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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Melted Finances and Melted Cheese?

After I wrote my panicked post yesterday, where I discussed the flying rumors of impending cuts and comforted myself, not with apples, but with melted cheese, I realized I had missed an opportunity. How interesting that--unwittingly--I wrote about a financial meltdown, in both a macro and micro sense, followed by visions of a cheese meltdown?

Unwittingly, I missed an opportunity for wit, feeble wit to be sure, but wit nonetheless.

As often happens, the writers of seventeenth-century England beat us to many of our modern and post-modern "discoveries." Those writers--particularly the Anglicans--saw all these witty correspondences in the world, and believed they recognized them not because people were witty, but because God was.

Here is one of my favorite writers, Sir Thomas Browne in Religio Medici. He is seldom read these days, so sad, because he is a lot of fun.

XVI. Thus there are two Books from whence I collect my Divinity; besides that written one of God, another of His servant Nature, that universal and publick Manuscript, that lies expans'd unto the Eyes of all: those that never saw Him in the one, have discovered Him in the other. This was the Scripture and Theology of the Heathens: the natural motion of the Sun made them more admire Him than its supernatural station did the Children of Israel; the ordinary effects of Nature wrought more admiration in them than in the other all His Miracles. Surely the Heathens knew better how to joyn and read these mystical Letters than we Christians, who cast a more careless Eye on these common Hieroglyphicks, and disdain to suck Divinity from the flowers of Nature. Nor do I so forget God as to adore the name of Nature; which I define not, with the Schools, to be the principle of motion and rest, but that straight and regular line, that settled and constant course the Wisdom of God hath ordained the actions of His creatures, according to their several kinds. To make a revolution every day is the Nature of the Sun, because of that necessary course which God hath ordained it, from which it cannot swerve but by a faculty from that voice which first did give it motion. Now this course of Nature God seldom alters or perverts, but, like an excellent Artist, hath so contrived His work, that with the self same instrument, without a new creation, He may effect His obscurest designs. Thus He sweetneth the Water with a Wood,28 preserveth the Creatures in the Ark, which the blast of His mouth might have as easily created; for God is like a skilful Geometrician, who, when more easily and with one stroak of his Compass he might describe or divide a right line, had yet rather do this in a circle or longer way, according to the constituted and forelaid principles of his Art. Yet this rule of His He doth sometimes pervert, to acquaint the World with His Prerogative, lest the arrogancy of our reason should question His power, and conclude He could not. And thus I call the effects of Nature the works of God, Whose hand and instrument she only is; and therefore to ascribe His actions unto her, is to devolve the honour of the principal agent upon the instrument; which if with reason we may do, then let our hammers rise up and boast they have built our houses, and our pens receive the honour of our writings. I hold there is a general beauty in the works of God, and therefore no deformity in any kind or species of creature whatsoever. I cannot tell by what Logick we call a Toad, a Bear, or an Elephant ugly; they being created in those outward shapes and figures which best express the actions of their inward forms, and having past that general Visitation29 of God, Who saw that all that He had made was good, that is, conformable to His Will, which abhors deformity, and is the rule of order and beauty. There is no deformity but in Monstrosity; wherein, notwithstanding, there is a kind of Beauty; Nature so ingeniously contriving the irregular parts, as they become sometimes more remarkable than the principal Fabrick. To speak yet more narrowly, there was never any thing ugly or mis-shapen, but the Chaos; wherein, notwithstanding, (to speak strictly,) there was no deformity, because no form; nor was it yet impregnant by the voice of God. Now Nature is not at variance with Art, nor Art with Nature, they being both servants of His Providence. Art is the perfection of Nature. Were the World now as it was the sixth day, there were yet a Chaos. Nature hath made one World, and Art another. In brief, all things are artificial; for Nature is the Art of God.

[Footnote 28: Exod. xv. 25.]


Duchesse said...

One day I was picked up by a taxi whose driver I am guessing was from the Caribbean. Evidently part of his faith was to prostelyze or "witness" and he roughly summarized this passage, saying, "People want proof of God, just watch a sunrise. Nature is God's great work." I have a long history of interesting conversations with cabbies (never scary) and always remembered this one.

Funny about Money said...

Yes. When my mother was dying, my habit was not to go into a chapel but to walk to the top of a mountain.

Seventeenth-century wit did have a certain postmodern element to it...or maybe the postmoderns are throwbacks. I think of Donne's verse, in which he reflects on the time that Donne is done. It's a profound and moving poem, and yet -- there's that sly wink.

simple in France said...

Frugal Scholar--I think that here is one example that shows how education serves all kinds of purposes and for life. And one of the reasons that I think that you can't measure education (and being well-read!) in terms of how much money you are later able to earn. Being able to call on the minds and writings of those who came before us is not about making money, but about living.

Thanks for the infusion of Moore into my morning. That doesn't happen very often around the blogosphere.

By the way. . .the length of your excerpt makes me think that you have an online version of this? Can I ask, do you do a lot of online reading AND where do you find what you read? I'm bookless after a move and I need to get back to reading . . .preferably online.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Duchesse--It's an old idea! Thomas Browne is interested in finding the wit in all things! Love him.

@Funny--I love that Donne poem too "When thou has done, thou hast not done, for I have more." Or something along those lines.

@Simple--Wow! I am thrilled that you like it. Easy enough to find Thomas Browne's works via google. However, my son says such searches don't work too well in France.

simple in France said...

Interesting. I'm going to give it a try and see. I must say, I often have frustrations with searches here . . .my browser seems to think I want results only in French, which is irritating when reading the works of a great English-speaking author, among other things . . .