The Sarabite: Towards an Aesthetic Christianity

There is a continuous attraction, beginning with God, going to the world, and ending at last with God, an attraction which returns to the same place where it began as though in a kind of circle. -Marsilio Ficino

Friday, August 17, 2007

El Inmortal

I know those who do evil so that in future centuries it might become good, or because it was in the past... Framed in this way, all of our acts are just, but they are also indifferent. There are no intellectual or moral merits. Homer wrote the Odyssey; given an infinite amount of time, with infinite circumstances and changes, the impossibility lies in the Odyssey not being written at least once. No one is anybody, one immortal man is all men. Like Cornelius Agrippa, I am a god, I am a hero, I am a philosopher, I am a demon and the world, which is just a convoluted way of saying that I am nothing...

"When the end is near", wrote Cartaphilius, "images of remembrance are no more; only words are left". Words, mutilated and displaced words, the words of others, are the poor alms that the hours and centuries left.
These passages are from Jorge Luis Borges' short story, "The Immortal". The Argentine writer enjoyed playing with various ancient cosmologies, philosophies, and other esoteric subjects in his works. In this short story, he addresses the Stoic idea of the eternal return. A man in ancient Roman times drinks from the river of immortality and then can no longer die. This gives Borges an opportunity to reflect on what such an existence would be like. And in our fallen condition, living eternally would indeed be hell.

As many writers at this point have pointed out, the two most important things that Christ has given to us philosophically is an end to the vicious cycle of the eternal return and a personal identity. In the eternal return, as Borges insinuates, this precise moment of you reading this screen has occured and will occur an infinite number of times throughout eternity. Thus, you are not really you; you are merely one character who is playing your role and you will cease to do so and vanish into oblivion. Since Christ has given us the freedom to be sons of an eternal and almighty God, we truly become someone. We are no longer masks that will be burned up in the wheel of the cosmos, but persons. Real and unique persons.

As I have pointed out before, this is the great philosophical intuitive leap that the Christian must make when he first comes to believe. There is no way to tell in this universe that is ever expanding that we are the key to and center of everything. This little moving sack of water, flesh and bones, so delicate and fragile, is the image and likeness of the Creator of this vast cosmos. There is no way to be able to extrapolate this by mere physical observation. At some point in our hearts, when we look at the immense sky and the myriad of stars, the amazing and numerous varieties of life, and even the smallest sub-atomic particles (that we really can't see), something must click that makes us realize that we are the meaning of this order, chaos, beauty, and harmony.

The idea that we will live forever is truly an unfathomable depth for the human mind. We are eternal creatures. The universe in all its vastness and splendor will be incinerated and we will be the only ones in the physical cosmos that will dwell there, though changed. Certain theologians and thinkers have attempted to speculate on our state in patria, but all such speculations would only be looking through a glass darkly. But we must always have this in mind at all moments: we will live forever. And that life is beyond anything we can imagine here.


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