29 April 2014

To infinity and beyond by way of the Inquisition

It’s the Hubble’s 24 year-anniversary (which is a good a reason as any to check out some of its trés spiffy body of work. For an awesomely enthusiastic description of one of the more impressive of those photos, go here. Phil Plait’s child-like joy is infectious). Technically, the telescope’s birthday was earlier this month, but I missed the actual day, so we’re going with anniversary and pretending that 24 is significant in some way. As I remember it, it was a pretty good year, so there’s that. Besides, with some two hundred young women getting kidnapped on the eve of their physics exam in Nigeria, I think that we need to beat back our terrestrial depression with a celebration of the cosmos.

Luckily, there’s been a host of space-related things going on lately, including the potential confirmation of a not-horrible kind of inflation. Very simply, some terribly intelligent people have discovered – get this – ‘ripples in the fabric of space time’ (sweet fancy pants, you mean like a tesseract?) that corroborate a decades-old theory that ‘less than a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang, the universe expanded faster than the speed of light. Tiny ripples in the violently expanding energy field eventually grew into the large-scale structures of the universe.’ This theory apparently explains why our universe is even in shape and temperature (I really wish I was bright enough for a job that called upon me to contemplate the temperature of the heavens).

I love how inflation, like so much else, becomes something deeply cool, if not near miraculous, when you stick it among the stars. Granted, I had but one semester of astrophysics in university, so I don’t really understand what they’re going on about with the gravitational waves and latent energies, and in fact think I prefer seeing this as modern magic. That NYT article even uses a French press to illustrate how the universe has grown in the aftermath of the Big Bang. Coffee and Space? I’m in!

Inflation apparently also posits the existence of the multiverse (seriously, this story has EVERYTHING. Go read it now). Apparently, inflation, once begun, is eternal and will result in the rest of the cosmos continuing to expand, spinning off new universes into infinity, like some everlasting Rube Goldberg machine. So that amazing Hubble photo, with the countless galaxies forming and living and dying that represents but a fraction of our known universe which itself extends some 14 billion light-years? Remember that photo? According to inflation, it is the proverbial grain of dust in some ‘larger cosmos whose extent, architecture, and fate are unknowable’. What glorious magic this is‽ Rather, in the parlance of our time, MIND BLOWN.

Any talk of the multiverse, of course, puts me in mind of phantom tollbooths, gardens of forking paths, evilly bearded Spocks and licentious Kiras (I haven’t seen Doctor Who, but if I had, I’m fairly certain that could come to mind, as well), zany Discworld, godly Narnia, Donnie Darko with its creepy bunny, Red Dwarf, Fringe, and, of course, the ever-delightful Giordano Bruno, Metaphysical Monk.

Wait, who? You’re unfamiliar with the cantankerous Brother Bruno? Well, friend, let me enlighten you. Giordano Bruno was an Italian monk (of Dominican flavour, which is perhaps not the best choice for a progressive thinker with borderline heretical views back in the day. I mean, he wasn’t a Franciscan, but still…) and philosopher in the 16th century. Not, it should be noted, an astronomer, despite his pretty rabid support of Copernican heliocentrism, which he apparently didn’t grasp all that well. What is more interesting about him – and why people still talk about him today – is the thought experiment he conducted with what he did understand.

I won’t go into terrific detail here (as he can be a bit hard to follow at times, and I don’t think that’s entirely due to the questionable calibre of the translations I was reading), but in his On the Infinite Universe and Worlds, published in 1584, Bruno’s thinking went thusly:
1) The earth goes around the sun;
2) The sun is, in fact, a star, rather like all the others we see in the night;
3) Observed reality (that we exist at all) suggests that these other stars also have planets circling them (‘Whatever is an element of the infinite must be infinite also; hence both Earths and Suns are infinite in number’);
4) There is very probably not one, but hundreds of thousands of worlds rather, though not exactly, like our own (‘since it is well that this world doth exist, no less good is the existence of each one of the infinity of other worlds’)

Right awesome, no? But he takes it even further, positing the existence of the multiverse: ‘only verbally is it possible to deny infinite space, as is done by pertinacious fellows. For the rest of space where the universe is not, which is called void, where indeed it is pretended that nothing doth exist, cannot be conceived as without the capacity to contain no less a magnitude than that which it doth contain… for in eternity there is no distinction between being and potential being [nor therefore between action and potential action]’. For all intents and purposes, Bruno claims that the multiverse is simply too great for us puny mortals to comprehend, and so we simply pretend that it is nothingness (this reminds me of one of the Yoga Sutras, which cautions readers against being too self-centered by reminding them that ‘nor do material objects depend upon a single mind, for how could they remain objective to others, if that mind ceased to think of them?’ Said another way, if a tree falls in the forest, it makes a sound whether you’re there or not. I know I always seem to go to the Sutras, but people have been giving me such guff lately about being both a Christian/Catholic and a yogi that it tickles me how very often the two overlap. Great minds, I guess? That, or I’m just a very specific kind of hammer).

But he’s not done there! Our visionary little monk then wanders out beyond the bounds of harmless quackery and into burning-at-the-stake territory. Let’s walk it through:
1) We already agree that other worlds exist and the universe is infinite;
2) All worlds are not created equal, especially in the being saved by Christ sense (‘the virtue of this world is not communicable to any other world…just as my being cannot be communicated to the being of this or of that man’);
3) You know what else is infinite? God (he has this great digression on how, if God is omnipotent, the universe ze created must be likewise – ‘if omnipotence maketh not the world infinite, it is impotent to do so, and if it hath not power to create it infinite, then it must lack vigour to preserve it to eternity’. Take that, haters! He also calls God the universal nature, which I adore);
4) God must therefore be present on all worlds (‘the Supreme Ruler cannot have a seat so narrow, so miserable a throne, so trivial, so scant a court’ as to be limited to one earth alone), and will have saved all worlds through an infinite number of Messiahs born of all these different men.

Thus does an imperfect understanding of Copernicus lead us to an infinity of alien Jesui. And that is just the sort of conclusion to get one burnt at the stake, which is precisely what happened (even if it does warm the cockles of my wizened little heart that not all people of faith were geocentrist nuts, even 500+ years ago).

Possibly my favourite part of his mad, dense text, though, is the introductory letter, wherein the man owns marching to the beat of his own drummer (I mentioned that he was tetchy, no?). 
IF, O most illustrious Knight, I had driven a plough, pastured a herd, tended a garden, tailored a garment: none would regard me, few observe me, seldom a one reprove me; and I could easily satisfy all men. But since I would survey the field of Nature, care for the nourishment of the soul, foster the cultivation of talent, become expert as Daedalus concerning the ways of the intellect; lo, one doth threaten upon beholding me, another doth assail me at sight, another doth bite upon reaching me, yet another who hath caught me would devour me; not one, nor few, they are many, indeed almost all. If you would know why, it is because I hate the mob, I loathe the vulgar herd and in the multitude I find no joy. It is Unity that doth enchant me. By her power I am free though thrall, happy in sorrow, rich in poverty, and quick even in death. Through her virtue I envy not those who are bond though free, who grieve in the midst of pleasures, who endure poverty in their wealth, and a living death. They carry their chains within them; their spirit containeth her own hell that bringeth them low; within their soul is the disease that wasteth, and within their mind the lethargy that bringeth death. They are without the generosity that would enfranchise, the long suffering that exalteth, the splendour that doth illumine, knowledge that bestoweth life. Therefore I do not in weariness shun the arduous path, nor idly refrain my arm from the present task, nor retreat in despair from the enemy that confronteth me, nor do I turn my dazzled eyes from the divine end.

Hey, Pope Francis! Forget making JP2 a saint, Your Holiness – as long as you’re in a canonizing mood, can we look at this dude? Perhaps as the patron saint of righteous misanthropy. And this is his prayer, right before launching headlong into the wormhole of parallel dimensional pantheism:

Wherefore, my lord, may the heavenly powers scatter before me all those who unjustly hate me; may my God be ever gracious unto me; may all the rulers of our world be favourable to me; may the stars yield me seed for the field and soil for the seed, that the harvest of my labour may appear to the world useful and glorious, that souls may be awakened and the understanding of those in darkness be illumined. For assuredly I do not feign; and if I err, I do so unwittingly; nor do I in speech or writing contend merely for victory, for I hold worldly repute and hollow success without truth to be hateful to God, most vile and dishonourable. But I thus exhaust, vex and torment myself for love of true wisdom and zeal for true contemplation.

Damn, Giordano. This man might well be my spirit animal. I cannot wait for the vision quest on which he will take me.

Okay, my apologies, but this ended up being less about science and more about philosophy. Still and all, it’s cool to think about, no? To bring us back around to the science front, Mental_Floss has been running a really interesting series on what it would take to colonize Mars. After all, that would be the first baby step in finding those other worlds and comparing one Saviour to the next (just imagine the gloriously tentacled Christ of the Thermians). God helps those who help themselves, after all, and everyone knows that if we don’t get on the warp technology, the Vulcans are going to pass us by. Besides, we’ll probably need to figure out spinach on Mars, given how things are going here. Add limes to the list for cultivation, and we’re aces.

08 April 2014

More random thoughts on living the expat life

We’ve lately enjoyed a raft (bevy? Gaggle? What pithy turn of phrase best describes a group of aid workers?) of new staff coming in. In addition to this providing a much needed shift in team dynamic, it also furnishes me with the perfect opportunity to reëvaluate our life through their eyes. Indeed, when a new colleague stopped dead in his tracks at a recent house party, remarking that it was all just so weird, I was forced to agree to the sur-reality of the expat existence.

I mean seriously. Where do our enormous houses – with rooms for eight and sprawling gardens and full-sized kitchens and tiled floors and beautifully beamed ceilings - even come from? We can’t fully blame the Belgians – most of our houses are (quite clearly) not that old. It’s quite popular to assume that these are war houses, built by the ill-gotten gains of rebel commanders and their cohorts (NGO workers love to make ourselves feel guilty about collaborating with those who committed atrocity, even where there is no evidence to support such conclusions). I think, though, that we can settle on a still disturbing though less horrifying conclusion – they were built for us. The elite of Bunia (with all of the caveats inherent in that thought, including that several of them might well be war profiteers of some ilk) have, over the last twenty-odd years, constructed a series of shabby-chic mansions to fuel the NGO boom here. And when this area is declared sufficiently stable that our funding dries up and we are forced to decamp (NGOs hardly ever leave because there is legitimately no longer a need for their services), our shadows will stretch far, embracing empty houses and burned out land cruises and thousands of unemployed coping with an inflated standard of living. Is it worth it? Does the good we do while we’re here offset the gross distortions we cause in the local markets and the inevitable crash when we leave? I certainly hope so, but to me it’s a more troubling thought that is the possibility that I live in a warlord’s old domicile.

Perhaps it’s the fury of the existential winds raging ‘round them, but any one of these lovely NGO houses seems ready to come apart at the seams once you get past the surface gloss. For example, outside of the main living room, our floors are concrete. What minimal plumbing there is goes out every other day. The walls are tissue thin. Which is why we can only really gossip when our neighbours are on vacation and I’m never as forthcoming when skyping with my friends as I would like to be.

Still and all, though, most people here live in one to two room huts with either plank or thresh walls and tin roves, so this beggar won’t be too choosy. The disparities in standards of living between expat and local are reinforced in myriad ways, both large and small, every day, usually by the simple fact that we have guards and house mamans, as do the majority of expats. We often compare them, after we’ve had a beer or two and can better shrug off the guilt. We were once shut out of a friend’s compound because the guard was doing maintenance work with a chainsaw and didn’t hear us yelling to be let in for some 10 minutes (this is legitimately a security concern, but highlights the other fact that, were a riot to break out, we would hide behind walls whereas the locals have nowhere to go). The actual resident of the house speculated that he was punishing her for not giving him something on the side from his salary (‘you should be nice to me’ was his particularly oblique way of soliciting extra cheddar).

We also discuss the mamans, though often in more favourable terms. How often they cook, are they any good at it, how fast to your cloathes wear out (we fly through unmentionables). Ours are such lovely women. We have five. Janette is the one who actually takes care of my house. She does all the dishes and picks up the dried cockroach husks that I avoid and ignores the sports bras we hang all over the bathroom to dry and never says a word. Alphonsine is the energetic village woman who warmly pumps your hand for solidly 30 seconds when greeting you in the morning. She’s a great cook, but is scared of the oven and speaks less French than I do. Marthe is the serene head maman, totally unruffled, Grande Dame of Bunia Base. I had the great pleasure of interviewing them for a story on international women’s day. It was March 8 and probably represented the most sustained interaction I’ve ever had with them which is, frankly, a damn shame. All I had to ask them was what women’s day means to them and these ladies went OFF. For an unexpected two hours, I was regaled with stories of the Time Before, when women were not allowed to eat eggs or meat or fish, as all of the best things were saved for the men and boys. It was a time when a woman had no more value that what her dowry would bring, when women were expected to approach their husbands only on their knees. As they walked me through the awakening of worth that women’s day represents, their passion and pride were deeply affecting, especially for a women from a country where woman’s day seems quaint.

As much as I appreciate and feel warmly towards these women, if I’m being totally honest, they make me uncomfortable. I’ve been watching Downton Abbey (we’re getting ready for season 4 down here – one of the British girls is promising to bring it back when she returns from her next R&R) and the parallels are…unsettling. Last week, someone complained about how late lunch was (table wasn’t even set when we arrived from the office. The horror!). And the laundry can take more than a week (our clothes are dried on line strung through the mango trees in the yard, so if you’re not paying attention you can get a face full when you go to get breakfast. Hopefully, they’re yours). And all of this can be irksome, but be sure. But…they iron my underwear (part of the reason they wear out so fast. The other is that they use a stone to scrub the laundry. Vicki Secret is not made for this). And change my sheets. I did get a little miffed when the gardener cut the grass, though that was mostly because he used a weedwacker to do the entire lawn and it took almost 8 hours. I couldn’t complain about the noise because I was too busy feeling bad for him. Moreover, the mamans are terribly efficient, sometimes to the point of irritation. I keep coming back to the laundry, but never have I appreciated what a luxury it is to control the fate of your cloathes. I do try to take care of myself, sometimes, washing certain delicate things or stuff I need quickly by hand. The last time I did this, however, the mamans stole it off the line to iron it. I was forced to do Zumba in my regular bra and slacks.

Much like with real mothers, when the mamans are gone, we’re a bit at a loss. Over the last three day weekend, I ended up eating brownies for breakfast.

In fairness, I have my suspicions that both the grousing and the gossiping are reciprocal. One often feels that s/he is living life in a very subtle zoo. They notice what you eat and which towels you prefer and who will feed the cat and who has allergies and what other NGOs you visit the most (MSF again? One of my guards asked slyly after my third visit in a week). From a personal stand point, you are always faced with concerns of what is and is not proper. After all, what constitutes acceptable behaviour on the part of expats and locals is wildly, and often invasively, different. Sunning yourself on the back porch, for example, becomes extremely uncomfortable when your guards walk past – even in a tank and shorts, you’re acutely aware of how little you have on. And, should you desire a cold beer on a hot day or glass of wine with dinner, you always consider how it will look to the mamans judging the empty crates of beer and boxes of wine. Forget brining someone non-Medair home in the early morning weekend hours. I think we all live with it, and feel the pressure of observation. Who could have guessed that my cracked and dirty windows, strewn with mosquito nets, would make such a perfect fishbowl?

03 April 2014

A saint for the single girl

So, as I might have mentioned in my last post, it’s Lent.  The season of penance and good Catholic guilt and fasting and all that jazz. I don’t give things up for Lent. It seems almost as pointless as a New Year’s resolution, and often leaves me irascible and even more difficult to deal with than normal.  We shall not discuss the Lent I foolishly forwent chocolate.  Suffice it to say, I did not at any point feel closer to God.  And then there was the ill-fated Lent in college when I had intended to give up complaining (what would I ever talk about, you ask?  I have no idea) only to go through my first real heartbreak.  So instead of talking to people about it, I just kept bursting into tears at random and inappropriate moments.  Fun times were had by all.  Instead, now, I generally try to grow in my faith.  And if that seems hokey, well, fair enough.  But be prepared for some Catholic-flavoured discursions in the coming month.

Let’s begin with the one that was sparked in, naturally enough, Paris.  Popping in and out of churches and wine bars as we were, it seemed appropriate to try to determine who is the Patron Saint of Chicks (interestingly, the German equivalent for chicks, in the young woman sense, in snail).  That shouldn’t be so hard, you might scoff – after all, there’s a patron saint of lumberjacks and STDs and necromancers and against enemy plots (this list is not exhaustive, but is delightful).  Someone somewhere must have selected a saint for single ladies.  Ah, but this is the Catholic Church!  An equation of (career + childlessness + reasonably casual sex) x 2-3 mixed drinks on Friday night = a mortal sin (probably.  It’s certainly frowned upon).  We don’t deserve to know who to pray to for redemption when we’re this far gone!  Thus, us poor wanton women are left to our own devices to sort through the some 783 options (and that’s just the ladies!  Who’s to say that the Patron Saint of Chicks wasn’t a gloriously fab fella?).

Some might suggest Agnes or Agatha or Dymphna (or even St. Barbara, which is like the Catholic answer to Rapunzel), but, honestly, wispy child bride martyrs don’t really speak to me as a professional woman who also happens to be looking for romance. I’ve more or less edged out of their demographic, I guess.  And I think we can also nix off the top any angelic mother figures, biological or otherwise.

Who else is does that leave?  Saint Rose?  Okay, so she was the first American canonised, and that’s spiffy and all, but she was also so concerned about her phenomenal beauty distracting people from Christ that she rubbed her face with chili peppers until it blistered.  I…can’t really relate to that.  Maybe I should just go with Saint Rita, who ended up in a loveless and abusive relationship and is now the patron saint of hopeless causes.  That sounds about right for my love life.

But I hold out hope that there are better options for all of the working girls of the world!  Wait – that’s not what I meant.  Off the top of my head and with no real knowledge on the subject, I would like to nominate the following:

Teresa of Avila – the lady was a firebrand who had frequent conversations with God.  When she was being persecuted for being bananas (which was often.  She was also frequently accused of receiving visions from Satan), she was said to kvetch about it to Jesus.  The Son of God apparently answered that this was how he treated his friends, to which she replied that then it was no wonder he has so few friends.  She was also said to have observed that she more feared those who fear the devil than the devil himself.  Basically, St. Teresa was pious but rowdy and driven to action.  She loved her friends and good food.  She seems like the kind of chick who was mad saintly (obviously – she still did get ecstatic visions) but that I still want to get a drink with.  Rock on, TofA.

Catherine of Siena – Catherine seems like a solid choice (she also happens to be my confirmation saint, so I’m a touch bias); she was a mystic, doctor of the church (she was the second woman to be so honoured, behind only Teresa of Avila),  and generally formidable lady who deservedly had the respect and ear of several popes.  She resisted intense societal pressures to either get married and start poppin’ out babies (at least once refusing a suitor via an epic fast and a terribly dramatic hacking off of her hair) or demurely cloister herself in a convent.  She instructed her confessor to “build a cell inside your mind”.  In other words, the lady had herself a mind palace.  She was venerated during her life for speaking truth to power and held a remarkable amount of influence on the global stage for a woman of her, or really any, era.

In the interests of full disclosure, she also professed to have had a vision of her own ‘mystic marriage’ to Christ in which she received, as a wedding ring, his foreskin.  I…don’t really know how to address that.
She also received the stigmata, but requested that it be visible only to herself.  God complied with this wish, which makes her terribly humble, of course, but also makes this mark of divine favour somewhat difficult to verify.  If I walk all over my country and give all my food away and then have raging headaches and pains in my hands, feet, and side, can I also claim an invisible stigmata?  Don’t get me wrong – I love her, but this is a bit on the fishy side.  I suppose that this is where that whole faith thing comes in.  She kicked it when she was naught but 33 and after death her head was incorruptible, so they separated it from her body and encased it in bronze.  As you do. 

Above it all, Catherine a testament to how much a woman can accomplish.  And that makes her a goddess. 

Joan d’Arc – I mean, sparking a religious war (or converting an existing one into a religious war) is maybe not the best thing, broadly speaking, but she’s so cool…and doesn’t every woman wish she could rock a breastplate so well?  Joan was a cross-dressing, premonition having, soldiering (to varying degrees, depending on which historian you read) badass, no two ways about it.

She was also the inspiration for one of the best works in the oeuvre of that champion of women’s rights, George Bernard Shaw.  “Don't think you can frighten me by telling me that I am alone. France is alone. God is alone. And the loneliness of God is His strength.” Amen, sister.

And my last, perhaps best, choice for the Patron Saint of Single Ladies…wait for it…wait for it…

Mary Magdalene – she seems like a logical choice, no? 

Mary has, as you probably are aware, gotten a fairly bad rap in Church history.  Her tarnished reputation, for which we can really thank the supposedly super-learned Pope Gregory the Great, is almost assuredly bogus.  He gave a frankly slanderous speech in 591 in which he took the passage about a Mary possessed of seven devils (which in its own right might have been illnesses and not related to sex work at all) and declared it was in fact Mary Magdalene, though there is ample evidence to suggest that it was in fact a TOTALLY DIFFERENT MARY.  Anyway, the upshot of the speech was that our girl Mary had been in the thrall of the seven Deadly Sins and Jesus saved her and she became Mary the Pennant (this so-called ‘composite Magdelene’ led the Church to declare her the patron saint of wayward women, which I suppose is close to what I’m looking for.  I think my morals are loose enough to probably warrant it, at least by some standards.  I don’t think that I’m nearly as prudish as my image of myself).

But if we put aside the hooker with a heart of gold stereotype and focus on the confirmed Mary sightings in the Gospel, an image emerges of a woman who was loyal, compassionate, and tremendously courageous; alone among the Disciples, Mary was brave enough to stand by Jesus in his hours of suffering, death, and beyond (in all four books, it is Mary that is first to realize that Jesus has risen).  Beyond the cannon scriptures, the apocryphal texts portray her as a visionary and leader of the early Church whom Jesus loved more than the other Disciples.  Indeed, the depth of Jesus’ affection for Mary is so clear throughout the Gnostic texts that there is a suspicion that the Beloved Disciple in the Gospel of John was originally Mary Magdalene, before being later redacted in the official Gospel.

If we consider her Gospel (yes, the lady wrote a Book, though most of it is lost to us today), we find a dense text that is strongly reminiscent of Plato in its dialectic construction.  In the few fragments we have, Jesus is having a post-resurrection debate with his disciples about the baser and higher natures of man.  He explains that salvation can only be achieved by discovering within one’s self a true spiritual nature of humanity and by overcoming the deceptive entrapments of the bodily passions and the world  (someday, I’m going to put together a pop quiz – yoga sutra or Apocrypha?).  Jesus vanishes from the locked room, as is his want post resurrection (he’s a bit of a drama queen, that Christ), and the Disciples are scared and confused by his words, as is their want ALL OF THE TIME (not the swiftest armadillos on the highway, those Disciples), so Peter asks Mary to help them understand because he knows how tight she and JC are.  So she does, much to his shock and dismay.  In response to her enlightened teachings, Peter and Andrew question her credentials and Peter actually belittles her until she cries.  A smart, capable woman who gets attacked by the male establishment until she begins to question her self-worth?  I think we have a winner (in the end, Levi stands up for her and all is well.  It’s Levi’s moment in the sun!).

In working on this post, I did discover a few wacky things about Miss Mary (because it’s not authentically Catholic unless there’s something deeply bizarre going down).  In the gnostic gospel of Thomas, Jesus suggests that he will turn Mary into a dude, so that she may become a living spirit like the other apostles (because women, like dogs, have no eternal souls).  How…Freudian.  Other saints have suggested that the Resurrection re-virginized her.  Sweet glorious goodness, didn’t he have anything better to worry about?  Frankly, I have a hard time believing that Jesus was that hung up on her sexual status.  Tells you a lot about the Church, though.

Most notably, many in the Church believe that some 14 years after the Resurrection, the Jews tossed Mary, along with Sts. Lazarus, Martha, Maximin, and Sidonius, as well as the body of Saint Anne into a boat without oars or sails and banished them to die at sea (except for St. Anne, who was already gone, of course).  Instead, as one might expect from a literal boatload o’saints, they miraculously land in southern France, where Mary spends the rest of her life living in a cave.  A nice twist on the guru on a mountain trope, no?  She fed only on the Eucharist, which was proffered to her daily by angles (because who else delivers to a cave?  I mean really.  I hope she tipped well).  Upon her death at age 72 (records were that good back there), she was transported (presumably by the same obliging delivery angels) to the chapel of Saint Maximin, her old boat buddy, where she received the last sacraments (because DAILY DELIVERY OF THE HOST AT THE HANDS OF ANGELS was insufficient to procure her salvation!).  That, or she might have gone on to focus on leading the women of the fledgling church and taking care of that other Mary, the Mother of God.  Which seems a scoosh more plausible, no?

This is part of the problem with being Catholic.  I believe.  I do.  But there is some seriously bananas stuff found in the cannon, when you really start to dig.  I suppose that I can chalk it up to all the weight of history?  Like when you find old laws on the books about not being able to drive in housecoats or wrestle bears or take you pack mule on the second story of a building or get a fish drunk or harass Bigfoot or what have you.  It doesn’t shake my support for the bedrock principals of how laws are drafted in the States, it just makes you appreciate how utterly insane people have been throughout history.  Or gives you context about how much things have changed.  That analogy works, right?