20 June 2018

The Demon Titivillus

Marc Drogin, Medieval Calligraphy: Its History and Technique (New York: Dover Publications, 1989), pp. 17-18 (footnotes omitted):
Titivillus was born in the minds of medieval monks  created in jest to make a serious point. The repetitiveness of monastic life took its toll. Monks would occasionally cease to pay precise attention and words were mutilated, misspelled, and misplaced. Monks had to be reminded of the sin of inattentiveness. The earliest recorded mention of Titivillus by name appeared c. 1285 in John of Wales' Tractatus de Penitentia. And the comment about him was repeated early in the next century when, in a sermon, Petrus de Palude, Patriarch of Jerusalem, commented, “Fragmina psalmorum / Titivillus colligit horum" which, loosely translated. says that Titivillus collects bits of the psalms. Slipping about unseen he listened for each and every verbal atrocity that occurred in the services. But the monks deplored copying and writing errors as much as those in reading and singing. While no record of his interest in scribal errors was found until the 15th century, it is logical to assume that he may have followed the monks from services to see what was amiss in the scriptorium.

What Titivillus did when he heard or saw an error gave him demonic status. John of Wales' early description added another fact corroborated in several manuscripts (among them London, British Museum, Arundel 506, folio 46): "Quacque die mille / vicibus sarcinat ille." Titivillus, it explained, was required each day to find enough errors to fill his sack a thousand times. And these he hauled to the Devil below where each sin was duly recorded in a book against the name of the monk who had committed it, there to be read out on the Day of Judgment.

Titivillus keeping a watchful eye

A related post: It Makes the Kidneys Ache

19 June 2018

A Refusal to Live

Marie-Louise von Franz, Puer Aeternus (Santa Monica: Sigo Press, 1980), p. 86:
Interviewer's remark: When you think of the pictures of Van Gogh, even the most melancholy are full of energy and force and emotion.

Yes, even desolation is fully experienced and even what is lost is fully expressed, in contrast to this [refusal to participate fully in life]. Sometimes, one thinks how much more alive such people would be if they suffered! If they can't be happy, let them at least be unhappy, really unhappy for once, and then they would become human. But many pueri aeterni cannot even be quite unhappy! They have not even the generosity and the courage to expose themselves to a situation which could make them unhappy. Already, like cowards, they build bridges by which they can escape — they anticipate the disappointment in order not to suffer the blow, and that is a refusal to live.

Vincent Van Gogh, Wheatfield with Crows (1890)

A related post: The Religion of Smug Ease

13 June 2018

Father's Day

Friedrich Nietzsche, Menschliches, Allzumenschliches (§ 318), from Vol. VIII of the Musarion edition (München: Musarion Verlag, 1920), p. 288 (my translation):
Correcting Nature — If you do not have a good father, then you should acquire one for yourself.

Die Natur corrigiren — Wenn man keinen guten Vater hat, so soll man sich einen anschaffen.

Josef Thorak, Friedrich Nietzsche (1944)

10 June 2018

Once Upon a Time

Sister Miriam Joseph, The Trivium: The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric (Philadelphia: Paul Dry Books, 2002), p. 5:
The utilitarian or servile arts enable one to be a servant — of another person, of the state, of a corporation, or of a business — and to earn a living. The liberal arts, in contrast, teach one how to live; they train the faculties and bring them to perfection; they enable a person to rise above his material environment to live an intellectual, a rational, and therefore a free life in gaining truth.
Edward Irvine Halliday, Worcester College Room (1952)

Not unrelated: They Are Scum

6 June 2018

Pluralistic Ignorance

Professor Dan Ariely on how he teaches his students about pluralistic ignorance, from the 33m55s mark in his interview on The Knowledge Project podcast:
I start the class by taking a paragraph from some post-modern literature text generator, something crazy, you know, so you don't understand what's going on — every sentence looks like it's constructed appropriately but there's no flow, there's Foucault and Derrida from time to time, and I just add some words about economics and behavioural economics, and Becker... It's the first class, people sit in, [there are] 500 students, and I say,"Let me start by explaining to you what behavioural economics is." And I just read this nonsense for five minutes. Then I stop and ask, "Why didn't you stop me? How many of you would have stopped me if there was only one person in the room?"
A related post: A Fool's Trick

4 June 2018

How to Gain Time and Tranquility

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 4.24, tr. Gerald H. Rendall (London: Macmillan, 1914), p. 36:
"Do few things, if you would have cheer." A better rule methinks is to do only things necessary, things which in a social being reason dictates, and as it dictates. For this brings the cheer that comes of doing a few things, and doing them well. Most of the things we say or do are not necessary; get rid of them, and you will gain time and tranquility. Thus in every case a man should ask himself, Is this one of the things not necessary? and we ought to get rid not only  of actions, that are not necessary, but likewise of impressions; then superfluous actions will  not follow in their train.

30 May 2018

Uprooted, Anonymous, and Pushed About

James Rebanks, The Shepherd's Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape (Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 2015), p. 51:
I sometimes think we [shepherds from the Lake District] are so independently minded because we have seen just enough of the wider world to know we like our own old ways and independence best. My grandfather went as far afield as Paris for a trip to an agricultural fair once. He knew what cities had to offer, but also had a sense that they would leave you uprooted, anonymous, and pushed about by the world you lived in, rather than having some freedom and control. The potential wealth on offer counted for little or nothing set against the sense of belonging and purpose that existed at home.
Hat tip: Laudator Temporis Acti

25 May 2018

Worth the While of Every Lover of Truth

John Smith Gilderdale, Disciplina Rediviva (London: Bell and Daldy, 1856), pp. 51-52:
Were it indeed only for its use in enabling us to detect the fallacies which may arise out of a singularity of idiom, in the case of a person knowing one language only, the value of this power of translating one language into another would make it worth the while of every lover of truth to retain his knowledge of Latin and Greek. In the act of passing out of one language into another the idea appears for a moment in its naked form, stripped of the accidental gloss of idiom. We see what is of the essence of the idea and what not — the thing in itself, not merely what it was to the Greek or to the Roman, at the same time that this very exhibition of its several phases, under the aspect of varied national influence, is a most valuable commentary on the res itself, of which those idiomata are but the versions.

Besides this, are there not some thoughts which seem so connected in their nature with the mind that gave them birth, that they refuse to be clothed in the new languages of the Western world?

The connection of the dead and the living languages is seen only by those who have carried a continued knowledge of the one into the study of the other. The ease with which the latter are acquired on the strength of a knowledge of their archetypes, along with the philological value of a classical illustration, goes a great way towards persuading most men of the indirect advantage of a life-long familiarity with Greek and Latin.

24 May 2018

Read Much, Reflected Little

William Ellery Channing, Memoir of William Ellery Channing, Vol. I (Boston: Wm. Crosby and H. P. Nichols, 1850), p. 154:
It is easy to read, but hard to think. Without thinking, we cannot make the sentiments of others our own. Thinking alone adopts them into our family. It is my misfortune, that I have read much, but have reflected little. Let me reverse this order. I prefer strength of impression to superficial knowledge, however extensive.

17 May 2018

The Statistical Mood

Marie-Louise von Franz, Puer Aeternus (Santa Monica: Sigo Press, 1980), p. 86:
You do not realize what it does to you when you read statistics. It is a completely destructive poison, and what is worse is that it is not true; it is a falsified image of reality. If we begin to think statistically, we begin to think against our own uniqueness. It is not only thinking, but also a way of feeling. If you go up and down the Bahnhofstrasse, you see all those stupid faces and then look into a window yourself and say that you look just as stupid as the others, if not worse! And then comes the thought that if an atom bomb destroyed all that, who would regret it? Thank God, those lives have come to an end, including my own! In the statistical mood, one is overwhelmed by the ordinariness of life.