A Poet, A Cynic, A Conqueror & A $10 BetSaturday, January 04, 2014
|Margaret Visser - Hotel Vancouver Sept 1994|
The blog below appeared before on October 26, 2006. I am placing it again with more details. One reason is that for once in this bleak January, Rosemary thinks we should skip Mexican cultural cities and perhaps go to a Mexican beach and do nothing. Which had me thinking of Pindar the Poet or was that Diogenes the cynic? If you want to find out how that came about that a Mexican beach would make me instantly think of Alexander the Great in Corinth or was that Thebes? - read on. I lifted the 2006 blog from a backpage Vancouver Sun Rear Window which appeared for a few years on Thursdays. It was created by Queue Magazine editor Charles Campbell who thought that Rear Window could be a vehicle for me. I would write about a photograph from the past (in this case Sept 1994) with an event of the week October 5-12 2000 as Margaret Visser was in town to read from her book The Geometry of Love - Space, Time, Mystery and Meaning in an Ordinary Church.
A nice foil to a good mystery is a book of essays. In recent years, Henry Petroski has expounded on ferris wheels (Remaking the World - Adventures in Engineering), Stephen Jay Gould has shown how natural selection has prevented anybody from batting 400 over a season since Ted Williams in 1941 ( Full House)and I have learned all about the Swiss Army in John McFee's La Place de la Concorde Suisse.
For essays on food (and chewing gum), nobody tops South African-born Toronto/Barcelona/South of France resident Margaret Visser. In her 1994 book The Way We Are, I found out why Pythagoras commanded his vegetarian followers, "Abstain from beans!" And in September of that year I had the good fortune of taking Visser's photograph in her room at the Hotel Vancouver.
We discussed her mention in her book of the first sunbathing scene in French Literature. In 1902, the hero of André Gide's book L'Immoraliste took off his clothes and lay down in the sun.
This made me remember the first recorded incident in history of someone taking a sun bath. I had learned of this from my wonderful teacher, Brother Hubert Koeppen at St Edward's High School in Austin, Texas. Brother Hubert had instilled a love of history in me that had all started with such facts.
She wrote her address in my copy of The Way We Were and it was an address on Euclid Street in Toronto. I also noticed that the book's dedication was in classic Greek. I knew I was in trouble.
A few weeks later, a neat handwritten letter arrived from Euclid Street. Included was a copy of a page from Plutarch's Lives in both English and Greek. It read,
"....a vote was passed to make an expedition against Persia with Alexander, and he was proclaimed their leader. Thereupon many statesmen and philosophers came to him with congratulations, and he expected Diogenes of Sinope also, who was tarrying in Corinth, would do likewise. But since the philosopher took not the slightest notice of Alexander, and continued to enjoy his leisure in the suburb of Craneion, Alexander went to see him; and found him lying in the sun. And when that monarch addressed him with greetings, and asked him if he wanted anything, 'Yes, 'said Diogenes, stand a little out of my sun.'" I sent Visser a cheque for $10.
I am about to re-read one of my favourite books. This is Visser's The Geometry of Love - Space, Time, Mystery, and Meaning in and Ordinary Church. This beautiful book about Sant'Agnese fuori le mura in Rome is a biography of a church that is not all that ordinary. One of the floors in the canonry of the 1,350-year-old building collapsed on April 12, 1855 and 105 people, including Pope Pius IV, fell through to the floor below. No one was injured.
Simon, son of Jonah, himself nicknamed Peter, "the stone, "was later to comment on the relationship between the crucifixion of Jesus (his "rejection") and his status now as "the corner stone" of the new view of the world. People who do not believe that Jesus is the Christ foretold will not think him a "cornersone" at all, Peter wrote; they will find him a "stumbling-block." The latter expression in Greek is petra skandalou , the origin of the English "scandal"; it means a stone that people fall over. Page 83, The Geometry of Love.