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...


  1. I would love to hear more about the lecture regarding Bernard. I have to think more about his proposition that the highest form of love is loving oneself for the sake of God. What do you think about his idea? The first sin was (in many ancient minds) and the cause of many, many sins is pride so it seems right to say that to love God best we need to be returned to our original, Eden-like state of humility.

    On a side note, in addition to With or Without You, you should definitly cover Beautiful Day by U2. As you know, I too am in a U2 obsession stage right now and that song always brings back so many good memories from our trip!

  2. Hi Katie,

    Can't wait to hear about Athens! I was reading the local (Athens) news about demonstrations in the city here: http://www.topix.com/gr/athens

    Send us some kind of a signal that you have arrived, alive. A posting here would be fine:)

    See you soon! Have a great time, love!