Ideas and Time

I appreciate the positive feedback about the Theology Cards; we have another dozen or so in the works, which will dribble out over the next week, I expect. If you have a request, leave a comment — I can’t make any promises, but if a subject would interest you, then it might well be useful and interesting to my class, or to other non-curricular explorers. I will concenttate my efforts on the years from 100 to 600 (roughly, though I’ll stretch the interval to include some early of the missionary saints of the British Isles); though there be worthy subjects for cards outside that window, I just don’t have the time right now to think about a series of “Continental Reformers” or “Caroline Divines.”

In response to Being Shielded’s request for “an idea flow chart,” I like the idea a lot and will try to work such things up for some major theological concepts. Unfortunately, I got a different really great idea while I was mulling that over, a real Tufte-an idea that I’ve spent hours working on already today.

It goes this way: Part of the job of our introductory course in Early Church History involves helping students develop an awareness of the shape of major theologians’ lives, the connections among them, the chronology and the geography of their careers. It occurred to me to follow a character’s life with a line that changes color as the character ages. So a character’s life-line starts out yellow, modulates to red at 25, to purple at 50, to blue at 75, and to green should he or she live to 100. With that visual device, one can both illustrate a character’s life and travels (“Aha! He’s in Gaul at 25, but he returns to Alexandria in his forties”) and point to synchronisms (“So she was in her fifties during the Council of Chalcedon”).

The catch is that my Photoshop/Illustrator chops aren’t immediately up to the task, so I’m going deeper in the applications at the same time I’m working on illustrating (for instance) Athanasius’s exiles. I hope I can produce a nice, clean one in time to take it to the Tufte seminar that Trevor and I will go to in August.

So, life-lines now; idea flow-charts, next. And, if I can get a handle on the stressors that have interrupted my sleep and productivity, I can wrap up my work on the Winslow Lectures publication project, put together the elements for my semi-plenary at the Catholic Biblical Association meeting next weekend, and help Margaret and Pip get ready for their August trip to the east coast. And resume the Lego Church History illustrations. And finish up my syllabus in time to share it with my Church History colleagues. And rework my study guide for the course. And write the books I’m supposed to have written this summer. Etc.

6 thoughts on “Ideas and Time

  1. I really like the idea of a color time line; the visual learner in me could really find that helpful.

    One suggestion: might it be feasible to do the colors in ROYGBIV order? It would be easier that way to remember what stage of life was indicated (at least, for me it would).

  2. One person I’m interested in is Gregory “The Great” (the Pope), but he might not fit in with your class…

  3. I second jane’s suggestion, because I want more people to get to be green.

    On second thought, why not have men be ROY and women BIV.
    That would give a nice sense to how lopsided early church history is.

    Or, Western’s could be ROYG and Eastern’s VIBG to give a sense of that important dynamic (although overstating Hilary etc. in the process I suppose)

    sorry, i know I’m supposed to be helpful and not distracting

  4. OK, color fiends, this was my rationale for the order of colors.

    I started out thinking of ROY G BIV, as every good Fisher Scientific catalogue junkie of my age group would have. I opted to change the order, though, because that would have represented a character’s middle years in shades of yellow, and I find it harder to distinguish shades of yellow from one another (especially in inkjet output). Instead, I hoped to put the red-blue part of the spectrum near the center. I relegated yellow to childhood, modulated to red at 25, to violet at 50, to blue at 75, and to green at 100.

    There’ll be a legend at the bottom of the map, and milestone locations will be marked with date and city.

    It’s far from being set in stone (it’s not even set in pixels yet), but that was how I reasoned out the color distribution I chose. If someone else wants to put together an alternative, she or he should by all means give it a try.

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