Kansas City – When I initially had the idea to write this article, I chose not to act upon that thought, figuring that the topic was far too vast for me to finish covering it in one sitting. However, upon sitting in my bed, just beginning my nighttime reading, I realised that the fact that this article would have remained unwritten seemed an unbearable monstrosity.
In our well-ordered world, things are more often than not set upon a grid pattern. Here in the United States, the vast majority of our cities and towns are built on grids. Many of the states borders were drawn upon a vast grid. Likewise, our view of global geography, with latitude and longitude as our most fundamental aid is founded upon a sort of grid. And yet, all of these grids, all of these straight lines that criss-cross the planet are not naturally devised instruments. They are not nature’s mirror, like the motionless water on a lake on a windless night. These grids are mirrors of our own inventiveness, the most elementary mechanism by which we seek to understand things that are far greater than ourselves.
When I observe the stars, what first strikes me is their shape. No star in Space is a square, or a rectangle. They are all spherical in some way or another. Likewise, these celestial spheres move about the Cosmos in elliptical and circular patterns, most certainly not along grids like in Pac-Man. The entirety of natural reality moves in circular motions. It is only those things that we humans have created which move on grid patterns.
So why is this? Why is it that we have chosen the square as the basis of our lifestyles rather than the circle? As silly as this question may sound, it is certainly something for us to consider: if in the earliest days of human history, we had chosen to build our cities and towns in a more circular fashion, with the streets curving and such, how different would we be today?
The bed that I am sitting on writing this on is a rectangle, as is pretty much every bed that I have ever known of. Likewise, all of the walls, doors, and windows in my house are rectangular. Looking in my room, the only things that appear to be circular in nature are 1. the glass of water on my bedside table, 2. the Chicago Blackhawks logo, and 3. the Circle of the Sun on the Celtic Cross on my wall.
It is true that designing and building things with straight lines is quite simpler to do than with curves. Perhaps that is one of the many central reasons for our preference for straight lines in organisation: that as children, we found it much easier to draw squares and rectangles than perfect circles, something which I can attest whole heartedly to. This in turn has developed into a mental reservation against modelling anything terribly important in our means of organisation upon circular designs.
In this sense, Kansas City’s streets more-or-less run on a grid pattern. All one then has to do to know how to get from A to B in the city is to know which named street is east or west of another and how far north or south one has to go to get there. Of course there are one way streets to contend with, but that’s beside the point.
This idea that straight lines are preferred has entered into our views on nature itself. We catalogue peoples, places, and things based upon their place in our ordered, straight-and-narrow view of the world. As a student of history, this comes into play in terms of looking at the course of history itself.
An argument that I have made in the past is that the modern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches are the direct sociopolitical descendants and heirs of the old Roman Empire. The evidence for this largely stems from the observation that in Europe, Africa, and the Near East, the traditionally Latin Christian (Catholic) sphere fell along the same lines as the Western Roman Empire did in 395 CE, when the Empire was split in two. Likewise, the traditionally Greek Christian (Orthodox) sphere fell along the same lines as the Eastern Roman Empire did in 395 CE. Now looking at the modern map this seems a bit odd, as North Africa and the Near East are largely Muslim, whilst Northern Europe today is mostly officially Protestant.
Another issue that I have with this argument comes from ethnicity. My family comes from Ireland, Wales, England, Flanders, Sweden, and Finland. Of those, only the Welsh, English, and Flemish ancestors would have had direct ancestors who lived under Roman rule. In terms of genetic majorities, I have far more genetic connections to Ireland, which the Romans never conquered, than I do to the rest. So, to say that I as a Catholic am a successor to the Romans of antiquity might seem a bit odd. Surely the French, Italians, Spanish, Portuguese, and others have more of a claim to that than I do.
And yet, to say that such claims come merely through a direct A to B to C to D line of succession does not necessarily makes sense. There are many unique threads that make up a tapestry, and yet they all come together for a time to weave one common design. From there on after, no matter how far apart those individual threads may go, they will still bare the essence of their fellows from their days as one tapestry.
In one sense, as I have said, Rome’s inheritance is the property of the Church. In another sense, Rome’s inheritance comes to us through its laws, its philosophy, its literature, its engineering, its tactics and its divisions. I find it interesting that to this day in Continental Europe, the borders of the old Roman provinces have remained, only now as the borders of modern countries, provinces, counties, duchies, et cetera.
Rome’s influence is felt here in the United States through our legal system, and through our federal republican government, which in many ways is modelled upon the Roman Republic. In the past I have referred to the United States as Nova Roma, the New Rome. Not only have we modelled our government upon the Romans, but also we continue to repeat many of the same mistakes made by our ancient inspirators. We continue to ignore the grave problems faced by our society, blissfully drowning out the many worries that are on the horizon with more mindless entertainment.
Why worry about the fact that we as a society can actually do something to stop more mass-shootings when we could also keep up with the Kardashians? I think one of the main problems with our society is that we have this concept of working on a grid so very well engrained that now it seems impossible to get anything done by any other means.
It’s time to leave the box, and think, and work, and live as one with the Cosmos. Like what the great inventor Nikola Tesla said, “It is a mere question of time when men will succeed in attaching their machinery to the very wheelwork of nature.” After all, “We are all one.”