Perfect weather in New York in July. Who knew? After a month and a half of almost daily rain, cool breezes brought a blue sky into town. People abandoned Manhattan in droves over Thursday and Friday, and the city was eerily quiet and peaceful.
Partner and I joined our friends Tex and Cheryl to see a documentary called Afghan Star about an American Idol like television show on a fledgling network in Afghanistan. From 1996 until they were overthrown, the Taliban made illegal music and singing in that country.
Even now, there is some concern about the program which had over 2,000 contestants from all over the country. Two of the finalists were women, and one of them allowed her hair to be uncovered, and when she lost and sang her goodbye song she swayed and skipped a bit, shocking everyone. Dancing, women dancing, is considered obscene. She should not have done that, said the other contestants.
I recently read this description in Colin Wells' Sailing From Byzantium about the conflict between the religious Hesychasts and the scholarly humanists in the fading days of the Byzantine Empire:
As their empire edged closer to extinction, the Hesychasts and the humanists became often bitter ideological enemies, in a spectacular clash of values and beliefs that frequently spilled over into politics. It was not a simple situation, and much of the time there was no clearly marked lines of separation between the factions. There was much common ground. Both were patriots who wished to save Byzantium and its heritage. The question, inevitably, became which heritage, classical or Christian, and at what price? With tragic inexorability, the antagonists came to act as if the price of survival for one tradition must be the death of the other. -- p. 45
The rest of our day was spent browsing books at Barnes and Noble at Union Square and then enjoying a lovely cookout on the Close at General Seminary. Quite a mix, seminarians and their families, some from out of town, people staying at the seminary during the summer, renters, bringing something to grill and something to share.
We watched the fireworks over the Hudson River, two blocks away, from the roof of our building. Across the early evening sky, rooftops and balconies were full of people cheering and watching the glorious fireworks, celebrating the country's birthday, the beautiful day and the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson sailing up the river that bears his name.