Ora et Labora

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“He who prays and labours lifts his heart to God with his hands”. [Lat., Qui orat laborat, cor levat ad Deum cum manibus.], Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, in “Ad sororem”

The Wall

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“We build too many walls and not enough bridges.”, Sir Isaac Newton


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“Whether you like it or not, whether you know it or not, secretly all nature seeks God and works toward him.” – Meister Eckhart


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“Beware: some liers tell the truth”, arab proverb

Oh! The others!…

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“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”, Carl Gustav Jung

Umberto Eco – Biography

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“I myself like easy books that put me to sleep immediately. But the normal reader who does not spend his day fighting with Kant or Hegel feels respected if there is a jujitsu with a novel, a resistance, a seduction. If the book says yes immediately, it is a whore.”

Piedmont, Italy

University of Turin; turned from law to medieval philosophy and literature, writing his thesis on Thomas Aquinas.

Other jobs
Editor, cultural commentator (his subjects have included Disney, the James Bond phenomenon and Chinese revolutionary comic books). His primary career was as an academic, working in aesthetics, literary criticism and – most famously – semiotics, a term coined by John Locke in 1690 (“the doctrine of signs; the most usual whereof being words, it is aptly enough termed also Logike, logic: the business whereof is to consider the nature of signs, the mind makes use of for the understanding of things, or conveying its knowledge to others”). Eco defines it as “a scientific attitude, a critical way of looking at the objects of other sciences”.

Did you know?
He first attempted fiction with The Name of the Rose, begun in 1978, purely because “I felt like poisoning a monk.

Critical verdict
A unique phenomenon – a bestselling professor – Eco is one of the few writers genuinely interested in both popular culture and high art, excelling at making the arcane accessible. The Island of the Day Before was his most experimental novel, suggesting that he no longer needs to sugar his historical encyclopaedias with thriller structures; Baudolino is a more accessible return to medieval legends and Byzantine complexity.

Recommended works
Foucault’s Pendulum, one of those wonderfully annoying books which finally reveals the great truth that there is no Great Truth, is both more compelling than Name of the Rose and more human, drawing on Eco’s own childhood.

Though Eco usually finds his inspiration in philosophy and history – Aristotle, the Templars – Name of the Rose’s monkish detective hero owes a lot to Sherlock Holmes. His obsession with libraries, mazes and hidden ivory towers also echoes Borges.

Now read on
Other ultra-literary thrillers to savour include The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte, An Instance of the Fingerpost by Ian Pears and – for the seriously erudite – Lemprière’s Dictionary by Lawrence Norfolk.

The Name of the Rose translated surprisingly well to screen in 1986, with a masterclass in laconic understatement from Sean Connery, an early appearance from US bad boy Christian Slater and a convincingly medieval setting.

Reading Eco, ed Rocco Capozzi

Useful links and work online
· Official site

in guardian.co.uk

Are you scared of Friday the 13th?

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“Thirteen at a table is unlucky only when the hostess has only twelve chops.”

— Groucho Marx

Today is Friday, June 13th, 2008.

Scared yet?

OK, so you might not be that frightened, but for those Okies who suffer from paraskavedekatriaphobia (yes, it’s a real word and it means fear of Friday the 13th) today is a day to stay in bed with your head under the covers.

And it’s been that way for a long, long time.

According to tradition, Friday the 13th is considered a day of bad luck in several countries, including England, France, Portugal, Germany, Ireland, Poland, Sweden and even the Philippines.

The reasons vary. Several Internet-based resources say the day and date became infamous following the arrest of Jaques de Molay, the Grand Master of the Knights Templar. On Friday, Oct. 13, 1307, de Molay and 60 of his senior knights were arrested, and subsequently tortured by bad guys working for King Philip IV of France.

Following the knights’ “confessions,” Philip the IV had them executed and, again according to legend, from that day on, Friday the 13th was considered by followers of the Templars as an evil and unlucky day — which made sense as long as Philip was the one calling the shots.

Other legends say Friday the 13th got its black mark after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Many Christians believe Christ was crucified on Friday, the 13th, and some theologians even hold that Adam and Eve munched a few forbidden apples years earlier on that same date .

Still others claims the Biblical Great Flood began on Friday the 13th.

Whatever the reason, millions of people fear the date.

In fact, according to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, N.C., more than 67 million Americans are afraid of Friday the 13th.

“Some people are so paralyzed by fear that they avoid their normal routines,” the institute said. “They stop doing business, taking flights or even getting out of bed.”

The institute estimates that between $800 million and $900 million in revenue is lost each year because of the fear surrounding the date.

But not everyone is scared.

For Cleveland County Fairboard Marketing Director Sharon Harrell, Friday the 13th is her day to hit the casino.

“I love Friday the 13th,” she said. “That’s the day I go to Riverwind or some other casino. Everything good happens to me on Friday the 13th.”

And while Harrell admits to being “a little superstitious,” it’s more about barrel racing than dates.

“I’m a barrel racer,” she said. “And I have to have my watch in my left pocket and my hoofpick in the right pocket or I feel like something’s wrong. But as far as Friday the 13th goes, that’s always been a good luck day for me. Something good always happens.”

For Moore resident Deidre Ebrey, Friday the 13th has more to do with movies and less to do with luck.

Ebrey, Moore’s economic development director, said she associates the day with the movie by the same name. “When you’ve grown up around the date and the movie, you don’t think about superstition,” she said. “It’s more frightening than superstitious.”

Still, bad luck — whether it’s being killed by a maniacal ax-weilding zombie or just losing your credit card — is bad luck and, throughout history, a lot of bad things have happened on Friday the 13th.

For example:

· The 1889 Johnstown Flood.

· The 1929 stock market crash in the United States.

· The Black Friday bush fires in Victoria, Australia occurred on Friday, Jan. 13, 1939.

· The Uruguayan Rugby team crashed in the Andes mountain range on Friday, Oct. 13, 1972.

· Hurricane Charley made landfall near Port Charlotte, Florida on Friday, Aug. 13, 2004.

· The “Friday the 13th Storm” struck Buffalo, N.Y. on Friday, Oct. 13, 2006.

Then, there’s the connection with death.

In Britain, Friday was the conventional day for hangings and legend say the hangman’s gallows had 13 steps and the noose was wrapped 13 times.

In Norse mythology, the hero Balder was supposedly whacked at a banquet by the Norse god Loki on Friday. Balder had thrown a weekend party and invited 11 friends and — you guessed it — when Loki showed up the group grew to 13 and well, the rest was bad news.

Yet even while millions of residents fear the date, for one Norman man, Friday the 13th is just another day. For Father Edward Menasco, a priest at St. Jospeh’s Catholic Church, Friday the 13th is simply a day before Saturday, the 14th.

“No, I’m not superstitious,” Menasco said. “But I do think the myths surrounding the date came from the Knights Templar thing.”

And though Menasco believes people aren’t as superstitious as they used to be — as we get older, he says, “we become less superstitious — he does have some comfort for those who fear Friday the 13th.

“Just trust that God is protecting us,” he said.

And remember that Saturday, the 14th, will be here before you know it.

M. Scott Carter 366-3545 scarter@normantranscript.com