Still in early chapters of Moev book on Dante mentioned previously. Also reading Russian novel by Vasily Grossman, Life & Fate. In english.

Moev's book hinges on the argument that Dante's (& medieval) conception of reality differs fundamentally from modern, & we need to try to grasp that conception if we want to make sense of Divina Commedia. His description of the Platonic-Aristotelian-Dantean world-picture reminded me of George Berkeley's writings. Matter is not a "thing". It is substantial, but not in our materialist sense of a solid substratum. Matter is not any where or what : it is an expression of a (dramatic?) concept. The substance of reality originates in the creative act of the divine mind.

We do find this world-view extremely remote, hard to comprehend. Yet some would argue it's closer to the quantum-relativity cosmos of contemporary science, as opposed to traditional-modern materialist notions.

In the chapter of Stubborn Grew called "Once in Paradise", I tried to ground that narrative in something similar, by playing with the story of George Berkeley's 3-yr residence in the "Paradise" section of Newport, Rhode Island, in the early 18th century.

Here are a couple relevant passages :


Irish iconoclast, waiting for the money to come through
under his cardboard loans, waving his good arm
toward Bermuda; heeling to leeward on charm
only – the world can understand. Sand fills his shoe.

English, French, European, utilitarian,
rationing out creation, one coffeespoon, one puff
of philosophical smoke – and it's enough
for the Modern Diner – these eggs are vegetarian!

Queue up for the doubledecker sandwich island,
individuals! Invisible hands prepare your steaks –
Chicago machine-made diesel-chuckle-X shakes!
Lock the white sex bullpen – key's in your hand...

Berkeley was a chip off the old wayward block.
Yahwehward – subject to Johnsonian hard knock.
Yet stone synecdoche the builders reject

becomes a wander in RI.
Chip, chip, chip away... yet chippewater will
return – a continuous whippoorwill
in marginal field. Aye.


Aloft there on shale shelf, in cave mouth,
Berkeley's eyes drifted out to sea.
A pair of dicey gypsy barks
gambling on the shepherding waves.

You have your materialist peasants
nattering pedantically along with your
libertine idle blank-eyed statuettes O
London – and this jovial pleasant

noncholeric collared Irish bookish Dean
waves the Vico key in your face. And waits.
Waits for your double crosscheck, mates –
your doubloon that never comes – keening,

why have you forsaken me? In RI? Heaven's
not some dull neuteronian mechanical.
It's providential – and recreational!
A dream, again! – again! – Bermudian!

Am busy these days trying to set up a lecture series for church on some of these basic issues of "worldview". Going to invite various scholars & religious people & atheists etc. "God for Beginners" "Intro to God 101". something like that. & don't worry : there will be a section on civil liberties, freedom of conscience, separation of church & state, etc. This is Rhode Island, after all. If I can figure out how to podcast the lectures, I will.

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