Today's Wisdom

Those who do not pass from the experience of the cross to the truth of the resurrection condemn themselves to despair! For we cannot encounter God without first crucifying our narrow notions of a god who reflects only our own understanding of omnipotence and power
Pope Francis

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Online Learning

The Economist spoke at last about MOOCs and the benefits that both students and great universities can expect to get from these massive open online courses.  See the article here:

These free online courses are available to everyone who has an Internet connection. See for example with over 4 million students worldwide. 

Google too has already tested balloons that would be spread above the poor areas of Africa so that people there can connect to the rest of the world.

The entire initiative should be of interest to young adults, youth, and teenagers to choose which area they wish to specialize in and commit to it. We must warn that courses in neurology, history or psychology that speak about man usually ignore the metaphysical religious and moral dimensions of humanity which are essential to young people. In this regard, the Churches and parents have a duty to teach them.  One of the free online courses is offered by St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology here: 

Where is the origin of the development of science?

In some earlier discussions of friends it was argued that the Islamic philosopher Averroes is the "father of scientific exploration" in the West. I wish to contribute to this discussion here.
Averroes contributed to the commentary on Aristotle, but the giant who introduced Aristotle to the Western mind is St. Thomas Aquinas. St. Thomas synthesized the Aristotelian thought with Plato's ideas and retrieved the good from both philosophers and created his own Christian philosophy based on St. Albert the Great, with thoughts from St. Anselm, St. Bernard, St. John of Damascus, St. Augustine and others. However, the idea that God, while being the first cause of every creature, works through secondary natural causes first appeared in the works of Aristotle. Here the Greek thought of Aristotle was adopted by St. Thomas excluding such ideas as that the created world was eternal. Historians argue that a number of Greek Catholics in south Italy had brought Aristotle's work to Europe in the 11th century, but Averroes was simply a translator and commentator who happened to live in Cordoba/Andalusia. He arguably made errors in philosophy in view of the monotheistic philosophies. 

The advances in science were the result of many developments in the Western mind. 

St. Thomas Aquinas remains the most outstanding philosopher in history who in spite of grave challenges in the academic and Roman circles persisted in defending his synthesis. He advanced scientific exploration but other contributing factors to advance scientific exploration include the reforms in economic systems such as banks as lenders with interest, the 12th-13th centuries humanism reforms by such movements as the Franciscans and mendicant orders, the Renaissance movement which retrieved the good in Roman and Greek Classics, as well as a unified force in the Papacy that guaranteed a systematic and realist evaluation of the development of knowledge against tradition. 

Now look at a fragmented Christian/Muslim East in that entire history, and you get a better idea why it has not advanced. The scientific method with a humanist outlook must be integrated in constitutions and laws, and taught to students in countries of the Middle East. Unity and security are important. We are in a complex and interconnected world and cannot go back to ages of the simple mind.

When you argue, make sure that you have the libraries and resources that will back up your argument from history.  

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Henri Boulad, S.J.: The Parables of Jesus Yesterday and Today

In this fascinating book, Fr. Henri Boulad, S.J. imagines the person of Jesus in today's world teaching a kid how to ride a bicycle; speaking about a movie that the youth had watched; talking in a celebration of university graduates; participating in a party of highly-regarded businessmen and influential leaders whose success in business is the object of envy by less-successful businessmen; and an illegal immigrant in France always on the go for fear of being arrested by police.
In one of the parables, Jesus was invited to a dinner party in a billionaire's mansion. The billionaire who wanted to see Jesus welcomed him at the door and escorted him across several large rooms full of luxurious items, carpets, paintings, and luminous lights. When they arrived to the reception hall, the billionaire invited Jesus to sit on one of the expensive chairs, but Jesus declined and sat instead on a little wooden seat. Before any of the other invited guests started to ask Jesus any questions, the news of the latest global financial markets emerged in a heated discussion until one of the guests stood up to proudly say how he bought a luxurious palace in one of the Caribbean Islands in addition to the many other mansions that he owns in several states around the world. With much satisfaction in the admiration he received from the crowd of other like-minded businessmen, he turned to his neighbor and asked him whether he spent a nice Summer vacation, but the man interrupted the question by saying "It could have been a nice trip with my family on my own yacht, but unfortunately I was constantly bothered by my assistants telling me about my great financial losses in the market."
Then came the turn of the host to speak to his friends about his huge fortune which he accumulated in different winning deals and trades of weapons between Tehran, Baghdad, and Western countries as well as deals in selling drugs between the Far East, Beirut, and Amsterdam. Additional deals included the selling of women and children between Brazil, Thailand, and Western Europe.
Silence pervaded the entire hall. All stood in admiration of the man whose skills outperformed theirs. They stared at him with a look full of envy and asked for details about his stories of success. He went on telling them how he invested his fortune in British Sterling Pound which is very secure. To reassure them, he took out a little electronic device that updates him momentarily of the latest indicators of the stock markets in the globe. But as soon as he looked at his device, he started to stutter as he knew that the British Pound fell sharply in Wall Street - a fatal loss of his fortune. At this moment, hardly able to breath the host fell unconscious on the floor. His friends transported him to the most advanced hospital in the city. In vain, physicians attempted to rescue him with the latest equipment hooked to his body but he died in a few hours.
His corpse was taken to the Cathedral where a funeral service was arranged. As he lay surrounded by white flowers and many candles, a crowd of public figures, clerics, and businessmen attended his funeral.

In his jeans, Jesus was not allowed to enter the Cathedral. He only watched from far. What a great success and a beautiful funeral!

[And he told them a parable, saying, "The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully; and he thought to himself, `What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?' And he said, `I will do this: I will pull down my barns, and build larger ones; and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.' But God said to him, `Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."] (Luke 12: 16-21)

Today's Quote

"Behold I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5)


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