Daily Update: Friday, April 10th, 2015

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Alleluia! Today is Easter Friday, the Sixth Day in the Octave of Easter. While we have no Saints to honor on this date, I personally honor Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (died 1955).

Born in 1881 in Orcines, France as Pierre Teilhard (”De Chardin” is a vestige of a French aristocratic title and not properly his last name), his father was an amateur naturalist who collected stones, insects and plants, and promoted the observation of nature in the household. When he was 12, he went to the Jesuit college of Mongré, in Villefranche-sur-Saône, where he completed baccalaureates of philosophy and mathematics. Then, in 1899, he entered the Jesuit novitiate at Aix-en-Provence where he began a philosophical, theological and spiritual career. From 1905 to 1908, he taught physics and chemistry in Cairo, Egypt, at the Jesuit College of the Holy Family. Teilhard studied theology in Hastings, in Sussex (United Kingdom), from 1908 to 1912, during which time he was ordained as a priest. From 1912 to 1914 he worked in the paleontology laboratory of the Musée National d’Histoire Naturelle, in Paris, studying the mammals of the middle Tertiary period. Later he studied elsewhere in Europe. In June 1912 he formed part of the original digging team, with Arthur Smith Woodward and Charles Dawson, to perform follow-up investigations at the Piltdown site, after the discovery of the first fragments of the (fraudulent) “Piltdown Man.” Professor Marcellin Boule (specialist in Neanderthal studies), who so early as 1915 astutely recognized the non-hominid origins of the Piltdown finds, gradually guided Teilhard towards human paleontology. At the museum’s Institute of Human Paleontology, he became a friend of Henri Breuil and took part with him, in 1913, in excavations in the prehistoric painted caves in the northwest of Spain, at the Cave of Castillo. Mobilised in December 1914, he served in World War I as a stretcher-bearer in the 8th Moroccan Rifles. For his valour, he received several citations including the Médaille militaire and the Legion of Honour. He pronounced his solemn vows as a Jesuit in Sainte-Foy-lès-Lyon in 1918, during a leave. In August 1919, in Jersey, he wrote Puissance spirituelle de la Matière (the spiritual Power of Matter). Teilhard followed at the Sorbonne three unit degrees of natural science: geology, botany and zoology. His thesis treated of the mammals of the French lower Eocene and their stratigraphy. After 1920, he lectured in geology at the Catholic Institute of Paris, then became an assistant professor after being granted a science Doctorate in 1922. In 1923 he traveled to China with Father Emile Licent, who was in charge in Tianjin for a significant laboratory collaborating with the Natural History Museum in Paris and Marcellin Boule’s laboratory. Teilhard wrote several essays, including La Messe sur le Monde (the Mass on the World), in the Ordos Desert. In the following year he continued lecturing at the Catholic Institute and participated in a cycle of conferences for the students of the Engineers’ Schools. In 1925, Teilhard was ordered by the Jesuit Superior General Vladimir Ledochowski to leave his teaching position in France and to sign a statement withdrawing his controversial statements regarding the doctrine of original sin. Rather than leave the Jesuit order, Teilhard signed the statement and left for China. From 1926 to 1935 he made five geological research expeditions in China. They enabled him to establish a first general geological map of China. During all these years, Teilhard strongly contributed to the constitution of an international network of research in human paleontology related to the whole Eastern and south Eastern zone of the Asian continent. In 1926 – 1927  he wrote Le Milieu Divin (The Divine Medium), and prepared the first pages of his main work Le Phénomène humain, and in 1931 he wrote L’Esprit de la Terre (The Spirit of the Earth). From 1932–1933 he began to meet people to clarify issues with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, regarding Le Milieu Divin and L’Esprit de la Terre. In 1937 Teilhard wrote Le Phénomène spirituel (The Phenomenon of the Spirit) on board the boat the Empress of Japan, where he met the Raja of Sarawak. The ship conveyed him to the United States, where he received the Mendel medal granted by Villanova University during the Congress of Philadelphia in recognition of his works on human paleontology. He made a speech about evolution, origins and the destiny of Man; the New York Times dated March 19, 1937 presented Teilhard as the Jesuit who held that the man descended from monkeys. Some days later, he was to be granted the Doctor Honoris Causa distinction from Boston College. Upon arrival in that city, he was told that the award had been cancelled. He then stayed in France, where he was immobilized by malaria. During his return voyage in Beijing he wrote L’Energie spirituelle de la Souffrance (Spiritual Energy of Suffering). In his posthumously published book, Le Phénomène humain (published as The Phenomenon of Man, 1959, and as The Human Phenomenon, 1999), he writes of the unfolding of the material cosmos, from primordial particles to the development of life, human beings and the noosphere, and finally to his vision of the Omega Point in the future, which is “pulling” all creation towards it. Teilhard makes sense of the universe by its evolutionary process. He interprets complexity as the axis of evolution of matter into a geosphere, a biosphere, into consciousness (in man) and then to supreme consciousness (the Omega Point). In 1962 the Holy Office of the Vatican issued a monitum (reprimand) denouncing his works. As time passed, it seemed that the works of Teilhard were gradually becoming viewed more favourably within the Church. However, the Holy See clarified that statements by members of the Church, in particular those made on the hundredth anniversary of his birth in 1981, were not to be interpreted as a revision of previous stands taken by the Church officials. Thus the 1962 statement remains official Church policy to this day, and his chances of being a canonized Saint are nil. Teilhard and his work have a continuing presence in the arts and culture to this day. (In the Hyperion Cantos series of science fiction books by Dan Simmons, Teilhard is a canonized saint, and his concept of the Omega Point plays a large role in the plot.)

I did my Bathroom Devotional Reading, and on our way to work I did my Internet Devotional Reading and said the Eighth Day of my Divine Mercy Novena. I then requested The Plum Tree by Ellen Marie Wiseman (my next Third Tuesday book club book) from the Lafayette Public Library. When we clocked in, Richard was going to be on Three Card Blackjack, but he switched with another dealer so that he could sit down on Mini Baccarat all day. (He is doing better, but not eating; he is quite weak, and says he lost sixteen pounds since he weighed himself on Sunday or Monday.) I was on Blackjack all day, and on my breaks I started reading The Incrementalists by Steven Brust and Skylar White. At one point, when my table was dead, I talked to Rosemary (Richard’s sister in law, the wife of his brother Slug here in town). She said she had talked to Michelle (they run across each other at Wal-Mart from time to time), and Michelle told her that she (Michelle) will be starting nursing school in August, with a five-year projected completion date (since she will be working during that time as well).

When we arrived home from work, I did not feel hungry, so I read the morning paper, then took a nap while thunderstorms moved through our area. At some point Richard joined me in bed. I woke up at 4:15 pm, watched Jeopardy!, then came to the computer. I was able to print out our check stubs from the casino website; our hours and PTO all agree with my calculations. Our paychecks (via Direct Deposit) have also hit the bank. I then opted to eat today’s lunch salad for dinner while working on today’s Daily Update. Our New Orleans Pelicans will be playing a home game with the Phoenix Suns this evening, and tonight (moved back to 9:00 pm due to rain) our #3 ranked LSU Baseball team will play the first game of a three-game home series with Auburn.

Tomorrow is Easter Saturday (Alleluia!), and the Seventh Day in the Octave of Easter. Tomorrow is the Memorial of Saint Stanislaus, Bishop and Martyr, and tomorrow is when the earliest call-in at the casino for Richard drops off of the calendar. Richard and I will return to the casino, and I will continue reading The Incrementalists by Steven Brust and Skylar White. After we get home I will write out my check for the Church and my check for my CRS Rice Bowl, then head to the Adoration Chapel for my Weekly Hour of Eucharistic Adoration. After Adoration I will eat lunch at McDonald’s and do some reading, then head back to the Church for the 4:00 pm Mass. While I am doing all of this Richard will pay bills and do grocery shopping. If our #3 ranked LSU Baseball team was able to play their game on Friday night, they will play the second of the three-game home series games with Auburn tomorrow night. And the Last Quarter Moon will arrive at 10:45 pm.

Our Easter Friday (Alleluia!) Afternoon Parting Quote comes to us from Dixie Carter, American actress. Born as Dixie Virginia Carter in 1939 in McLemoresville, Tennessee, she spent many of her early years in Memphis. As a young child she had thoughts of becoming an opera singer, but a botched tonsillectomy at age seven spoiled any chances for that dream. Still, she sang regularly and studied classical music, and was the valedictorian of her high school class. She attended college at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and Southwestern at Memphis (now Rhodes College). She was a graduate of Memphis State (now University of Memphis) with a degree in English, and was a member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority. In 1959 Carter competed in the Miss Tennessee pageant and placed first runner-up to Mickie Weyland. She also won the Miss Volunteer beauty pageant at the University of Tennessee in the same year. In 1960 Carter made her professional stage debut in a Memphis production of Carousel. She moved to New York City in 1963 and got a part in a production of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. In 1967 Carter married businessman Arthur Carter (no prior relation) and took an eight-year hiatus from acting to raise her daughters. In 1974 she filled in for actress Nancy Pinkerton as Dorian Cramer on One Life to Live while Pinkerton was on maternity leave. She subsequently was cast in the role of Assistant D.A. Olivia Brandeis “Brandy” Henderson on the soap opera The Edge of Night, on which she appeared from 1974 to 1976. (She went along with the show when it switched from CBS to ABC.) Carter took the role even though some advised her that doing a daytime soap might negatively affect her career. However, it was with this role that Carter was first noticed in television, and after leaving Edge of Night in 1976 she relocated from New York to Los Angeles and pursued prime-time television roles. Carter starred in several Broadway musicals and plays, and appeared on and off-Broadway as well, playing the role of Melba Snyder in the 1976 Circle in the Square revival of Pal Joey and diva Maria Callas in Terrence McNally’s Master Class, a role created by Zoe Caldwell. She divorced Arthur Carter in 1977 and married Broadway and TV actor George Hearn the same year. Two years later, in 1979, she divorced Hearn. She appeared in series such as Out of the BlueOn Our OwnDiff’rent Strokes, and The Greatest American Hero (playing a KGB spy), Filthy Rich (1982) was created by Linda Bloodworth-Thompson, and also starred Delta Burke. Carter’s appearance in Filthy Rich paved the way for her best-known role, that of interior decorator Julia Sugarbaker in the 1980s/1990s Linda Bloodworth-Thompson television program Designing Women, set in Atlanta, Georgia. Delta Burke was also in the cast as Julia Sugarbaker’s sister Suzanne Sugarbaker. Hal Holbrook, Carter’s real-life husband (since 1984) had a recurring role as Reese Watson, and Carter’s daughters, Ginna and Mary Dixie, also had guest-star roles as Julia Sugarbaker’s nieces, Jennifer and Camilla. The program became noted for the monologues delivered by Julia Sugarbaker in indignation to other characters, a character trait that began in the second episode, when Julia verbally castigated a beauty queen who had made fun of Suzanne. That speech, which Julia ends by emphatically saying, “And that, Marjorie, just so you will know, and your children will someday know…is the night…the lights…went out…in Geor-gia!” became a fan favorite. Carter, a registered Republican, disagreed with many of her character’s left-of-center commentaries, and made a deal with the producers that for every speech she gave, Julia would get to sing a song in a future episode. Famous for portraying strong-minded Southern women, Carter provided the voice of Necile in Mike Young Productions’ direct-to-video 2000 cartoon feature The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. She was also in the voice cast of My Neighbors the Yamadas, the English-language dub of Studio Ghibli’s 1999 anime movie Hôhokekyo Tonari No Yamadâkun. From 1999 to 2002 she portrayed Randi King on the legal drama Family Law, portraying a lawyer for the first time since she was Brandy Henderson on The Edge of Night. In 2004 she made a guest appearance on Law and Order: SVU playing a defense attorney named Denise Brockmorton in the episode “Home”, in which she defended the paranoid mother of two children (Diane Venora) who had manipulated her older son to kill his brother after the younger son had broken her home rules. In 2006–07 Carter found renewed fame with a new generation of fans as the disturbed Gloria Hodge on Desperate Housewives, earning an Emmy nomination for her work on the series; Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry started out in Hollywood as Carter’s assistant on the set of Designing Women. She was nominated for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for Desperate Housewives in 2007. Her final film was That Evening Sun, which she filmed on site with her husband Hal Holbrook in East Tennessee in the summer of 2008  (died 2010): “Certainly if we hope to enhance and extend whatever natural assets we were given, we must expect to make an effort, if not actually great labor.”

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