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Monday: December 5, 2005

Rangers And Nuns

Filed under: — site admin @ 10:16 PM GMT-0500

How are the Army Rangers like a bunch of nuns? According to ‘Bravo Romeo Delta’ (whose own website is even less active than mine) in a comment on Protein Wisdom, the Rangers have “adopted a policy whereby 1/3 of the unit is actively deployed, 1/3 is replenishing having just returned, and 1/3 is training up for the next deployment”. Similarly, the Vestal Virgins — the nuns of pagan Rome — divided their entire careers into three equal phases. They signed up for a thirty-year hitch, of which they spent the first ten years learning their job, the next ten years doing it, and the last ten years training their successors. There were six of them at any one time, which I assume means that the two doing the job were on alternating 12-hour shifts. Their principal task was to keep the fire at the Temple of Vesta burning, but there were no doubt prayers to be said and rituals to conduct.

So why do I make this comparison? To illustrate a wise saying of Robert Asahina, which I read 20 or 30 years and have never forgotten. He was writing about the standard academic practice of comparing and contrasting pairs of authors, and what he wrote was something like this: “Somewhere some professor is comparing Kafka to Jack London, because they both wrote animal stories.”