Planetary spheres revolve and from this perspective Earth appears as a banded globe, snow fields at its polar regions and burning desert along its middle. Two temperate zones line either side of the torrid middle section. These two thin and fragile strips bounded by extremes of heat and cold are the only parts of the planet that can be made a home. This story survived by an accumulation of accidents, and was a spur to all kinds of geographical and cosmological inquiry in later ages, as well as to some beautiful images that make Earth resemble Jupiter with its colored stripes. In the Middle Ages for example text of the Dream was extant only within an extensive fifth century commentary upon it by another Roman, Macrobius. The narrative tries to imagine an impossible perspective, one in which the Eternal City is just a dot, nothing all that important. The vastness of both Earth and the cosmos are overwhelming to Scipio, who awakens full of Stoic resignation to leading a good life in a world that utterly exceeds him. But that seems a very personal choice, one Roman general’s decision of what to do when overwhelmed by cosmic beauty. No community is conjured up to try to make the Earth more habitable or just (in fact Scipio goes to Africa two years later and utterly destroys Carthage, razing its buildings and sowing its fields with salt). I guess I am wondering -- since we have been thinking about emotions that cross the centuries -- if the awe we might feel when we look upon the Earth as a radiant sphere (and humans have been imagining that perspective for millennia) is too often a prod only to personal revelations and selfish resolutions. Nothing changes.


L: Astonishing. We need to start an encyclopedia of the responses to the realization that the Earth is a tiny speck, not the center of the universe, and that natural disasters occur with an impersonal randomness, and that we are microscopically small. In James Secord’s introduction to the Penguin edition of Charles Lyell’s Principles of Geology, he talks about the effects of Lyell’s work on the emotions of the time. George Eliot concludes The Mill on the Floss with a great flood that kills her characters, and she writes that its damage was soon overprinted with new trees and grass. This was part of a despondency that settled in the wake of Principles of Geology in those who felt that taking the times and events of the Earth out of God’s hands and leaving them in a thoughtless cacophony of natural disasters similarly robbed our own lives of meaning. Why strive, why improve, when we can be wiped away by a random event, and so will all be wiped away by random events in the end? So, the very realizations that comfort me with the idea that our wrong acts are dissolved by time and their miniscule nature in the broader universe, and thus give me strength and courage to go forth and be able to make mistakes and still persist, caused others to give up their striving.

J: And -- as we just said to each other, because we are in the same room, chatting online but also sometimes speaking to each other in ways that don’t get recorded here -- that necessary encyclopedia requires an entry for the recurring human impulse to imagine the Earth as inscribed with art that you can only see if you are not an ordinary human living and dying on its surface. I’m thinking of those desert images called Nasca Lines, massive geoglyphs in Peru that depict animals, strange human forms, and geometric designs. They are only viewable as coherent images only from far above … and so were created by imagining a perspective that could not be physically inhabited by their artists. Other such works exist all over the world, and continue to be constructed today (crop circles, anyone?) Yes they often get explained as visual offerings to gods or to aliens, but I think they are also transhistorical signals of the human desire to be above the planet we are bound to in life and in death. We send these messages to ourselves, and to those who come after us. It’s about sharing a world view, or an above-the-world view, 

L: As a quiet tired sigh at the end of this excellent writing session this morning, I will say here that we have reached the heart of the matter. Earth is an object and an icon not because we live here and it is our home, but because there is a universal, ageless, and completely bizarre drive in humans to see it from far, far above, as Scipio, Cicero, Macrobius and the ancient peoples did, and in fact to leave it, to fly away into the universe as we do in our fiction and as we have begun to do in reality. 

coming soon!