Ok, Kids …

Put the books away. Reach over and turn off the news. Comfy? Why not go get something to drink, maybe a snack – and then come and sit with me.

I once lived in Pennsylvania for several years. I never heard of this place when I lived there or I certainly would have scheduled a trip. I stumbled across information about this place, many years ago now, and I take a look every now and then just to keep up with any additions.

It was Halloween season when I happened on this place on YouTube. The video had some catchy, typically Halloween-ish title and so I viewed it. I’ve been a fan ever since.

Trigger warning – no, not the snowflake kind, the stomach kind. Some of these things bring out our natural gag reflex at the same time completely capturing our imagination and wonder. What a brilliant concept this place was and I’m so glad it has withstood the passage of time and that it is even more popular today.

Oh; in case you’re wanting more – and want to laugh, too – look up this place and choose any video that mentions Mike Rowe in the title. He’s a natural, low-key comedian and he cracks me up; add that to the displays here and it’s a match made in heaven.

Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, I introduce you to the Mutter Museum.

Some Additional Thoughts

I sent a copy of the article I Don’t Need Proof to my younger sister. I don’t think she’d ever heard of the Shroud of Turin. But she likes to read my writing and is happy that I’m writing again, so, I sent it to her. After reading it, she sent it to her priest and to our older sister. Evidently at last night’s Bible study at her church (New Hampshire has different ‘shelter’ regulations than say, here in Florida) and her priest had some information that he shared about the Shroud and a couple of the people in the group asked if they could get a copy of the article and so I sent her the link.

I was discussing this rather interesting (at least to me) occurrence with a very dear friend who mentioned, quite sagely (of course!), that we never know ‘who we touch’. That gave me a great deal to think upon. It’s very true; we never know who we touch with a kind act or an insight or a new thought. It led me to think of what we are told in church, about planting seeds; you tell someone about the Gospel of Jesus and you never know if they do anything about what you’ve shared with them – I don’t think we’re supposed to know, quite frankly – but you’ve ‘planted’ a seed of an idea, a direction to investigate, a single frame of a larger picture.

There are many possible scenarios. I considered this one: suppose you met an atheist and asked them to watch some of the Shroud videos – or even just to look at the Shroud. When an atheist is confronted with something state of the art, top of line science can’t dispel, would it make them reconsider their stance on Jesus, firstly, and the resurrection, secondly? What if the videos were shared with someone who had lost their faith? Would the viewing of the videos put bellows to dying spark and breathe it to life again? Would someone from a non-Christian background be effected? If they were confronted with Isa not being a ‘good teacher’ but truly God, and not Allah?

If someone had no faith background whatsoever, which would be hard to fathom but for the number of polls taken that show an abundance of people with no religious knowledge, would a person of ‘no faith’ be moved to search for Jesus? If they were so moved to search for Jesus and become a believer based on the Shroud, would they be less of a believer? I make mention again of “blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” – would seeing the Shroud, the purported burial cloth of Christ, negate their having ‘found Jesus’? That’s a deep theological question to which I have no answer.

I’m reminded of there being only one way to God – St. John, 14:6 ” … No one comes to the Father except through me.” But there are many roads and ways to Jesus. Can one be less good than another? I don’t know.

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

There’s a wonderful young man who has a YouTube channel, Jamel a.k.a. Jamal, who does ‘reaction’ videos to music. He’s just a sweetheart and really nice guy. I subscribe to his channel and always look forward to his reactions to the music of my youth. I just watched a video of his reaction to The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald (written and sung by Gordon Lightfoot)

I was 24 years old (do NOT do the math!!!) when the song came out and I just loved it. I thought it was a great story and wasn’t Lightfoot clever to have thought it up. I was even impressed that it had an old sea chanty sound to it. It wasn’t until many years later that I learned it was a true story. Which fact, of course, brought a greater appreciation for the song and its story.

While listening to the song this morning with my buddy Jamel, I started reading the comments and was moved by the remarks of so many people. For many of the folks, the event and song are part of their personal history because they grew up in the areas of the Great Lakes. Some folks know “the wives, the sons, and the daughters”. Quite a few were recreational sailors, some were U.S. Navy. Many tears from many people who are touched by the tragedy.

One of the commenters suggested watching this particular video. The opening gave me chills. The lighthouse made me cry. I found this documentary that relates the harrowing experience.

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I am reminded of this Psalm. https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Psalms-107-23/.

 23They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; 24These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep. 25For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. 26They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble.

We tend to feel sorry for the folks ‘from there’; it couldn’t have an effect on us ‘here’. Imagine my surprise and shock to find out that one of the hands was from Bradenton, Florida – just over the bridge from me; and one was from Clearwater, Florida, the second town north from me. But we have since learned, because of September 11th, 2001, that events are usually more than ‘from there’ – it wasn’t just a New York thing, or a U.S. thing. How many countries were affected by that event?

The youngest hand on the Edmund Fitzgerald was 20 years old.

Perspective

Gosh, we have no end of complaints about this thing we’re dealing – or trying to deal – with. I just spent $65 for toilet paper. But you do what you have to do.

A dear friend in England sent this to me yesterday and it was a breath of fresh air. A reminder of when life was REALLY hard. I’ve seen, over the years, documentaries and pictorial essays about this time in our nation’s history but really had forgotten about it. This video was an important reminder that we’ve gotten through more than this and lived to tell the tale. The present day concern is ‘some here, some there, a bunch of it other places’ – the real hard times in America affected everyone – every human being in the country. If you lived in the country, you had it a tad easier (!), you could go out and hunt your food – deer, pig, or squirrel (if nothing better presented itself). Not so for folks in the city. Hard times, indeed.

But the people of our country, all us Americans, did what we could to survive and helped others along the way. It’s our history. It’s our DNA. I’ve occasionally wondered, what’s better? Having a cigarette and no light, or light and no cigarette. Haven’t come up with an answer yet. What’s better, having food and no money, or having money and no food? That one is easier to answer.

My mom and dad were both born in 1920. Mom always alluded to my father being ‘so much older’ than she was. Dad was born in March and Mom was born in July. It was an on-going joke between them. By the time the depression hit, they were old enough to be aware of what was happening around them. My mother feared poverty all the rest of her days. Mom was an only child and Dad had four siblings – two different stories. My dad had to quit high school to help support the four younger kids. At age 70, my dad got what he had always yearned for. He got his high school diploma by studying for and taking a GED class. He was so proud. He was always a good provider – native smart, as they say – and a lot of ambition. Mom and Dad gave us a good life. I hear people say terrible things about their parents and I sometimes try to explain that mine were like the Clevers. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMAi6JwxlGo

Watch this video – at least the first part. See if it doesn’t make you rethink our present situation. It helped me. It gave me perspective. 

It’s a crash course!

I was perfectly happy with typewriters, seven television channels, and a rotary phone. Then – from out of nowhere or from outer space – came touch-tone phones. And then there were rumors we’d have computers in our own homes; computers 1/100th of the size of the mighty Univac.

I didn’t get my first home computer until 1999 – that’s me, late as ever. It was a gift from my son who built it from bits and pieces he had laying around from old computers he had once used. It was my ‘training wheels’, to see if I liked it. Holy smokes! Crack cocaine doesn’t hit as fast or as hard as the home computer! I was instantly addicted! Email! Wikipedia! Puppy videos! Mario Lanza, years and years after his death, singing the Ave’ and the Lord’s Prayer! I was like Oliver – “Please, sir; can I have more?”

I think I’ve only had Skype for about six years or so. I had to have a friend install it for me because I think some kind of ‘protection’ thing was giving me trouble. Skype! I see you! Do you see me? How freakin’ cool is this???

Fast forward to the new now. You know what I mean – I’m not mentioning it. Everybody mentions it – I’m not mentioning it. The blind leading the blind, I helped our priest figure out how to live stream his Sunday sermon on the church’s FaceBook page. But you know those crazy priests – give them a platform and they want the stage (wink). He will be streaming Morning Prayer this morning at 11 a.m.

But no – that’s not enough; I got an email from him last night around a quarter to 11 (!). He wants to do Bible study – how can we do this? You askin’ me? (You talkin’ to me? [Taxi Driver reference]). I’m older than HE is and he’s asking me? I’ve only been here a little longer than dirt and trees. I was NOT born with the technology gene. So, today’s assignment is to find a platform that will face to face in real time like Skype, but able to accommodate more than four people (as my priest hopes and prays!). I’m researching Whereby and Zoom. Whereby says it can accommodate up to 12 people at once. I don’t know about Zoom – their live chat tells me I’m #227 in queue!

The ‘thing’ has caused me to take a crash course in technology. The ‘thing’ has been a size 15 boot in my nether regions into the 21st. Century. Scares the living hell out of me but I’m game!

The Glory and Beauty of the Liturgy

Photo: Interior of the Hagia Sophia today by Ian Scott / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0) via Wikimedia Commons

Gene Veith at Cranach found a story that fascinates me. Let’s let him establish the base.

The Hagia Sophia in Constantinople was one of the most magnificent cathedrals in the history of the church.  It is also one of the oldest, having been built in 537 A.D.

The building, whose name means “Holy Wisdom”–a reference to the Logos of John 1–is considered one of the greatest achievements in the history of architecture.  Its vast dome, its interior arches, and its other design elements are marvels of ancient architecture.  It was adorned with magnificent mosaics and other works of art and its acoustics for music were legendary. Built by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I, the cathedral–the world’s largest for a thousand years–became a major center for the Orthodox Church.

In 987 A.D., the King of the Russian tribes, Vladimir the Great, resolved to put away his people’s pagan gods and find a new religion.  He sent out emissaries to investigate the major religions of the surrounding nations:  Islam, Judaism, Catholicism, and Orthodoxy.  Vladimir resolved to adopt a religion for himself and the Russian people based on their reports.

From the website of St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral:

When they experienced the Divine Liturgy at the Hagia Sophia Cathedral there, here is what they reported:

We knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth. For on earth there is no such splendor or beauty, and we are at a loss how to describe it. We only know that God dwells there among men and their service is fairer than the ceremonies of other nations. For we cannot forget the beauty.

In an example of the role aesthetics can play in apologetics, this overwhelming experience of transcendent beauty led to Russia’s commitment to the Orthodox Church ever since.

And so the beauty of the sung Liturgy at Hagia Sophia is one of the reasons that Russia is an Orthodox country. It sounds a bit far fetched, doesn’t it? But is it?

I don’t think so. Compare say O Holy Night sung by some very good carolers in your local mall, to the same carol sung at King’s College, Cambridge. Quite the difference acoustics makes, isn’t it? One of the reasons I no longer go to theaters to see movies lies in the fact that a box of concrete blocks totally destroys the soundtrack and so it is much better at home. Yes, gentle reader, there are other reasons as well. If you doubt that, find one of the rare old theaters still running films, you will be amazed.

But back to Hagia Sofia:

Two researchers from Stanford, two scholars at Stanford University, art history professor Bissera Pentcheva and computer music specialist Jonathan Abel, were discussing the Hagia Sophia.  They realized that it would be possible to analyze the acoustics of the building today and to create a filter using that data, which would make music sound as if it were being performed in the Hagia Sophia.

Prof. Pentcheva went to  Turkey, got permission to visit the museum after hours, and after setting up microphones and recording equipment, popped a balloon.

That single sound–its echoes, resonance, and tonal qualities–provided data that was analyzed by computers and turned into an algorithm that could be applied to other electronic recordings.  And thus the sound of a choir singing in the 13th century could be recreated today.

That is a remarkable thing that is completely taken for granted. It is possible to greatly change the acoustical environment this way, as you’ll see, The Link goes to an NPR report on this which is fascinating.

https://www.npr.org/player/embed/808404928/808404929

Hagia Sofia, like many churches, is obviously very live acoustically, that balloon pop is a remarkable recording in and of itself. It is also coherent, which is the difference between it and trying to understand the PA in most gymnasiums. They too are very live, but they also have incredible standing waves, which depending where you are may multiply or completely negate some sounds. Here from one of Pastor Veith’s readers is a different experiment.

Surprisingly this has some of the coherence of the Hagia Sofia, which I would attribute to a grain bin not having any parallel walls or ceilings. It is a lot ‘livelier’ because of the difference between sheet metal and stone. If you ever been in a grain bin when somebody hits it with a hammer you’ll understand.

It can also be hard to understand spoken words in a bin, but it was not designed to be a soundstage nor a church, and even six inches of grain on the floor makes a dramatic change.

That Constantine’s engineers had all this figured out in the 6th century and were able to engineer this cathedral for this specific sound is almost beyond belief. In fact, for me, it is beyond my belief in Eastern Roman engineering, but not beyond my belief in God’s engineering.

Capella Romana has released a whole album recorded with the filter for Hagia Sofia, and tracks are available on YouTube, or the album may be purchased. Here is one.

Wow!

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