Time, the Papacy and Caesar

All the headlines measured in units of 1,200 or 598 years remind me of my years as an art historian when the 9th or the 12th century occupied my 20th century student life. All the red hats and white robes bring images by Michelangelo, Velasquez, El Greco to mind.

What is it about religious leaders that allows them get stuck in bygone habits? Some Mennonites I saw recently in Belize still dress and groom for the 19th century. Orthodox Jews in New York and Jerusalem stop changing their clothes in 17th century Poland. Is this akin to the decision making that goes into restoring old houses: you have to fix a moment in time to which you will restore something despite its survival through many periods? How does that decision to stand still distort one’s world view?

I thought today about the perils of being caught in the past. The volume from which I read Marc Anthony’s eulogy for Julius Caesar every Ides of March bears the date MDCCLXXXVI (1786). “Ambition fhould be made of fterner ftuff” is slow going. Shakespeare looked back from about 1600 to 44 BC when he took the assassination of Julius Caesar as fodder for his Elizabethan play. But sifting through the past for material to enlighten the present is different from ceasing to evolve, which is what so remarkable and perversely entertaining about what’s just happened in Rome.

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1 comment
  1. Sharry said:

    I want to be the FIRFT to fay how tickled I am to fee “fterner ftuff” in an otherwife ferious and fage bit of mufing. Alfo, I liked the pictures!!
    xx Fharry

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