## Saturday, March 8, 2014

### It's that time of this year again

... because time in the Church is a funny thing.

last year we had this quasi-meditation; this year I'll only remark (beyond mentioning that) that it's The Longest Tract. We have more Tract this week than we have proper chant ... most other Sundays. I don't want to be groundlessly categorical, so I'll stick with "most", there. Thank goodness, the Schola Master is subdividing the schola so we sing alternate versiculi, each overall singing a page's worth instead of two.

## Monday, March 3, 2014

### More Star Trek

Golly, but I was ill... Sunday afternoon, after thirty hours of fever-assisted wakefulness, I finally drifted off into weird dreams.

Several times Cpt. Picard thought Counselor Troi looked like someone other than Counselor Troi, and was perplexed by Dr. Crusher's intermittent transparency (like a glass cast copy of herself). These two whom Cpt. saw often walking the corridors together seemed oblivious to their own (or each others') strange appearances.

Later, my older brother suggested to our bus driver he take us to the Tofornia Mile, but I don't think he got on the bus; after younger brother had made us friends with Gayle and Caroline and ... er... I can't pronounce his name... the family sitting behind us, we arrived at the semifamous Tofornia Mile (I think I thought it was somewhere in Mexico) where a someone was wrestling with a malfunctioning automatic baseball tee, in a ballpark between two halves of a divided highway in the midst of thick forest, and we were invited to try hitting one of these baseballs on a mile-long flight (because here of all places one can do that). Anyways, I remember hearing someone with computer-augmented binoculars reading "30 meters... 40 meters... " though I don't remember seeing any baseball bats, or seeing anyone trying to hit the ball.

If anyone has the gift of Joseph and Daniel... but I don't think these were those sorts of dream.

Belshazar

## Monday, February 3, 2014

### ... Everyone needs a hobby?

Dear Mrs Authoress,

There was a delightful exchange between a playwright and Conan Doyle: Q: “May I marry Holmes?” A: “You may marry Holmes, murder him, or do whatever you like to him.”

May I just say, now that you want to play playwright rather than Doyle, that no, you got it right the first time? To say that, as the story played out, it isn't about Potter, (Potter is central to the unfolding, but it's not about him) but about families: that the first big thing we do after Dumbledore's funeral is throw a wedding; that what saves the Malfoys is they decide not to be soldiers anymore but again a family; that Riddle was ruined because his family (mother included) ruined him, just in time for him to destroy them. (Potter doesn't turn into a Dursley, because the Dursleys themselves were scrupulous about keeping Potter out.)

And so, if the story must extend to the generation that follows (it needn't, of course, but that is what happens next) and if that is a happy ending, then the sympathetic characters (Ok, maybe Potter isn't so sympathetic anymore) ought to be well-matched for the purpose of being family. Potter, alas, has grown up without his proper, visible, natural family, and he doesn't connect at all with Hermione's family (they sort-of paper the walls of Diagon Alley once or twice, I think); indeed, who, in the whole tale, knows enough of the running of a family to supply what is wanting in Potter's experience, and can marry Harry and already loves him? I submit that only Ginevra will do.

Leah Libresco very sensibly acclaims the platonic love (I'd say philia) between Harry and Hermione; and why throw away that beautiful moment when Ron himself destroys a bit of Riddle's evil?

I am sorry to hear that you, the immediate author of the original tales, have twice now, been more than willing to recast your characters along lines of will and power, twice now in connection with the generative power and its degenerations. Go read some Tolkien letters (at least when he revises a story, he makes it better), and play with your children some!

## Thursday, January 23, 2014

### This is another post about "Gravitational Pull"

As I closed last time, "gravitational pull" tends not to produce collisions — at least, not in idealized circumstances, which I described with the phrase "essentially-two". In the old, "classical" physics setting, this is due to the particular (empirically-determined, but excellently predictive!) gravitational potential, which has a large group of symmetries. The model of a two-object interaction then looks like
$\frac{1}{2} \left( \frac{d}{dt} r \right)^2 + \frac{1}{2} r^2 \left(\frac{d}{dt} \Theta\right)^2 - \frac{g_0}{r} = H \qquad\mbox{is constant}$
where $r$ is the (variable) distance between the two objects and $\Theta$ is a cleverly-composed something that describes the (variable) direction of the two objects' separation, and $g_0$ is a constant describing the gravitational attraction between the two things. It happens that another expression
$r \Theta \times r \frac{d}{dt} \Theta = L$ must also be a constant — this one having directional information.

The never-meeting of the two things is sumarized in the necessity that squares of real things be positive:
$H + \frac{g_0}{r} - \frac{1}{2r^2} L^2 = \frac{1}{2} \left( \frac{d}{dt} r \right) ^2 \geq 0$

Now, of course we know that things largely under the influence of gravity do occasionally hit one another, and so the Moon is a rather interesting thing to behold at night, and St. Laurence has his “tears” every year — these are instances of things having size, being more than geometric points — and so of not being “essentially-two”, in my strange turn of phrase. Another class of things exerting mutual gravitational pull that aren't “essentially-two” in this sense is that of binary stellar systems. A notable sub-class are the pairings of a red giant and a white dwarf, in relative proximity. Sometimes these sorts of collisions take the form of the dwarf partner gradually accumulating the loose hydrogen from off their red giant partner, untill it gets thick and hot enough to start fusing hydrogen into helium on its own account, which makes a kind of nova. I wonder if (and how) this picture might have been in Benedict's analogical thought when he spoke or wrote of "gravitational pull"?

## Tuesday, January 21, 2014

### This is a post about "Gravitational Pull"

It's a funny thing: the Church has Laws — these are in addition to the moral law, at least in the sense that one could reasonably not do what they prescribe under the counterfactual hypothesis that they didn't say it. Nonetheless the Law, justly proposed, itself imposes a moral character on acts that otherwise wouldn't suffer such character.

One such law, which pertains to Priests, accolytes, and cantors, is that Priests as such (accolytes, cantors...) have no authority either to set aside nor to add to the prescribed text and ceremonial of the Mass, except in narrowly described ways. There are good reasons for this on which we need not dwell, and there are annoying consequences of it.

One annoying consequence of it (for a Priest) is that the indulgence attached to the aspiration of "Doubting" Saint Thomas is not allowed him, even in the usual circumstances, at the First Elevation in a Mass he is himself celebrating — for this would be an illicit interruption of, or addition to, the Canon. An annoying consequence of it is that blue chasubles, dalmatics, and tunicles (which exist in plenty, and of which many are profoundly beautiful) are thoroughly outlawed. A most perplexing consequence of it, for the children of Summorum Pontificum is that there really isn't any way the Extraordinary Form can be made an excuse to depart from the edited text of the Missal for the Ordinary Form, nor vice-versa. The dressing of the altar, the vesting of the ministers, the words used and their order, have each their circumscriptions; the propers of a Sunday Mass (proper of the Season) may not be used for votive masses, but only on their own Sunday and feriae; there are more points, but these are enough to keep in mind (unless you are a priest, in which case you keep a fresh Ordo and GIRM and all the rest handy and what are you doing, in whose name, reading this waste of time?) So we're a bit funny, celebrating the Kingship of Our Lord twice a year, and calling 1st January both the Motherhood of Mary and the Circumcision of Our Lord... and for a time we will be funny. (We should always be some sort of funny!) It is not in any authority below the Supreme Pontiff to adjust these counterpoints.

Do we want to unify the Calendars? Perhaps we do, and so why not compose ideas for how to do so; or better: consider sound principles whereupon the Church might do so. Why not write a thesis on the matter together with an example revised biformal Calendar and send it to His Holiness — I understand he answers surprisingly many letters, so the odds are better than at other times that, if he doesn't approve the thing ad experimendum for your oratory, at least he might give you a good reason why.

It's another funny thing altogether (one on which our continued experiences of any kind in this Creation largely depend) that if essentially-two things exert a mutual gravitational pull out of parallel with their relative motion, they never meet.

## Sunday, December 29, 2013

### Merry Christmas!

... belatedly, (or not for it is still the Octave)!

Nothing much to say, no deep nor deeply flawed meditations on offer, just a friendly Halloa, and keep yourselves well and warm (wherever the ambient is cold) and why not drop in for tea or virtual-tea some afternoon? I'm here all weak!

With prayers for blessings,
— Belfry

## Monday, December 16, 2013

### The Halting Problem of Evil

Because this is just what you always wanted to read as meditation for the First Week of Advent!

Of course you have heard of Gödel's theorems; they are:

1. Any sequential programming language that can implement interpreters for arbitrary sequential programming languages also implements programs that, for some input, do not converge.
2. In particular, for any sequential programming language $L$ (such as LISP) that can implement interpreters for arbitrary sequential programming languages, there is no convergent program in any sequential language that separates convergent $L$ programs from non-convergent $L$-programs.

What's that, you say? The LISP programming language is significantly younger than Gödel's theorems? Uncertain of the serializability of LISP itself? Not to worry! This is what happens when mutually-interpetable (or bisimulant) things get mixed up in a mathematician's brain. As it happens, what Gödel did, to prove his theorem, was to show that you could implement LISP (or some other sequential programming languge) in The Arithmetic of the Natural Numbers. I don't know precisely why he did that, though it might have something to do with everyone who cared at that point having a firm belief that they understood what the natural numbers were, and no-one anywhere had ever yet heard of a machine programming language (though they certainly DID have programmable machines, such as farmland and the Gutenberg press and the Jacquard Loom and the Player-Piano; what all these things lacked was recursion, but never mind).

Another way to read the theorem (as applied to programs) is that by far the best way to find out what a program does is to run the program, as naturally as possible. This is very much like (as Dr. Thursday reminds us) the way (as Uncle Gilbert remarked) the point of playing a game is to find out who wins! Now, with programs as with other games, there is definitely a risk involved, due to the halting problem and its corollaries, in running a program. You never know, for instance, that the thing will not chew up your whole machine (or try) before it stops unless you carefully run it within a tiny virtual machine; but on the other hand, unless you have an arbitrary quantity of free space to build a virtual machine in (or a working copy of your working machine), you may never know if some insidious program is going to behave in surprisingly different ways, given the space to do so in.

Of course, God Himself knows what every deterministic pattern of any size looks like at the edges, in exquisite detail; but this should be thought quite something else from creating a living thing that plays within the pattern for His delight. And how much more fraught than running a program, a deterministic thing in a deterministic piece of the universe (bar radioactive decay — and we know Who has ordered radioactive decay) is it to give life to a free and willful thing? But how else could anyone, ever, anywhere, in any way, be good? It is, of course, impossible, to be good without first being, and furthermore being free and willful; the dumb or speaking dead machines are useful or nuissance at times, but not (in themselves) good or evil. And never mind that he cannot be saved who will not be saved, still more can none be saved who is not at all.

Of course, this is all just an infinitessimal slice of the way the “problem of evil” isn't so much a theological problem as it is a natural hazard (and an intrinsic one) within any creation sufficient for containing moral life. [Although C. S. Lewis may have expressed it more eloquently, he certainly never invoked the mathematical certainty of Gödel's theorems, which nonetheless seem suprisingly a-propos; I think we may guess he also never had to program a computer, and it's neither a surprising nor deficient omission.] I also have to admit that this sort of analytical precision has a very cold feel to it, out of proportion with the fact of suffering; the recurrently strange H.H. F. Pp. I recently remarked on the especially poignant case of suffering children — Stilwell excerpts here.

It would seem that those things God has allowed are permitted for some end; and it further seems that suffering, especially suffering in children, does induce its witnesses to charity, and that is indeed a very good thing. Suffering makes the sufferer more lovable. In some cases this is through a change in the sufferer, but as often as not it is by a change in the rest of the world. And this effect, that suffering ordinarily leads to charity, is not a mathematical necessity (I'm sure), but rather a sign of God's goodness, the stamp of part of His character in the world.