Daily Archives: June 25, 2004

Celsius 488.33

What is the point at which the conscience burns
and thus consumes the mind with thoughts to act,
that in its darkest recess for truth yearns
to separate illusions from the facts?

And the externals that provide the fuel,
that pile the planks under the stakes we seek
upon which to transfix ourselves as fools —
how much do we require before we speak?

These embers that now scorch the gathered crowd,
how long before their heat is burnt to ash
and we, again, will curse the cold in loud
vehement wailing in the last light’s flash?

How many will bewail both fire and dark
that dare disturb their dulled complacency
while others see engulfed in the first spark
the basic tenets of democracy?

And this conflagration we now build
to smoke some evil hornets from their nests —
at what point will its appetite be filled?
Once it’s begun, the bonfire knows no rest

’til it devours all things within its touch,
its raging tempest void of care or sense;
and then, too soon is gone without so much
as a faint flicker of experience.

Unless the fire outside is taken in
and used to fuel a greater flame inside,
the burning of externals is just din
that drowns out reasoning in fratricide.

So watch that flame with care that you ignite —
with caution, choose your victims for the pyre;
and know that he who claims his match most right
is likely both mistaken, and a liar.

25 JUN 2005

Share This:

On the Incredulous

Not that the incredulous person doesn’t believe in anything. It’s just that he doesn’t believe in everything. Or he believes in one thing at a time. He believes a second thing only if it somehow follows from the first thing. He is nearsighted and methodical, avoiding wide horizons. If two things don’t fit, but you believe both of them, thinking that somewhere, hidden, there must be a third thing that connects them, that’s credulity.

Incredulity doesn’t kill curiosity; it encourages it. Though distrustful of logical chains of ideas, I loved the polyphony of ideas. As long as you don’t believe in them, the collision of two ideas — both false — can create a pleasing interval, a kind of diabolus in Musica. I had no respect for some ideas people were willing to stake their lives on, but two or three ideas that I did not respect might still make a nice melody. Or have a goot beat, and if it was jazz, all the better.

— Umberto Eco, from Foucault’s Pendulum

Share This: