This week I have been focusing a lot on Balance. Usually when I’m not writing, reading, or doing something ‘productive’ I beat myself up about it — it’s been taking the fun out of the hobbies that I used to use for decompressing, like video games and watching TV shows. So this week I spent an abnormally large amount of time doing things that are ‘un-productive’, and it feels good to do so. However, I can see how easy it is to settle for such low-focus and low-discipline alternatives in exchange for what you should be doing; I am going to look for a good balance between work and play.
Anyhow, to business.
I - Pre-History
Sumer: is the earliest known civilization in the Mesopotamian region (modern-day Iraq), with the first Sumerians believing to have first settled in the area around 5000 BC. From the Sumerians, we have the earliest examples of writing systems, which facilitated the preservation of folk tales, epics, religious stories, and historical details. Also, the Sumerians grew a wide selection of crops, domesticated animals, developed systems of measurement — they were the first to find the area of a triangle and volume of a cube — and created fantastic works of art such as the Lyres of Ur, believed to be the oldest surviving stringed instruments. The City of Ur, a major Sumerian city-state, may also have been the biblical city of Ur, the birthplace of Abraham.
II - Classical
Council of Nicaea (325 AD): The 1st council of Nicaea was a convention of Christian bishops that resulted in the establishment of the foundations of Christian doctrine. Called to meet by the Roman Emperor Constantine I, the first Emperor to convert to Christianity, hundreds of bishops from across the empire joined to answer theological questions under dispute (particularly by the Arians) such as the relationship between the Father and the Son, the date of Easter, and canon law. From this council, we have the Nicean Creed, an original statement of Christian faith still used in Christian churches to this day.
III - Middle Ages
Battle of Lepanto: On 7 October 1571, the Holy League, a coalition of Christian states, took part in a major naval engagement against a growing Ottoman empire at Lepanto, off the coast of the Peleponnese. This battle in particular marks a major turning point in naval warfare strategy, as it was the last major engagement to be fought primarily with rowing vessels (galleys, triremes, etc). The Christian fleet consisted of roughly 200 galleys and 6 galleasses (larger galleys developed by the Venetians), manned by roughly 40,000 sailors and 20,000 infantrymen (naval battles in the era of rowed vessels tended to be infantry battles on water). The Ottoman fleet consisted of 222 galleys, 56 galliots (smaller galleys), as well as some supporting vessels, manned by 37,000 slave oarsmen and 34,000 soldiers. The victory of the Christian coalition halted Ottoman expansion in the Mediterranean, which occurred at a frightening pace particularly under Suleiman the Magnificent in the mid-1500s.
IV - Early Modern
Thomas Aikenhead: At the tender age of 20, Mr. Thomas Aikenhead, a student at the University of Edinburgh, was the last man in Britain to be executed for blasphemy. According to his indictment in December of 1696:
…the prisoner had repeatedly maintained, in conversation, that theology was a rhapsody of ill-invented nonsense, patched up partly of the moral doctrines of philosophers, and partly of poetical fictions and extravagant chimeras: That he ridiculed the holy scriptures, calling the Old Testament Ezra's fables, in profane allusion to Esop's Fables; That he railed on Christ, saying, he had learned magick in Egypt, which enabled him to perform those pranks which were called miracles: That he called the New Testament the history of the imposter Christ; That he said Moses was the better artist and the better politician; and he preferred Muhammad to Christ: That the Holy Scriptures were stuffed with such madness, nonsense, and contradictions, that he admired the stupidity of the world in being so long deluded by them: That he rejected the mystery of the Trinity as unworthy of refutation; and scoffed at the incarnation of Christ.
He pleaded for the prosecution to consider his young age and poor upbringing, but the Church of Scotland refused to intercede for him, supporting execution. He was hung on 8 January 1697.
V - Modern
Volkssturm: Firmly on the back foot and smelling the scent of another crushing defeat and a humiliating peace treaty, the Nazi high command mobilized the German people for total war. Translating to “the people’s storm”, the Volksstrum was a last-ditch effort to bolster the fighting ranks of a reeling and battered Nazi army. Established in late 1944, the Volksstrum consisted of conscripted males between the ages of 16 and 60 who were not yet enlisted. These cobbled-together units were generally of low fighting quality and low morale, particularly so near the end of the war when defeat was inevitable. They received very little training, and equipment was unstandardized and limited in Volksstrum units. Much of their use came during the Battle of Berlin, where enthusiasm for fighting was higher due to fear of capture by the Soviets. Notable members of the Volksstrum include the German philosopher Martin Heidegger.
Photo of the Week 📸
Book of the Week 📖 — Sea Power by US Admiral James Stavridis (Ret.)
This is an excellent book that examines the maritime history and strategic value of the oceans and seas of the world, which subsequently influence military and political objectives. Each chapter covers a different body of water (for example, the Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean, South China Sea, Mediterranean) and critically analyzes how the said body of water and the surrounding geography determines its strategic value for both regional and international players. With the majority of international trade occurring by sea and nuclear payloads now deliverable by sea, the world’s waterways will only increase in strategic value over the coming decades.
Quote of the Week 💭
In a genuinely developed society, work is an essential dimension of social life, for it is not only a means of earning one’s daily bread, but also of personal growth, the building of healthy relationships, self-expression and the exchange of gifts. Work gives us a sense of shared responsibility for the development of the world, and ultimately, for our life as a people.
~ Pope Francis in Fratelli Tutti
That’s all for today. See you next week!