Friday, May 18, 2012

quote of the day

Two friends, Umberto Eco, novelist, scholar, philosopher and self-declared secularist, and Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, a churchman who at one time was in line to be pope, have maintained a lively, sometimes confrontational, but always respectful correspondence.   The following is from one of Eco's letters to Martini published in Cross Currents.

But you say that, without the example and the word of Christ, all lay ethics would lack a basic justification imbued with an ineluctable power of conviction. Why deprive laypersons of the right to avail themselves of the example of a forgiving Christ? Try, Carlo Maria Martini, for the good of the discussion and of the dialogue in which you believe, to accept even if only for a moment the idea that there is no God; that man appeared in the world out of a blunder on the part of maladroit fate, delivered not only unto his mortal condition but also condemned to be aware of this, and for this reason the most imperfect of all creatures (if I may be permitted the echoes of Leopardi in this suggestion). This man, in order to find the courage to await death, would necessarily become a religious animal, and would aspire to the construction of narratives capable of providing him with an explanation and a model, an exemplary image. And among the many stories he imagines—some dazzling, some awe-inspiring, some pathetically comforting—in the fullness of time he has at a certain point the religious, moral, and poetic strength to conceive the model of Christ, of universal love, of forgiveness for enemies, of a life sacrificed that others may be saved. If I were a traveler from a distant galaxy and I found myself confronted with a species capable of proposing this model, I would be filled with admiration for such theogonic energy, and I would judge this wretched and vile species, which has committed so many horrors, redeemed were it only for the fact that it has managed to wish and to believe that all this is the truth.

You are now free to leave the hypothesis to others: but admit that even if Christ were only the subject of a great story, the fact that this story could have been imagined and desired by humans, creatures who know only that they do not know, would be just as miraculous (miraculously mysterious) as the son of a real God’s being made flesh.


James R said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James R said...

Guillermo del Toro believes one is saved by storytelling. Eco similarly is saying not only are we saved by storytelling but, more specifically, by the type of stories we tell. There is a lot of truth in that.

Great stories appeal to us in many different ways. Great stories are interpreted in many different ways. Witness the story of Christ. If your stories are small and mean, you will tend to have a small and mean life. Conversely, if your stories are rich, you will have a rich life.

Lastly, the universe is not made of atoms or of God, but of stories.

Ted said...

As Borges noted, some call the universe the Library.