Thursday, 1 January 2009

2009 has just started

I couldn't get to sleep last night so I worked out that the prime factors of 2009 are 7, 7 and 41. I don't know if it's possible for a number to have more than one set of prime factors but I suspect not; anyway 2009 doesn't.

At midnight mass on Christmas Eve, even though there tends to be a pretty poor sermon adapted to provide for all the non-church-goers who wander in from the pub, I usually get some sort of urge to improve my life (with the result that my resolutions for the coming year have often worn off by the time I get to New Year's Day). This year I have decided to try to return to reading more heavy-weight stuff. I'll make a big attempt to get back to Karl Barth's Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (translated by Hoskyns, a previous Parker Librarian), which I got stuck in at around chapter 5, partly through feeling a bit overwhelmed at what I might be going to have to try to understand for chapters 7 and 8. I also decided to read Rowan Williams' new book on Dostoyevsky, which I managed to find in Exeter on Boxing Day, and which I enjoyed very much. He explains well the problems with seeing Prince Myshkin as a Christ-figure, which bothered me but which I was never quite able to express. He also clarified very helpfully for me the views known as apophatic or "negative" theology, which can be found in one of its more extreme forms in Simone Weil's statement that one must pray to God as though he didn't exist, because however you imagine God to exist you are imagining him wrong, and your imagined God is not God but your own creation. Also, the "Kill the Buddha" idea, which comes from some Buddhist master telling his pupil that if he has a vision of the Buddha he must kill him, because it is not the Buddha he has met but an expression of his own longing. There's stuff about it here. It's interesting but it also seems like there's a problem with that and with the incarnation as theophany. Isn't there? Anyway, Williams talks instead about the Russian icon tradition, and ideas of whether the divine can be represented in an image, saying that while an icon is not a complete or correct image, it's not a matter of saying "this is not it" but saying "this is not all". Which makes much more sense to me. One day I will probably have to make up my own mind about images, but for the time being I enjoy my icon collection on a non-intellectual level. Dostoyevsky was very against the idea of Jesus as teacher, which also is pleasing -- all in all it's a satisfying book for explaining properly why various things have previously made me uneasy.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad!
I watched the alternative Christmas message by the president of Iran, which is available on 4OD. I was slightly touched that he seemed so sure that in addressing the people of Britain, moreover the Channel-4-watching people of Britain, he was talking to a Christian nation with a reverence for the son of Sitt Miriam and the prophets. I was also interested in how much he talked about What Would Jesus Do. Why all this What Would Jesus Do stuff bugs me is summed up by what I said about the apophatic tradition above. Ivan Karamazov's story of the Grand Inquisitor conveys some of this, and Williams talks about it very well.

Hurray! Here's someone saying that Pullman's atheism is entirely derivative of Christianity, like I said on this blog a while ago. One might also observe that his view of sin as particularly sexual is very Augustine. I feel guilty for not getting more to grips with all these anti-religion arguments, but not enough to do anything about it when there are so much more interesting things to do, like Barth on Romans. Williams quotes the novelist Marilynne Robinson saying that Creationism is just the sort of impoverished ideology that militant atheist Darwinism most needed. Now we could do with the Christian backlash against Creationism. But Williams, entirely consistently with the thesis of his book and of his theology in general, works less by argument than through actions and narrative, and his reply to impoverished views of Christianity is to bring out in his Dostoyevsky book an examination of particularly interesting and subtle Christian views. Hurray for the archbishop! He's unusual.

More TV!
I do like Star Stories -- the Kate Moss one is very tasteless. I understand Take That have embraced theirs to the extent of playing extracts at their concerts, and I bet George Michael likes his, but the Bono one is pretty savage.

Little nephew slightly less little!
He has now passed his birth weight, and is nearly seven pounds, plus he is learning how to burp.

I got my new glasses. The lady at Boots made me try them on and look at her computer to check they were OK, which gave me the really odd experience of looking at something I could see perfectly clearly and then its suddenly becoming much clearer. I feel like this should be a metaphor for something.


  1. Hi

    You suspect correctly! Every number can be factorised into a unique set of prime factors - which means that 2007 = 7*7*41, and no other set of prime factors.

    The proof of this was known to Euclid:

    I'm particularly interested because I'm planning a joint 49th this year with my best mate, who shares my birthday. We both did maths at college, so thought thta 49 - being seven squared - was a much more satisfying number to celebrate big time than boring old 50. So I was pleased to see that 49 is a factor of 2007 mathematically as well as socially!


  2. 2009 = 7*7*41 I mean. Disobedient fingers, sorry!