Monthly Archives: October 2016

Galileo and the Tension Between Science & Religion

Even as s a devout Catholic, Galileo was seen as someone at odds with the Catholic Church. His goal as a man of science was not to challenge the Church but simply attempt to change how Catholicism interpreted phenomena in the world. Galileo’s struggle of being a deeply religious man, while also being devoted to empirical reasoning and science, positions him as an individual who sought to find a happy balance between the two. Currently, the division between science and religion is quite clear. During Galileo’s time, the two were very much married to each other. Today we see science and religion as two different things, the argument of evolution being a topic of debate between the sides. Ultimately their goal is the same, the attempt to explain the unexplainable, where they both seek a higher knowledge.

Galileo’s commitment to his ideas is admirable as his time was filled with fear of heresy and opposing the Catholic Church. His support of heliocentrism (the idea that the planets revolve around the Sun), caused his persecution and questioning during the Inquisition. His life is an example of how belief and evidence are rarely in a clear balance.

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Paradigm Shifts and Higher Powers

Paradigm shifts are rarely brought about without a fair amount of resistance; whether in the realm of science, as was the case for Galileo, or in other areas such as with civil rights. The explanation for this is rooted in the nature of paradigm shifts: they represent a fundamental change in the assumptions underlying a certain sector. Each area of knowledge is built upon a certain set of assumptions. The concept of slavery and segregation in the USA for example was based upon the assumption of white supremacy. Most revolutions target these premises. As history shows, people find it very difficult to radically change their beliefs and ideologies, which is exactly what a paradigm shift requires.

In Galileo’s time, the geocentric model of the solar system, with the earth at the centre of the universe, was the foundation of not only scientific but also theocratic belief. This presence of the church and religious values in the area where Galileo (amongst other scientists such as Copernicus) was attempting to re-educate people made his role in the scientific revolution a lot more difficult. In admitting that the geocentric model of the earth was flawed, the Christian Church would itself be undermined and its other fundamental beliefs would be called into question. This meant that any efforts to disprove the geocentric theory were heavily resisted and equated with impiety.

This situation can be likened to modern America. One very controversial issue nowadays is the issue of gun laws, and whether they should be restricted. Outside of the US, many people do not understand why the conflict is so important (and simply resolved by a stricter regulation of guns, as has been proven effective in other countries). The fact is, however, that the right to carry arms is included within the US constitution, which itself lies at the heart of American law and governance. A change to the gun laws would seriously undermine the constitution. It would prove to US citizens that the constitution requires serious amendment and change not only in the sector of arms but also in other areas, and that it is outdated. The fact that the issue has become so high in profile makes it even more difficult for conservative politicians to relinquish this very important point.

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The Importance of Arts

Galileo’s talent in the arts is arguably the reason he was able to receive any recognition for his scientific discoveries. He understood how to observe the unknown and how to display it in a way for people to (eventually) agree with it. Given Galileo’s artistic background, he could properly use a telescope and create a legitimate depiction of the moon. A scientist without training in the arts would not have been able to interpret and explain the moon as well as Galileo. His balance of knowledge in religion, philosophy, and fine arts allowed Galileo to see and reproduce what he saw in the natural world.

Seeing and knowing is a powerful skill because it opens up a broader understanding of our natural world. Seeing a round figure in the sky each night is not the same as knowing it’s purpose. A dynamic education provides multiple dimensions for perceiving what we see. The study of arts ignites this curiosity for purpose that can never fully be satisfied, thus inspiring a type of thinking that can always move forward. This desire to know the truth is what differentiates humans from other living beings. Humans are able to thrive based on what we have learned about the world we live in. Galileo signifies this paradigm of people beginning to question what is told to them. He showed us that there is always more to learn, and that we shouldn’t believe concepts without proper observation. If humans always thought the earth was the center of the universe, we would have never stepped foot on the moon.

The study of arts opens up an endless realm of possibilities that have most likely never been touched on before. There is no definite answer in life, so we are left to supporting ideas with evidence and experience. With proper training in arts, we can work to unfold the unknown in this world. Thanks to Galileo, we can conclude everything we are told is false until proven true.

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The Magic of Theatre

Magic has always appealed to me. Just the idea of it, the stories of spells and potions with the ability to do a range of things beyond what our mere human abilities allowed.

This play is filled with magic. There’s Prospero, who controls Ariel. From the start of the play I found myself taking an interest in Ariel, because as an extension to my interest with Magic I also have an interest in Magical beings. Ariel, the sprite, is a particularly intriguing one, who takes the form of a Sea Nymph to carry out Prospero’s plans. In addition to taking the form of a Sea Nymph, in Act 3 Scene 3 Ariel enters as a Harpy (a mythological hybrid creature with a bird’s body and a woman’s face). With their wings, Ariel makes the banquet that was set by spirits disappear into thin air.

There are many elements of Magic involved on the island, which is easy to imagine but a bit harder to carry out on stage.

After some research I found that I wasn’t insane, but that The Tempest indeed has some of the most stage directions out of Shakespeare’s plays. These directions give us insight as to how certain tricks were performed on stage, or just simply let us know what the scene looked like so that we can infer further as to what was done.

The simplest of illusions was not an illusion at all, but was when Ariel became invisible to all but Prospero. That just required acting and blocking, blocking presumably so that Ariel could move through and around the characters in a way that normally would be seen as abnormal if the characters could see it. Choreography also would play a role, as I imagine that sprites would have a light, flitting way of movement, almost like a constant dance.

The heavier, more intense illusions come in the form of technology, with Shakespeare having to pull off things like the food disappearing when Ariel closed their wings, or Ariel appearing and disappearing with the thunder later on in that act.

Shakespeare gives us a clue as to how the wings trick was performed in his stage direction, “Enter Ariel, like a harpy, clasps his wings upon the table, and with a quaint device the banquet vanishes” (3.3, 166). After some more research I found that said quaint device could have been a table with a false top, that could turn over with the flick of a switch, either activated by Ariel or a stagehand. Ariel’s wings would disguise the act, so that the table could rotate and then when Ariel moved away, the fake table was now cleared of food.

Later on, Ariel disappears with the sound of thunder, and then the shapes enter again. From a basket disguised as a cloud that Ariel both descended and ascended in to wires attached to Ariel’s wings to Ariel just simply leaving the stage, there are many ways that this could have been staged. The stage direction doesn’t really tell us about the how, just that it happened. “He vanishes in thunder”  (3.3, 168). I actually find the second part of the direction more riveting, as “Then, to soft music, enter the shapes again, and dance with mocks and mows, and carrying out the table [they depart]” (3.3, 168). I imagine darkly dressed dancers moving around the actors and the table, making good use of the space until they finally get to their places at said table. The soft music creates a magical, mesmerizing atmosphere that the dancers play with so that it isn’t just the audience watching stagehands remove a prop, but it is something more.

I think I could honestly go on and on about how I imagine each scene to play out, and I’m not even a director. In the end, magic was created on stage by us “mere humans”, and it all happened live in front of an audience. That’s why I love theatre, because it always (to me) feels like a close second to actual magic.



Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. Edited by Stephen Orgel, Oxford University Press Inc., 1987.


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This Insubstantial Pageant’s Faded

I was 15 when I was married. He spoke to me softly then, told me in words as gentle as caresses that he would honour me, value me, love me. He had seemed beautiful too, white and flushing pink as he worked beneath the sun, colours unknown on our island of green and brown and gold. I was dazzled, of course, and my father’s insistence on our separation only increased the attraction, although in retrospect I can see his subtle direction, how he shifted me like just another actor in his spectacle.


When I first arrived in Naples, I was taken in by its structured disorder. The buildings sloped down to the water, stopping a little short of the docks, where the ramshackle wooden sheds were clustered close to palaces of stone; from our bedroom, I could see a tower of a house that seemed to sway with the wind, always appearing on the edge of collapse. Inside the palace there were tapestries and curtsied maids, the glitter of jewels and the chiming voices of courtiers, and, of course, there was my husband. At first, I loved Naples.


The illusion faded quickly, though. I should have known, with Ferdinand; his first question to me was whether or not I was a maid. I ought to have taken the warning. Instead, I treated him as a temple, and, in the first months of our marriage, he touched me lovingly, brought me gifts, delighted in my words and actions as one delights in a newborn child. But he soon grew bored with my naivety to the civilized world. I fell from his favour, and my heart felt ruptured, my lungs became stone.


When his father died and Ferdinand became the King of Naples, he was an ineffective leader. It was not surprising. If he struggled to carry logs, where would he find the strength to carry a nation? My father stepped in to assist, and, though he had abjured the roughness of magic, he still commanded complete control over the action of the courtiers. Naples became like the island, my father its god, the people his slaves.


I grew more and more nostalgic for the island, though. I missed the sunlight and the lull of the ocean, the gentle breeze of Ariel as he swung between the trees. Mostly, I missed the books. My books, too, although they were my father’s first. He never thought if I should want them before he drowned them, but during our years on the island, I became well versed in their philosophy. It was through their knowledge that I taught Caliban, gave him language, gave his garbled sounds a meaning, a purpose. That was before he – before the attempted – but it is a long time since, and I have almost forgotten his violation.


It was not so bad, otherwise. Now, when I lay down to sleep in my royal bed, the sheets of silk and my husband’s body sweating close to me, I miss the music most of all, the sounds and sweet airs that gave delight and hurt not. I try to remember the harmonies that echoed through the night, the chords of longing and serenity that danced upon the air, but here, they elude me. The pageant has faded, and I am left alone, exhausted, crying quietly into the sheets as my husband snores with sleep beside me.

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The Value of Virginity

In The Tempest written by William Shakespeare, one topic that I find interesting is the way virginity is a matter of politics. At this place in time, matters of feminism were inexistent and women were treated fairly stereotypically. A woman was meant to be someone who was controlled by a man, father or husband for example, and to control their behaviours including sexually related ones. Miranda, the daughter of Prospero, who was also the only female character in the play and was portrayed to have one intention; to be a bride to Ferdinand to bring joy to their fathers. The value of Miranda was her virginity, and her virginity was a matter of politics. In order to be the wife of Ferdinand, especially him being a prince and all, Miranda had to be seen as “pure.” This ensured Ferdinand that his children one day would never have to be questioned as his and to ensure that Miranda was seen an example of chastity. Not only was Miranda constricted to behaving a certain way because of the men around her, but she also getting into a political marriage that she may not have realized. This marriage set up by Prospero was done so that he was entitled to grandchildren in line with the throne, a political matter. Virginity here was nothing more than doing what “was right” for others (like the fathers of the couple) and being seen as innocent and pure like women were supposed to be. It was unfortunate at times like this that the value of virginity was strictly politics.

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Breaking News! New Island Discovered in the Mediterranean Along with Native Inhabitants.

A new island was discovered in the Mediterranean by famed researcher Prospero and his daughter Miranda, who hail from Milan, and they are breaking headlines. A male, who calls himslef by the exotic name of Caliban, has been a prominent, and somewhat terrifying figure of this brave new world and is a native to the island. Initially there appeared to be the promise of a friendly relationship between the native and the explorers as he showed Prospero where to find food and water , but in a terrifying twist Caliban attempted to take Miranda by force! It is safe to say tensions have been raised ever since. Luckily there was a kind spirit, Ariel, who Prospero has befriended and they are working together. Hopefully not all chance for a friendly relationship is lost.

With the exploration going well, baring the incident with Caliban, more people will soon be arriving on the island. Alonso (who heads a museum in Italy), Sebastian (brother to Alonso and a famed archaeologist), Antonio (a fellow reasercher and Prospero’s brother. Do I smell some brothley competition?), Ferdinand (a young reasercher just getting his bearings at his father, Alonso’s, museum), and the joyful reporting duo of Trinculo and Stephano will join Prospero and Miranda on their exploration.

Until next time, us here are C.O.L.O.N.I.S.T.A.S.S. Hole International wish them all the best.

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Meta blogging #101


A blog is an interesting concept, it not only reveals the personal views of an individual, but it isn’t restricted by the formal elements of academia, and thus allows a varied, thoughtful approach that can branch out in any direction, particularly because it is not marked, and thus no rubric has to be adhered to, which in turn gives its author the right to write in any idiomatic, unstructured, amusing, or ridiculous way he pleases, and furthermore, in a personal context, isn’t going to be heavily reviewed by 3 other classmates and Jason in a little room filled with great big books and a general air of obfuscating intellectualism, further providing the author with a complete emancipation from the archaic and dull dogmatic practices presented by the APA referencing style; indeed, one could potentially write a blog without any full stops, and, if one wished, would even be at liberty to put quotations marks wherever he please”d, with absolut””””ely no consequences what so-ever, in fact, I think one, in the form of a blog, one could even present completely incorrect spellings of basic words, and haavee nott 1 konsikwwent; indeed, numbers could be used without spelling them out (which itself is such a god-damned (Oh look, one can swear as well!) waste of my time!): one cannot begin to describe the sheer quantity of literary material that has been burnt at the proverbial stake due to ‘grammatical errors’, as if such a thing should plainly exist; as if grammar is some important part of language- which, I contend, it is not, and should not be commonly accepted; language exist, in its most fundamental sense, to convey meaning, and if one wishes to break every rule of grammar in doing so, then so be it- it would take an individual with a serious case of anti-intellectualism to deny the value of breaking the rules once in a while- Galileo would attest to that- so I compel you (the reader) to adopt some kind of new approach when blogging, because it is the one time in your life that you won’t be callously and forcefully restricted from expressing yourself in an academic environment, for, as we know, no academic wants to be challenged; or at least, not at a fundamental level; sure, they want to have their ideas probed and questioned, but only so they can go ahead and strengthen them, thus keeping themselves relevant, but not one academic will truly be able to claim they want the rules -which their work is restricted to- to be undermined, as this blog has so successfully done; so, in the interest of academia, break the rules, question the assumptions, and write however you want?



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Man vs woman, light vs dark: was Hildegard’s world really that black and white?

I was a little disappointed that we didn’t really discuss the movie more, or even had a longer discussion comparing Hildegard’s presentation of herself versus how von Trotta represented her. This is just a small discussion on what I thought of the movie and the director’s take on Arts One’s favourite nun.

I know it’s supposed to be for dramatic effect, but I can’t be the only one who thought those dramatic zoom-ins were a little funny. It really reminded me of the cinematography on mockumentary sitcoms like The Office and Parks and Rec.

I’ll admit: I hadn’t even started reading Hildegard von Bingen’s writings before I saw the movie. That was why, I suppose, I was a little disappointed when I read the book. There wasn’t enough conflict between Hildegard and the men to whom she was writing. She constantly put herself down as “a mere woman” to make her voice and her visions more palatable to the men she was addressing. However, Margarethe von Trotta painted von Bingen as this (pardon my language) badass nun who used her gift to gain a higher status not only for herself but for the women around her. She was, essentially, an activist of sorts. This was a nun who fought tooth and claw (or is it nail?) for visions to be considered valid. She was anything BUT “a mere woman”.

I guess my main problem was that the movie pitted von Bingen so fiercely against men. Almost every male character we see in the movie is there to oppose Hildegard von Bingen, to act as an obstacle on her path to success. Only one man, Volmar, was … well, nice to her. I suppose von Trotta’s main point in making almost every man an enemy of Hildegard is that this really was the world that she lived in. Since men had power over women in every way, it would make sense that the von Trotta pitted men so directly against Hildegard von Bingen. One scene that illustrated this relationship was when the nuns of the order performed one of von Bingen’s plays. The women represented the virtues, wore white and stood in the light; the one man in the play (Volmar) depicted the devil, wore black, and stayed in the shadows. You can see this sort of light-versus-dark imagery in another scene where Hildegard is appealing to the big boss priest (I don’t recall what the term is) to build her own monastery and being promptly shot down: Hildegard is standing by the window where the light can directly hit her, while the priest is sort of more in the shadows. A bit of a stretch, I know, but von Trotta makes it obvious from the very beginning, using lighting, that the nuns are the good “guys” and the priests and monks (except for Volmar) are the bad guys.

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Hildegard von Bingen, Doctor of the Church three hundred thousand days later

Whatever might be said about the current Pope Emeritus, it was Benedict XVI who recognized the prolific writings of Hildegard von Bingen as being worthy of a club of only 36 names. On October 7th, 2012, Hildegard was proclaimed Doctor of the Church alongside Saint John of Avila, becoming what some would consider a super-saint. But why now, so many centuries later? Because, according to Pope Benedict, her extensive writings are a sizable and significant enough doctrine to still have a distinct impact on Christianity and its adherents today. But that alone is not enough to merit recognition as a Doctor of the Church; Pope Benedict was of the persuasion that she merited the office thanks to the adaptability and longevity of Hildegard’s bibliography. Namely, that the Liber Vitae Meritorum and the Ordo Virtutum are so timeless in their moral and ethical teachings that Christians today still look to them for new meaning regarding their faith and place in the world.

Perhaps the greatest idea of Hildegard’s left for posterity, I believe, is the idea that one can look back at something once seen, many years later, and still find new meaning, new significance in it. For her sudden elevation to Doctor of the Church is nothing if not evidence of that idea’s longevity and applicability.

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