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  • : The blog of Frank Beswick. It deals with my interests in religious, philosophical spiritual matters and horticulture/self-reliance
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October 19 2011 4 19 /10 /October /2011 12:15

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Catherine was an unusual person  with very strong spiritual and intellectual gifts, and is one of the few women to achieve the title of doctor of the church, which is bestowed after death on great Catholic thinkers. Yet she did not live as a conventional nun, but was active in the public world, ministering to the sick and taking part in public matters, again, very unusual for a woman at the time, especially one of middle class social rank.

 

Early Years

 

She was born in 1347 to a very large family in Sienna. However, from early on it is recorded that she underwent significant religious experiences and at the age of seven vowed to become a consecrated virgin. Yet unlike many woman who entered convents, she never became a nun. Instead she joined the Dominican order as a tertiary. Tertiaries are members of third orders. These are lay people whp follow the rule of the religious order but live out in the world. The Domincans are a group of friars, these being like monks, but not tied to a monastery. The Dominicans are traditionally a scholarly group of people who have produced some great Catholic thinkers.

 

Development

Catherine's religious experiences continued and developed into an ongoing encounter with God, where she engaged in long converstaions with him. In her twenties she underwent what is known as a mystical espousal, a religious experience when she felt herself espoused to God. However, her life's work consisted of dedication to the poor and the needy, especially those suffering horrfic diseases that deterred other people from helping them. She was backed in this work by her family, who provided the home while she worked for the poor and sick.

 

Yet she herself was often sickly, and suffered intense pains, which she bore without becoming bitter or unpleasant. Strangely, for periods of time she would survive on very little food, though she did take the Holy Eucharist frequently. In 1370 she received the stigmata, the wounds of Christ on her body. She experienced the pains, but oddly the wounds  only visibly appeared after her death

 

During her life the Pope was away from Rome at Avignon. This had been a move that was initially designed to protect him, but it put the papacy under the influence of the French kings.  The popes stayed there for a sustained period of time

 

Public life

 

In 1375, five years before her death, she underwent a series of mystical visions showing her the various states of the afterlife, heaven, hell and purgatory, the latter being the temporary state of punishment for some sinners prior to heaven. At the same time the religious experiences instructed her to take part in public life, so she began to write to the Pope, bishops and princes of her day advising and pleading with them to reform society.

 

During this time she pressed for the reform of the clergy, a problme that needs addressing at intervals in church history, and for the return of the Popes form Avignon. In 1377 she was successful in this plea and the Pope and sacred college of cardinals returned to Rome, against the wishes of the French king. By this time she was being consulted by the pope and various Italian princes, quite an achievement for a woman of that period.

 

Her political programme was to unite Christendom, Christian Europe. She favoured a crusade agiant the Muslims, who were at that time a threat on Christendom's Eastern flank. This, she though, would take away the roving bands of mercenaries who were roaming Italy with all the plunder, violence and rape that went along with their presence. It would also weaken the threat from the large and aggressive Turkish empire.

 

In 1378 she went as the pope's emissary to Florence, which had gone to war against the papal states, mainly because of the misbehaviour of church officials. During this time there was an attempt on her life, which failed. She regretted not having been able to acept the red rose of martyrdom.

 

Death.

 

In 1378 the Pope summoned her to Rome. during this time her ehaslth deteriorated and she began to suffer great pain, which she continued to bear patiently. She continued her ministry to the poor at the time. However, the illness finally claimed her in 1380 at the age of thirty three.

 

Works

 

Her works are considered masterpieces of the Italian language. The main work is the dialogue, which consists of a conversation between God and the soul on how to live the spiritual life. There are four hundred letters and a series of prayers. A shorter dialogue is probably spuriousy attributed to her.

 

The key ideas of her  work are to take the metaphor of the monastery and apply it to the life of the ordinary Christian in the world. Thus she speaks of the cloister of the world [monasteries have cloisters, long corriders where monks walk in prayer and study. ] Her aim is to show that the religious life can be lived in the world as well as the religious institution. monks always dwell in their own "cells" small rooms. she speaks of the need to ever dwell in the cell of self-knowledge, for this is the way in which we can be honest about ourselves and our faults, and so approach God properly. She was deeply concerned that all Christans be able to share her intimate relationship with God

 

 

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October 17 2011 2 17 /10 /October /2011 12:25

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The basic principles

 

Making a garden pool involves deciding whether to buy a rigid pool or use a liner. If you purchase a rigid, fibreglass pool you are making life easy in one way, but you are committing yourself to a pool of a set shape and size. You would need to ensure that the ground is dug to the exact depth of the pool and is dug to the correct shape. You can dig to a shape, but it may involve some filling in around the sides after the fibreglass pool is put in place. The soil should be firmly tamped down to make the pool secure.

 

If you build a pool with a butyl liner you have more opportunity to decide the shape. However, you must be aware that butyl can be pierced by gravel or larger stones in the soil. Therefore you must ensure that the soil is carefully excavared. You must dig it to a slightly greater depth than you will need for the pool and take out all stones. This can be a painstaking job. Then you will lay sand thickly over the surface and press it down.After the sand has been laid the pool should be at the depth that you want.

 

If you want a pool of varying depths, possibly for water plants, you can dig it in steps. However, it is vital to realize that you must work out the exact surface area of ground to be covered and then purchase a liner twice the size needed. The calculation should include the area of the pond walls as well as the bottom. The liner should stretch over the side and lie on the ground to prevent it slipping. It can be covered with soil or edging stones to hold it down.

 

The edge

 

It is possible to have a rigid edge, like the pool in the picture, but some pool owners have a boggy edge at one side to allow for a bog garden, which might incluide such plants as cranberry and insectivorous plants, such as sundew.

 

However, as a liner might be covering the soil near the edge , it is often a good idea to have a container garden surrounding the pool. Large pots will contain the range of flowers that you want.To plant water flowers, have them in piots then lower them into the water at the depth that you want.

 

Safety

 

Safety is paramount. If you have children or if children can obtain access, think twice about a pool. A protective fence is always a good idea, and the containers will help to provide extra safety. However, no children should be unsupervised near a pool; and the safety of vulnerable adults must also be considered. Netting is also important, and you should carefully consider putting a well secured safety net across the pool. 

 

This brings us to electricity. The water will need renewing every so often, so you will need a pump. Water and electricity do not mix, so unless you are a trained electrician, do not wire the pump up yourself. Bring in a qualified electrician; and the services of a plumber are to be considered when connecting up the water supply. Take no risks. 

 

Maintenance

 

The pool will need to be kept clean, especially as autumn leaves will get into it and clog up the bottom. An annual cleaning is needed. You can put the mud debris from the bottom of the compost heap or in the leaf mould bin.

 

Wildlife.

 

Fish are a great addition to a pond, but they need to have clean water, so you will need to refresh the water supply on a regular basis. However, herons are no respecters of property. In my area herons moved in and took advantage of unprotected ponds, so plenty of expensive koi carp were eaten. Safety netting protects your fish. You might also need to oxygenate water so that the fish can respire, so a pump might have to be working regularly.

 

Frogs are a great blessing to a garden, as they eat slugs, but they also need protection from herons. Frogs need somewhere to leap from the water, as they spring out at great speed, so ensure that netting does not impede them. They also like an area with undergrowth to hunt slugs. So ensure that the garden is not totally manicured. Do not put frogs and newts in the same pool, as the frogs will eat the newts.

 

Ducks will turn clean water filthy very quickly, so think twice about having them in a garden pool. Their eggs will also absorb dirt if left lying in a dirty area, so think carefully about whether to keep them in a garden pool. They are, however, effective and voracious consumers of slugs.

 

 

 

 

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October 16 2011 1 16 /10 /October /2011 17:32

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October is a time of contradictions for gardeners.On the one hand it is the time when produce is ripe for the picking. I picked some delicious green apples today and the few remaining pears; yet I was also tidying up, clearing beds and laying down tarpaulins to smother weeds during winter. It will give me less weeding to do during winter time and spring.But I still have veg to pick during autumn and winter: carrots, parsnips, kale and cabbage, along with more apples. I really must make cider with some of them.

 

There are funny incidents. A neighbour came to me a little annoyed to grouse about being visited during the night. Apparently, we have been noticing that small scale pilfering of food has been going on. This time his scarecrow had its jumper stolen. It was an old one whose value was pennies, but we think that a tramp has been prowling. Poor fellow. Last night was rather cold, down to  degrees celsius, and he must have been desperate.Snow is forecast, so he needs it more than the sacrecrow does.

 

The lady on the neighbouring plot showed me a vegetable that I had not heard of before, a yakom. It is a root veg that looks like a potato, but it contains inelin, a sweet tasting sugar that is not digested, and hence has no calories. Delightful? No! It has the same side effects as Jerusalem artichokes. If you don't know what they are, you are in for an embarrassing surprise: wind, loads of it. She is a pharmacist, so she probably knows the chemistry of it all. Just imagine serving this stuff at a party! Would I do a thing like that? My wife would not let me. Apparently it is easy to grow.

 

A few months back we discovered that we have a well. It was below the pavilion, which was burnt down by vandals. It must have been there for years and forgotten, as no one on the allotment knew anything about it. . What do we do about it. It is a danger to kids, but it is a source of water at a  time when allotment water bills are rising. We have it covered over with heavy logs.

 

Only part of the plot is covered over. I still have some work to do on the soil at the far end, where the fruit trees are. There are still potatoes to be unearthed. I would have had them up now, but for the fact that I am in the process of moving house and don't want too much clutter while I am doing it.

 

They are a decent lot, the characters on our allotments. That's lucky, as some allotments are divided into feuding factions. There isn't anyone that I dislike. Of course, that's not to say that everyone always gets on, but we are quite blessed.

 

 

 

 

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October 16 2011 1 16 /10 /October /2011 13:35

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We are all familiar with the cartoons of Moses and his people walking through the sea with walls of water on each side of them, and we are apt to take all of this with a large pinch of salt. However, there are two ways of looking at myths: we can simply dismiss them as fictions, or we can look for the core of truth that often lies behind them. This is not to say that they are exactly historically true, far from it, as orally transmitted tales often contain some or much elaboration. But history and science can reveal some interesting facts.

 

The Thera eruption

 

The date of the Exodus, the Hebrews' escape from Egypt, is not certain, but it was probably between 1600 and 1650 b.c. The tribes probably did not all leave at the same time, and some may not have been there at all. However, the Bible is emphatic  that certain cataclysimic events were linked with their escape.It tells the stories of the plagues of Egypt, culminating with the death of the first born. But what event could have given rise to a series of disasters?

 

The main culprit is Thera. this was a volcanic island now known as Santorini, a circle of islands that remain of what was once a volcano. Sometime in the between 1600 and 1650 b.c. the volcano erupted. This was one of history's largest volcanic explosions. It blew out the centre of the island, sending pillars of volcanic material across the Mediterranean. This might explain the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night that guided the Hebrews on their way out. Certainly the hot cloud would have glowed in the dark.

 

However, we still need to explain the sea parting. Forget the image of walls of water. There is a more scientific explanation. Also forget the Red Sea, which is a copyist's error. The Hebrews escaped by the Mediterranean shore through an area known as the Reed Sea, a district of shallow coastal lagoons through which it was possible to wade.

 

The eruption had left a large hole in the island, protected from the sea by a thin barrier of rock. and the rock in the hole, the caldera, would still have been hot. Eventually the thin wall collapsed, sending the Mediterranean pouring into it. Sea levels therefore dropped and shores round the Mediterranean  therefore receded, just about the time that the Hebrews were passing along the shore, leaving them to cross dryshod. Followed by the Egyptian chariot force, the elite fighting force of the day, they made for higher ground, a wise decision as it turned out.

 

Tsunami

 

The water in the hole, known as a caldera, heated up and came back as a burst of steam. The immense bubbling outflow of water generates a tsunami that smashed its way across the Mediterranean. Large parts of Crete were overwhelmed by the power of thirty foot waves travelling at possibly over two hundred mph. Archaeology reveals evidence of major damage to Cretan cities at that time, and the evidence is consistent with a major tsunami impact, as blocks of masonry are tumbled over  and hurled inland. The wave reached the shores of the Reed Sea, just as the Egyptian chariot force was moving across the receded lagoons. Elite fighting force they might have been, but it is almost impossible to resist a thirty foot wall of water racing at high speed at you. The destruction of the Egytian military force was total.

 

The plagues

 

There are other indications that Israel escaped during a period of volcanic activity. The story that frogs came out in abundance can be linked to the fact that animals sense Earth tremors, which precede an eruption, and leave their holes in the ground. The Nile's turning to blood can be explained as red volcanic dust. The plague of boils is easily explained. Volcanic ash can be very acidic and will leave nasty burns on the skin if it touches exposed flesh. All of these stories have been legendised, but contain a core of truth.

 

The final plague was the death of the first born. This is not mentioned anywhere in Egyptian history, but the possibility is that desperate Egytians, fearing that their gods were angry, were driven to human sacrifice as a last resort. Embarrassment may have led them to delete this event from their history.

 

Coincidence

 

A number of the other events in this story have scientific  explanations. The quails that landed on the Israelite camp were driven to exhaustion in their migratory flight by a strong wind, which could have been caused by volcanic disturbance of the wind patterns. The manna is a naturally occurring substance secreted by insects, now rare but still found. The water that seeped from the rock occurs when water is damned up behind a limestone crust.

 

Intepretation is all. There are two ways of looking at these events. Either Israel benefited from a very fortuitous set of coincidences; or they were guided along their way to be at the right place at the right place at the right time. Science and history can illuminate the background, but the question of how to explain this remarkable set of coincidences goes beyond the pair of them.

 

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October 12 2011 4 12 /10 /October /2011 16:47

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The Bible says that God planted a garden in Eden, Eden being a region near the borders of Iran and modern Turkey. It gives some geographical details of the rough location, but these are irrelevant. Eden as we have it in the Bible is a mythical place, an orignal homeland or humanity where the first parents enjoyed bliss until they sinned.

 

The aim of the story is to put the responsibility for sin squarely oh human's shoulders. God made the world good, says the story, and humans made a mess of it by disobedience. It is important to demolish one false claim. Nowhere does the Bible say that Eve should take most of the blame. She is tempted, but Adam falls for it and they are both blamed. The result of the disobedience is loss of the garden and the subsequent burdens of life that fall on humans because of the problem.

 

But let us look in more detail at the garden. It was said to be full of trees good to eat, and at the centre was the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Many people have imagined it as an apple tree, but nowhere is the world apple mentioned. Most likely the tree that the Bible writer had ain mind was a terebrinth. This was sacred to the pagan goddess Astarte/ ashteroth, whose fertility rites took place under sacred terebrinth trees. The Bible writer is suggesting that Adam and Eve went to worship Astarte in the hope of gaining fertility, and in doing so abandoned the true God. The result was that the fertile garden was lost and never recovered. The moral message is that the true God is the source of fertility sp do not worship false deities, whose cultus can only bring harm.

 

It is important to realize that the bible was addressing the problems of the time at which it was written, and so it addressed the problems of idol worship in Israel, which was rife at the time. The writer was expressing a key prophetic idea that to worship false gods is the way to ruin.

 

Many people ahve seen the snake as Satan, the devil, yet the story of Adam and Eve was written in about 900 b.c, before the concept of the Devil entered Judaism. The serpent is a symbol of pagan wisdom, which was opposed to the wisdom of the one true God. Thus the moral message is that if you abandon the wisdom that comes from God, you will err.

 

Over the centuries many have tried to find the Garden of Eden, but to no avail. In mediaeval times, when Geography was limited and under-informed, there was much speculation about Eden's whereabouts. One monk in the seventeenth century sought it in Sri Lanka, which he thought was the most beautiful place on earth. Rohm has examined the Bible text and pinned down what he thinks is a valley in Iran, which is now desert, as the site of the garden. Yet none of this matters too much. Even if there is an original site that the Bible writer had in mind, Eden as we know it is mythical. It represents a world that we have lost.

 

There have been attempts to recreate the life of Eden. Thor Heyerdahl wrote the book Fatu Hiva  about his attempts to go back to nature on a Pacific Island, by dispensing with clothes and living off what he could forage, but his efforts failed. He realized that we can never go back to a state of primal innocence. He could not go back because he was carrying his modern mind and language with him.

 

Eden is to some extent a dream that guides us not to the past but to the future. The ecological movement aspires to return to a world before pollution, for which Eden is a model. A world in which humans live in harmony with nature rather than exploiting it is a dream that has haunted and inspired them for centuries. We cannot return to a state of primal innocence and harmony, that has long gone, but many people are driven by the image of Eden as an inspiration for the creation of a better environment.

 

 

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October 12 2011 4 12 /10 /October /2011 11:21

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To answer this question we must distinguish between a phenomenon and how we interpret it. Take an example. Centuries ago when people saw an eclipse they thought that a dragon was trying to eat the sun. Now we know that it is the moon passing through earth's shadow. All experienced the same phenomenon, but interpreted it differently. Thus it is with ghosts. There are odd phenomena, but how we interpret them is a matter for discussion.

 

We can group the phenomena into a number of types. First of all we must realize that some ghost tales are purely fictitious.They are created  as entertainment and passed on as though they were genuine accounts. These are not genuine ghost phenomena. Some are hoaxes

 

Next there are genuine mistakes. A classic illusion is Popper's ghost. When a piece of glass is slanted it acts as a mirror, and this can produce reflections which appear at times to hang in the air. A stage magician namd Popper once used this phenomenon to raise "ghosts" which were reflections of actors in costume hidden in the wings of the stage. Furthermore, in half light the eye can play tricks. Think of the child in the bedrroom seeing  faces in the  patterns on the wallpaper.How many ghostly phenomena can be explained by referene to the tenency of the mond to make up patterns?

 

Hallucinations are a related phenomenon. Some people undergo hallucinations and may see figures that are not really present. While some halluicinations are schizophrenic, there are non-schizophrenic hallucinations. Some hallucinations may be induced by drugs or other mental conditions. However, one characteristic of a hallucination is that it is individual to the hallucinator.  If, for example,  I see a pink rabbit in the corner, and no one else does, then it is likely that I am hallucinating. If it is visible to others there may well be a pink rabbit in the corner.

 

However, one of the greatest errors committed by intellectuals is to try to explain away phenomena that they cannot understand. There is a group of ghostly phenomena that cannot be written off easily by claiming hallucinations or lies. One kind of phenomenon is the occurrence of replays of the past. Let us take the case of the Romans in the Treasury House in York, a well documented tale. A plumber was working in the basement when he heard a horn sound. Lookinga round he saw a man ride a horse through the wall, followed by a troop of Roman infantry. They were visible only from the knees upwards, as though their feet were at the level of the old Roman Road which runs below the cellar. He fled. On reaching the next floor manager of the house saw his distress and asked him ahd he seen the Romans. It is clear that other people, therefore, experience the same phenomenon, so no one can escape the difficulties by claiming that this was a mere hallucination.

 

The explanation given is called the Stone Tape Theory. This is the belief that events somehow become recorded as holograms in stone and can under certain conditions be replayed. It is noteworthy that phenomena like this are tied to a particular ground level, e.g. the old Roman road. They never interact with humans and are mere images recorded in a way not yyet understood. The stone tape theory explains grey ladies, which are very common occurrence across Britain. They are non-interactive. Some observers say that they fade with age, as if they were slowly losing energy and fading into nothingness. This energy loss may explain why there are no stone age ghosts. The stone tape theory implies that in some way energy is being preserved and given off.

 

Finally there are phenomena where there seems to be interaction between ghost and humans. Objects may be moved and voices may be heard. Occasionally apparitions occur. Occasionally there are tactile phenomena where victims claim that they are being touched. One intellectual error is to write off these experiences as lies or hallucinations; the other is to jump to conclusions and claim that they must be ghostly. The proper approach is to accept that there is a phenomenon to be explained, but that what the explanation is is not yet clear. They are consistent with spirits attempting to contact humans, but how you answer this question depends upon whether or not you believe that spirits exist at all.

 

An open- minded attitude to unknown and little understood phenomena is essential if we want to reach a genuine understanding of a world much of which lies beyiond our limited comprehension. Maybe the world ghost itself is a problem. We may need a wider vocabulary if we are to account for the full range of strange phenomena that fall into the category of the paranormal.

 

 

 

 

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October 10 2011 2 10 /10 /October /2011 10:50

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Hedging plants should be selected according to the kind of garden you want. Clearly, if you want a great deal of seclusion you wil opt for taller plants than you would if you wanted to divide ornamental beds from each other. Some hedging plants are trees, whereas others are flowers or shrubs

 

Trees.

 

Generally you will want trees of moderate size that grow reasonably quickly. However, you must consider the soil conditions to see whether they are suitable for the kind of plant that you want. For example, Field Maple [Acer campestre] is a good hedging plant, but it needs chalky, alkaline soil and does not grow in the North of England.  Similarly, willow is suitable for wet ground and does not like dry soil.

 

Some trees have a good protective function. Berberis [barberry] has thorns, as does hawthorn. However, if you have young children who will play with their balls in the garden, berberis is not a good idea. Its berries are not generally palatable to humans, but they can be used when roasting lamb, when you put two of them onto the lamb and let them drip their juices down it.  Hawthorn is good, but it needs controlling, as it can turn into a straggly tree if left untended. Hawthorn berries are edible, but best left to the birds. They. like other trees with berries, make a good contribution to a wildlife garden.

 

Beech make popular hedging plants, but they need to be kept under control, as they can grow to a great height. Similarly, yew is very popular, but it needs to be controlled, even though it is not as naturally tall as beech. But here is a word of warning. All parts of the yew are poisonous, and if you have young children, you should not plant a yew hedge, as the arils [berries] can kill if eaten.

 

Leylandii is becoming less popular than it was, as it grows to sucha  height that it is antisocial and can be subject to legal restrictions. Similarly, privet can grow to a great height, though kept under control it is useful. However, privet has the habit of drawing goodness from the soil.Blackthorn is a shrub that is found in hedgerows across parts of Britain. It is thorny, and it needs to be kept in control.Its berries are good for sloe gin, but are totally unplatable.

 

Partition hedges

 

If you go to many ornamental gardens you will see small plots of flowers bounded by box. This is a useful tree that can be kept short and makes excellent divisions inside the garden. However, box often needs to be replaced every few years and it is not as tough as some of the other hedging plants.

 

For this purpose of dividing up gardens lavender does a good job, as there are strong levender hedges in many high quality gardens. Lavender also attracts bees and  is therefore very wildlife friendly. Honeysuckle [the various varieties of Lonicera ]  is also a popular hdging plant, though tis tendency to grow tall needs to be kept under control.

 

Wildlife

 

Some wildlife takes well to hedges that are bit straggly and unkempt. Wrens and sparrows are known to find nests in  hedges where there is the protection provided by thorns. Wrens are small enough to fly into thorny hedges unscathed. Sparrows also have been known to nest in thick hedges. But hedges that are cut and trimmed are less attractive to birds than are straggly ones. Take your choice.

 

 

 

 

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October 6 2011 5 06 /10 /October /2011 13:33

Plato's Republic is a seminal work of Philosophy in which Plato, the great Greek thinker, expounded his ideas on knowledge and society. He sets the work as a dialogue between Socrates and his associates.

 

In Plato's view the world we inhabit is less real than the world of ideas. He expressed this view in the simile of the cave. The cave is composed of people chained so that they face a wall. Behind them is a bonfire, and between it and the prisoners people and objects pass, throwing shadows onto the wall. This is the world of shadows that normal humans see. Eventually a man escapes,  reaches the surface and sees real objects. As his eyes become accustomed to light he can look at the sun. This simile [parable] shows Plato's view that only the world of ideas, the upper world, is real. All else that we see in this world are shadows or images of people and things.

 

For Plato the objects of this world participate in the forms/ideas, which exist in the upper word. Thus I as a male participate in the form of maleness. A cat has the form of catness. It is better to know the form than the individual being.Thus knowing a person is less valuiable than knowing the basic forms in which humans participate.

 

This led to his theory of knowledge, which he expressed in his simile of the divided line. Below the line At the bottom level there was the knowledge of fictions [eidones], which have no basis in reality. Above that, but still below the line,  was pistis, belief. This is the knowledge of the world gained by experience, but it is a lower form of knowledge. Above the line was  dianoia, the knowledge of forms/ideas not linked to the form of the good, the ultimate form/idea. Dianoia includes mathematical knowledge. Above this is episteme or noesis, the knowledge of forms dependent on the form of the good. This includes  philosophy and justice and its components, such as truth and mercy. The form of the good is the highest form, the idea of goodness that all worthwhile things have in common. Only philosophers can reach so far as the grasp this form of the good.

 

Plato believed that fitness to rule society should depend on philosophical skill. So he designed what was to him an ideal society graded on ability. At the bottom were the hoi polloi, the many, who had no philosophical skills. Above them there were the guardians. These were divided into two levels. The guards would control the many and defend society, but they were drawn from guardians with no grasp of philosophy. Above them there were the guardians proper, the philosophers. They were to be chosen early in life and taken away from their families for training in philosophy. The highest of them would be the philosopher-king, who would rule. Plato was quite advanced for his time in believing that there might be some women among the guardians. However, guardians would live in common and share the women between them, and no child would know its own father. No society has ever really been run on Plato's lines, though he has been influential, especially in the early mediaeval  church, where the elite of celibate priests ruiled the many [or tried to.]

 

One of Plato's similes was the simile of the ship, in which a mutinous and argumentative crew each try to steer the ship, resulting in disaster. This is a metaphor for democracy, which Plato hated, because it gave power to non-philosophers. Only the true navigator, the philosopher-king, should be allowed to steer. Hel aso gave a simile of a wild beast, which is the mob, which he identified with the bulk of the people. The keepr keeps bribing the beast rather than controlling it. This, for Plato is how democratic politicians fail, because they appease rather than control the people.

 

 

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August 26 2011 6 26 /08 /August /2011 13:49

Seeds can be purchased from many outlets. However, not all of them are of high quality. You need to know something about seeds so that you can choose the best ones. Garden centres are a popular outlet though there are others such as seed companies. Many of these seed companies have catalogues and can be found online.

Seeds

About seeds

There is a wide range of seeds. There are peas, beans and tiny onion seeds. Some seeds take a few weeks or months to grow. However, biennials such as onions will produce in two years.

Good-quality seeds are important as cheap seeds are a false economy. Seeds are living organisms, so they must respire. However, the air breathed burns up stored sugars. Therefore, as seeds age, they have fewer stored food resources than young seeds have. Hence, they are not likely to grow at all or otherwise, grow well.

The smaller the seed, the shorter its lifespan as it has less food stored in it. Cheap seeds are often over a year old, or maybe more. Sadly, some gardeners have experience of buying a packet of cheap seeds which does not germinate.

Garden centres

The most popular places for seeds are garden centres where there will be a wide range of seeds. However, be careful since they sometimes sell seeds past the sell-by-date, the time in the year after which they will not germinate.

Don't buy any after the planting date, unless they are veg seeds that you want to use for sprouting. This is growing seeds in a tray and eating them when they are very small, the stage at which they are most nourishing.

Do not do this with flower or potato seeds as some are poisonous. Take care and do some research. Some nurseries may sell seeds, but most specialise in plant sales

Other sources

Seeds online

This is a popular means of buying. There are some companies such as Bakker and Thompson and Morgan which sell seeds online and which have a strong catalogue sales service.

You can access their catalogues online and order by post or email. Herb seed is easily available here. Marshalls seeds also operates a strong mail order system. Garden Direct sell a wide range of plants like the previously mentioned companies. They advertise and offer quality gardening for less.

There are others such as Greenfingers.com and Halcyonplants .co.uk. Seeds.com by post is a mail order operation. Seeds at a reasonable price are offered by Supaprice.co.uk.

If you want specific seeds such as sunflower seeds, you can type the name of the seed into your browse. There are several sites advertising specific seeds such as begonias.

Cacao
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Published by Frank Beswick - in Plants & flowers
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August 16 2011 3 16 /08 /August /2011 07:49

Deforestation occurs when forests are destroyed, but are not replaced. There is an immediate effect on the flora and fauna, on the soil of forested lands, and a loss of some valuable resources such as sources of medicines.The wider effects include global warming, through the release of carbon dioxide, and flooding.

Deforestation

Deforestation facts

One definition of deforestation is the loss of forests when trees are extensively cut and are not replaced through the planting of new trees.

The primary cause is land-clearing for agriculture and logging. Rainforest logging causes problems because rain-forest soils are poor and only sustain fertility by a cycle of leaf and tree's fall and renewal. Eliminating the trees breaks the cycle and leaves the soil too poor for growth.

The result is a quick economic gain from having logs to sell. However, there is long term loss, as once the trees are felled, the land is of little economic use.

Habitat loss

Another problem is habitat loss and the consequent loss of biodiversity. Whole species can be eliminated. This matters, as the ecosystem is a complex web whose stability is sustained by biodiversity. The loss of any species is therefore, bad. Some plant species might be the source of useful antibiotics and other beneficial medicinal chemicals. So, losing these plants deprives humans of the ability to discover these chemicals. For example, chemicals from the now-extinct Madagascan periwinkle plant improved the survival rates of children suffering from leukaemia, from 20% to 80%.

Wider issues

Forests are the lungs of the planet. Trees draw carbon dioxide from the air. Much carbon dioxide is stored in the wood of a tree. If the tree is cut down, it cannot store this carbon dioxide. If the wood is burned, this gas is released.

Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that stores heat. As it rises in the atmosphere, more heat is trapped and the planet warms up. This can cause icecap melting and a rise in the sea level. This is not an argument against cutting trees, it is an argument for sustainable forestry whereby what is felled, is replaced.

The effect of deforestation includes flooding. For example, floods in Bangladesh have been worsened because deforestation has occurred in the Himalayas. Tree roots sustain water and release it gradually. If the tree roots are lost, rainwater runs off mountain slopes all at once. Massive amounts of water then, pour off the Himalayas too quickly for the river system and the flood defences to cope with.

Had there not been the deforestation of the mangrove swamps on the shores of Thailand, the tsunami's intensity could have been checked. Human lives could also have been saved.

Forest1 Deforestation in Newzealand (South Island: Tasman, Westcoast) | dateflooding
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Published by Frank Beswick - in Ecology
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