The true life is not reducible to words spoken or written, not by anyone, ever. The true life takes place when we’re alone, thinking, feeling, lost in memory, dreamily self-aware, the submicroscopic moments. He said this more than once, Elster did, in more than one way. His life happened, he said, when he sat staring at a blank wall, thinking about dinner…
He said we do this all the time, all of us, we become ourselves beneath the running thoughts and dim images, wondering idly when we’ll die. This is how we live and think whether we know it or not. These are the unsorted thoughts we have looking out the train window, small dull smears of meditative panic.
Starfish and other creatures of the sea at Pagham Harbour today.
If I were called in
To construct a religion
I should make use of water.
Going to church
Would entail a fording
To dry, different clothes;
My liturgy would employ
Images of sousing,
A furious devout drench,
And I should raise in the east
A glass of water
Where any-angled light
Would congregate endlessly.
I really enjoyed Spurious by Lars Iyer. Here’s the front cover, plus one of my favourite sections. The erudition on display is reminiscent of that in Patrick Keiller’s Robinson trilogy.
Reading this book has been a truly great experience, and I am currently experiencing the pleasure of being conscious that I am only starting the process of digesting the many fascinating thoughts it has stimulated in me. One thread is around the relationship between Judeo-Christianity and Greek philosophy. And I have rarely been as struck by any image as by the intensely poetic description of the Holy Spirit moving over the waters, from the second verse of the Bible. These come together in Chapter 60 of Justin Martyr’s First Apology, on Plato’s Doctrine of the Cross:
"And the physiological discussion concerning the Son of God in the Timæus of Plato, where he says, He placed him crosswise in the universe, he borrowed in like manner from Moses; for in the writings of Moses it is related how at that time, when the Israelites went out of Egypt and were in the wilderness, they fell in with poisonous beasts, both vipers and asps, and every kind of serpent, which slew the people; and that Moses, by the inspiration and influence of God, took brass, and made it into the figure of a cross, and set it in the holy tabernacle, and said to the people, If you look to this figure, and believe, you shall be saved thereby. [Numbers 21:8] And when this was done, it is recorded that the serpents died, and it is handed down that the people thus escaped death. Which things Plato reading, and not accurately understanding, and not apprehending that it was the figure of the cross, but taking it to be a placing crosswise, he said that the power next to the first God was placed crosswise in the universe. And as to his speaking of a third, he did this because he read, as we said above, that which was spoken by Moses, that the Spirit of God moved over the waters. For he gives the second place to the Logos which is with God, who he said was placed crosswise in the universe; and the third place to the Spirit who was said to be borne upon the water, saying, And the third around the third. And hear how the Spirit of prophecy signified through Moses that there should be a conflagration. He spoke thus: Everlasting fire shall descend, and shall devour to the pit beneath. [Deuteronomy 32:22] It is not, then, that we hold the same opinions as others, but that all speak in imitation of ours. Among us these things can be heard and learned from persons who do not even know the forms of the letters, who are uneducated and barbarous in speech, though wise and believing in mind; some, indeed, even maimed and deprived of eyesight; so that you may understand that these things are not the effect of human wisdom, but are uttered by the power of God."
There is a great description of Don Mariano in this book, which I think is also perfect for Michael Corleone: “Beyond the pale of morality and law, incapable of pity, an unredeemed mass of human energy and of loneliness, of instinctive, tragic will. As a blind man pictures in his mind, dark and formless, the world outside, so Don Mariano pictured the world of sentiment, legality and normal human relations. What other notion could he have of the world, if, around him, the word ‘right’ had always been suffocated by violence, and the wind of the world had merely changed the word into a stagnant and putrid reality?”