We went to the East Side Pride festival at Grandview Park at lunchtime today. It had only just begin so there were not huge crowds yet, but it was colourful an noisy and fun.
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Just a quick reminder that tomorrow (Saturday 22nd), the central part of the Drive will be filled with fun and games to celebrate East Side Pride. Activities at Grandview Park begin around 11 am and go on until early evening.
There will be 30+ vendors, food trucks, a bunch of great musical acts and half a dozen drag performances. It’ll be great fun — come join us!
I am currently working my way through Montaigne’s Essays and I reminded of my 2013 review of “The Swerve: How The World Became Modern” by Stephen Greenblatt, the John Cogan University Professor of the Humanities at Harvard. I think it bears repeating.
“The Swerve” tells the story of the re-discovery in 1417 of a long poem in Latin by Lucretius called “On The Nature of Things” which, the author claims, led to a flowering of the humanist movement, to a modern scientific view of reality, and to the disintegration of (or at least a serious challenge to) the accepted world view of the Catholic Church. Enormous claims, and the author does a fine job of defending them.
Lucretius’ poem is a discourse on the philosophy promulgated by Epicurus (341-270 BCE), that life should be led without any fear of death, that the pursuit of personal well-being should be the prime motivator of one’s existence, and that all life and all things are composed of “atoms” that collide and coalesce and then disaggregate once again upon death.
The Epicurean belief that there is no creation, the universe is eternal, that death is the final end, that there is no afterlife would prove to be a major challenge for the Church, a challenge they met with both cruelty and disdain. It is from their deliberate twisting of these teachings that most people today consider Epicureanism to be a form of gluttony and greed and little more.
The first half of the book gives an excellent background to the Europe of the late medieval period, discusses the growth of humanism through the re-discovery of Latin and Greek texts, and follows the life of Poggio Bracciolini, a Papal secretary who found, copied and circulated a manuscript of Lucretius’ De rerum natura.
The second half describes the Epicureanism of Lucretius in some detail and it is worth noting the major points:
The book then travels forward through history to show the extent of the poem’s influence. Early humanists, such as Giordana Bruno, were burnt at the stake for preaching its beliefs. Thomas More wrote Utopia as a direct attack on Lucretian Epicureanism, while Lucretius was the direct inspiration of Botticelli’s Primavera. Montaigne’s Essays are infused with epicureanism, and Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is a materialist masterpiece, even mentioning “little atomi” in its description of Queen Mab. Gallileo was clearly influenced by the poem,and the Puritan Lucy Hutchinson wrote an early English translation.
Perhaps the most famous political influence was in the work of Thomas Jefferson, a self-confessed Epicurean, who added “…the pursuit of happiness” as one of the three inalienable rights of all people.
This was a fascinating read.
If any of my readers are planning on going to Main Street tomorrow for the Car Free Day event, I would urge them to look out for the Mount Pleasant Heritage Group Heritage Lounge which will be in front of Heritage Hall.
They have a lot of interesting things to say about how that neighbourhood should recognize and integrate its heritage and history into the ongoing City Plan process. Stop by and take a look.