BLURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (11)

By: Joshua Glenn
August 4, 2022

One in a series of 25 enthusiastic posts, contributed by 25 HILOBROW friends and regulars, delivering brief remarks on mottos, mantras, speeches, slogans, and other words to live by. Series edited by Adam McGovern.

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LUPUS LUPUM NON MORDET

On the 7th of January, 1610, peering through a homemade telescope, Italy’s Galileo Galilei discovered four previously undetected moons orbiting Jupiter in what was — at least, according to the era’s neo-Aristotelian understanding of nature, wherein the laws governing the motion of the heavens are different than those that govern motion on the earth — the “wrong” direction. Published later that year, Galileo’s Sidereus Nuncius (Starry Message), the first scientific work based on observations made through a telescope, offered observational confirmation of Copernicus’s non-Aristotelian understanding of nature. Galileo’s treatise was met by what one 1844 account would describe as the “envious and malignant opposition of his adversaries, who could not brook the publication of either opinions or facts, which threatened the supremacy of the peripatetic [Aristotelian] philosophy.” In a brazen effort to deny the existence of that which anyone looking at the heavens through a strong-enough telescope could see for themselves (don’t look up!), the impugners started a vicious smear campaign among Europe’s scientists — spreading the word, for example, that Galileo’s telescope was known to have specks on the inside of its lens.

Bohemia’s Martin Hork, a now-forgotten figure, went so far as to attempt to persuade the eminent German astronomer Johannes Kepler to publicly criticize Sidereus Nuncius — this, despite the fact that Kepler’s 1609 treatise Astronomia nova had itself provided strong support for the Copernican hypothesis. Galileo is obviously bonkers, Hork’s catty letter to Kepler complains, yet the eminent Italian astronomer Maginus (Giovanni Antonio Magini) will never disagree with him, nor will any other Italian Galileo-ite… because “lupus lupum non mordet.” One wolf doesn’t bite another.

This Latin phrase, which as far as I know may be an ancient one, predating Hork by a millennium, appeals to me; the first time I came across it, I adopted it as a personal motto. Sure, Hork’s use of the phrase is intended to be a pejorative one, preying on proto-Enlightenment anxieties that blood-and-soil ties of loyalty will always trump the scientific quest for certainty. Yet in 1610, Galileo and the “wolves” (including Kepler) who staunchly backed his play were the paradigm-shifting truth-seekers, whereas Hork and his cabal — including at least one fellow, an Italian as it happens, who pertinaciously refused even to look into a telescope — were the hidebound, backward-looking reactionaries.

All of which suggests, at least to this pack-centric wolf, that passionate, resolute loyalty to one’s fellow misfits and rebels questioning the received assumptions of the day is no vice, but is in fact perhaps the greatest of virtues.

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BLURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM: INTRODUCTION by Adam McGovern | Ran Xia on BLACK CROW BELIEFS | Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons on LEFT-CORNER BRICK | Andrea Diaz on JOY IS RESISTANCE | Lynn Peril on TO THINE OWN SELF | Miranda Mellis on THE FUTURE IS PASSÉ | Bishakh Som on LET THE WEIRDNESS IN | Lucy Sante on FLAUBERT’S PERFECT WORD | Stefene Russell on CRYSTAL SETS | Crystal Durant on LIFE IS A BANQUET | Adam McGovern on EVERY MINUTE AN OCEAN | Josh Glenn on LUPUS LUPUM NON MORDET | Heather Quinlan on SHUT UP, HE EXPLAINED | Adrienne Crew on WATCH YOUR PENNIES | Art Wallace on COME ON AND GIVE A CHEER | Julia Lee Barclay-Morton on WILLIAM JAMES, UNADAPTED | Christopher-Rashee Stevenson on TO EACH HIS OWN | Nikhil Singh on ILLUMINATE OR DISSIPATE? | Mimi Lipson on CHEAP FOOD TASTES BETTER | Kahle Alford on NOT GONNA CRACK | Michele Carlo on YOU CAN’T ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU WANT | Marguerite Dabaie on WALKING ON WATER | Raymond Nat Turner on TRYIN’ AND TRANEIN’ | Bob Laine on WHEN YOU GROW UP | Fran Pado on THE SMILEY EMOJI | Deborah Wassertzug on PLACING YOUR BETS. PLUS: Lisa Levy on TBD.

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Enthusiasms