The Out-Of-Jointness of the Universe

Augustine’s spirit resonates with the plangent chords of Plato: the restless, exiled soul, looking everywhere for its true home, feasting on sewage while dimly remembering the nectar and ambrosia of high heaven. Plato is right, and his are the most profound descriptions in all the ancient world of the miraculous golden flashes of yearning embedded in the dross of reality – the out-of-jointness of the universe. Who else, Augustine asks himself, even talks of these things? And then the answer comes to him: Saul of Tarsus, the wiry, bald-headed Jew whose awkward, importunate letters, signed “Paul,” the Christians have been using as scripture: “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” Surely this is meaningless coincidence: what could a sweaty little nobody, dashing about the Mediterranean basin, have in common with the loftiest philosopher of all? And yet…

Cahill, How the Irish Saved Civilization, pp. 55-56

Photo by Matthew T Rader on Unsplash

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