Vol. 2, Issue 13
June 17, 2007
A warm mid-June welcome to our latest subscribers. Scholegium is a small newsletter, but growing -- our subscriber list is now over 400, and I'm very happy to have each of you on the list. If you've just joined and would like to see some past issues, click the "Scholegium" link in left pane of Schola's homepage (see the bottom of this newsletter). If you enjoy what you read here, please forward it to your friends, and I hope you enjoy this bouquet of musings.
IN THIS ISSUE:
1) SCHOLA NEWS -- Schola in Sacramento
2) COGITEM -- The Best Medicine
3) DE ASTRIS -- The Summer Solstice (and some planets)
4) SIC LOCUTUS -- Edward Gibbon
SCHOLA NEWS -- Schola in Sacramento
Please click the "Upcoming Events" link on Schola's homepage to see what's happening this summer. Schola alumni and students in the Sacramento area should note the upcoming get-together there Sunday evening, July 1. Contact me for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org
I was in Cleveland and Dayton, Ohio, a couple weeks ago and had a delightful visit with all the old and new Schola students and their families that came to our picnic and to the graduation the following day. Students and alumni can see a picture of our group on the Student Forum.
COGITEM -- The Best Medicine
America is so deeply corrupt there's no returning to our former belief in virtue founded on faith. America's moral foundations are still strong and one generation of faithful young people could rise up and reclaim her old institutions for good. Which statement is true, if either?
Titus Livius (Livy), one of the great Roman historians of the first century before Christ, saw the same two sides of the coin: is Rome still great? She clearly was. Was there gross corruption at her heart? No one could deny it. And in his history of the Roman people Livy depicted the sort of gradual delay and accelerating cultural collapse that we see in our country now. Furthermore, he said that his nation had reached the point where they could "neither endure our vices nor the remedies needed to cure them." And it's just that problem that makes us cultural conservatives sick at heart. We see that our national vices are destroying us (though we are not yet destroyed), but we also see that there is no longer any stomach for strong remedies. But Livy has an answer -- the study of history. Hear what he says:
"The study of history is the best medicine for a sick mind. For in history you have a record of the infinite variety of human experience plainly set out for all to see; and in that record you can find for yourself, and your country, both examples and warnings: fine things to take as models; base things, rotten through and through, to avoid." Now of course the only medicine for the ultimate sickness of human depravity is the gospel of Jesus Christ. But that's not what Livy is talking about; he's talking about the sort of sickness at heart that we mentioned earlier -- the heartache or near-despair that a lover of his country feels as he looks around and sees vices that destroy and no stomach for solutions, the sickness that is tempted to think that there is no solution. That kind of sickness can be salved by the study of history.
The study of history is a cordial (literally, "medicine for the heart") because it reveals what we could not otherwise know: that this is not the first time this has happened, that there are causes we can comprehend, that individual human character and judgment (good and bad) and not vast impersonal forces, are the engines that drive history, that there may be solutions we would never have guessed which could lead to cultural recovery, that there are models of courage and virtue to imitate even in the face of nearly universal vice, and that if in fact there are no precedents for recovery from a situation like ours, there are still lessons to be learned and passed on. In other words, the study of history gives us perspective, a backdrop against which we can set our own modern circumstances and make better judgments about them.
DE ASTRIS -- The Summer Solstice
Next Thursday, June 21, around the middle of the day, the sun appears to us in the northern hemisphere to reach its highest (most northerly) point, briefly pause, and then begin its southerly journey till mid-winter. We call this high point (and also the mid-winter low point) a "solstice", from Latin "sol", meaning "sun", and "sistere", meaning "to cause to stop", because the sun stops its northerly movement and begins its return to the south. The summer solstice marks the longest day and shortest night of the year; it marks the beginning of astronomical summer and the mid-point of the agricultural summer.
While you're waiting for the solstice, watch the moon in the western and south-western sky after sunset the next few nights. You'll see the waxing crescent moon appear higher and higher each evening. Tonight (Sunday, June 17) the moon will be below brilliant Venus (the brightest celestial object in the sky besides the sun and moon). Monday night, June 18, the moon will be between Venus and Saturn, and Tuesday, June 19, the moon will be near Regulus, the bright star in Leo.
Jupiter is also striking these days -- after sunset you'll see it very bright in the southeast. You can't miss it; it's the brightest thing in the sky after Venus.
Under a democratical government the citizens exercise the powers of sovereignty; and those powers will be first abused, and afterwards lost, if they are committed to an unwieldy multitude.
--Edward Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire