Facebook already had a huge amount of information about people and their social networks and their professed likes and dislikes.2
2. Note the ‘professed’. As Seth Stephens-Davidowitz points out in his new book Everybody Lies (Bloomsbury, £20), researchers have studied the difference between the language used on Google, where people tend to tell the truth because they are anonymously looking for answers, and the language used on Facebook, where people are projecting an image. On Facebook, the most common terms associated with the phrase ‘my husband is …’ are ‘the best’, ‘my best friend’, ‘amazing’, ‘the greatest’ and ‘so cute’. On Google, the top five are ‘amazing’, ‘a jerk’, ‘annoying’, ‘gay’ and ‘mean’. It would be interesting to know if there’s a husband out there who achieves the full Google set and is an amazing annoying mean gay jerk.
A couple of slightly awkward sentences aside (“Sometimes it felt like gliding through a child’s crayon drawing in which turquoise had been over-wielded’) the story conveys the tensions of the father-son relationship and, by extension, different approaches to the world extremely well. Reckoning have an interview with Parzybok on the story here – worth reading the story first. The story alternates above-water dialogue with below-water prose:
The plunge over felt like entering a planet’s atmosphere. The bubbles floated past like little stars, sparks and ash, aswarm with insects. And the sound—ten million molecules all sung together with a concussive white noise.
When the bubbles cleared he made his way down, his snorkel gripped tightly between his teeth, his breath tight in his lungs. The reef swam about him, brilliant and colored—displaying more colors than the cone-cells in his own eyes could detect. He was a stranger here; an alien creature, not biologically well-equipped. Unlike his father.
He scanned about. On dry land, they lived in two dimensions. But in the reef, danger came from any angle, above or below.
It was his father’s growing incompetence that had ensnared the anchor. Drunk and sudden and impulsive. He had studied his father for signs of dementia; a hobbling thing for a man so ruthlessly independent. As he finned further down he glanced back to see the otherworldly silhouette of their small boat’s hull above, where inside, like the meat of a nut, his father hummed some dirty ditty to himself.
At fifteen feet down he held his nose and blew, to clear the pressure in his ears. At twenty five feet they ached again, but he was still not close enough.
At thirty feet he could see the anchor in the foggy blue light of the bottom, nestled into an indentation between patches of coral, but the pain seared in his head and he was out of breath.
In the interview Parzybok says that to believe the world has a designer (or creator I guess) is to disclaim responsibility for it – I think I know where he is coming from but surely notions of stewardship and responsibility being given chime as much with the idea of creation as with the idea that responsibility is something self-defined and self-ordained?
Perhaps then, Mr Cruikshank suggested, he would like to tell everyone which political figures he did admire.
Without hesitation Mr Bolsover named Lord Salisbury, Queen Victoria’s last prime minister.
Amid the general murmur of surprise and disbelief, he went on to explain. It was not the details of Salisbury’s policies that Mr Bolsover admired, but his guiding principles. Salisbury had a deep aversion to officials and lawmakers. He took a quietist approach to government, and was contemptuous of those who believed that a government’s effectiveness is directly proportional the number of laws it passes.
There was also his appearance. Salisbury’s luxuriant, flowing beard and the great balding dome of his head lent him an air of immense gravitas, as did his pensive expression: his portraits generally showed him lost in thought, as thought pondering important matters of state. This was in direct contrast to his great contemporary and rival Gladstone who posed for photographs looking, so Mr Bolsover said, warming to his theme, ‘like an indignant owl’, and whose bristling side-whiskers appeared merely eccentric to modern eyes. Both men, however presented a salutary contrast the moon-faced chldren who held political office today. And Salisbury had been a supreme pragmatist: not for him the lethal devotion to an ideology at the expense of everything else. ‘The axioms of the last age are the fallacies of the present,’ he once wrote ‘There is nothing abiding in political science but the necessity for truth, purity and justice.’
One contra example is the nature poetry of the Irish monks which Flann O’Brien wrote about for his MA Thesis. Another seems to be this passage from Boethius (obviously an elite source, but nevertheless a contra example to the idea that appreciation of nature is a phenomenon of industrial society alone:
Perhaps, again, you find pleasure in the beauty of the countryside. Creation is indeed very beautiful, and the countryside a beautiful part of creation. In the same way we are sometimes delighted by the appearance of the sea when it’s very calm and look up with wonder at the sky, the stars, the moon and the sun.
The passage in the context of The Consolation of Philosophy implies that these are common sentiments of the time. It goes on to somewhat throw cold water on consolation from the natural world:
However, not one of these has anything to do with you, and you daren’t take credit for the splendour of any of them. The fact that flowers blossom in spring confers no distinction on you, and the swelling fullness of the autumn harvest is no work of yours. You are, in fact, enraptured with empty joys, embracing blessings that are alien to you as if they were your own. I ask you, why? For Fortune can never make yours what Nature has made alien to you. Of course the fruits of the land are appointed as food for living beings; but if you wish only to satisfy your needs – and that is all Nature requires – there is no need to seek an excess from Fortune. Nature is content with few and little: if you try to press superfluous additions upon what is sufficient for Nature, your bounty will become sickening if not harmful.
Of course, quite aprat from responding to this passage int he context of the book and of the philosophy fo the time, one could ask whether “nature is content with few and little” is in fact a reasonable reason to give for deriving consolation from it.
Recently I visited Derrynaflan with my son (5) and found it a wonderful site. The approach was challenging – we came from the Southern Route following a trip along roads with less and less room to turn and more and more grass in the middle. Then we had to climb various gates and pass through the eerie, desert-like (albeit very wet) bog landscape to Derrynaflan itself. We had a mighty time scrambling around and copying the designs on the Goban Saor’s purported grave. My son had absorbed that there was some kind of treasure story linked to the place, albeit the subtleties of the legal arguments passed him by. He did wonder if we found a euro coin would we have to give it to the government. Curious to know what came of the Derrynaflan trail proposed here?
Derrynaflan is best known for its medieval metal work, including a two-handled chalice known as the Derrynaflan chalice, on display in the National Museum of Ireland.
The Derrynaflan hoard (the chalice and associated ecclesiastical objects)
The chalice along with a paten, a liturgical strainer and basin were part of a hoard of treasure found by metal detectorist on land close to the monastery of Derrynaflan Co Tipperary. The complications, surrounding their discovery, helped to instigate Ireland’s current metal detecting laws which make it illegal for anyone to engage in metal detecting without a licence.
As a child I remember going on a school trip to the National Museum at Kildare St. After all these years I still remember this visit clearly, along with our teacher pointing out this treasure (Derrynaflan Chalice) found in my home county. I also purchased a small booklet in the museum shop on the chalice which…
What did the Renaissance find so appealing in Jerome? It was the conflict itself of a man who loved both the Christian faith and the pagan classics. Jerome had a terrifying dream of standing before Jesus Christ on judgment day and being rejected from salvation because of his love for the classics, and especially Cicero. Jerome’s intermittent and not entirely successful pursuit of the ascetic lifestyle was an attempt to purge the influence of paganism from his life. In its attempt to synthesize humanism and Christianity, the Renaissance found a mirror image in Jerome. The conflict of Christian versus classical, Trinitarian monotheism versus pagan polytheism that contended for the soul of Jerome also contended for the soul of Europe in the Renaissance.
There have been times when the Western church seemingly came close to resolving the conflict between the pagan and Christian. Dante’s synthesis of the classical and Christian worlds in The Divine Comedy was one instance, and the post-Reformation world of Protestant “state” churches was another.
The fitful romance between classical and Christian has never led to formal marriage, however, at least in the Latin West. The soul of the West continues to be nourished by the pagan and Christian, the Renaissance and (Counter) Reformation, but they stand in tension with one another. Go to Paris: in the Louvre you’ll feel the sensual attraction of paganism; in Notre Dame you’ll sense the spiritual attraction of Christianity.
As I wrote in that post:
I don’t fully buy the idea that the gospel and culture (as opposed to, let’s say, worldliness, are in inherent tension – and one can feel a sensuality to the art of Notre Dame and a spirituality to the art of the Louvre)
Edwards piece also presupposes a conflict between Christianity and appreciation of the Classical World’s thought and belief. I thought of this again when I came across some passages from Victor Watt’s Preface to his Penguin Classics translation of Boethius‘s The Consolation of Philosophy:
Our understanding of the relationship between Christianity and the pagan cultural background of the sixth century has become clearer since Henry Chadwick drew attention to the long tradition of Christian humanism which lies behind the Consolation. The link between the great senatorial families and the higher clergy in Rome was close, and so far from conversion entailing the rejection of pagan antiquity and custom it seems to have brought with it a positive attitude to the literature and thought of antiquity. Indeed, apart from the study of pagan philosophy, the editorial attention paid to classical authors such as Virgil and Horace and the care and restoration of ancient buildings, even originally pagan festivals such as the Lupercalia and the July games at Rome in honour of Apollo continued to be fully celebrated in Boethius’s time. As Chadwick makes clear, this ‘Christian love of the past, even when associated with some of the external forms of pagan ceremony, is of some importance as background for estimating the position of Boethius and his circle between classical culture and Christian belief’. This absence of tension between pagan and Christian tradition was able to foster a milieu in which the concept of the twofold approach to truth, one via the exercise of the reason, one via revelation, was natural and easy to maintain.
A later passage in Watts’ introduction is also illuminating of this point
It may be, however, that the question of Boethius’ Christianity has not been correctly formulated. It may be that is more were known of the intellectual climate of Roman society at the time the problem would appear in a different light. The explanation may well lie, David Knowles suggests, in the changed attitude towards philosophy since the later middle ages. Between the days of Augustine and those of Siger of Brabant it was the universal conviction among those who thought seriously that there was a single true rational account of man and the universe and of an omnipotent and provident God, as valid in its degree as the revealed truths of Christianity. The great men of old, pagan though they might have been, had attained and expressed this truth in their philosophy could one but reproduce their teaching faithfully, and with their aid a true and sufficient answer could be given to the problems of human life and destiny. It was with this answers that the philosophical mind could meet the world and all the disasters of life. Behind the rational arguments, no doubt, in the unseen realm of the soul, an individual could meet the personal love and grace of Christ.