Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Penumbra of the Empty, Part XV

I have in mind a perfect list of all active religious claims of eighteenth century western societies. As far as I know the perfect list doesn’t exist anywhere but in my mind—in my imagination, to be more exact. But even as an image existing in my imagination, this perfect list appears as the chimera of a chimera.

How would I imagine such a list to look?

On this perfect list, no active religious claim is omitted or distorted….No secular claim is accidentally included. The list charts the space-time of western societies so perfectly that one always knows at any given time what territory one is in—secular territory or religious. One does not play cards in the vestry and one does not chant a catechism during a math test. One does not invoke God during a legislative session and one does not advocate a partisan policy during worship services…One fights for no reasons other than economic ones but one does not worship money….One is ecstatic in sex but doesn’t have “a religious experience.” If one observes this map, this perfect list, one is in danger neither of saying a prayer before a math examination nor of calculating how long to the end of a sermon.

The perfect list is annotated with witty (but not poetic) comments and mathematical formulas remarkable for both brevity and inclusiveness. There are some remarkable graphs next to the list which elucidate it, not with nude women or unicorns, but with dependent and independent variables and a grid. It has been composed, or mapped, by men who were perfectly capable of seeing what belonged on the list and what didn’t. These men were perfectly known to be perfect for this perfect task—how? By the perfect degrees they held from the perfect institutions of higher learning they had attended (all with religious affiliations--all obviously imperfect.) I envision these religious claims being intentionally withdrawn from the political sphere. I understand this to have been done by these societies in order to “let in the light” and to “let freedom ring.” (I.e. according to the perfect intentions of the perfect men of these imperfect societies.)


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