Monday, November 14, 2016

Donal Mahoney writes

Epilogue for an Election

After the TV mavens had their say
the gnomes crept out of their caves
spoke and returned to their caves. 

Thunder struck, hell broke loose
and the mavens came back on TV
predicting Armageddon.

In cities all over the nation
pimples popped and broke.
Pus flows in the streets.
 [illustration from "Among Gnomes and Trolls"] -- John Albert Bauer


  1. Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim was a quarrelsome, (bombastic, even) 16th-century philosopher, physician, botanist, astrologer, and occultist credited with founding toxicology, inventing chemical therapy and chemical urinalysis, naming zinc, coining the words "chemistry, "gas," and "alcohol," creating laudanum (an analgesic opium preparation), introducing the black hellebore to European pharmacology (and prescribing the correct dosage to alleviate certain forms of arteriosclerosis), recommending the use of iron for "poor blood" and mercury to treat syphilis, noting that some diseases have psychological roots, anticipating both antisepsis and the germ theory (in that he proposed that diseases were entities in themselves, not states of being), and inventing an Alphabet of the Magi for engraving angelic names on talismans. His first medical publication was a short pamphlet on syphilis treatment, the most comprehensive clinical description of the time, in which he recognized the inherited character of the disease and that it could only be contracted by contact. He insisted on using observations of nature instead of relying on ancient authorities and favored direct experience ("The patients are your textbook, the sickbed is your study") over status ("If disease put us to the test, all our splendor, title, ring, and name will be as much help as a horse's tail"). He held the chair of medicine at the University of Basel for less than a year, angering his colleagues by inviting barber-surgeons, alchemists, apothecaries, and others without an academic background to assist him, and by being the first to lecture in German instead of Latin and to publicly condemn the medical authority of the 11th-century Persian polymath Avicenna (Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥusayn ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn Al-Hasan ibn Ali ibn Sīnā)and the 2nd-century Greek physician Aelius Galenus, throwing their books into a St. John's Day bonfire in 1527. After viciously slandering his opponents in a dispute over a physician's fee, he fled Basel; by 1529 he officially adopted the name Paracelsus ("surpassing Celsus," the 2nd-century Greek philosopher who wrote the first comprehensive attack on Christianity), based on his theory that the universe was a single organism pervaded by a unifying lifegiving spirit, and that this entire system was therefore "God." That belief led him to be compared to another radical contemporary, but he dismissed the matter: "I leave it to Luther to defend what he says and I will be responsible for what I say. That which you wish to Luther, you wish also to me: You wish us both in the fire."

  2. Paracelsus also coined the word "Gnomus" (possibly derived from the Latin "genomos" [earth-dweller]) to describe an earth elemental who was two spans high, reluctant to interact with humans, and able to move through solid earth. By the 16th century the word became the English "gnome;" in Alexander Pope's "The Rape of the Lock," gnomes were small, celestial guardian angels who had been prudish women in their past-lives; he borrowed the term from the female "gnomide" in the French satire "Comte de Gabalis" (1670). It was not until the early 19th century that collectors of fairy tales began using the word as a synonym for "goblin," in contrast to the more airy or luminous "fairy" or "elf."

  3. A "gnome," however, is not necessarily "gnomic." This adjective derives from the Greek "gnome" (inclination or 'intention), from "gignoskein" (to know), a type of proverb designed to provide instruction in a compact form, often of a poetic sort, to aid the memory. The gnomic poets of Greece flourished in the 6th century BCE, with Hesiod's "Works and Days" one of the earliest of this genre. The term was eventually applied to all poetry which dealt in a sententious way with questions of ethics and became the source of moral philosophy. Early philosphers such as Pythagoras and Xenophanes seem to have begun their careers as gnomic poets. In 1984 the contemporary Biblical scholar Klaus Berger used the term"gnomic" to identify a rhetorical method used in the New Testament. It is also a grammatical term (GNO) for a feature that expresses general truths; it is also called neutral, generic, or universal aspect, mood, or tense (meaning that it does not limit the flow of time to any particular conception, or temporal action, or the expression of words to the speaker's attitude toward them). Generally, though, it is one example of imperfective aspect, which does not view an event as a single entity viewed only as a whole, but instead specifies something about its internal temporal structure. English has no means of morphologically distinguishing a gnomic aspect, but a generic reference is generally understood to convey an equivalent meaning; for example, omitting the definite article or other determiner in the plural creates a generic reference: "rabbits are fast" instead of, specifically, "the rabbits are fast;" in the singular, however, the opposite may be true": "The giraffe is the tallest land mammal living today" is not meant to indicate any particular giraffe. "Gnomic will" is a notion from Eastern Orthodox ascetical theology, in contrast to "natural willing." In gnomic willing, a person engages in a process of deliberation culminating in a decision, while natural willing designates the movement of a person in accordance with the principle (logos) of its nature towards the fulfilment (telos, stasis) of its being. It was developed by St. Maximus the Confessor in the 7th century, who was an aide to emperor Heraclius before becoming a monk. His formulation of gnomic will ws part of his response to the Monothelites, who held that Jesus had only a divine will but no human will. Maximus insisted that Jesus possessed complete congruence of them both, so he was never in a state of ignorance regarding what he wanted; therefore, he never engaged in gnomic willing. For his heresy, his tongue and right hand were mutilated, and he was exiled. but his theology was upheld two decades later by the Third Council of Constantinopolis. (His title of Confessor means that he suffered for the Christian faith, but was not directly martyred.)

  4. Furthermore, in computing, Hamid Sarbazi-Azad proposed the gnome sort (as named by Dick Grune) as a sorting algorithm which always finds the first place where two adjacent elements are in the wrong order and swaps them. It takes advantage of the fact that performing a swap can introduce a new out-of-order adjacent pair next to the two swapped elements; it does not assume that elements forward of the current position are sorted, so it only needs to check the position directly previous to the swapped elements. It is a conceptually simple sort that requires no nested loops. In addition, a desktop environment that is composed entirely of free and open-source software is a GNOME (an acronym for GNU ["GNU's not Unix"] Network Object Model Environment). The GNU Project was announced in 1983 by Richard Stallman to give computer users freedom and control in their use of their computers and computing devices by collaboratively developing and providing software . His GNU Manifesto listed four freedoms essential to software users: freedom to run a program for any purpose, freedom to study and modify the mechanics of the program, freedom to redistribute copies, and freedom to improve and change modified versions for public use. To implement these freedoms, users needed full access to code, so Stallman created the GNU General Public License (GPL), which allowed software and the future generations of code derived from it to remain free for public use. Then in 1991, basing its design on that of Unix, a proprietary operating system, Linus Torvalds developed GNU/Linux (called "Linux" by those outside the GNU Project); in combination with the operating system utilities already developed, it allowed for the first operating system that was free software.

  5. The word Armageddon appears only once in the Greek New Testament, in Revelation 16:16, as the place where the rival rmies will gather for battle during the end times. It was a translation of the Hebrew "har" (a mountain or range of hills ) and "megiddo" (a place of crowds), referring to a fortification made in the 9th century BCE to guard the trade route linking Egypt with the northern empires of Syria, Anatolia and Mesopotamia. (Since there is only a plain of Megiddo and no "mountain," only a tell -- a hill created by many generations of people living and rebuilding on the same spot -- siome scholars derive it from "moed" [assembly"].) The place has been variously interpreted as either a literal or a symbolic one; the term is also used in a generic sense to refer to any end-of-the-world scenario.


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