Friday, May 1, 2009

And I will lift you up on eagle's wings

From Father Z. comes this story about the first known attempt at flight. It was made by an 11th century Benedictine monk!

The first known serious flight attempt in world history occurred about a thousand years before the Wright brothers, in western England. Then, a young Benedictine monk leapt with a crude pair of cloth wings from a watchtower of a church abbey at the beginning of the 11th century. This monk, known to history as Eilmer of Malmesbury, covered a furlong – a distance of approximately 600 feet – before landing heavily and breaking both legs. Afterwards, he remarked that the cause of his crash was that he had forgotten to provide himself with a tail.

...As well, church artists increasingly showed angels with ever-more-accurate depictions of bird-like wings, detailing the wing’s camber that would prove crucial to generating the lifting forces enabling a bird – or an airplane – to fly. This climate of thought led to general acceptance that air was something that could be worked. Flying was thus not magical, but could be attained by physical effort and human reasoning.

Don't believe it for a second whenever someone tries to describe the Middle Ages as the "Dark Ages." Those people really knew how to use their reason; men like St. Bonaventure and St. Thomas could have eaten atheist polemicists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens for breakfast even without any appeal to divine revelation. This is just my opinion of course, but I think philosophy has been all downhill since St. Thomas. One of the reasons why he can be a delight to read (now I've really revealed my nerdiness) is that his philosophy is firmly grounded in common sense. Chesterton said that no philosophy since Descartes has really corresponded to everyone's sense of reality. It's like all of the modern philosophers say to us, "If you'll just grant me this one little twist, everything else will fall into place."

Don't misunderstand me though. I've enjoyed my first year of pre-theology and learning about all of the great philosophers. I find philosophy interesting for it's own sake, but I also derive great joy from knowing that I'm fulfilling God's will by doing this (I hope so anyway :p) Next week is finals week. Say a prayer to St. Jude for us.

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