On Philosophy Today and on Writing looks at how closely the two practices are intertwined.
2,300 years ago, Socrates asked himself a question that has had repercussions to this day: What is man and especially what can he become?
If until then philosophers such as Heraclitus or Pythagoras were exploring the outside world, with Socrates and the new current called sophistry, people began to turn their attention to the inner universe, to the human mind. And since then everything is history, and gradually in philosophy has become therapy for the soul, a practical tool that is supposed to help us understand and know ourselves, and thus to live in harmony, reconciled with our inner selves and our life.
Philosophy teaches us to look first at what is good for the mind, and the rest will follow. And if it doesn’t, then it wasn’t meant to be there in the first place and it won’t be missed.
Every individual is a cosmos (the lucky few) or a chaos of desires, emotions and ideas. If we learn to make them interact in harmony, we will then be able to live in balance with ourselves and at the same time to keep in balance our inner self and the world around us.
I think it is essential to remember that philosophers may have changed or influenced the way the next generation looks at life and understands it, but when they only just happened to be, to mature and churn ideas, they were very much novices, like us. None is born a teacher.
Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.
History is mostly guessing; the rest is prejudice.
“Will” Durant was an American writer, historian, and philosopher
The philosopher of antiquity focused on the enlightenment of the human soul. And did so with lucidly, almost with a methodical aspiration towards a universal level.
The secret of inner peace is not to equate our achievements with desires, but to lower our desires to the level of achievements.
Pierre Hadot, French philosopher and historian of philosophy
Are we at a loss for not aspiring to what the philosopher of antiquity aimed for?
Philosophy is seldom a life purpose today. But also is far from being dead.
Today philosophy looks at and into feminism. It considers ethics and political science. Philosophy today helps us understand race and class issues, culture and inter-cultural born criticism, and theories such as post-colonialism that looks into work ethic and the subaltern concept.
Philosophy today is a great tool for writers, because much like a modern scribe deals with words, philosophy assesses how thoughts are connected with language, are seen through the prism of our upbringing and culture, and how different individuals will most probably perceive the same facet of a diamond in a different way. Much like a kaleidoscope. Something writers are very much used to.
I think that, apart from modern day philosophers, writers are philosophers too.
Because as Durant put it, “Every science begins as philosophy and ends as art.“
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Tracing the history of name Furstenberg I discovered some coins, perhaps part of a treasure found in a castle, as well as porcelain fit for a King residing on a Parisian Street.
First there was the Fürstenberg castle
Fürstenberg Castle was a medieval fortress located on Fürstenberg hill, in Baden-Württemberg region of south-west Germany, near the source of the Danube river.
The name actually means Prince Mountain, or Prince of the Mountain.
The castle was first mentioned in a deed of 1175. Around 1250 Count Henry of Urach (a land nearby) made it his residence and was the first to call himself a Count of Fürstenberg.
Sadly, the original castle was devastated during the Thirty Years’ War (at the beginning of the 17th century) and never rebuilt. But the Fürstenberg county and the Fürstenberg clan survived history.
Over the years, as it often happened with any big family, holdings were partitioned between different branches of the clan, then unified again as family lines went extinct. One such memorable member was Count Henry VII von Fürstenberg-Fürstenbergmentioned in 1408.
One of the oldest Fürstenberg coins
A Theodore von Furstenberg silver coin from 1614
In 1664, Hermann Egon of Fürstenberg-Heiligenberg and his brothers, the bishops Franz Egon of Strasbourg and Cardinal William Egon of Fürstenberg, became Princes of the Holy Roman Empire and the first to be raised to imperial princely status by emperor Leopold I. Therefor Hermann Egon is seen as the founder of the Principality of Fürstenberg-Fürstenberg.
Furstenberg coins from 16th and 17th centuries
Minted under Dietrich von Fürstenberg, Bishop of Paderborn, 1585-1618 (left) and under Ferdinand von Fürstenberg, Bishop of Paderborn and Münster, 1661-1683 (right):
In 1716, Count Joseph Wilhelm Ernst becomes (again) Prince of Fürstenberg-Fürstenberg (due to various partitions followed by unification of the small counties). It was he who changed his residency to Donaueschingen, a small settlement near the confluence of the Brigach and Breg rivers, the source of the Danube river. There he built a residence fit for a prince, he organized the administration of the county and is seen as the founder of the Principality of Fürstenberg-Fürstenberg.
A Furstenberg-Stuhlingen Taler from 1729
A coin that should not exist in such a fine state. The obverse: we see the bust of Josef Wilhelm Ernst Furstenberg-Stuhlingen in armored suit. Do notice the fine details: the edge of each curl fully defined, and his facial features easily pronounced. Also, notice the flan (or planchet, the round metal disk that is ready to be struck as a coin): in russets and golden hues just like a painter’s brush strokes. The reverse: figures at work, with a view of the mines and valley in the background. Do notice the excellent proportions of the details and the 3D perspective created with the use of repoussoir (an object along the right or left foreground that directs the viewer’s eye into the composition by framing the edge).
The Fürstenberg porcelain
Duke Charles I of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, who reigned as Prince of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel from 1735 until his death, requested that a porcelain factory be built in 1747 in Fürstenberg.
Below is one of the oldest drawing used by Fürstenberg porcelain factory dating from 1760: the castle and the factory, and painted by Pascha Johann Weitsch. The plate is from the Duke Carl I of Brunswick-Wolfenbuettel set.
It is interesting to know that the Fürstenberg porcelain trademark, the blue “F”, dates since 1740 and the ALT FÜRSTENBERG range is still produced today in its original Rococo style.
Moving on with the history of the Fürstenberg family…
At the end of the 18th century, Prince Joseph Maria Benedikt, the third Prince of the House of Fürstenberg-Stühlingen, is known to have studied at the University of Salzburg and was a passionate musician and a patron of the arts. For this, the Prince upgraded the riding school in Donaueschingen into a 500 seat theater to play the works of great composers of the day. He is also remembered to have regulated the lives of his subjects with moral severity…
In 1766 and age 10, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart visited the Fürstenberg home in Donaueschingen for twelve days and performed for the Prince, his family, and guests. Both Mozart and his sister received diamond rings as a sign of gratitude for their performance.
Later, Mozart proposed that the Prince of Fürstenberg pay him a regular annual salary in return for new compositions for exclusive use at the court in Donaueschingen. The Prince purchased three symphonies and three piano concertos but, sadly, decided not to pay Mozart the salary the musician hoped for. If only he would have.
The Furstenberg-Stuhlingen coin of 1767 worth nearly 40 000 USD
A Josef Wenzel Furstenberg-Stuhlingen coin, struck as part of the Mining Taler series featuring St. Wenceslas standing in front of the Wenceslas Mine:
In November 15, 1772 the Prince of Fürstenberg was contracted to marry Princess Maria Theresa of Thurn and Taxis but it didn’t work out as the princess changed her mind. He married instead Maria Antonia of Hohenzollern-Hechingen in 1778. An alliance that did not work out wither, although they shared a passion for music and she was an “excellent soprano”, courageous, determined and ingenious although unusually small.
Over the centuries members of Fürstenberg family have risen to prominence as soldiers, churchmen, diplomats, and academics. Sometimes the name was gallicized as de Furstenberg or anglicized as Furstenberg. 🙂
The Principality of Fürstenberg was one of 16 principalities dissolved by the treaty of the Rhine In 1806. Most part was annexed to the Grand Duchy of Baden, smaller parts were given to the Kingdom of Württemberg, the principality of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen and the Kingdom of Bavaria.
The Fürstenbergnoble title was retired.
The Fürstenberg family no longer rules as princes, yet it still resides at Donaueschingen (with its gardens, grounds and an extensive library), at Heiligenberg and Weitra.
And a Furstenberg street in chic Paris
Rue de Furstemberg is located in one of the most charming squares in Paris.
The street was named after Cardinal Guillaume-Egon de Fürstenberg (1629-1704), ordained Abbot of Saint-Germain-des -Prés in 1697. He was the same Guillaume-Egon which, in 1664 and together with his brothers Hermann Egon of Fürstenberg-Heiligenberg and bishop Franz Egon of Strasbourg, were raised to the status of Princes of the Holy Roman Empire by emperor Leopold I.
Place de Furstenberg or Rue de Furstemberg is in the heart of the wealthy 6tharrondissement, tucked between the web of streets found between the left bank of the Seine and Boulevard Saint-Germain.
The square is the foreground to the entrance of the Abbatial Palace constructed in 1586 by Cardinal Charles I de Bourbon and named after the Cardinal Guillaume-Egon de Furstenberg.
Notice below Rue de Cardinal perpendicularly to Rue de Furstenberg?
Rue de Furstemberg, 75006 Paris, France
The surrounding buildings here are placed around a central island and form a charming courtyard. Noticeable here is the Haussmannian architecture that defines Paris, a subtle hint of the romantic and traditional Parisian charm.
A hotspot for intellectuals and artists, Rue de Furstenberg is also famous for having been home to Eugène Delacroix who moved there to be nearer to the Eglise Saint-Sulpice which he had been commissioned to decorate.
Not any know, but an unfinished Medieval statue of the Virgin with Child was reassembled from three pieces of rock discovered in an archeological dig on the Rue de Furstenberg in 1999. The Statue can be admired in the Church of Saint-Germain des Prés nearby, the oldest church in Paris.
Discovering the history behind a family name is a fascinating journey, one I hope you enjoyed taking with me. Thank you for reading ‘A History of Furstenberg: Coins, a Castle, Porcelain, and a Street.’ Until next time.
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More info on Effect of Pets on Immune Systems:
Does having a pet, or pets, in the home environment as a baby increase the strength of a high-school student’s immune system?
Pets can supply a constant low-dose exposure to microbes that can induce illnesses and therefore increases the strength of a child’s immune system, thus their immune system as a high-school student is stronger than high-school students who did not have pets in their home as children.
To determine whether or not having pets around as a baby increases a high-school student’s immune system.
“In a journal Pediatrics, researchers concluded that exposure to pet dander and microbes that pets carry inside from outdoors can help better develop babies’ immune systems. The immune systems learn from a young age how to protect the body from common allergens, bacteria and viruses.”
We need poets and poetry more than any time before, today when we are faced with a worldwide pandemic because poets have more heart in their hearts and more life in their poems than these are pandemic statistics released daily.
We need poets and poetry to help us escape from the present, apparate ourselves to a time where all is well with the world and amour’s heartbreak or the familiar in nature are enough to fill our daily thoughts.
Poetry, much like a warrior in disguise, is a shot of strength and optimism hidden under a shabby, fragile clothing.
In a time when the focus is on the outer world, poetry stirs emotions within ourselves, shifting our focus inward, even for a brief time; releasing emotions, tensions, and fears.
In a world focused on living inside walls, poetry brings back images of nature, this millennial reminder that, no matter what, life survives, life goes on, life is beautiful.
During a time when life seems to stand still, yet hours do stretch beyond the norm, leaving us out of tune with the passing of the day or of the week, poetry is the portal we can use to escape the cabin fever, the lockdown pressure, the endless thoughts and questions swimming in circles through our mind.
During times when life focuses on harsh reality, on stark colors, poetry is a lyrical rainbow. Like any color, perceived as a different shade by each individual, poetry leaves space to interpretation, something we do crave during times of pandemic, when scientists seem to be having it black on white. Death seems so technical these days, so sterile. Poetry is the colorful glass we can look through to connect with the world on an emotional level again.
Poetry ~ and books ~ are the only needed luxury during a pandemic.
I am sure that, no matter what your Faith in God may be, at some stage you came across Christian altars or shrines and asked yourself what is their symbology.
Recently I had a Twitter chat with my good friend and fellow author Jessie Cahalin. You may know her as the fantastic supporter and bubbly personality behind Books in my Handbag Blog. We discussed traveling under #lockdown and where we went via the books we read and via our WIP (work in progress).
And that’s when I realized that both my travels led me to a church.
My current read is Death du Jourby Kathy Reichs, whose books I’m hooked on. This specific novel begins with Tempe Brennan digging (how else) for a corpse buried more than a century ago underneath the floors of a Montreal monastery. My current WIP begins in the church of Putna Monastery, a Romanian Orthodox monastery built and dedicated by Stephen the Great during his 47 years of ruling of medieval Moldavia.
I entrust you with a short passage from my WIP:
‘The first monk hurried towards the altar. The second one, still throwing glances at the silent graves left behind, broke his pace. Growing on each side were the two massive columns that supported the church ceiling, just before the crossing. The wide space seemed now shrank by shadows. Fighting the urge to turn his body sideways and squeeze through, he closed his eyes and entrusted his spirit to the powers above.
Ahead, a whisper of pardon brushed his ear, an auditory sign that his leader had just passed the crossing and had kneel to pray at the altar by the icon of Saint Mary, the spiritual patron of Putna Church.’
Patricia Furstenberg, High Country, WIP
So I went over my research notes…
Altars, Shrines and Christian Symbology
The word altar originates in Latin altus, a raised area forming the focus of sacred ritual or worship. An altar would be usually erected and placed within a building or an area dedicated to a deity.
A shrine is alto the focus of a sacred activity, but can be anything from a small niche where a holy object is placed (a statue, a cross, an icon) to a place of pilgrimage.
But be it altars inside a place of worship or a shrine on the side of a rural path, natural or man-made, they are sacred and symbolize ways of spiritual connection with a higher energy and are places of meaning and power. A safe ground.
Many see an altar as a the universe in a nutshell, reproducing in a small scale the sacred tradition it represents, the focus of the spiritual world. The way a heart is at the (symbolic) center of the body, the hearth the center of the home, such is an altar at the center of the spirituality it represents. Its sacred point.
An altar also symbolizes the place where a holy act is performed (in Christianity weddings or funerals are performed before it), or where an individual may become holy or is united with Christ (through baptism).
Candles and incense are placed on altars, symbolizing light and the promise of a Kingdom to come, of further life. And also a reminder that we do not need our earthly possessions in the afterlife.
The earliest altars were places of sacrifice and therefor were open towards the sky so that the smoke of the burned offerings would rise up, up towards the gods the altar was dedicated to.
The first altar mentioned in the Bible is the one built by Abraham after his arrival in Moreh and his sighting of God, and the purpose was to lead a life of faith.
Location ans shape of an altar
Altars are positioned east because that is the direction of the rising sun, symbolizing, the resurrection, although this was not the case in the very beginning.
Extremely simplified, in Catholic Church the altar, centrally located in the sanctuary, is to be the focus of attention in the church.
In eastern Christian rites the altar has a broader sense, including also the area surrounding it, the entire sanctuary. The altar may be referred to as either the Holy Table or the Throne. Here the altar is found behind an iconostasis (altar screen, usually made of a number of icons).
Altars have a rectangle shape, similar to a table yet never refereed to as a table, which symbolizes the table used during the Last Supper. Although first Christians celebrated Mass on the top of stone tombs in the catacombs, the first altars were built of wood because it was cheap and readily available. Later, altars became built of stone. There is an extra symbology to an altar built of stone: it signifies Christ Jesus, the Living Stone or the cornerstone.
More symbols found in churches or shrines
Bread and chalice:
The bread and chalice represent the Last Supper and remind us of Jesus breaking bread with his disciples. These are symbols we use during Holy Week, Săptămâna Mare or Săptămâna Patimilor, as well as during the receiving of the holy communion or during weddings. The bread represents Jesus’ body, broken for us, and the chalice / cup represents His blood, sacrificed for us.
The loaf also reminds us of the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 with five loaves and two fishes and the words he spoke to his disciples in Matthew 4:4: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
Candle and Light:
So close connected with Christianity, a burning candle is a symbol of spiritual illumination and of the joy of witnessing God’s omnipresence. It also symbolizes symbolizes light in the darkness of life, holy illumination of the spirit. Lit in times of death, it signifies the light in the next world, representing Christ as the light.
Yet its brief time reminds us of ow short our life is and is also a metaphor for the solitary human soul.
Its components also have great meaning:
wax – pure flesh or humanity,
wick – soul, light – love, divinity,
flame – godhead,
fire – obedience,
heat – humility.
The cross is the universal symbol for Christian faith, a constant reminder of Jesus’ death for our sins and of His joyous resurrection. Here are some of the crosses that appear in churches today.
The crown reminds us that Jesus is King of kings. The crown also represent the crown of thorns that Jesus wore on the cross and the crown of glory given to Him in Heaven.
Circle / Halo
The circle has no beginning and no end. In Christian faith it symbolizes love that knows no end; a commitment or promise (wedding rings), and eternal life (the halo)
Christograms are monograms for Jesus’ name.
And another quote from my WIP, this time involving a Christogram:
‘Above, the eyes of God and of the saints painted on the church’s dome watched them, their right hand fingers raised in the benediction gesture and spelling Jesus. The index finger points upward, forming an ‘I’. The middle finger curved to form a ‘C.’ The fourth finger crosses over the thumb to form an ‘X,’ while the little finger was curved too, shaped as another ‘C.’ ‘IC XC’, the Christogram, a monogram of Jesus Christ.’
‘Stay here, my son. I’ll take this sin upon myself alone,’ whispered the first monk before disappearing inside the altar.
Patricia Furstenberg, High Country, WIP
The dove is a traditional sign of peace especially when carrying an olive branch (another sign of peace, according to the Ancient Greeks). The Bible tells us of the dove that returned to Noah with an olive branch, a sign that the storm had ended, flood waters were receding, and solid ground – and hope – were within reach. In the New Testament, a dove descended on Jesus at his baptism.
The fish was the secret code word / sign used by early Christians that were meeting in secret for fear of Roman persecution for the their Christian Faith. The Greek word for fish is Ichthus, which is also an acronym:
Iesous CHristos THeou Uios Soter
This means “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour.” The fish reminds us of the miracle of the five loaves and two fishes, and how Jesus called his disciples to be “fishers of men.”
The flame represents the Holy Spirit.
Fleur de Lis
The Fleur de Lis is the lily and a symbol of resurrection. The white and pure lily represent Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus. The three petals represent the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
These letters were inscribed on the sign that hung over Jesus when he was crucified. It’s short for the Latin phrase meaning, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”
The Lamb and the Shepherd
David described God as his shepherd, and Jesus described himself as the Good Shepherd, watching over his flock. The Lamb is a symbol for God, sacrificed by God, our Shepherd, for us. But the Lamb is also a reminder that we are all part of God’s flock, of how God cares for us, goes with us wherever we go, seeks us out when we are lost, and protects us.
The triquetra represents the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is seen to form the Carolingian Cross and the Celtic knot.
Water symbolizes baptism and thus a new life, born of the Holy Spirit. Water represents cleansing and healing.
Some churches are cut in rock
In Ethiopia there are over eleven churches cut in rock dating as far back as 12th century BC. They have secret passages connecting them with secret crypts and grottoes dug deep into the adjacent hills.
Such is the Chapel of Daniel the Hesychast near Putna Monastery.
Have you ever walked past a shire in your travels? They are often placed along roads in many Christian countries, but even in homes as well as holy buildings.
Shrines are often dedicated to Virgin Mary or to various patron saints important for a specific community as a special time. And such is a Christian grave, with its tombstone and flower offerings.
Altars and shrines are often decorated with candles, flowers or incense, as well as images of deities or saints.
I will leave you with this quote: ‘“Wherever an altar is found, there civilization exists.’ ― Joseph de Maistre
My pen is my wonderland. Word water in my hand. In my pen is wonder ink. Stories sing. Stories sink.
My stories loop. My Stories stop. My pen is my wonder mop. Drink letters. Drink my ink.
My pen is blind. My stories blink.
by Joe Public, South African-based ad agency – source
What the poem means to me as I read it in English
To me, My Stories Begin as Letters is a writer’s confession. Whatever he writes is nascent as an inner thought, as an intimate letter to oneself.
There are so many ideas swimming through a writer’s mind, yet not all of them will come to life in ink on paper and even fewer will reach a conclusion.
But when this happens a part of the writer’s life, of his energy, of his pen, will remain trapped inside that story forever. A bitter-sweet conclusion.
What the poem means when read in Afrikaans
Most of the poem has a similar meaning to what one would get when reading it in English, perhaps with these two minute exceptions:
The pen’s ink is fluid and so are the words it puts on paper, like a fluid that runs through the writer’s hand.
The pen and its ink can, in the hands of a writer, create a wonderful story.
Lost in translation or not?
Between the English and Afrikaans readings of the poem above all the words have the same meaning except for the following three:
The English meaning of the Afrikaans words:
word = become, transform
loop = flow, walk
blink = shiny, sparkly
As we switch between two languages and read through the prism of each one’s cultural background that we basked in when exposed to it, when assimilating it, is our ideology changing as well?
Let’s imagine the poem as a painting we regard in a museum. The culture is the room in which the painting is hanging and the ideology is the way we take the painting in as we first see it.
Change its location, its language in this instance, and we see the painting in a different light.
Are the Afrikaans and English languages related?
Yes, they are both Indo-European languages. The Afrikaans language, also called Cape Dutch, is a West Germanic language developed from 17th-century Dutch by the descendants of European colonists (Dutch, German, and French), of indigenous Khoisan peoples, and of African and Asian slaves living in the Dutch colony at the Cape of Good Hope (today Cape Town, South Africa). Modern Afrikaans language, or informal Afrikaans, is the result of many other language influences, both foreign and indigenous, on the original Afrikaans dialect. The English language is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family and is closely related to Frisian, German, and Dutch (in Belgium called Flemish) languages.
Since 1994 Afrikaans is one of eleven official languages of South Africa.