Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Adrift in Etherland

There is, oh, so much information in the world.  So many things one could learn.  So many things that are most definitely not important, in which one could lose oneself.    Maybe someone with a tendency toward ADD is more susceptible to such wanderings than others?  It always amazes me, though, when I go on such a tour of google or wikipedia or even the World Book Encyclopedia, me how many things there are to be interested in.

This morning, for instance, I'm trying to write a post about my ambivalence toward the election process this year, how strange that is for me, and how Santorum's Minnesota straw-poll victory, combined with a similar caucus victory in Colorado and a non-binding primary victory in Missouri made me happy enough I'm feeling the stirrings of political excitement.  See, it only took four lines to say that, but somehow I got lost along the way.  Badly lost.

I was looking for a quote I've seen attributed to Edmond Burke.  "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."  Then I discovered that this particular quote is not even an actual documented quote.  It is considered a contested quote.  It, and many similar versions, is currently thought to be a conglomerate of Burke's views.

I also discovered that a version of this quote shows up in Tolstoy's War and Peace, "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."  I've never read War and Peace.  It's been on my list.  But after taking about two months one winter to read The Brothers Karamazov I decided I didn't have time in my life for War and Peace.  There are only so many hours in a day.  And a busy mom has no business reading tomes.  Especially when the only reason she wants to read such a book is to be able to say, "I did it!"  Which truthfully, is pretty much the only reason I'd do it. To be able to slide it into conversation, to drop a line every now and then about the a certain character or philosophy or quote. To be able to look smart and well read and be admired for being an academically accomplished person.  (Yes, I have a little vanity thing which which I struggle.)

After reading a little while about Tolstoy, I went back to Burke and found this little nugget that pleased me.
Manners are of more importance than laws. The law can touch us here and there, now and then. Manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarize or refine us, by a constant, steady, uniform, insensible operation like that of the air we breathe in.  from Letter #1 of Letters on a Regicide Peace (1796)

That quote put me in mind of the reason Joe and I had originally decided to homeschool our children and my one big regret with sending them into public school.  The quote is not altogether similar, but it did remind me of one of my primary parenting philosophies.  Kids in school can learn school stuff, the rules or rudiments of reading, writing and arithmetic.  But, their little persons, their characters, are so much more important than those rules and basics of academics.  This shaping and building of character is simply not a teacher's job.  How can a parent accomplish such a monumental task in a few short evening hours?

Leaving aside parenting philosophies, the next stop on my morning wanderings through the world of information took me to Burke's Letters on a Regicide Peace.  Did you see that in the quote above?  What an interesting title!  Whatever does it mean?  It was irresistible to me.

Apparently Burke did not think much of Prime Minister William Pitt's attempts to make peace with the revolutionary government in France in the early years after her revolution.  France's governing body was officially called, in English, the French Directory, but Burke referred to it as the Regicide Directory, because of its renegade abolition of the Monarchy (or Regent).

But interestingly, the letters are written in the Juvenalian style.   Hmmm.  Does that mean written as through from the mouth of a youth?

As a matter of fact, no.  Decimus Iunius Iuvenalis, who is also known by the English form of his last name, Juvenal, was a Roman poet in the early centuries AD. 

Oh, and look, he wrote in dactylic hexameter.  Wow, that's so cool!  I remember learning about iambic pentameter, and I can guess that hexameter must mean that there are maybe six sets of beats...but what about the dactylic part?  Doesn't it just make you want to know more?

According to wikipedia,
Dactylic hexameter (also known as "heroic hexameter") is a form of meter in poetry or a rhythmic scheme. It is traditionally associated with the quantitative meter of classical epic poetry in both Greek and Latin, and was consequently considered to be the Grand Style of classical poetry. The premier examples of its use are Homer's Iliad and Odyssey and Virgil's Aeneid.
Oh, boy, more food for thought.  Where can I go from here?

Take a breath, Mary.  Your coffee is cold, your writing time is used up, and what have you to show for your time?  A few assorted bits of trivia rattling around your brain?  That's about it, and not very important to your primary vocations of child rearing and homemaking.  Also not very important to the secondary (or is it tertiary?) vocation of blogger. 

And in case you're wondering, as I was, what comes after tertiary, it's quaternary, quinary, senary, septenary, octonary, nonary, and denary.  Sadly, there is no similar number relating to the eleventh of something, but the twelfth, in case you ever need to use it, would be duodenary.   Just imagine,... it doesn't have quite the same ring, though,...Duodenary Night, by William Shakespeare...hmm.

Vvvvvvveeerrrrryyy bbbbiiiiggggg ssssiiiiiggggghhhhhh.

So in order to say I at least accomplished something, I quickly wrote this up so that you, my readers, can maybe smile a little.  Maybe you can pat yourself on the back, and say to yourself, "At least I am not as bad as theMom."  Or maybe even, you'll go on to some big and important earth shattering accomplishment because of the little seeds of curiosity planted by accompanying me on my little informational junket through the ether world.

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