Saturday, July 26, 2008

spherical bodies

You know, right?, when you're googling for images just write "images" after the word. (I didn't know that till this year, is why I'm mentioning it.)

I just tried "astronave images" and found this cool book cover. The title Angeli in Astonave means Angels in Starships.
I love that title in a poetic sci-fi way, but the author Giorgio Dibitonto means it literally: he claims that UFOs are fulfillment of Biblical teachings such as "Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven." Whatever. I'm not opposed. I just like the cover art.

But I wonder, could UFOs instead be flying wheels of Parmesan cheese?

These are more what I expected to find, from the online portfolio of Milan-based special effects artist (mostly for snazzy TV ads, looks like) Jacopo Grisanti.
The ad is for Regione Emilia Romagna, the region of Italy that produces Parmesan cheese.

Finally, if I had my druthers, while I wait for angels of cheese to drop out of the sky, I would wait here:
A Primera Astronave Hotel no Mundo, in Salvador, the capital city of Bahia, Brazil.
Bahia was the one of the centers of sugar production in the New World, so slavers brought huge numbers of enslaved Africans here, not on anything so nice as a starship.

I like how people imagine spaceships as round.
It reminds me of how the early Christian theologian Origen* said that the bodies of spiritual beings (like angels, I think, but it's been a while since I read this stuff) are spherical.

(Ah, and I just googled him and found out that "According to the letter of Justinian to the patriarch Menas, Origen affirmed that 'in the resurrection the bodies of men rise spherical'").

I guess God likes round.

Since there's no friction in space, however, really starships could be any shape--like the Borg's cube-shaped ships, or the skyscraper-like Federation ships on Firefly. If you're ever going to land on a planet, though, you have to design something that can deal with the atmosphere.

See how much I'm learning from Star Trek--everything from Italian to angelology (this is a real word) to theology review.

II *Origen of Alexandria (c. 185-254, AD of course) and his spiritual philosophy always pleased to me, but the Church declared him heretical, and imprisoned and persecuted him, breaking his health.

The bit about spherical bodies was the least of it, though it was considered unorthodox. No, his worst call, in the Church's eyes, was his teaching that all souls will eventually be saved.
(Here's an overview from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.)

This is heresy because if that is so, then the teachings about eternal damnation are wrong.
You see the problem, right? If mercy and love really win out in the end, for absolutely EVERYONE, even Stalin and the devil and that person who was so mean to me in grade school, where does that leave the power of God's justice?

I like Origen, and I like that he raises some tricky questions.
I don't believe in an actual heaven and hell and god and all that, but how we believe in spiritual matters are important since they inform how we live our lives.
If we have to choose, and we do sometimes, do we choose justice or mercy?

I wanted to write my senior thesis on Origen, but my adviser convinced me to do Ambrose, the bishop of Milan instead, a much more mundane figure, immensely important politically--more like the Godfather.
[Photo, right, of me working on my thesis, "Saint Ambrose and the Theology of Death."]

I adored my adviser, so I didn't even question his motives. It was only in later years I realized he didn't want me to do Origen because he didn't understand him.

Oh well. It was perhaps more useful to me to learn about something *I* didn't have a natural understanding of: the history of church politics. It served me well later, when I tangled with its modern-day incarnation.
I went on wrestling with questions of mercy and forgiveness on my own, anyway.

Speaking of "Patristics" (or, Fathers of the Church, of which Origen is not properly one, what with his unorthodox teachings; but he still gets lumped in with them, because he was so very smart and interesting), I've been thinking a bit as the Star Trek convention approaches about the last conference I went to--also in August, but years ago, when I was in my early 30s (I had dropped out of college and only finished my BA years later): the Patristics Conference in Oxford, England, which I attended with the aforementioned beloved adviser, with a result that was perhaps not quite unintended on either one's part.

Hmmm... What do I want to say about this?
What was important about that week, besides starting an affair that was to last, off and on, for almost ten years?

Well, at the time, I had been thinking of taking up my prof's suggestion that I go to graduate school (theology/philosophy) at Oxford (he was a Trinity man himself). But the final day of the conference, I sat across the street from the Sheldonian Theater in a light drizzle of rain, watching some Morris dancers (can we give them credit? they are so maligned), and I had one of those moments of extreme clarity:
I 100% knew I did not want to put myself in this world, this world stripped down to the intellect.

I got up and walked back to the flat, thinking "remember this." I do remember it, and I know it was true--I would have hated being stuck in the heart of Western ideas, much as I do love it. (Yes, I do, to visit.)

Instead, a couple years later, I entered and was baptized into the Catholic Church, which was just as loony, but held lots of opportunities to work out mercy and forgiveness in the flesh and not only the mind.

This is really a much bigger story, which I launched into with no sense of where I was going--and now I am going to go see the ABBA movie Mama Mia with J., in half an hour. (I love ABBA.) So I guess I'm rescued, for now...


Deanna said...

Wow. Parmesan cheese space ships, God in the round, Origen, and affairs of the heart (with ABBA now stuck in my head, but that's okay; they're my husband's maybe favorite group). Always something interesting here. :o)

I like the new name.

Krista said...

Totally loving that picture of you looking wry and surrounded by books.

fresca said...

Gosh, I didn't think anyone would actually read to the end of this wandering post! Glad it was interesting.

That photo of me is one of my all-time favorites--it's very "me."

You can't tell, but I was quite possibly listening to ABBA when it was taken. :)

Jennifer said...

I think the inherent holiness of round things is a delightful thought. I also like the new name!

I also empathize sadly with one's thesis topic being influenced by one's adviser simply not getting it. I wanted to write my PhD thesis in 1995 on community-building and identity on the Internet. My adviser said she thought this "Internet thing" would never last, so it was no use studying it. :) I wrote it anyway, but she and my committe were so unenthused by my analysis that I kind of gave up on getting it published. About five years ago, one of the committee members came up to me at a convention and said, "I've gotten involved in discussion boards, and *now* I understand what you were saying in your dissertation! It was really groundbreaking work." *wry laugh*
Origen sounds awesome!

fresca said...

Jen--Are you writing a book now? I think if you're not you should write about how Internet has affected fandom!
That is so weird your adviser discouraged you. Or maybe not so weird. I never experienced the U as a very forward place. But then, I was studying classics!

Jennifer said...

I should be working at something academic on all this! I've become more leery of using online sources since, well, getting more involved in fandom and getting to know people actively involved in the creative process...but it would be a natural outgrowth of my interests to look at how Livejournal has shifted fannish communication.

My adviser, unfortunately, ventured into a chat room and was harassed, which lead her to conclude that all online communication was going to be of the same level of discourse. I can see getting really turned off on the medium--there are some real cesspools out there--but it was bad timing for me. :)

fresca said...

Jen: I've been reading "Enterprising Women" by Camille Bacon-Smith (your good recommendation), and I like that she does know the women of the fan community. And Henry Jenkings writes as a fan too.
Why would your involvement make you leery--it seems like a strength, given that of course you would be respectful about not outing people.
You could just look more at how people present ownership (copyright stuff), that would be pretty neutral (tho actually, it gets right to the heart of it pretty quickly, doesn't it?!)

Too bad your adviser let her one personal experience block her from listening to yours. Bad 'nets can be really scary, though. I had a tiny brush with that and it did put me off for a while. Shark infested waters. But hey, that's where all the most colorful fish live!