Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Week in Review: Relaxing with Russians

I wonder if I give the impression that my life here consists of study, study, study, with occasional eating and sleeping thrown in. While I do study a lot, that wouldn’t be an entirely accurate picture. This last week, for example, on Tuesday, just as I was gearing up to start studying after a little dinner, my roommate’s buddy stopped by and asked if we wanted to go check out a barbeque place in town. I wasn’t hungry, but I did want to scout out this place as a potential future destination for tasty eats, so I tagged along. A sample or two of a few items cemented me as a future customer. We then went a few doors down from the barbeque joint to a bar, where we drank White Russians, talked theology, and watched the A’s and Giants games. So, as you can see, I do relax on occasion.

I also make sure to watch my beloved Fighting Irish each weekend that they play. Yesterday my roommate, another friend and I watched the game at the home of a pleasant acquaintance of ours, an architect and friend of several DSPT folks who also happens to be a Notre Dame grad, and a big fan of Holy Cross religious; naturally, she and I found common cause there. It’s nice to find people around here who know about Holy Cross and have an appreciation for them. My poor roommate, though, had to put up with the two of us giving him grief as his Miami Hurricanes failed to breach the levies of the Notre Dame defense. I nearly felt bad for him. But not quite. Up to #7 in the nation!

On Friday I stopped by the cathedral church in Oakland, the Cathedral of Christ the Light. While it wasn’t my cup of tea in terms of the architecture (something between a bomb shelter and the glass pyramid at the Louvre), they did have the Blessed Sacrament exposed for adoration, and had a priest available for confessions in the middle of the day. It was a good reminder that, while having a beautiful church can be a great aid to worship, the more important thing is what takes place inside.

Highlights from classes during the week:

Intro to New Testament: Our professor has mentioned in class a few times a curious sort of phrasing that one sees in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament but also in the New: “the divine passive.” “Passive” here refers to the passive voice, such as saying “The ball was kicked” instead of “He kicked the ball”—the passive voice puts the emphasis on the recipient of the action, not on the doer. Some grammarians will tell you to NEVER use the passive voice, saying that it’s somehow weaker than the active voice; I personally consider that to be a silly directive. Sometimes your emphasis is precisely on the fact that something else was acted on. The “divine passive” is a great illustrator of that. You see it most especially in phrases like, “God was seen by them.” The passive voice is used when speaking of God (hence the “divine passive”) to emphasize that He is always the initiator of action, always the one revealing Himself to us; when people see God, it is because He allows Himself to be seen. The “divine passive” emphasizes that nothing can happen to God against His will.

Aristotelian Logic: We’ve been discussing various things concerning terms and propositions, but I’m not sure any of them would be of particular interest to you, or perhaps rather that I could make them interesting to you. But I think soon enough several of these elements will come together, and I’ll have something for you.

History of Ancient Philosophy: We discussed Plato’s Republic this last week, in which Plato, via the medium of a dialogue featuring Socrates, sets out his vision of how a proper society would be structured and function. A large part of it concerned the proper education of the youth to make them good citizens. Our professor contended that this work “is, at its base, a justification of philosophy, and the vocation of philosophy.” It seems that, for Plato, philosophy was not just a way of thinking, or a set of propositions one might assent to, but a way of life; the way he talks, philosophy is more like something you’re converted to than something you’re convinced of. St. Justin Martyr would definitely take that stance about 500 years after Plato when Justin called Christianity “the true philosophy.” Interesting to see how these things develop over time.

Philosophy of Nature: Still discussing that relationship between matter and form, that is, the potential to become something and the principle that makes a particular thing what it is. Again, not sure I can make this of interest to you yet, but soon enough, I think I will. Until then….


  1. I AM glad to hear of your fun times! But still love reading the explanations about your classes and the relationship of what you're learning to our everyday world. <3

  2. I always enjoy all your writings, Nick, and look forward to each new scintillating proffering. Just keeep up the good work, lad. I'm with you re the Irish! Dang, I'm hard to live with these days, what with my insisting that everyone listen to all the details of the latest Notre Dame conquest!! (Being a faithful oregonian, I am also delighted with the Ducks and Beavers, but I must say, with all 3 of "my teams" undefeated as yet, my Saturdays are virtual marathons of "couch potato-ness". Grandpa Jake