My favorite writer, John Crowley, whose blog is a lovely and rare thing, has been bouncing between the worldly and sublime lately, and his last post considers Moments in Eternity, having previously pondered the seeming "evanescence of the universe." These are good things to contemplate. They are a welcome distraction from...well, pretty much everything. So, here I sit, wondering what it is I'm really writing about.
Crowley's creepy/creeping feeling of the universe somehow unveiling a weird truth to him in these surreal times is intriguing. He mentions Wall Street shenanigans, a certain new political meteorite, and the initial operation of the Large Hadron Collider as points on his radar that either he is experiencing something mystical or that he is "filling up with immaterial bullshit." For both of us, unfortunately, it is probably the latter. But here's one thing that I've found just a little curious. Through no planning of my own, it seems like everything I read and everything that's happening around me keeps circling around the same concerns.
I've been reading Robert Louis Stevenson, just on a whim, because I feel like I missed out on him a bit. So I read Kidnapped, and then stumbling across it, Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes. The latter is a charming travel narrative that RLS wrote about his journey on foot (and with donkey) through the rough territory of the wild southwest of France. Two completely different things, but both touch on the stark differences of politics and religion that influence history and, of course, our individual lives. In the novel, it is the dividing line between the Jacobites (who wanted to restore the line of King James) and the house of Hanover; in the travel story, he finds himself captivated by the centuries-old conflict between Catholics and the Protestant holdouts in France -- the guerilla Camisards of the Cevennes.
At the same time, I had also checked out Marilynne Robinson's essays called The Death of Adam. She is the author of the contemporary classic novel, Housekeeping, and the beautiful -- and as far as I'm concerned -- also classic, Gilead. Her latest novel, and successor to Gilead is Home, which I haven't read yet.
So, the first essay in Death of Adam is on Darwinism. In particular she takes on Daniel Dennett's book on evolution, Darwin's Dangerous Idea, which I happen also to have read not too long ago. With the bursting on the political scene of someone who brings to the fore again the whole tiresome argument of creationism vs. evolution, in addition to a host of other retrograde ideas, it just seemed apropos to be reading a response to the controversy via Robinson. Oh, and Robinson, just appeared at a reading recently with...you guessed it...John Crowley.
To try to digest Robinson's response is probably to do her a disservice (read it!), but in short, she offers a corrective to the inferior, and intellectually, worst arguments from both sides. She reminds us that there is a rewarding, non-fundamental, and spiritually rich way to understand the Bible (and the creation story as rendered in Genesis) as opposed to the science-denying Creationist view; and at the same time, that Darwinists hardly have all the answers to our Existence -- and overdo their contemptuous refutations of Christian thought on the matter.
I suppose it sounds kind of boring, but there is an exhilaration, which Crowley notes, in feeling that everything is, perhaps, an illusion, a fragment of truth, a vanishing universe that owes no obligation to our bootless attempts at meaning.