Thursday, October 19, 2017

Urbanism: Profaned and Reclaimed

Carroll William Westfall in “Traditional Building” September 29th, 2017
Demonstrators at the University of Virginia march to reclaim their campus and city.
The recent tumultuous events surrounding Confederate statues attest to urbanism’s role in political discourse. Robert E. Lee and others from the Civil War have drawn riotous mobs, but why on Friday night before the bloody Charlottesville rally did a mob with torches shouting Nazi slogans and hurling racist slurs march across the central Grounds of the University of Virginia and conclude by circling a statue of Thomas Jefferson?
Not because it was convenient: Lee’s statue is a mile away. Was it protesting the University’s being a citadel of liberalism and privilege? Was it enlisting Jefferson in its cause? Was it hoping to return the University to when women and African Americans were not admitted, slaves worked in constructing it, and slaves ministered to the university and to slave-holding students? Wretched thought!
The mob rejected the University’s intention, which is to educate guardians of justice and liberty. In Jefferson’s day students would come from the elite by birth and from those of “worth and genius” emerging from the universal, graduated system of education he envisaged. In our day the elite by birth must pass muster (legacy status does help; this is Virginia) and women, African Americans, other minority Americans, and even foreigners are admitted!
In his day the physical setting was to provide models for the architectural lecturer teaching leaders who would go forth and build. They saw the buildings and Grounds as physical manifestations of the curriculum’s diversity and unity and the content that it organizes. The Grounds, the curriculum, and the content of what they studied were united in conveying fundamental truths that had stirred people since antiquity and who transformed tradition ever after and into the present through new insight, knowledge, and experience. At the University students would learn to reason and to fund truth to dispel error, a program that was as new to the world as the nation itself was, a nation that followed “The maxim held sacred by all free people: obey the laws” and where the people made those laws.
That inscribed maxim greets people entering the Palmyra County Courthouse in Virginia designed by a friend of Jefferson. This small brick building followed the model of Jefferson’s Capitol in Richmond that itself adapted the model of ancient Greek and Roman temples.
The ancients isolated their temples within precincts where they honored the gods whom they believed were the source of their blessings. We don’t. We place them in the landscape among other buildings where they are accessible to all people and where all the buildings work together to make the place where individuals working together pursue the blessings available to a free people.
That open landscape is carefully nurtured into four parts with each serving a distinct role, something that in his day Jefferson’s University beautifully illustrated. It begins in the wilderness; Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark out to map it (there are two statues of these local boys in Charlottesville), and we now preserve fragments before it all disappears. Carved from wilderness is the rural district providing sustenance. Within its extent are dispersed civil centers with two parts. One is composed of gardens, both public parks and the private gardens where buildings are set and where cultivation grows plants for pleasure and the kitchen. The other is the concentration of buildings and open spaces defined by buildings we identify as urbanism where people pursue justice and happiness. At the University’s urbanism buildings embrace the planted Lawn; elsewhere paving prevails. Here is the center of the public, civil life, the place where we plant statues, and later we question their continued presence.
Urbanism doing good service to the civil life, and the civil life it serves cannot flourish without respecting tradition and introducing the innovations that the course of human events call for. Jefferson’s buildings are prime displays of this axiom. Its broad pallet of conventional parts and compositions and open spaces offer an emotionally fulfilling, beautiful, and rationally comprehensible distillate of the good life, here dedicated to the role that education plays in attaining it. Walls, columns, arches, and pediments compose a domed pantheon library, residence-classroom temples, dorm rooms flanking them, and colonnaded and arcaded walkways. Interlacing them are gardens and trees that culminate in the Lawn, a Common where buildings illustrate and discourse interrogates the collected wisdom and knowledge of the recent and distant past. Here antiquity and the experience of millennia are captured in the new, modern world, a place where students, faculty, and others may encounter, modify, reason, and dispute as they expand the body of knowledge and wisdom that we must command if justice is to make us free.
It is tragic that higher education continually distances itself from teaching and developing this civil, humane culture devoted to justice and the common good. Instead now almost everywhere future architects and those who will hire them are taught that architecture is yet another visual art used to display aesthetic or technical accomplishments displayed in buildings that are beyond the capacity of ordinary people to understand or appreciate. Urbanism fares no better; it is separated from architecture and is presented as the implementation of efficiencies that technology and economics define.
I doubt that few if any in the Friday night torch-bearing mob of would-be Nazis and proud racist were concerned about the deteriorating state of higher education today. But the power of the place that Mr. Jefferson built, the place where his buildings and urbanism still teach powerful lessons to those who are receptive to them, moved students and townspeople to act on behalf of what it stands for. They recognized the mob’s action as a profanation and desecration of that civil, humane culture, and so four nights later, simply by word of mouth and without preparation, they assembled and, carrying candles, they retraced the mob’s steps and filled the Lawn where they purged the mob’s stench and rededicated the University to its original, present, and continuing purpose. Here is the power of good urbanism.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Westfall on the Confederate Statues of Richmond's Monument Avenue
Addressing the Wrong of Lost Cause Urbanism
Carroll William Westfall in "Traditional Building" Aug 25, 2017
NOTE: I wrote and submitted this blog three days before the events of August 11-12 an hour’s drive away in Charlottesville. Since then there has been much written about what to do with these statues and others in other cities. I stand by the comments made here. August 21, 2017.
Several southern cities are embroiled in controversies surrounding public sculpture celebrating the “Lost Cause of the Confederacy.” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu reminds us that the Southern generals planted in our cities portray a false history and supplement the Ku Klux Klan’s program of terror and Jim Crow degradation. In his city the Confederate generals are being exiled to “a museum or other facility where they can be put in context.” Robert E. Lee Park in Charlottesville has been renamed Emancipation Park and its equestrian statue is now for sale. Here I present a review and suggestion from Richmond where a Commission is looking into the topic.
When Civil War veterans began to face the grim reaper the Cult of the Lost Cause began to place statues in cities. In Chicago in 1891 General U. S. Grant appeared in Lincoln Park astride his horse three years after Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ “Lincoln standing” started standing in the same park. Saint-Gaudens began a “Lincoln sitting” in 1908, but it had to wait until 1926 for land to be made from the lake for Grant Park.
Chicago was vigorously anti-slavery, but Richmond was second to New Orleans as a slave market. The grounds of Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia’s Capitol that served as the Confederacy’s Capitol already had a monumental sculpture group of George Washington and six other Virginia revolutionaries made in 1850-58. Nearby since 1875 was a standing statue of Stonewall Jackson by John Henry Foley donated by an “English Gentlemen.” Elsewhere places were found for other Lost Cause heroes. In 1891 General A. P. Hill, defender of Richmond, was reburied at one of his command posts with his statue atop a tumulus; it is now engulfed in a traffic circle. And across town General Robert E. Lee was intended for Libby Park’s romantic landscape overlooking the James River, but because a different site gained favor this one, that overlooked Confederate Navy operations and the last defense of the city, received a very tall Corinthian column in 1894 topped by a Johnny Reb representing Confederate Soldiers and Sailor.
Lee then became the proposed fixture of an 1888 land development scheme that extended the better residential distinct and would be fitted out for the most important Confederate figures. Eventually extending a mile and a half with a broad median with evenly planted trees, its flanking roadways attracting churches and large residences, many by important architects with circles for statues producing a Confederate Valhalla. Here, in order, we now meet the men on horseback: Jeb Stuart (1907), Lee (1890), Jefferson Davis (1907; standing because he was the President and not a warrior), and Stonewall Jackson (1919). The Cult had waned by 1929 when Matthew Fontaine Maury, Commander of the Confederate’s water defenses and oceanographer, the “Pathfinder of the Seas,” found a place farther down the Avenue.
For 67 years this spine through the good part of town remained unchanged until the first post Reconstruction African-American to be elected governor of any state managed to find a place for a fellow Richmonder, Arthur Ashe, the international tennis star who broke the sport’s racial barrier and tragically died prematurely. His podium stands at the very edge of the city limits where he urges children to read, read, read. And then this year, 31 year later, another barrier-breaking African American received her due. Maggie Walker (1864-1934), teacher, entrepreneur, banker, and millionaire, is now present in a standing statue not on the Avenue but in a tiny park between downtown’s main street and Jackson Ward. That is the site of her home, now a National Historic Site, and the former center of African American business and social life with the 1973 statue of Richmonder Bill “Bojangles” Robinson.
And now Richmond has been stirred to address those Lost Cause heroes, reminding us again that cities are not merely art galleries or market places but theaters where individuals, then and now, work together in confronting the moral dimensions of life.
Johnny Reb up on the column and the General in the traffic circle seem unproblematic while the men with the greatest urban presence on one of America’s great streets dominate the issue. Some voices want to exile them, but from exile will the body politic’s discourse lose the salt that flavors the quest for extending liberty today and beyond? Others suggest leaving them in place and “contextualizing” them, but what “contextualizing” could hold its own against the statues themselves?
The controversy concerns the statues’ content, not their aesthetic quality. After people let beauty be in the eye of the beholder beauty lost its role as a complement to and completion of meaningful content, and meaningful content did not call forth beauty to add impact. Beauty became a nonpartisan issue. Why else can atheists and anti-Catholics be moved by Raphael’s and Titian’s altarpieces, Michelangelo’s Pieta, or Notre Dame in Paris or Saint Peter’s in Rome? And why else can works in Chicago and New York paid for with public money through the federal art program that devotes 0.5% of a federal building’s cost be considered art? Content is needed to fix Monument Avenue, but to be effective it needs art adequate for its job. Together, art and content can fulfill urbanism’s traditional role, which is to serve the common good, facilitate the pursuit of happiness, and serve justice.
Let me propose that rather than exiling these figures we add to Monument Avenue people who stood for the right, who helped vanquish that evil past, and who, today, urge us to follow a better path? Suppose four generous traffic circles were carved out of Monument Avenue and equipped with statues as impressive as those of the rebels. Who might they be? Here is the starter list to add to: Sojourner Truth, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Grant, Lincoln, William Tecumseh Sherman, and Martin Luther King, Jr. The process of selecting the four would surely involve a robust discussion, one that would have to be conducted with good will, but doing so could forge a powerful unity in the community. With their presence Monument Avenue could become a glorious American Valhalla and not the problematic Southern one it is now, and this might make it a model for other cities to follow.

Why Airplanes Actually Fly

By David Millward, and Nick Collins for the Telegraph

Scientists have debunked one of the most commonly held myths in science - why aircraft fly. Aeroplanes can fly because their wings cause the air pressure underneath to be greater than that above, lifting them into the air. But engineers have for years been frustrated by a theory which wrongly explains what causes the change in pressure to occur. The myth is commonly found in school textbooks and aeroplane flight manuals, and is so widely believed that even Einstein was rumoured to subscribe to it.

Now a Cambridge scientist has become so fed up with the bogus explanation that he has created a minute-long video to lay it to rest once and for all. The video, published on YouTube by Prof Holger Babinsky of the university’s engineering department, seeks to explain in simple terms why the myth goes against the laws of physics. According to conventional wisdom the pressure change happens because the air on the curved upper surface of the wing has further to travel than that below the flat underneath surface, meaning it must travel faster to arrive at the other side of the wing at the same time.

In fact the real explanation is nothing to do with the distance the air has to travel. The curvature of the wing causes the change in air pressure because it pulls some of the air upwards, which reduces pressure, and forces the rest beneath it, creating higher pressure. A law known as the Bernoulli equation means that when pressure is lower, air moves faster – so the air stream above the wing does move more quickly than the one below, but this is not what causes the difference in pressure.

Prof Babinsky proved his theory by filming smoke passing across a wing. If traditional wisdom had been correct the smoke above and below the wing should have reached the front edge at the same time. The video demonstrates that the explanation is fundamentally flawed because the plume above the wing reached the edge much sooner than the plume below. If the distance the air had to travel was causing the pressure to change, then a boat's sail – where the air travels the same distance on the inside and outside of the curve – would not work, Prof Babinsky said. He added: "I don’t know when the explanation first surfaced but it’s been around for decades. You find it taught in textbooks, explained on television and even described in aircraft manuals for pilots. "There is no law in physics which states when streams of particles start at the leading edge of the wing they should reach the tailing edge at the same time. "I've even heard a story that Einstein drew a design for an aircraft wing with a long, squiggly line on top of an aerofoil to make the distance for the air to travel greater, but this would not work."

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

A Fresh Review of A Postmodern Codex

"Of course complexity and contradiction but also: ambiguity, paradox, incongruity, exclusion, vestigial, both-and, discord, brokenness, irony, distortion, unresoluition, chaos, inconsistency, superadjacency, superimposition, perversion, hyperproximity, contrast, juxtaposition, tension and violence, violence, Venturi revels in violence."

"In 1966 Postmodernism escapes the bounds of continental philosophy and literary criticism making its grand splash in architecture with the publication of this book, the broadly acknowledged gospel of architectural Postmodernism*. Since its publication three generations of architects have been indoctrinated in it. Therefore, if you wish to understand why the architectural and planning professions dysfunction as they do today, then this is a seminal text you are obliged to consider."

Here is a wonderful review by Patrick Web of Robert Venturi's famous book, Complexity and Contradiction and the beginnings of a discussion of the postmodernist movement. I would add that an understanding of postmodernism in architecture is perhaps a better introduction to the movement, and its fallacies, than in literature or philosophy. 

Read the full review here:

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A Conversation with John Burgee

One of my ND professors Duncan Stroik, a noted Catholic classicist architect, discusses the work of Philip Johnson with the famous postmodernist' colleague, John Burgee.


Thursday, September 14, 2017

Augustine and Monica


Good reading from my friend Adam's blog, Buckets, Wells, and Aquaducts (see right column):

     Augustine's mother, Monica, was a native African. Married to an unfaithful, and even abusive husband—she possessed a grounding center and refuge in two realities: the consolations and promises of the Christian religion, in whose teachings and rituals she placed a total, simple, and unquestioning belief; and in the love of her children—Augustine, his brother, his sister. When Augustine came to despise Christianity, she experienced this as a rift in her own being not to be consoled or healed. Indeed, her tears and prayers, the suffering that he caused her, exerted a constant weight in Augustine's life quite other than the attractions of various intellectual paradigms.

     Augustine was an ambitious, precocious, willful, hot-blooded young man. As a boy he fell in love with Latin poetry—and as a young man wanting to cut a figure in the world, he studied for a legal career. He so excelled in school, that he remained there to teach rhetoric (first in his hometown, later in Carthage), consistently admired by his peers for his intellectual capacity and commanding intensity.

     “To Carthage then I came, into a cauldron of unholy loves.” The school was dominated by a superficial love of prasie, the pleasing victories of public debate, and the vain desire to be best in the eyes of teachers and fellows. The culture of Carthage too, was permeated by the decadence of the late empire: the gladiatorial games, the pornographic rites of the theater.

     In Carthage, Augustine became attached to a mistress, with whom he lived for ten years, and had a son, Adeodatus. He also entered the sect of the Mani—a Gnostic mixture of Christianity and Zoroastrianism. The Manicheans' rather mystical spirituality, and the sense that they were guarding a secret knowledge, was enticing. They spoke in riddles that had special meaning for an elite inner circle—but they basically believed that there were two Gods, two equal and opposite powers that permeated the universe, constantly at odds with each other: good and evil, light and darkness, spirituality and matter.

     Human beings were sparks of the good God that had been trapped in bodies, enmattered, by the evil God. The key to life was to undergo certain moments of enlightenment in which one would come to know one's spiritual being as pure and apart from embodied experience. Since the material world was considered evil, natural passions, affections, and desires were fundamentally irredeemable. Once you recognized that your body was not "the real you," it could be allowed to do the works of its evil God, without staining the soul, or derailing the process of enlightenment.

     You can see the attraction here. On the one hand, Manicheanism allowed one to feel that one was participating in experiences that were pure and spiritual—and, on the other, it gave one license to indulge lower desires without worry that this would damage one's soul.

     It also allowed one to feel that one had an enlightened perspective from which to look down on traditional religion. As a Manichee and a master dialectician, Augustine positively delighted in running intellectual circles around believers, refuting the teachings of Christianity, and skilfully construing bible passages to mean what he wanted them to mean.

     Even more than his licentious life-style, this argumentative scorn for the faith tore Monica's heart. Here was her charming, witty, intelligent, sensitive Augustine (the son of her heart) enlisting his powers and talents to deconstruct the faith in which she rested, in which she had found—in all her life's very real difficulties—consolation, liberty, and strength. She did not attempt to refute his arguments with arguments but met them with the solidity of her person. At this phase she was given two signs of hope, a dream and word of encouragement from a thoughtful and perceptive pastor:

     "In her dream she saw herself standing on a sort of wooden rule, and saw a bright youth approaching her, joyous and smiling at her, while she was grieving and bowed down with sorrow. But when he inquired of her the cause of her sorrow and daily weeping (not to learn from her, but to teach her, as is customary in visions), and when she answered that it was my soul's doom she was lamenting, he bade her rest content and told her to look and see that where she was there I was also. And when she looked she saw me standing near her on the same rule.

     "Whence came this vision unless it was that thy ears were inclined toward her heart? O thou Omnipotent Good, thou carest for every one of us as if thou didst care for him only, and so for all as if they were but one!

     "And ... when she told me of this vision, and I tried to put this construction on it: 'that she should not despair of being someday what I was' she replied immediately, without hesitation, 'No; for it was not told me that "where he is, there you shall be" but "where you are, there he will be".' I confess my remembrance of this to thee, O Lord, as far as I can recall it -- and I have often mentioned it. Thy answer, given through my watchful mother, in the fact that she was not disturbed by the plausibility of my false interpretation but saw immediately what should have been seen—and which I certainly had not seen until she spoke—this answer moved me more deeply than the dream itself. Still, by that dream, the joy that was to come to that faithful woman so long after was predicted long before, as a consolation for her present anguish. ...

     "But thou gavest her then another answer, by a priest of thine, a certain bishop reared in thy Church and well versed in thy books. When that woman had begged him to agree to have some discussion with me, to refute my errors, to help me to unlearn evil and to learn the good—for it was his habit to do this when he found people ready to receive it—he refused, very prudently, as I afterward realized. For he answered that I was still unteachable, being inflated with the novelty of that heresy, and that I had already perplexed divers inexperienced persons with vexatious questions, as she herself had told him. 'But let him alone for a time,' he said, 'only pray God for him. He will of his own accord, by reading, come to discover what an error it is and how great its impiety is.' He went on to tell her at the same time how he himself, as a boy, had been given over to the Manicheans by his misguided mother and not only had read but had even copied out almost all their books. Yet he had come to see, without external argument or proof from anyone else, how much that sect was to be shunned—and had shunned it.

     "When he had said this she was not satisfied, but repeated more earnestly her entreaties, and shed copious tears, still beseeching him to see and talk with me. Finally the bishop, a little vexed at her importunity, exclaimed, 'Go your way; as you live, it cannot be that the son of these tears should perish.' As she often told me afterward, she accepted this answer as though it were a voice from heaven."

     Meanwhile, Ausgustine—always a questioner and a seeker at heart—was becoming dissatisfied with Mani's dualistic account of reality. The intelligibility of the world and the possibility of human communication and communion rest on an underlying coherence that permeates reality, giving it stability, order, proportion, and above all the radiance of, at moments, piercing beauty.

     Dualism puts incoherence, opposition at the center of reality. And its consequences for one's view of the human will—caught between two powers neither of which it can wrest free from—destroy the nobility of human life. Augustine kept asking questions, and always from the higher members of his cult he got the same answer. A distant look would come into their eyes, and they would say, “Wait till Faustus comes, he knows, ask him."

     When the Manichean bishop Faustus did come but could not answer his questions—and even, in an ironic turn, enrolled in Augustine's rhetoric class—Augustine gave up Manicheanism, and began the search for truth all over again.

   For a time he became a skeptic, one whose principle it is to doubt everything. The skeptic maintains that the ground of reality is unknowable, it may be coherent or incoherent. Probabilities alone and not knowledge are possible. As members of the New Academy, the skeptics claimed to be followers of Socrates—who was wisest because "he knew that he did not know"—but in fact they had abandoned the quest of the man they revered, and became mere caricatures of him.

     They would have been startled to hear the flesh and blood Socrates say:

     "Some things I have said of which I am not altogether confident. But that we shall be better and braver and less helpless if we think that we ought to seek and inquire, than we should have been if we indulged in the idle fancy that there was no knowing and no use in seeking to know what we do not know;—that is a theme upon which I am ready to fight, in word and deed, to the utmost of my power."

     In this period of doubt, Augustine who had broken with his first mistress (of ten years) in order to be betrothed to a young girl (who could not marry till she was older), now despite his betrothal fell in with a second mistress. He was as dejected and unmanned as Odysseus on the island of Calypso—and could find no guiding Hermes in his skepticism. Though his mother came to Carthage to offer him support, he could not listen to her either. In desperation, he gave mother and mistress the slip and left for Rome, taking another teaching post—in which, giving an uncharacteristically lackluster performance in order to support himself, he tried to solve the riddle of his existence: Who and what was he? What to do? How to live?

     Through reading Cicero, Augustine found his way to the books of Plato and the Platonists, which presented a very full view of philosophy's liberation of the mind. Unlike the school of the skeptics, such books did present a coherent image of reality—a reality whose underlying ground is one and eternal, perfect and stable, the cause of the existence and form, the intelligibility and radiance of all things. Everywhere in this philosophy Augustine seemed to hear an echo of the Christianity he had received from his mother as a boy. But when he turned to the Bible, it seemed to be full of old wives' tales, contradictions, superstitions, and to the rhetorician its style seemed so plain as to be embarrassing.

     After leaving Carthage, Augustine met the bishop Ambrose, whose golden tongue and clear calm intelligence (immediately winning Augustine's ear) nevertheless flowed from his faith and intimate knowledge of Scripture. Ambrose showed Augustine how Scripture is a layered work, that its stories while literal and simple—speaking so to the everyday life of each human being—also carry deeper and higher meanings. These higher meanings are not concealed behind simple things as if something alien to them, a secret teaching for which the literal story could be thrown away; instead they permeate the common matter of human life, lifting it into its own highest and deepest meanings and possibilities.

     By Ambrose Augustine was persuaded that, in Chirstianity, the God whom the Platonists understood to be the ground of things had in fact actively spoken and revealed himself to human beings. Had entered the limits of human existence, had had a mother, a body, a death—had redeemed our human life from within. But he hesitated to become Christian because he knew that this would require him to give up certain indulgences of the flesh. So that he would famously pray, “Lord, make me chaste, self-mastered ... but not yet.” Augustine knew such a prayer was shameful hypocrisy, and bitterly felt how his heart was set in conflict with itself. Yet he could not muster the will to launch into the new life that he now was convinced (at least with the top of his intellect) was the true life. In the garden of his house at Rome (where he was staying with his mother and his friend Alypius), he was agonizing over these contradictions—when suddenly he heard a voice:

     "I was praying and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when suddenly I heard the voice of a boy or a girl—I know not which—coming from the neighboring house, chanting over and over again, 'Pick it up, read it; pick it up, read it.' Immediately I ceased weeping and began most earnestly to think whether it was usual for children in some kind of game to sing such a song, but I could not remember ever having heard the like. So, damming the torrent of my tears, I got to my feet, for I could not but think that this was a divine command to open the Bible and read the first passage I should light upon. For I had heard how Anthony, accidentally coming into church while the gospel was being read, received the admonition as if what was read had been addressed to him: 'Go and sell what you have and give it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come and follow me.' By such an oracle he was forthwith converted to thee.

     "So I quickly returned to the bench where Alypius was sitting, for there I had put down the apostle's book when I had left there. I snatched it up, opened it, and in silence read the paragraph on which my eyes first fell: 'Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.' I wanted to read no further, nor did I need to. For instantly, as the sentence ended, there was infused in my heart something like the light of full certainty and all the gloom of doubt vanished away."

     Augustine finished teaching his courses and withdrew with his mother and his best friends, who became Christians with him, to a country villa in Cassiacum, where they spent their time in prayer and philosophical conversation—in which Monica too took an active part. At one time, the group had come to an agreement that to be happy a person must have the things he desires. Monica interrupted with an important distinction: “If he wishes to possess good things, he is happy; if he desires evil things, no matter if he possesses them, he is wretched.” Augustine told her that she spoke like a master philosopher and compared her to Cicero himself.

     After this retreat, Augustine concluded that he should begin his work for God in Africa, his home, and he and Monica made the journey down to Ostia where we find them in Book Nine, "refreshing themselves from their journey, and preparing for the greater voyage"—for Monica the voyage to the other world, for Augustine the Herculean work of his life, as teacher, pastor, bishop, and thinker. He was to face the collapse of the Roman empire and the sweeping away of the world of Classical antiquity, and lay the groundwork for a new culture. He is perhaps the single most important thinker, laborer, and architect for the founding of the new Europe whose rich and radiant humanity was to shine in the works of Dante, Aquinas, and Shakespeare, a culture grounded (as Pope Benedict has said) in the profound rapport between what is Greek and Roman—in the best senses of those words—and what is revealed in Scripture.

Original post here: Good

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Weekend Sailing/Camping in Harbor Springs

Joe and I have been planning a shakedown sail on his late 70's Chrysler C22. It's only 22' long, but packs a lot of cabin room for such a small boat. At 3000lbs, it's big for a trailer sailor but is small enough to launch from a truck. We spent a day practicing stepping and unstepping the mast in the driveway and have many ideas for improving the process to the point where it can be a single-handed operation. Originally, we considered an expedition from South Haven to Saugetuck, but as it was Labor Day with limited slips available and we were new to the boat, we decided to try something a bit more conservative. For this trip we decided to stick to an area I was familiar with and use our family mooring in Harbor Springs as a base of operations as we learned about the boat.

Headed north with the Chrysler C22 in tow
Posed in front of the Wequetonsing Post Office while we picked up the dingy.
It took a while to rig and provision the boat, but we motored down to the mooring and prepared dinner under an improvised boom tent.
Pancakes and sausage for breakfast after our first night on the boat.
And we're off. A fresh breeze proved a bit too be a bit too much action fir the younger members of the crew, but we had plenty of time to practice tacking, jibing, and various points of sail up and down the Weque shore in the lea of point.
Enjoying the sights of the Harbor Saturday afternoon
Our improvised anchor light on the forestry. 
A lot was learned about the boat, its rigging, and sailing; what we do and don't need to pack for longer excursions; skills we need to practice; and additional skills and knowledge we need. Next summer, the plan is to sail from Harbor Springs down along the coast and across Grand Traverse Bay to Northport. This would be a great trip in the C22 or perhaps the Mariner if I can get it s bit more seaworthy this winter...

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A Halcyon Morning

The pasture across from our house in a blanket of mist this morning. These mornings are starting to get a bit chilly, even if the days are still hot.