Thursday, June 25, 2009

Between Two Abysses

Coming across a good passage of words is like walking out of your home and beholding something spectacular in the sky, like a crimson sunset or a majestic halo around a full moon. You want to rush back to tell your family and friends to put down their smokes and Monopoly cards to "see this!" I like this quote here by Philip Zaleski, editor of Parabola Magazine and The Best American Spiritual Writing series. It resonates with a few verses of the Quran that speak of competing disparate conditions of a human being, the two "roads" available to him or her, for example.

The greatest art considers the human being sub specie aeternitatis,[*] in the light of eternity. In doing so, it discloses both our meanness and our majesty, in keeping with Pascal's dictum that we dwell between two abysses, the Infinite and the Nothing, that every person is "nothing in comparison with the infinite, an all in comparison with the nothing, a mean between nothing and everything." Art that sustains this transcendent perspective, percieving in us both angel and beast ... offers us, each time we stand before it, more truth about ourselves, about the cosmos, and about the relation of the one to the other. On rare occasions, it may even hand us the keys to our existence.

--From the Philip Zaleski's foreword to the 2006 edition of The Best American Spiritual Writing.

* Sub specie aeternitatis
, from the Philosophical Dictionary, Latin for "under the aspect of eternity"; hence ... an honorific expression describing what is universally and eternally true, without any reference to or dependence upon the merely temporal portions of reality. In clearer English, sub specie aeternitatis roughly means "from the perspective of the eternal". Even more loosely, the phrase is used to describe an alternate or objective point of view. (Wiki)


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