Thursday, November 3, 2011
On the Nature of Things
Lucretius' poem, On the Nature of Things, saved from destruction by being not noticed, is the subject of Stephen Greenblatt's new book The Swerve. Lucretius himself named it, his Latin word was clinamen: an unpredictable movement of matter. I'm just on page 11, and Greenblatt is waxing enthusiastically about the Renaissance as the culture that best embodies, since antiquity, the appreciation, creation and enjoyment of beauty and pleasure. In Greenblatt's case, his love is Shakespeare, so The Bard's timeline would also shine brilliantly. What I am dazzled by is Lucretius wrote a love song to the way the universe actually is. One more example to my mind that physics and magic are coming to a singularity and dragging religions, reality, Occupy Wall Street, and tiny communities of people wandering and wondering at the sudden lightness of being into the vortex. I believe we are living at the daybreak of another Renaissance. As the Renaissance followed the Middle Ages, we are emerging from the Dark Ages of corporate soulsuits into a new enlightenment. All life has continued miraculously chaotic, now we notice, participate, appreciate. An excerpt here: ...to understand that humans are made of the same stuff as everything else, and are part of the natural order; to conduct experiments without fearing that one is infringing on God's jealously guarded secrets; to question authorities and challenge received doctrines; to legitimate [sic] the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain; to imagine that there are other worlds beside the one that we inhabit, to entertain the thought that the sun is only one star in an infinite universe; to live an ethical life without reference to postmortem rewards and punishments; to contemplate without trembling the death of the soul. The Luxury of Enough is the same, whether in Epicurus' and Lucretius' time, or in ours. The time is now. It is enough and it is beautiful.