Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Galileo's persecution

Astrology is only as illogical as my childhood belief that trees created wind. The system, a complicated one, does not come from nowhere. It is based on an Aristotelian cosmology adopted and adapted by the Arabian intellectuals, from whom I believe we acquired astrology somewhere in the 12th century renaissance. When the Aristotelian cosmology was replaced this was not because it was 'hockie superstitution,' but on the good scientific reason of it simply not having as efficient predictive powers when you treated the planets on a spherical orbit as an elliptical one. Astrology was a necessary cost of adopting a more efficient astronomical theory.

I studied Galileo. I did not understand. I know that the Church held certain views. I know that Galileo was one of those men who stood up and said, 'you cannot hold to this, you cannot let it become dogma. It will be your downfall. I beg you. I love my church, please do not say a thing that may show you as fallible.'  This in itself might be presumptuous enough to get you dead, but that was not it. That is how it is told in the play of Bertolt Brecht and in the history we read and they do not mention that what Galileo said shatters whole cosmologies.

Galileo was not killed for his work but he was imprisoned, censored, and ultimately died in silence having renounced what he believed to be true. He is considered a martyr of science. He isn't, because he did not die for it. He renounced it and lived to work in secrecy. He is not a martyr and although I respect his practicality I am disgusted by his failure to hold to what he held to be true. We die. It cannot be helped. For goodness sakes die for something if you can!

For Aristotle and as such for most all of the medieval tradition there were two realms. There was a superlunary and the sublunary. The sublunary is earth. Earth is mutable, changing, subject to birth and decay. Earth is imperfection at the center of a perfect universe. Past the vapours of the earth is the moon, the first superlunary body. All superlunary bodies are perfect, never-changing, and divine. The thing of it is the Catholic church still had bits of paganism in it, the worst of them being Aristotle. All we need do is remember that these are people who still worshiped the stars. It is never mentioned. There is a bit of talk about the need for earth to be at the centre of God's plan, but it is never mentioned that these are people who looked at the stars as holy bodies. The Arabic philosophy, which bleeds into western thought, considers them manifestations of God. It was believed that beyond the earth moved the heavenly spheres. These perfect bodies moved on crystalline tracks and made music unheard by any human creature; it was sometimes said that the animals could hear the music, especially birds and nighttime things.

So Galileo's science destroyed one of the last holding places of pagan belief. It forced the acceptance of one more thing not infested with spirits, not alive, not meaningful. Of course they fought him! Of course they were angry!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Whale skin

It was my birthday on Easter and I asked my father to take us out into the woods for a hike. I live in the city now and I miss having access to the parks and paths.

On Friday there was a huge storm. Trees were on the path in a few places. We had to climb around and over. For a bit we walked on the beach. Coming around a corner I saw a crowd of people. Then I gasped. On the beach in the circle of people was a dead grey whale. Never having seen a wild whale, either dead or alive, I was in awe.

It was definitely dead, although the barnacles were not. The tail was in the water and the barnacles there were still feeding as the tide washed in plankton. It stank. It only stank sometimes. It would be fine and then there would be a moment when the smell would wash over everything.

I watched the people touching the whale, a real whale! I found it disturbing, as did my little sister who watched from a distance. But I have always been curious. I could not bring myself to touch the flesh, but I did touch the baleen. It brought back all my desire to be a biologist, a dream until the first year of University when I realised how unsuitable I am for the sciences.

My boyfriend told the story to his disgusted co-workers. They expressed moral indignation at the importunity of the spectators. He agreed with them and then told them about how he had seen the whale, and touched the whale, and taken some pieces of it's skin. He gave me some for my birthday. A less disturbing gift then last year but only because last year he gave me Kant's Critique of Pure Reason.

I have the same view of this as of the Garden Protest. Wrong but rather wonderful.

Monday, April 19, 2010

My mother is dead.

This is not a happy post, but one I felt compelled to write.

My mother is dead. I feel angry. I feel guilty. I want her back. I need her back. For her, form me, for her family and friends and poetry. I feel jealous of those who have both parents. There are so many who are less deserving of a mother. I am. I loved my mother. I told her how much she mattered to me and I told the truth. How can she be dead? How can she be dead when others less deserving still live? People are alive who just go on killing time and when they are gone it will not matter. This was not her. Why could not one of them have gone in her place? It is not right. It is unfair. Death always seems unfair, but this one was particularly so. She died at fifty four. I am in my twenties. It is wrong. I should have been 50, not her. She was too young; I am too young to lose my mother and too old to not remember her now that I have.

I know she is dead. I am not in denial, which is the little I can say. I saw her body. I could tell from how it lay that it would not move again, like a soiled bed or a doll left in the ditch or an apple forgotten in the fruit bowl. Once death was a metaphor for those things, but to explain it I used them as a metaphor for her body. The body was no good. It could not harbour human life any longer.

I wish it called for revenge. I want someone to pay. I want someone to suffer for taking her from me. How dare the world do such a thing? But it is life, and no particular person. But there is no one. It is for the best, I would only get myself into trouble. I have a little anyhow. A man on the street was nearly hit by a car in his own negligence. He was angry at the car and I pointed out that the driver was simply upset at having nearly caused a death. He became angry with me. Insisted he was in the right. Following me. I slapped him. All the time I thought, I would like this man to suffer a little. I would like to take this out on him. What right does he have to live in a world that my mother no longer inhabits? There are others like him. I could hurt them too. Angry, stupid people who call attention to themselves when there are beautiful people in this world, people like my mother who would never ask for such attention.

I will not do these things, but I think of them as consolation. I pretend I will because it makes it hurt less.

I knew how lucky I was and I know how unlucky I now am. To lose a parent is devastation. For me to lose my mother is worse, worse in circumstance and worse again because she was so warm and so wonderful and gifted. My mother was Tanya Kern.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Shrine to student housing

We gave away the household budgie today and I proceeded to rearrange the room. I ended up with what Amber calls an oubliette. It is one of those awkward spaces in the corner of a room that is not quite accessible and cannot quite be used for anything, as such things gather there that you do not wish to use but do not wish to store too far from use. Amber pointed this out and I decided that the corner needed a plant. We ended up with what appears to be a shrine to student housing.

Storage, childhood crafts, and an empty bottle bottle once used to hold candles.
Note the UVic bunny, power cord, and router.