from the beginning: happy discomfort

If the prophets of despair speak sooth, we might do well to look back to the last Dark Age, which beclouded Europe from the fall of Rome, whenever that was, to the beginning of the brilliant Middle Age in, more or less, the eleventh century. Western Europe a thousand years ago. What was this world like? …

…A village was small indeed, but it was big enough for social life, for frolics and games and dances, for courtship and exciting rivalries and triumphs. The village was the villager’s whole cosmos. He was not aware of anything farther away than the end of a half-day’s walk. Beyond lay a world more mysterious than heaven and hell. In his village, his home, he was incurious and probably content.

—German King and Holy Roman Emperor, son of Duke Henry II (the Quarrelsome) and of the Burgundian Princess Gisela; b. 972; d. in his palace of Grona, at Gottingen, 13 July, 1024.
Like his predecessor, Otto III, he had the literary education of his time. In his youth he had been destined for the priesthood. Therefore he became acquainted with ecclesiastical interests at an early age.—Read More:

We are inclined, mistakenly, to equate happiness with comfort. We can buy comfort, not happiness. In the 1960′s , 264 inhabitants of tristan da Cunha, that very uncomfortable subantarctic island, were evacuated to England under a rain of heavy lava from their volcano. After nearly two wretched years in civilization they begged, and obtained, their return to their happy discomfort.

We need not pity overmuch our forefathers and foremothers of a thousand years ago. They were fulfilling their destiny, mankind’s destiny, preserving the seed of the future, our seed. What if their age looks to be a dark one, in the long roll of ages? In that dark the Western world was stirring, preparing the birth of modern civilization.

—The Gospels of Otto III, probably produced in Reichenau Abbey, in the scriptorium headed by the monk Liuthard, for Holy Roman Emperor Otto III,
“must be a candidate for the most valuable book in the world. It was made for Otto around 998 . . . . It is in its original golden binding set with jewels and with a Byzantine ivory panel. It is a totally imperial manuscript with full-page illuminated initals, Evangelist portraits, twenty-nine full-page miniatures from the life of Christ, and dominating all these, it has a pair of facing paintings showing the peoples of the world adoring Otto III.—Read More:



(see link at end)…Historians today believe that the negative connotations of the word “dark” in “Dark Ages” negates its usefulness as a description of history. Yet Petrarch’s concept of it, like that of other early humanists after him, as a discrete period distinct from our “Modern” age, has endured, and the term still finds use, through various definitions, both in popular culture and academic discourse.

…”My fate is to live among varied and confusing storms. But for you perhaps, if as I hope and wish you will live long after me, there will follow a better age. When the darkness has been dispersed, our descendant

n come again in the former pure radiance.”—Petrarch

“The Middle Ages is an unfortunate term. It was not invented until the age was long past. The dwellers in the Middle Ages would not have recognized it. They did not know that they were living in the middle; they thought, quite rightly, that they were time’s latest achievement.”—Morris Bishop, The Middle Ages (1968)…

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“If they were dark, it was the darkness of the womb.”—Lynn White

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