Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Procrastination and Processing

I have quite a lot on my mind at the moment, none of which has anything to do with packing.

The lectures of yesterday and today were all very interesting and, I think, will provide a lot of helpful context to enrich our tour of Greece and Italy. Yesterday, Dr. Greg Peters spoke about Dante's need for Bernard of Clairvaux who, if you have read Dante's Paradise you know, is Dante's final guide to see God. Bernard, the actual person, was a monk in about the eleventh century who wrote the little book, On Loving God. He asserts four degrees of loving God which I found to be of interest, but will refrain from commenting extensively on. The first and lowest level of loving God is loving Him because of what He can do for you; second is loving God because He, in Dr. Peters' words, "takes care of your junk"; the third, and surprisingly not the highest, level of loving God is loving Him for His own sake; fourth and finally one loves God by loving oneself for God's sake. In this last and highest category, you see yourself as God sees you and thus perfectly know your place before Him, and therefore love Him as you should. The highest degree of loving God is a sort of mystical experience, and one cannot achieve it by natural efforts, but must wholly depend upon God to give that highest of loves by His grace.

Today, I listened to Dr. J.P. Moreland talk about Aristotle's theory of substance. Of particular interest to me was his brief discussion of this philosophy on an issue I am very passionate about: abortion. Aristotle sought to answer the pre-Socratic problem of change (how do we justify the unity of a thing that changes, i.e. how is something that changes from an acorn to an oak tree the same thing?). To answer this question, Aristotle came up with a definition of substance as an individuated essence that underlies change; in other words, a thing's essence (a collection of attributes without which a thing would cease to be that thing, i.e. humanness) is fundamental to that thing, and change is not a process of becoming, but of maturing. Take, for example, the acorn, which does not become an oak tree, but has the same essence both as a tiny acorn and a massive oak tree, only at different stages of maturation. This maturing process is simply the actualization of potentials (the acorn contains all the yet-unactualized potential for largeness, leafiness, etc., but only through change/maturing will those potentialities actualize). The implications of this philosophy on the abortion issue should be clear and horrifying.

On a somewhat lighter note, I turned 20 yesterday and no, I don't feel any different. However, just looking at that number on the line above is a little intimidating. Sometimes, I would like to think I am quite grown up, but in reality, I still feel so small. I don't really have anything profound to say about this, just a little sentimental moment.

I have been listening to U2 almost non-stop lately, so I'm learning their With or Without You on guitar. As I think I mentioned in my last post, my mom, sister and I are planning some sets for our resident musical act at the Malga Rossa restaurant in Mussalente, Italy in the second part of my trip. We're scrambling for covers to throw in with my mom's original songs, so any suggestions would be appreciated!

Maybe I should get packing now...

Sunday, May 24, 2009


I thought I would give some idea of what exactly my trip will look like before I leave a few days from now. It will be divided into two parts, one with school and one with my family.

Part one of my trip is through the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University, and is worth four units of credit. There is required reading for the trip, as well as some lecture and discussion sessions taking place this Monday through Wednesday. The subject of the trip is "Dante and his classical roots," and this theme is reflected both in the academic and travel portions. We were assigned to read five books by Dante prior to our departure: the Divine Comedy (consisting of the Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso), Vita Nuova, and Monarchia. Upon our return, we will need to choose from a list of secondary sources (such as C.S. Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, etc.) an equivalent of 500 pages of text about Dante and his works to finish by the end of the summer. Some professors will be both giving lectures and joining us on the trip, including three Torrey Honors professors and Dr. J.P. Moreland.

Besides the obvious academic quality of the trip and the days leading up to it, we will be visiting some incredible sites closely connected with Dante and his classical roots. On Thursday, we will fly out of Los Angeles and arrive the next day in Athens. We will spend a couple of days touring around the city that was so foundational to Western thought, as well as a site of Paul's early ministry to the Gentiles as recorded in Acts 17. We will then go down to the Piraeus (as did Socrates in the opening to Plato's Republic) and board a cruise ship that will take us on a 4-day cruise of the Greek Isles with a stop in Ephesus, Turkey. These places hold so much significance historically, literarily, philosophically, and religiously. I have never been to Greece before, so I am particularly excited about seeing this wonderfully cultural and beautiful country.

Our cruise will end back in Athens, from which we will then take an overnight ferry to Italy. This part is a new addition to the itinerary, so I am not completely clear on it, but my understanding is that we will land in the vicinity of Naples and take a day-trip to Pompeii. I visited that region with my family a few years ago and I am absolutely thrilled to be going again. Pompeii is one of the most magnificent sites one can see; the ash of Mount Vesuvius has preserved the city as it was millennia ago such that you can see the grooves in the streets from chariot wheels and the frescoes on the walls of people's homes. We will take a bus from there to Florence, a beautiful city, rich with history and art and intrigue. Dante's home prior to his exile, for which he had very mixed feelings, will be our final destination for the Torrey trip on June 11th.

My family will meet me in the Venice area on the 14th of June, where we will be until the 4th of July when we will depart for Los Angeles. This 3-week period will be relatively flexible. We are staying in a hotel that is connected to a restaurant with which we have some connection through a friend/ business associate of my dad's. All I know as of now is that we will be working with him at the restaurant and that my mom, sister and I will be playing music there some nights. Besides that, we will likely take some small trips around the area and just hang out and enjoy immersion in the culture. We have been to this area 3 or 4 times and it is not a major tourist destination, so the familiarity and normality of this Venetian suburb, along with our being there to work, will perhaps allow for a good experience of "La Bella Vita" as Italians.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Welcome to my brand new (and long overdue) blog! I will use this first post to briefly introduce my initial intentions for this site.

It has been my intention to start a blog for quite some time now, and I have finally received sufficient motivation to do so by a friend's beginning one of her own as well as an upcoming trip. In light of the latter reason, this will start out as a travel blog where I can share about my European excursions in the coming weeks. My trip begins May 28th, and I will be returning on the 4th of July, so keep an eye out for posts about Greek and Italian adventures!

When I return from my half-summer abroad, I will continue posting, although perhaps in a different vein according to the slightly less exciting lifestyle of suburban southern California.