Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Quick note on the name

To dispense with the inevitable "what does it mean?" questions, let me explain the name of the blog and its relevance to me. The motto of the Apollo 13 mission to the moon (ex luna, scientia - from the moon, knowledge) was a play on the Navy's motto ex scientia tridens (from knowledge, sea power). The Apollo 13 motto later became the basis for the motto of Starfleet Academy in Star Trek (Ex astris, scientia - from the stars, knowledge). Being a fan of both science (in all its forms) and Star Trek (in most of its forms), it made sense to play upon the motto with ex mediis aevīs, scientia* which means - from the middle ages, knowledge.
It is often said (but, apparently, rarely believed) that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. As an example, we've now had three separate modern presidencies who've tried "voodoo/trickle down/Bush" economics. And in each case we've had a recession (this most recent the worst since the Great Depression). I'd say that not only are the stewards of our country (presidents) not learning from history, but we (the American people) are certainly failing to learn as well.
What do the middle ages have to teach us? What knowledge can we glean? One main lesson is our relationship with the world around us. For instance, historians were not overly surprised at what happened in Iraq following the downfall of Saddam's regime. Power vacuums are a common theme in history, as strong leaders are succeeded by weaker leaders. Sometimes a person's "cult of personality" is what keeps a country together (as was the case in Iraq). Without a strong individual to curtail the internecine strife between Shi'ite and Sunni, the religious and political differences were bound to explode in a firestorm. And they did. These kinds of things are often ignored by the "power elite" because they fail to fit their worldview. Which is sad, because they're really not obtuse if you look at it in the right light (and yes, hindsight is always 20/20, but some of these things are just that obvious).
So I hope to bring a little enlightenment (ha, ha - historian joke) to the middle ages and, perhaps, to your understanding of it. There are reasons why the world is why it is today - and that's because everything up to today made it that way. The middle ages are just a slice of that perspective, but the foundation for much of the Renaissance and enlightenment were laid by those "masons". And the world today is nothing if not the sum of its yesterdays.

* This was originally ex medius aevus, scientia, but I've since found a fantastic Latin website - Numen - that helped correct my spelling. It can actually provide you all of the forms of basic nouns, which is simply incredible. Yay technology! Still not definite on whether it should be singular ("middle age/era") or plural ("middle ages"), so it's staying plural for now.

No comments:

Post a Comment