austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

Behind a wooden door, the voice of Thomas Alva recites a poem on a phonograph

Outside the exhibit was an arrangement of stained glass windows and a festival cart of the tacky-overdecorated kind, and I was feeling pretty optimistic for my picture hobby. No go, though: the exhibit prohibited photography. And here I had thought that Jesus was out of copyright. I know they were probably fussing over people who do not grasp the concept of ``no flash pictures'', but it's so much easier to take a photograph of an interesting label than it is to try copying down quirky text.

For example, between the ticket-takers and the formal entrance proper to the exhibit was a wall showing a timeline of various historical events. This does include many of the events you'd figure would be noteworthy for a Vatican expansion franchise, such as the decriminalization of Christianity in the Roman Empire, or when the religion was made official, or when Charlemagne was crowned. And a few events relevant to other name-brand religions also rather naturally fit in the panel: the first known Buddhist documents being found in China, for example, or the construction of the Mayan temples. The writing of the Kama Sutra seems like a farther reach, but perhaps that century was just looking a little skimpy and they needed to put in something.

The invention of paper (105, Tsai Lun, China, more or less) also made the list, as well as the first passenger steam train in Great Britain, which you can certainly see as relevant to the history of the Roman Catholic church. Or there was Alexander Graham Bell's patenting of the telephone in 1874, which seems a bit off. Peter the Great also made the list. Somehow, though, the Great Schism (1054) didn't make the cut, and neither did the other Great Schism (1378). Well, you can't blame them for wanting to underplay the more embarrassing or more annoying aspects of church history, and Vatican II is more appealing than, say, the homoiousian controversy, although I'm still not sure how the Kama Sutra made the short list.

Trivia: Pope John XXIII (the first of them) decreed in 1412 that four days should be dropped from the calendar to correct the drift in the lunar calendar, but was ignored due to the Great Schism of the West. Source: The Calendar, David Ewing Duncan.

Currently Reading: Space Opera: An Anthology of Way-Back-When Futures, Editor Brian W Aldiss. It ends with Isaac Asimov's ``The Last Question'', which is a great story to end things on, and the caption only kind of gives away the ending. But is that really a ``Space Opera'' story? Yes, some of the humans in it reach the point where they start building their own stars, but I think it takes more than cosmic sculpting to count as space opera somehow.


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