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Wednesday, June 25, 2014


I have always been charmed by the Roman Catholic Church's teaching regarding sainthood.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with its lineaments, here is a quick review.  The Church teaches that, generally speaking, even those whom the Lord God chooses, in his Infinite Mercy, to gather to his bosom after their death for an eternity of bliss must first suffer a rather long period of torment in Purgatory as a punishment for their many sins.  However, there are a rare few whose lives on earth have been so exemplary that they are granted a reprieve from Purgatory and go directly to Heaven upon their passing, there to sit by the right hand of God.  Since these few are even now in the presence of the Almighty, prayers directed to them by the faithful may be passed along to His Mightiness.  Those granted this extraordinary free pass directly to heaven [not even passing Go and collecting $200] are called Saints.  Hence the practice of praying not to God Himself but to one or another of the saints.  Who are the saints?  Well, strictly speaking, only God knows, but the Church has taken it upon itself to identify those possessing this extraordinary charisma.  And, as Max Weber noted more than a century ago, since charisma is inevitably routinized, it comes down to an Office of the Holy See, staffed by Cardinals and such, rummaging about for evidence that prayers directed at unusually holy dead folks have worked miraculously, thereby demonstrating that they are indeed in Heaven, with God's ear, and thus are saints.  Bureaucracy being what it is, these days it takes three authenticated miracles to be declared a saint.

We atheists are denied these blessings, of course, but I have always thought that the Cloud is for us a simulacrum of true Heaven, for there our thoughts, our tweets, our selfies, our e-mails, our verbal slips and deepest thoughts live forever, though our bodies may rot.  IT Saints, I suppose, can expect to go straight to the Cloud on their physical passing.  But I am afraid I am not one of their number, for I have, for the past week, been in IT Purgatory, and there is no sign that I shall be released anytime soon.

When I arrived in Paris, my computer worked but my Internet access did not.  Several frantic trips to the local France Telecom shop, carrying my heavy computer and my "LiveBox," resulted in my old LiveBox being swapped out for a new one.  I brought it home, and it did not work.  I arranged for a "rendez-vous" [i.e., a home visit] with a FranceTelecom technician, who could not come until yesterday [for a fee of 115 Euros, or roughly $150!!].  Meanwhile, my computer died, and I went out and bought a new one, for almost a thousand dollars.  It has a French keyboard, so the Q is where the A is supposed to be, and like that.  I turned it on and thoughtlessly chose the option that changes the keyboard to an American keyboard, because the salesman told me I could buy little stickers to put on the keys so I know what I am typing.  But no one has ever heard of these little stickers and I cannot figure out how to change the keyboard back.  The technician came, two hours late, and after an hour, had managed to get the TV working, but not the Internet.  He announced that the LiveBox was defective, and told me to take it back for a new one.  I did so.  I brought the new one home and could not get it to work.  Meanwhile, my old computer had started working again [Why?  Well you may ask, little grasshopper.]

I have a new rendez-vous arranged for Friday.

I amend my earlier religious observation.  I am not in IT Purgatory.  I am in IT hell, which means I am one of the damned, and there is no hope for me.

How am I writing this?  I am at an Internet cafe fifteen minutes' walk from my apartment.  I have purchased one hour of time, and a little counter in the corner of the screen tells me I have 10 minutes left.

How is Paris?  Who knows?


David Auerbach said...

Schlepping a heavy computer is no fun. Junk the old thing (working or not) and get a laptop (I assume that the one you bought is a laptop?) I live in the Mac world so I can't advise you any more than that. If it's any consolation (and I suppose company in purgatory is consolation) we have periodic descents to IT purgatory even here in Durham. Whether or not TimeWarner Cable inches out French Telecom as a tormenter is a question best left to the Holy See.

Seth said...

If prayers from infidels were of any help, I'm sure your readers' support would get you cleared thru HeavenLand Security in no time flat.

Matt said...

I am at an Internet cafe fifteen minutes' walk from my apartment. I have purchased one hour of time, and a little counter in the corner of the screen tells me I have 10 minutes left.

While living in San Francisco one summer during law school (working for the wonderful Center For Gender and Refugee Studies) I found myself without internet access for a few days. A nearby coffee shop had free wi-fi, but closed at 6pm, before I got home. But, I found, I could go sit on the ground outside the cafe while they were closed and still get the free wi-fi. This was barely dignified for a person of my age and standing, so I would not suggest such things to you, but I pass it along for others who may need such advice.

(In more recent times, I've found that standing outside of starbucks in countries where one's smart phone doesn't work will sometimes allow you to access the internet as well. This at least works in the UK.)

Magpie said...

Matt's comment offers a way around similar to the case of Elijah, the prophet, and the Virgin Mary: they bipassed not only Purgatory, but death and were lifted to Heaven alive and in their physical bodies.

Come to think about it (and I may be mistaken, because my knowledge of Islam is about zero), I think you can add Mohammed to that list.

(I had a Catholic education, even though my Dad wasn't much of a religious bloke and my Mum, while much more mystical, was fairly eclectic in her beliefs)

NotHobbes said...

Discussing saints in France brings tail(hee hee) of St Guinefort to mind


Kevin said...

When I was there a few weeks ago, also struggling with my FreeBox, I would sit along the Seine for free wi-fi instead. The city offers it for free there.

But, yes. Internet in Paris resembles something from our AOL days, an unwarranted violation of justice.

Andrew Lionel Blais said...

I've been schlepping through all the posts, comments and links concerning the Piketty shtick. I was wondering about your analysis of the relation between the linear algebraic interpretation of Marx's Labor Theory of Value and the thesis that labor is uniquely exploited. Can you give an example of an analysis of anything that would serve as a model for what might be added to this interpretation so that it would account for this uniqueness? The only example that I could think of, and it might not be all that helpful, is the way that Kripke added an "accessibility" relation to his formal models of modality to explain how there could be multiple modal systems. Is is like adding the invariance of the speed of light to classical physics? Or, adding DNA to evolutionary theory? If the challenge is to figure out how the uniqueness figures in, what are the available materials? Like in the Star Trek episode, The Arena, do I have sulfur, coal, potassium nitrate, diamonds, and a bamboo-like plant?

JR said...

So many people who are unable to travel to France would sacrifice a great deal to be able to enjoy Paris in the summer. And here you are, with the opportunity to enjoy the city several times a year -- with your own apartment no less -- and instead here you are, ignoring Paris and obsessing about your damned computer and the bloody Internet. Much as I enjoy your blogging, I think you do not have your Parisian priorities in order. Break your addiction to the keyboard, in whatever configuration.

Jerry Fresia said...

Dear JR - Asking the Professor to adopt what may be your Parisian priorities is equivalent to asking an artist to throw away her brushes. I suspect that writing for the Professor is less an "addiction" than it is, for him, a singular and exhilarating act of self-realization. And in what better place is there to write political philosophy than in Paris and in one's own familiar and comfortable apartment? It may well be the case that in addition to Rousseau, Hugo, Voltaire, Zola, Orwell, Baldwin, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, James, Emerson, Mailer, Miller, Pound, Stein, Wright, Twain, Hobbes, Sartre, Nietzsche ("An artist has no home in Europe except in Paris."), Descartes, and Marx - to name a few who found writing a suitable Parisian priority - history will add the name Wolff.

decessero said...


In addition to agreeing with your comments completely, they are, once again, graceful and gracious. It is always a joy to read your wonderfully positive observation.