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28 December 2006


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Col. Lang's call for a "Concert for a Greater Middle East" would be consistent with a broader catholic ( note the small "c" ) approach toward globalization.

The first globalization occurred during the Roman Empire, when - for all practical purposes - the entire world was united.

A global culture emerged from that: St. Augustine reconciled Plato with Christianity; St. Thomas Aquinas reconciled Plato, Dante reconciled Virgil and Ovid. Christianity represented the ordered blending of Asian religion with Hellenistic civilization.

Later developments were consistent with this. The 16th Century Jesuit missionary in China, Matteo Ricci, for example, attempted to express Christian liturgy and doctrine in Confucian terms.

Such efforts are not exclusively Christian. The Tao of Islam: A Sourcebook on Gender Relationships in Islamic Thought attempts to reconcile Islamic and Taoist thought, for example.

Michelangelo portrayed this in his Sistine Chapel ceiling. The Asiatic Book of Genesis was portrayed in Classic style supported by both Old Testament prophets and Roman sibyls.

Therefore, if we were portray a modern version of what such a global "concert" would involve, we would basically redo the Sistine ceiling but in - say - Japanese silk screen style and supported not only by Old Testament prophets but also by Mohammed, the Buddha, and Confucius.

Note, however, that all these blends are ordered. The Divine Comedy is carefully organized into 100 cantos; while Aquinas' Summa has been compared to a library's card catalog.

Such ordered scenarios may not necessarily reflect the way the world is evolving. John Robb, for example, argues that the national entities that would be parties to such a concert are growing less and less relevant. The future may be inherently far too fractal, too chaotic, for such an organized system to work.

If that is correct, then the Roman empire and its organized catholicism may not the appropriate model. Perhaps, instead, the Indian subcontinent, with its polyglot mélange of peoples would be a better model.

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