Stars and Dust

This is a continuation of the line of thought found in an earlier post.

In On the Human Condition, St. Basil writes:

If you like, after your contemplation of the soul be attentive also to the structure of the body and marvel at how appropriate a dwelling for the rational soul the sovereign Fashioner has created.  He has made the human being alone of the animals upright, that from your very form you may see that your life is akin to that on high; for all the quadrupeds are bent down toward their stomachs, while the human being is prepared to look up toward heaven, so as not to be devoted to the stomach or to the passions below the stomach but to direct his whole desire toward the journey on high.  (104)

Our physical form makes manifest our natural end, to contemplate the heavens and thus come to seek their Creator.  Ideally, all of creation could serve this end, but the stars are particularly useful for at least two reasons.  The first is that the regular passage of the stars, their permanence, indicates that they approximate the eternal better than other aspects of creation we encounter in the day to day.  In other words, because trees and rabbits are ever-changing, but the stars are a constant.  The second and more important reason is because the stars are impossibly beautiful.  Basil speaks about this earlier in the same book, emphasizing the glory of creation against which any material, human riches pale:

Therefore, why do you call happy one who has a fat purse but needs the feet of others to move around?  You do not lie on a bed of ivory, but you have the earth which is more valuable than great amounts of ivory, and your rest upon it is sweet, sleep comes quickly and is free from anxiety.  You do not lie beneath a gilded roof, but you have the sky glittering all around with the inexpressible beauty of the stars.  (101-2)

And, of course, you have Dante ending every book of The Divine Comedy with the stars.

(An aside, what do you think is the effect of this on your soul? Is it worth it? have you ever truly seen the stars?)

Basil’s ideas were common in Antiquity and beyond, and knowing this gives addition resonance to Lady Philosophy’s description of Boethius’s condition in The Consolation of Philosophy:

This was the man who once was free
To climb the sky with zeal devout
To contemplate the crimson sun,
The frozen fairness of the moon-
Astronomer once used in joy
To comprehend and to commune
With planets on their wandering ways.
This man, this man sought out the source
Of storms that roar and rouse the seas;
The spirit that rotates the world,
The cause that translocates the sun
From shining East to watery West;
He sought the reason why spring hours
Are mild with flowers manifest,
And who enriched with swelling grapes
Ripe autumn at the full of year.
Now see that mind that searched and made
All Nature’s hidden secrets clear
Lie prostrate prisoner of night.
His neck bends low in shackles thrust,
And he is forced beneath the weight
To contemplate – the lowly dust. (5-6)

Imprisoned on charges of treason, awaiting execution, Boethius can no longer contemplate the stars and has thus lost sight of the source of storms, the Spirit That Rotates the World.  Instead, he stares at the lowest element, the earth, last of the elements and lying at the greatest remove from the divine.  But it’s from here, the lowest point, that Lady Philosophy emerges to lead Boethius back to who he really is.

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Excited to Read Dante Again

I saw a sun above a thousand lamps;
it kindled all of them as does our sun
kindle the sights above us here on earth;

and through its living light the glowing Substance
appeared to me with such intensity-
my vision lacked the power to sustain it.

O Beatrice, sweet guide and dear! She said
to me: “What overwhelms you is a Power
against which nothing can defend itself.

This is the Wisdom and the Potency
that opened roads between the earth and Heaven,
the paths for which desire had long since waited.”

Even as lightning breaking from a cloud,
expanding so that it cannot be pent,
against its nature, down to earth, descends,

so did my mind, confronted by that feast,
expand; and it was carried past itself-
what it became, it cannot recollect.

Paradiso, Canto XXIII (Mandelbaum)

Bots 2017 – Season Planning

This is taken from an e-mail I sent to the captains, my basic plan for the season:

In general, I think that in a short season you can really teach at most 2-3 things. Based on the level we’re at, I think those things should be dump sets, marks, and basic defensive principles (i.e. staying with your man).  I’d like to work on those, along with catching, in some fashion every single practice.  If we can execute our dumps 80% of the time and limit around breaks ourselves, I’ll consider the season a great success and think we’ll be a real contender at Regionals.
Behind this are some general principles that are going to influence how we operate in general (so not something that’s explicitly being taught, but the way we teach and run scrimmages).  The basic philosophy of our offense is to quickly move the disc in order to rapidly and decisively exploit holes in the defense.  More practically, dump swing so we can fast break it down the break side.  I want to play fast and aggressive this year, I think we’ve got some athletes with low levels of experience and an aggressive downfield attack with tough D seems like a winning strategy that will also give people useful skills to play A-side (i.e. defense, hucks, and running quick strike O).
On D, I have a dream of running force middle, hence us working on changing the mark last night, but really my main goal is to lead with our defense.  I want us to defend actively, to force them to take throws they don’t want to.  In practice, that means doing things like really pushing people under/deep, hassling dumps, and (if we can manage it, I doubt it) trying some “contain” type defenses, which are really effective against B-teams that can’t complete a lot of underneath throws consistently.
This year, I’d also really like to stress team values.  Surveying the team, virtually everyone gave some variation of “fun” and “team” as the values they’d like to see us aspire to this year.  In my eyes, the true success of our season depends on the degree to which we actualize these values.  What precisely that requires, I do not know, but that won’t stop me from trying and I’d like to document this attempt over the course of the season.