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Monday, December 18 - 5:32pmSanction this postReply
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Celebrating Newtonmas off and on since 1984, this year I honored Sir Isaac by buying myself one of the commemorative 50p coins from the British Royal Mint.

 

50 pence coin ensemble from UK Mint

"Near the end of  his life, Newton described  himself to his nephew and biographer,  John Conduitt, in these pleasant words: 'I do not know what I may appear to the  world, but to myself I seem to have been  only a boy, playing on  the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell  than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.'

 

"Two hundred years later, biographer Milo Keynes wrote: 'This  life of apparent serenity was, however, far  from the  truth, for Newton is known to have  had a  most complex and difficult personality.' His colleagues described him variously as fearful, cautious, suspicious, insidious, ambitious, excessively covetous of  praise and impatient of contradiction. Even his closest relatives and true friends were modest  in their praise." -- "Sir Isaac Newton: Warden and Master of the Mint," The Numismatist, November 2001. 



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Tuesday, December 19 - 1:12amSanction this postReply
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I highly recommend the book A Portrait of Isaac Newton by Frank Manuel. It is a psychological portrait and an extremely interesting history of the man all along his course of pushing back the darkness.



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Wednesday, December 20 - 5:12pmSanction this postReply
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Maybe just call it "Krismas," which effectively removes christ and religion from the idea. And maybe think of "Kris Kringle" as Santa Claus -- the true hero and essential spirit of the holiday.

Merry Krismas! 



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Wednesday, December 20 - 9:50pmSanction this postReply
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It doesn't actually get rid of religion. In any language it's short for "Christopher", which means "Christ-bearer". "Xmas" won't do, either, as it comes from an abbreviation for "Christ".

 

My solution is to enjoy the season without a moment's thought for what anybody else might be doing about it or why. Give presents, get presents, listen to The Messiah and for chrissakes enjoy yourself.



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Thursday, December 21 - 11:02amSanction this postReply
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So true, Peter.  There are Islamic fundamentalists that blow themselves up in a fit of anger over Christmas.  Progressives want to eliminate it as part of their overall transformation of the culture.  There are athiests who are upset because Christmas is about Christ.  There are some Objectivists who get in a blue funk over the holiday.  

 

But not me.  I'm going to enjoy myself immensely - spending time with friends and relatives, eating well, laughing often, opening presents, enjoying people feeling festive, and watching all the little kids whose eyes are filled with excitement.... (and I've been an atheist since 1961 and an Objectivist since about 1966).   

 

A Merry Christmas to one and all!   :-)



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Friday, December 22 - 10:12amSanction this postReply
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I say "Merry Christmas" to people I know are Christian. I mean say as in speak. We send some cards, but they don't say Christmas, because for some reason the Christians on that list will get their hopes up for our salvation. We exchange homebaked foods with neighbors and other friend in our town. We enclose a check in the cards to the children and grandchildren. 

 

I wrote the little ditty below our last winter in Chicago (2009):

 

Perihelion

 

Slightest rise the sun,

sparkle on the pane.

Swiftest past the noon,

solstice kiss again.



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Friday, December 22 - 3:13pmSanction this postReply
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Back in the 90s, I was working a federal project. On our way to lunch, one of my teammates mentioned that he is a deacon in his church. Obviously not being too serious, I asked him if he did not find it a violation of the separation of church and state that we were being given Christmas off as a paid holiday. He replied, "Mike, do you really think that Christmas is a religious holiday?" This was in today's email:

Christmas Power

Whether and how people celebrate Christmas is clearly a complicated affair, bearing only a subtle relationship to Christianity itself. The contemporary, increasingly international version of Christmas is less a religious festival than a celebration of affluence, modernity, and above all Westernness. Download the full "The Geopolitics of Christmas" article by Stratfor Worldview contributor Ian Morris. 

Globally engaged businesses and organizations join StratforWorldview for Teams and Enterprises for objective geopolitical intelligence and analysis that reveal the underlying significance and future implications of emerging world events. That insight powers strategic decision making and global situational awareness so organizations can mitigate risk and anticipate new opportunities.

The rest of the essay examines the relationship between hard power and soft power with examples from history including Greece, Rome, China, France, and Britain.  To read it, you do have to register, but you do not need to buy anything.

Stratfor here in Austin is fairly well known and respected.

 

(Edited by Michael E. Marotta on 12/22, 3:31pm)



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Monday, December 25 - 8:52pmSanction this postReply
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Christmas has nothing to do with "christ" (the oily one! ). It's a celebration of Santa Claus, gift-giving, elves, reindeer, etc. Jesus and religion have no part in it. Indeed, they're trespassers who are unwelcome worldwide. The Christians originally stole this holiday from the Roman pagans. Jesus was even born in the Spring -- not December 25th. So it's not even a good lie. All thru my childhood Christmas was the biggest holiday of the year by far. Not once did my family ever mention Jesus, Christianity, religion, god, or anything like it. I bet that's true of most people today.



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Thursday, December 28 - 4:00pmSanction this postReply
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The Christmas Star

For about 1500 years, the story of the Star of Bethlehem was accepted as historically accurate because it was divine truth. Miracles were not questioned. With the Renaissance, a new way of looking at the world evolved. Over the centuries, the Christmas Star has been explained as a comet, a meteor or meteor shower, but the conjunction theory has been the most popular. 

In science, a good problem takes us far beyond the results of a single observation. The Christmas Star has been debated on many levels. The International Planetarium Society website (ww.ips-planetarium.org) lists over 100 citations to the Star of Bethlehem. Some of those articles and letters were part of a multifaceted decades-long argument among at least five astronomers and one editor. Writing in Archaeology Vol. 51, No. 6 (Nov/Dec 1998), Anthony F. Aveni cited 250 “major scholarly articles” about the Star of Bethlehem.
The scholarly tradition of explaining the Star of Bethlehem with scientific evidence apparently began with Johannes Kepler who identified a triple conjunction as the likely event.
In 1604, he published The New Star in the Foot of the Serpent (De stella nova in pede serpentarii: et qui sub ejus exortum de novo iniit, trigono igneo…). In that tract, he examined a triple conjunction, as well as a nova, which he identified as the cause of the conjunction. He was not alone in that kind of a belief. Others expected the conjunction to cause a comet. Reviewing the facts in 1614, Kepler said that the Star of Bethlehem was a nova in 4 BCE caused by a triple conjunction in 7 BCE. (See “Common Errors in ‘Star of Bethlehem’ Planetarium Shows,” by John Mosley, The Planetarian, Third Quarter 1981.)

 

According to Michael Walter Burke-Gaffney of the Royal Astronomical Society (also of the Society of Jesus), the popular tradition began with one Bishop Münter in 1831. It was Münter who first cited Kepler (wrongly), claiming a triple conjunction. The assertion lived on. Burke-Gaffney claimed that the popularizer Münter was widely read, though Kepler himself was not. (“Kepler and the Star of Bethlehem,” Burke-Gaffney, W., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 31, p.417.)  Personally, I am not sure who did and did not read Kepler. As far as I know, unlike Shakespeare and Bach, Kepler’s writing never suffered a hiatus.
In 1999, Rutgers Press published The Star of Bethlehem: the Legacy of the Magi by Dr. Michael R. Molnar. In addition to his achievements as an astronomer, Molnar is a numismatist. He was attracted to a series of coins from Antioch in the first century of the present era. They show a star, a crescent moon, and a Ram, among other symbols and legends.

 

Alternatley, a triple conjunction in 7 BCE occurred in Pisces. Some astrological lore identified that constellation with Judaea. Other traditions give Pisces to the Libyans, among others. However, back in the 1960s, at the Cleveland Museum of Science, planetarium director Dan Snow, told us of the connection between Pisces and Judea. So, for me, the Wise Men traveled to Judaea because of a rare conjunction in Pisces. 
Also, answering Molnar, as the precession of the vernal equinox - the peripoint of Aries - moved through the zodiac, the next sign would have been Pisces. This correlates to the coming of a new age, and the equivalency of the "sign of the fish" with the Greek initialization IXTHEOS: Jesus Christ Son of God Our Savior. And just to note, the first day of Spring is moving from the Age of Pisces to the Age of Aquarius. Make of that whatever you want. 
It is important to note that Jesus was not the only king, and his reign was not the only new age. Julius Caesar was assassinated March 15, 44 BCE. In May through July, a comet appeared, a singular event, not Halley’s or any other recurring comet. The people of Rome accepted it as obvious fact that the soul of Julius Caesar had ascended to the heavens. Julius Caesar was the first historical Roman deified by the Senate. His adopted heir, Gaius Octavius, became at once Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, and also Divi Filius.

 

Moreover, although he was born 23 September and therefore a Libra, Octavian Augustus took Capricorn as his personal symbol. Capricorn is the zodiacal sign of the winter solstice, of course, and therefore the symbol of the new year – ultimately, a new age.

 

Here on Rebirth of Reason, I suggest that that actually indicated another positive consequence of Christianity. Ayn Rand pointed to the fact that more than just obedience to the gods, Christianity attempted to provide a guide to self-improvment, personal salvation.  So, too, was the story of the ages always a downward spiral, in the Bible as the Fall of Man, but also in Hesiod. In Works and Days Hesiod says that we passed from a golden age to a silver age and so on and now we are in the Age of Iron, of blood and war. But Christianity promised the coming of a new age. We still look forward to that, but we have a worldly, realist-rationalist construct. 

 

  

 

(Edited by Michael E. Marotta on 12/28, 4:01pm)



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