Friday, May 3, 2019

How Not to Get Overwhelmed ~ with the Help of Galileo


If you are familiar with my blog, you know I love to travel.
Last fall I visited Italy for the second time, and I long to return.
I find it fascinating for its rich and significant secular and religious history, 
its glorious art and architecture, its scrumptious food and drink, 
its geological wonders, and its passionate, animated, and friendly people.

I could spend a lifetime exploring Italy, and I would barely scratch the surface
of all there is to see and to learn in this complex, contradictory, and varied country.
It can be overwhelming, and when I feel overwhelmed exploring one of Italy's sites,
I focus on one object that resonates with me.

Take the marvelous Basilica of Santa Maria Novella
located near the main railway station in Florence.
The church, the cloister, and the chapter house are a treasure trove
of Gothic and early Renaissance art and architecture.


Basilica of Santa Maria Novella
Piazza Santa Maria Novella
Florence, Italy
September 16, 2018
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved



I shrink its treasures down to one object significant to me:  the Brunelleschi pulpit.
In fact, it was the Brunelleschi pulpit that made me determined 
to find this gorgeous basilica in the narrow mazes of Florence.

Why a pulpit?  This pulpit?
Because this is the place where one of my favorite scientific figures,
Galileo Galilei, was first denounced for heresy.


Galileo Facing the Roman Inquisition
by Cristiano Banti, 1857
This painting shows Vincenzo Maculano, the Prosecutor of the Holy Office,
reading the charges of suspicion of heresy to Galileo Galilei.



When I was growing up, even into adulthood, I was very critical of Galileo
for recanting his belief in Nicholas Copernicus' theory
that Earth and all other planets revolved around the Sun,
especially since Galileo's belief was based on his scientific observations 
of moons circling Jupiter, the phases of Venus, and sunspots on the Sun.


Galileo's Telescopes
Museo Galileo, Florence, Italy




Later I became more forgiving of Galileo,
as I contemplated the reality of being burned alive at a stake.
I realized that, faced with such a choice, I'd likely recant too.
Idealism has its limits.

I learned about the pulpit and the attack on Galileo
in Kim Stanley Robinson's outstanding novel Galileo's Dream.
Robinson wrote of Dominican Tommaso Caccini
denouncing the Copernican system as heresy and implicating Galileo
from the pulpit in Santa Maria Novella in December 1614.
Caccini's verbal attack on Galileo led to the scientist's eventual indictment.

When I exited the train upon arriving in Florence,
I was off to find Santa Maria Novella and its famous pulpit.


Yours Truly by the Brunelleschi Pulpit
Basilica of Santa Maria Novella
Florence, Italy
September 16, 2018
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved




I spent hours exploring the church, the cloister, and the chapter house 
of Santa Maria Novella; and if I return to Florence,
I'll return to this amazing site to see its treasures again.
I have it anchored in my mind forever with the Brunelleschi Pulpit.


The Basilica at Night
Piazza Santa Maria Novella
Florence, Italy
September 16, 2018
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved




What would be your favorite country to visit?
How do you handle wonder burnout?
If you were Galileo, would you have recanted or burned?

I highly recommend Robinson's Galileo's Dream.
It's a fascinating melding of well-researched history and science fiction.
I read it before going to Italy, and again when I arrived home.





Till next time ~
Fundy Blue


Sidewalk Cafe
Florence, Italy
September 16,  2018
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved








For Map Lovers Like Me:
Location of Italy




Location of Florence





Location of Santa Maria Novella



33 comments:

  1. Sure a great reason to have it anchored there. Oh, I'd BS and recant if it meant being burned at the stake. Or chucked in water to see if I'd float or sink. Or one of the other dozens of stupid things stupid people thought back then.

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    1. Haha! I came round to that position too, Pat! The ingenuity, resourcefulness, and cruelty of individuals and institutions seeking power and control over others never ceases to amaze me. Have a good one!

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  2. This is fascinating Fundy Blue, have never been to Italy. Loved the reading and the awesome pictures. Have a good weekend.

    Yvonne.

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    1. Thanks, Yvonne! I'm glad that you enjoyed my post. My husband was sent to Rome briefly as part of his job in the early 1990s. He returned home and told me, "You should have been born Italian." It was another 20 years or so before I finally set foot in Italy. It was LOVE at first sight! Wishing you a lovely spring weekend!

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  3. It's special when you can visit a place of your passions. When visiting the UK, it was Holyrood Palace (home to Mary, Queen of Scots) and the abandoned abbey that sits outside the palace.

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    1. Lucky you! I'm glad that you got to see Holyrood. I have only touched down in Scotland; ironic since I an of Scottish descent on both sides of my family. My grandmother MacBeath had a painting of Edinburgh Castle against its skyline over her kitchen table. I spent a lot of time lingering over breakfast and gazing at that painting. One day I'll get there. My touchdown in Preswick was only for our plane to refuel. The crew opened the back door of the plane to let some cool air in, and I begged them to let me run the stair and just stand on Scottish ground. They let me just long enough to stand about 20 seconds! That was 47 years ago, obviously!

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  4. The Catholic Church was western civilization's Taliban, ruling by fear and terrorism. All Christian churches have a lot to answer for.

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    1. You are absolutely right, Debra! When you see the size and riches of these buildings, you sense the power and control the Catholic Church wielded. I really struggle with churches in all their denominations and sects because of how they have operated in the past and in the present. The only toehold I have on Christianity is my belief that all of this is not what Jesus stood for.

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    2. Yes, that's about the only sensible approach to take, I think.

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  5. It is just amazing to me how he was able to look at the sky and figure that out.


    "What would be your favorite country to visit?" I would like to visit Russia.

    "How do you handle wonder burnout?" Hmm...wonder burn out. Interesting phrase! Honestly, I think quiet and stillness do it for me. A great shh. It refreshes the mind.

    "If you were Galileo, would you have recanted or burned?" I am a Christian, so I feel like I understand the feelings of the Church. But...I also believe the Earth going around the sun does not contradict the scriptures. So maybe I would approach it that way. Maybe I would say it was not an affront to God. They would probably have burned me just for saying that. It was a time of fear and fear does horrible things.

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    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Sandi! I have always struggled with an inner conflict between religion and science. I say I am an agonistic, because I cannot be an atheist. Something fundamental inside me rejects that. I'm a scientist; I believe in the scientific method and the knowledge it has determined.

      The way I have reconciled this is the recognition that God must be far greater than anything we humans can imagine and that we have brains that were meant to be used in a quest for knowledge about our universe and origins. Humanity has reached for God since its beginning; I can't accept that that striving is meaningless.

      I have a huge problem with organized religion because of all the horrific things that have happened and continue to happen in the name of religion. So when I talk to God or pray to God (which I do), I think about Jesus and his message of loving one another as he loved us. This is the best I can put into words to describe my struggles and conflicts.

      I respect the beliefs of others, as long as they do not harm others or try to impose their beliefs on others, especially through terrorism and fear. We're all searching though this journey called life. I think that human perception exists on a continuum, and that some humans perceive or experience things outside my range. That is why I am not dismissive of spiritual experiences or other experience outside the range of "normal" human perception. So I muddle on in my quest for reconciliation and understanding.

      Out of respect for you, I felt you deserved honesty from me on where I stand. And, oh yeah, I so would have been burned at the stake for heresy. I get passionate, and I run at the mouth; that's might downfall. Like you, I am in awe of what Galileo accomplished with the rudimentary tools that he created. Human intelligence also exists on a continuum, and there are different forms of intelligence. Obviously Galileo existed far out on the continuum, well within the genius range. I think I struggle! How much more he must have struggled!

      That's one reason why I find him to be such a fascinating human being. He was brilliant, flawed, conflicted, passionate, and driven by a hunger for knowledge, a desire for truth, and a fight for intellectual freedom. He railed in frustration against the busyness of life and its responsibilities getting in the way of the work that was important to him. (I feel a distinct connection there!). And yet, somehow he endured, a scientific giant among humankind.

      Okay, I'll stop! Have a great weekend, my friend!

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    2. "So when I talk to God or pray to God (which I do), I think about Jesus and his message of loving one another as he loved us."

      I think this a beautiful thing.


      "Out of respect for you, I felt you deserved honesty from me on where I stand. And, oh yeah, I so would have been burned at the stake for heresy."

      You know what's funny...or sad...or horrifying...is that you and I are a little different in some things, but we'd both be burned on the same stake.

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    3. Thanks, Sandi, for the "beautiful thing." That makes me feel a great sense of peace! Take care, my friend!

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  6. Galileo Galilei is proof enough for the need of religious freedom.

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    1. Yes, Adam! I absolutely believe in religious freedom, and I will stand up for people's beliefs as long as those beliefs do not harm others or are imposed on others.

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  7. I will hope the book is in our public library. I can see why that building means so much, and I'm sure you will get to visit again and see more. I would not want to be burnt, or drown, how brave to face all that.

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    1. Hi, Jean! I have lived long enough to know I'm a coward and would do what I could avoid such a fate; but I have hope that if I were ever in a lethal situation, I would face it bravely. I think I might, because the one time I was held at gunpoint and knew I was going to die, my first action was to protect the children with me as best I could. Obviously, we survived! (Drunk, in PTSD episode, Vietnam veteran, who mistook us for the enemy). I was brave until we were all safe, and then I completely came undone. Have a great weekend with Hugh, Jean! X0X0X

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    2. Wait..Fundy, WHAT. WHAT WHAT????

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    3. Hi, Sandi! Yes, I've had quite a past! Most people would never know it to look at me; but then I believe we all have surprising stories! It's still traumatic for me now. Perhaps one day soon I'll write about it.

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  8. What an amazing trip, Louise! I look forward to hearing more. My husband and I have Italy on our wish list of places we want to travel to. Perhaps one day this dream will become a reality. In the meantime, I will enjoy all that you share!

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    1. Oh I do hope that a trip to Italy becomes a reality for you and George, Martha! It is an amazing country! Have a lovely weekend!

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  9. I've visited Italy only 1 time however I didn't find more time to visit everywhere.

    Have you ever been to Turkey?

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    1. No, I have not been to Turkey ~ Yet, ReHiTu. I would love to visit for a number of reasons, not the least of which are to visit the ruins of Troy, Hagia Sophia, and Pamukkale. Enjoy your weekend!

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    2. Don't forget Ephesus! :)

      Have a nice day!

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    3. Ephesus is on the list! I could not miss that, ReHiTu!

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  10. Dear Louise, thank you for these photos, graphics and commentary. I decided early on that Galileo was a survivor, first and foremost. Good thing too. As for Jesus, I've worked with many carpenters in my time and every one of them solved problems with good data, accurate estimates and workable conclusions. I consider the Messiah an empiricist and suspect Galileo did too. When working and thinking rationally under power-mongers who rule by threat, tantrum and war, it is prudent to tell them what they want to hear --then live on to improve the world. Why does that sound so familiar in the current political climate?

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    1. Loved your comment, Geo! I was thinking the same thing regarding our political climate before I got to your last line; and I just had to laugh. I'm wondering if any of the GOP leadership or our attorney general will make it to the 2020 election with any parts of their souls uneaten. I also wonder how far President Trump will go in pursuit of reelection. My grandfather MacDonald, my Uncle Stan, and my cousin Peter were all skilled carpenters. I'm hoping that when we get to Anthem, I can explore woodworking with the woodworking club. We shall see! Enjoy your day, my friend! I hope you and Norma have time to relax and have a glass of wine. Terry gets home tonight after another house hunting trip.

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  11. Incredible post dearest Louise!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    how coincidental that me and my youngest son were reading encyclopedia (thick one brought by eldest son) and we reached upon page telling about Galileo and how he was put in jail for his ideas

    this is great that you changed your mind about that legend later :)

    thank you so much for Stunning images ,you just made my day by these glorious glimpse!

    i have faith that sooner or later i will visit Europe and will wander in it's enchanting streets and marvelous buildings

    this is my childhood dream when i used to read stories and watch shows about italy ,rome ,venus and other beautiful cities of Europe!

    you can write a wonderful travelling book through your journeys as you got inspiring insight upon the history and knowledge about almost all part of land :)

    thank you for lovely image of your kind happy face :)
    hugs!

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    1. Hi, Baili!
      This is the fourth time I've sat down to respond to your comment today. I keep getting interrupted. Thank your for your kind comment. How thoughtful of your eldest son to bring your family an encyclopedia, and equally great is that you and your youngest son are reading it together. I get a kick out of coincidence!

      I dearly hope that your dream of visiting Europe comes true. I dreamed of traveling when I was growing up, because I used to pour over stories and encyclopedias too. I didn't get to watch much on tv until I was out of university, because we either didn't have a tv or we only had one channel and poor reception. There is still so much of the world I want to see!

      This summer we'll likely be focusing on moving though ~ Something I want behind me as soon as possible! I know Ramadan is approaching quickly, so I wish your family a time of spiritual reflection and renewal during this holy month.

      Hugs to you, my dear friend!

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  12. There are so many places I'd like to visit, and Italy is in my top 5. If it came down to recanting or burning, I'd recant any day of the week. It's horrifying to me to think of the cruel ways people thought to punish or torture people back then. While we aren't a perfect society still, I am so glad that most countries have advanced beyond such cruelty.

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    1. I hope that you get to visit Italy sometime, Theresa! It is a wonderful country. The world has come a long way toward abolishing horrific tortures and executions. I'd like to see it get all the way. Despite all our challenges, we are living about the best lives that people have lived throughout history. All the best to you!

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  13. Thank you for recommending Galileo's Dream. The Basilica is quite lovely.

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  14. Such an amazing trip! Thankyou for the history lesson. I've been fortunate to visit many countries. I think for me right now, if there is a pull for me to go somewhere, then I go. I don't know if that makes sense? I don't know if there is anyone country, I could say, I would like to see right now.
    "If you were Galileo, would you have recanted or burned?" I don't know? It's so hard.
    Thanks for all the wonderful pictures! Big Hugs!

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Thank you for your comments! I appreciate the time and energy you put into making them very much.