[personal profile] floorpigeon
So I'm reading Les Miserables, which is overwhelmingly overwhelming, and it's made me more optimistic, more open, more myself again. I once again hear the long-ago song in my heart as if I first heard it yesterday. I remember that I think of myself as a person full of faith in humanity. But. It seems I'm like Marius, and maybe like Hugo, or maybe like most secretly purist idealists, in that anything I believe, I believe whole-heartedly. It follows that belief for the sake of comfort (rather than faith that accepts and embraces pain to the point of being self-sacrificing)-- well, it pisses me off.

One of the main reasons I accept religious people is that there are some among them who are pure in that sense-- truly altruistic, self-sacrificing, not dramatically in love with self-immolation but quietly willing to face hardships every day. I think that it is a form of love, the purest form. This is to mean that the only religious impulse I admire is the one that gives love and comfort rather than seeks to receive it. Hugo was great for pinpointing the difference in that as in many other things.

So I was reading this comment saying that the person was agnostic except for an intermittent desire to comfort themselves by half-believing in Creationism... and I felt a bit ill. God as a fix for a 'cold and lonely' universe! What! How dreary! How small-minded! How bourgeois!

    And so, I'd like to quote a long passage from Les Miserables, a book written by an unapologetic Deist, in praise and horror at the beauty of our suffering, the endless joy of creation, the painful endlessly knotted with the sublime. The misery of our small, short, beautiful lives! To call the universe cold is to call the human heart small.
   Nothing is small, actually; anyone who leaves themselves open to nature knows this. Even though no absolute satisfaction is given to philosophy, no more in circumscribing the cause than in limiting the effect, the contemplator falls into endless raptures at all these breakdowns of forces that end in unity. Everything works on everything else.

    Algebra applies to the clouds; the radiance of the star benefits the rose. No thinker worth his salt would dare claim that the scent of the hawthorn is useless to the constellations. Who can calculate the trajectory of a molecule? How do we know the creation of worlds is not determined by the falling of grains of sand? Who, after all, knows the reciprocal ebb and flow of the infinitely big and the infinitely small, the reverberation of causes in the chasms of a being, the avalanches of creation? A cheese mite matters; the small is big, the big is small; everything is in equilibrium within necessity-- a frightening vision for the mind. There are miraculous relationships between beings and things; in this inexhaustible whole, from sun to aphid, no one looks down on anyone else; everyone needs each other. Light does not carry off earthly perfumes into the blue without knowing what it does with them; night distributes stellar essence to the sleeping flowers. All the birds that fly hold the thread of infinity in their claws. Germination involves the hatching of a meteor and the peck of a swallow's beak breaking out of its egg, and it brings off at once the birth of an earthworm and the coming of Socrates. Where the telescope ends, the microscope begins. Which of the two has greater vision? You choose. A patch of mold is a pleiad of flowers; a nebula is an anthill of stars. There is the same promiscuity, only even more amazing, between things of the intellect and the facts of substance. Elements and principles mingle, combine, intermarry, multiply, each together, to the point of finally bringing the material world and the moral world to the same clarity. Phenomena are perpetually folded back on themselves. In the vast cosmic exchanges, universal life comes and goes in unknown quantities, rolling everything in the invisible mystery of effluvia, putting each thing to work, not losing a single dream, a single bout of sleep, sowing an animalcule here, breaking up a star there, wavering and winding, turning light into a force and thought into an element, one propagated and indivisible, dissolving everything except that geometric point, the self; bringing everything back to the atom of the soul; making everything blossom in God; entangling all activities, from the highest to the lowest, in the obscurity of a dizzying mechanism, linking the flight of an insect to the movement of the earth, subordinating, who knows? if only by the sameness of the law, the evolution of the comet in the firmament to the twirling of the infusoria in a drop of water. A machine made of spirit. Enormous gears whose primary motor is the gnat and whose ultimate wheel is the zodiac.

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the one who stumbled

January 2015

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