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Title: Blog by Novelist William S. Frankl, MD

Archive for February, 2019

Spinoza/Philosopher/Theologian

Tuesday, February 19th, 2019

Benedict Spinoza was born on November 24, 1632 in Amsterdam. He was a philosopher, the descendent of Portuguese Jews who immigrated to the Netherlands seeking religious tolerance. Young Spinoza studied Hebrew, the Old Testament, the Talmud, and Cabalaist traditions of mysticism and miracle. Fluent in five languages, Spinoza wrote in Latin, which he learned from Christian teachers who introduced the young scholar to mathematics and philosophy.

By age 24, Spinoza had developed his own ideas. He asserted that everything in the universe was made from the same divine substance, possessing infinite characteristics. He defined God and the laws of nature as one and the same, a part of this infinite substance. All of this was too far-flung from the dominant vision of an almighty, singular godhead for Spinoza’s religious contemporaries to tolerate, and Spinoza was excommunicated.

This did not deter him from his intellectual pursuits. He said, “Do not weep; do not wax indignant. Understand. He left Amsterdam and supported himself grinding lenses while writing books of philosophy. He lived in solitude and studied the work of Bacon, Boyle, Descartes, and Huygens. Spinoza published three books while he was alive, though more of his writings were published later by friends. The only book that named him as an author was Principles of the Philosophy of René Descartes (1663). He withheld much of his work because he feared retribution from a group of theologians who had publicly accused him of atheism.

For more than a century after his death, Spinoza’s work was widely considered heretical and atheistic. But toward the end of the 18th century, his ideas underwent a revival. Thinkers called him holy and a man intoxicated with the divine. He influenced philosophers such as Goethe, Herder, Lessing, and Novalis. According to the philosopher Hegel, “to be a philosopher, one must first become a Spinozist.”

Spinoza said, “The highest activity a human being can attain is learning for understanding, because to understand is to be free.”

And, If you want the future to be different from the present, study the past.”

 

C.S.Lewis/Great Anglo-Irish Writer

Tuesday, February 19th, 2019

C.S. Lewis was born on November 29,1898 in Belfast, Ireland. He was a great novelist and Christian apologist. His full name was Clive Staples Lewis. He grew up in a big house out in the country. He said: “I am the product of long corridors, empty sunlit rooms, upstairs indoor silences, attics explored in solitude, distant noises of gurgling cisterns and pipes, and the noise of wind under the tiles. Also, of endless books.” He was particularly fascinated by Norse myths and old Scandinavian epics.

Lewis became an atheist after his mother died, and his atheism deepened after he fought on the front lines in France during WWI. He studied at Oxford University, and then became a professor there. After he had been teaching for about a year, he went to an Oxford faculty meeting and met a young professor of Anglo-Saxon named J.R.R. Tolkien. Lewis described Tolkien in his diary: “He is a smooth, pale, fluent little chap […] thinks all literature is written for the amusement of men between 30 and 40 […] No harm in him: only needs a smack or two.” Despite his initial misgivings, Lewis and Tolkien became good friends when Lewis joined Tolkien’s newly formed Icelandic Society. Lewis wrote to his best friend from childhood: “You will be able to imagine what a delight this is to me, and how, even in turning over the pages of my Icelandic Dictionary, the mere name of a god or giant catching my eye will sometimes throw me back 15 years into a wild dream of northern skies and Valkyrie music.”

In 1929, Lewis converted from atheism to theism (but still not to Christianity). He described how for months he felt God’s presence in his room each night, and finally, he gave in. He described himself as “perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.” Two years later, he invited Tolkien and another friend to dinner, and afterward they spent hours walking along the river on the Oxford campus and discussing Christianity and myth. A few days later, Lewis officially converted to Christianity, riding on a motorcycle on the way to the Whipsnade zoo with his brother. He said, “When we set out I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did.”

It was around that time that Lewis and Tolkien began meeting regularly with a group of friends who became known as “The Inklings.” The Inklings met for 16 years. Each week they gathered midday in a back room at the Eagle and Child pub (which they called the Bird and Baby) for food, cider, and informal conversation. The serious literary events occurred each Thursday evening in Lewis’s apartment, which was not particularly clean. Lewis flicked his cigarette ashes directly on the carpet, and as one member pointed out, it was impossible to tell whether his gray chairs and sofa were gray originally or were just dirty. The Inklings would arrive slowly between 9 and 10:30 p.m., someone would make a pot of strong black tea, and they would take turns reading aloud from whatever they were writing. Over the years, Tolkien read The Lord of the Rings, and Lewis The Screwtape Letters (1942)his book of fictional advice letters from a senior demon, Screwtape, to his nephew Wormwood.

One day Lewis sat down to write a story for his goddaughter, Lucy. He said it “began with a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood. The picture had been in my mind since I was about 16. Then one day when I was about 40, I said to myself: ‘Let’s try to make a story about it.'” That was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950), which Lewis followed with six sequels, known collectively as The Chronicles of Narnia.

Among Lewis’s many other books, Mere Christianity, Surprised by Joy, The Screwtape Letters, and The Magicians Nephew were the most popular.

A Wonderful Fighter Pilot, a Wonderful Air Force Captain, a wonderful Human Being

Sunday, February 10th, 2019

‘A badass pilot’: Capt. Rosemary Mariner, first woman to fly a tactical fighter jet, dies

A ceremonial flyover with only female jet pilots — a first in naval history — will honor her at her funeral service on Saturday.

Rosemary Mariner, who became the Navy’s first woman to fly a tactical fighter jet in 1974, died last week at age 65 of ovarian cancer.Courtesy of Mariner family

 

Jan. 31, 2019, 3:58 PM EST / Updated Feb. 1, 2019, 7:58 AM EST

By Elizabeth Chuck

The rules were clear when she was growing up: Women were not allowed to fly U.S. military aircraft. But that was not going to stop Rosemary Bryant Mariner.

The daughter of a Navy nurse and an Air Force pilot who had died in a plane crash when she was 3, Mariner made it her goal to be as qualified as possible to fly in the armed services. She got her private pilot’s license at 17. Then she got her aeronautics degree from Purdue University in 1972 when she was 19.

A year later, as a growing feminist movement took hold amid a push for the Equal Rights Amendment, the Navy lifted its restrictions and opened up its flight program to women — setting Mariner on a path to becoming a pioneer in the military.

She was in the inaugural class of women who earned their Navy wings in 1973. Mariner then became the first woman to fly a tactical fighter jet in 1974, at just 21; in 1982, she was among the first women to serve aboard a U.S. Navy warship; in 1991, during the Gulf War, she became the first woman to command an aviation squadron. Later, she was instrumental in the repeal of combat exclusion restrictions on women.

Capt. Mariner died at 65 last Thursday, Jan. 24, of ovarian cancer, nearly five years after she had been diagnosed. At her funeral service on Saturday, the Navy plans to honor her with a “missing man flyover” — a tribute honoring aviators who have died — that will consist of all women. It will be the first all-female flyover ever, the Navy said.

Her husband of nearly 39 years, ret. Navy Cmdr. Tommy Mariner, said the fact that it will be all-female would flatter Mariner, but she “certainly would not say that that component is necessary.”

“It’s wonderful that the Navy can do that and it’s good that they have that many women where they can fill out all the cockpits with women,” he said, his voice breaking. “But that would not be a requirement for Rosemary.”

A petite woman who had no trouble keeping up with the physical requirements of the Navy, Mariner made clear from the moment she got accepted that she wanted to fly, said Capt. Joellen Drag Oslund, one of Mariner’s 1973 classmates and the Navy’s first female helicopter pilot.

“Right from the get-go, Rosemary was a lot of grit and determination wrapped up in a small package.”

“Right from the get-go, Rosemary was a lot of grit and determination wrapped up in a small package,” Oslund said. “She just had this vision and this mission, and nothing was going to deter her from accomplishing that.”

Initially, the Navy admitted eight women, including Mariner and Oslund, to what Oslund said was then called “women officer school.” Six ended up completing the program. Mariner, Oslund said, “made no bones about it, that officer school was just to be tolerated, and that the real work was going to be in flight school.”

Despite the women’s ability to keep up, there were some in the Navy that were not entirely open to them being there.

“I would say the reception in the fleet was skeptical, but not overtly hostile,” Oslund said. “It was dubbed as a trial program, so the Navy, honestly, I don’t think they expected us to stay for 20 years.”

The Navy will honor retired Capt. Rosemary Mariner with a ceremonial flyover.The Smithsonian

In interviews over the years, Mariner, a Texas native who was raised in San Diego, credited the commanding officer of her first squadron, Capt. Ray Lambert, who was black, with mentoring her on how to succeed.

“He taught me how black men in the Navy and all the services networked. He told me how it was going to be and what we would need to do as women,” she told the University of Tennessee, where she taught U.S. military history for years, in November 2017. “He was adamant that women should never have a separate chain of command. Racial segregation in the armed forces was a major barrier African-Americans had to overcome.”

Katherine Sharp Landdeck, a historian of the Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II and a professor at Texas Women’s University who was friends with Mariner, said Mariner’s intelligence was one of her signature assets, along with her willingness to assist others reach their potential.

“She was a badass pilot too. Landing on carriers? That’s pretty badass. You’re not just landing a jet. You’re landing a jet on a runway that’s rising up and down in the seas, and I think as a woman doing it, you’ve got everybody on deck watching.”

“She shaped generations of people with that confidence in them and helping them find their path,” Landdeck said.

“She was a badass pilot, too. Landing on carriers? That’s pretty badass. You’re not just landing a jet. You’re landing a jet on a runway that’s rising up and down in the seas, and I think as a woman doing it, you’ve got everybody on deck watching. Very cool under pressure.”

 

Mariner’s husband said that while she was proud of the doors she opened for other women in the armed services, she never thought of her work as being revolutionary just because she was female — and hoped that what she was doing would become the norm.

“She considered people — not men and women,” he said. “From a standpoint of getting the job done, and the way you’re treated in the world, she felt that people ought to be treated the same.”

He said she took on her cancer diagnosis the same way she approached everything else in her life — by educating herself as much as possible about it, relying on her Roman Catholic faith to get through tough times, and by thinking of it as her “mission.” When she was diagnosed four and a half years ago, he said, doctors believed she only had several months to live.

In her 2017 interview with the University of Tennessee, she emphasized the importance of persistence.

“Life can deal you a lot of curveballs,” she said. “You hang in there and you don’t quit.”

 


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