I’m writing this week’s blog a few hours before we leave for church, and while this give me more time after church for phone calls getting up early after last night isn’t easy. We had three birthdays this week, so in order to celebrate we had a dance party in the classroom. I never thought dancing would be something I learned here, but almost every weekend we have some dancing.
We actually had two parties this week, the first being a celebration of our cook, Steven’s, engagement. Such a joyous occasion! Myself and one of the girls tag-teamed an engagement shoot for them yesterday. They were wonderful subjects! Totally comfortable, laughing and adorable!
This week our faculty was Dr. Donald T. Williams. He lectured on a variety of subjects, mainly literature, and directed a short one-act play that he has written. The play was a Socratic Tetralogue (conversation between four people), and I got the part of Erasmus of Rotterdam, who could perhaps be called the Father of Renaissance Humanism, which is the topic I will be talking about his week.
The rise of nation states, coming out of the dark ages brought with it the “Dictatores”, learned men who could read and write, but were not members of the clergy. They began as scholars employed by monarchs to write out laws, treaties, speeches etc. As time went on it was discovered that the there were great Greco-Roman writers who had similar jobs, and had written a great deal about them and how to do them. And so they began to develop something called Grammatico-Historical Exegesis, which simply explained is studying the historical context of the writing and the language it was written in, so that one can know what it meant and then adapt it to apply it to their present situation. These scholars soon adopted the battle cry of “Ad Fontes” Back to the Sources!
Now, Humanism as it was then was not an ideology as we think of it now, rather an educational reform movement, which concentrated on applying grammatico-historical exegesis to the classics. The name Humanism came from its emphases on the “Studia Humanitatis”, that is the Humanities. Some famous humanists include: Erasmus, Martin Luther, John Calvin and Zwingli.
Obviously it wasn’t long before some scholars began to apply this ideal of study to the Bible, and this started the stone rolling that would become the reformation. Humanism made these key contributions to the reformations: The desire to read ancient books, the ability to read ancient books, the availability of ancient books, a sound hermeneutic (hermeneutics is the branch of knowledge that deals with interpretation, esp. of the Bible or literary texts), and the ability to explain why the Bible said what the Protestants said it did.
This was by far my favorite of the lectures we had this week and it was fun to be the character in the play who is the personification of the Humanists of the Renaissance!
I want to close with a poem written by Dr. Williams, which I enjoyed very much! Sadly his poetry book sold out before I got a copy, but this is also in one of the books for our required reading so you’re in luck!
Proposed, That The Modern
In Its Euphoria Over Learning
How To Do Neat Things With
Matter Has Left Something
Out Of The Equation
There was a time when men could see the sky,
A grand cathedral vaulted and ablaze
With myriad candles lifted up on high
By nights for vespers; in the brighter days,
The great rose window eastward shed its rays
For morning prayer, and each and every flame
Burned elegant in litanies of praise,
In fugues and canons to extol the Name.
But now the sky, though larger, is more tame,
And modern man sees what he’s taught to see:
Huge numbers are just numbers all the same,
Though multiplied toward infinity;
And quarks and quasars cannot speak to us
Except as agitated forms of dust.
Except as agitated forms of dust,
We don’t know how to know the thing we are:
The biochemistry of love is lust
As anatomic furnace is a star,
And all that’s known is particles at war.
And yet we do know love, and yet we know
That it and lust are infinitely far
Apart. We know the stars and how they glow,
Though they know nothing of us here below.
So even while we’re slogging through the mire,
We cannot help ourselves, but as we go,
We cock our heads to listen for the choir.
We know that half the truth is half a lie
There was a time when men could see the sky.
–Donald T. Williams