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A World in a Grain of Sand - The Cosmic Dimension

Discussing this text by Chesterton in "Sacred Naturalism":

I believe that every object is divine in a very definite and thorough sense. I believe, that is to say, that there is a great pleasure of spiritual reality behind things as they seem, and of this it affords of countless human affairs. And I believe that the supreme instance and the supreme demonstration of it is this; that if a man, dismissing the Cosmos and all such trifles, looks steadily and with some special and passionate adoration at some one thing, that thing suddenly speaks to him. Divinity lurks not in the All but in everything; and that, if it be true, is the explanation of a load of human chronicles, of a cataract of human testimony of all the religions, and all the wild tales of the world.... Providence desires its gifts received intensely and with humility and it is possible to look at one of them steadily and confidently until, with a great cry, it gives up its god. (G K Chesterton)

—quite apart from the allusion to "Providence", etc.: —there is something like a contradiction in Chesterton's phrase: he seems to dismiss the Cosmos as a "trifle" in order to focus on individual things, and yet that sense of the sacredness of each individual thing seems to presuppose its relationship to the whole, because a thing is not just a thing, it is the result of a system of relations to other things, to the cosmos if you like. Even perceiving the individuality of something involves perceiving its place in the cosmos, because that place is the something that the thing in question is.  This makes me think of Blake's lines "To see a world in a grain of sand / And heaven in a wild flower / Hold infinity in the palm of your hand / And eternity in an hour". Every moment and every thing have this cosmic dimension lurking inside them, even when they seem to be themselves at their most particular.

A less poetical perspective on the same issue is provided by semiotics, or more specifically by Saussurean structuralism: the system of things, the cosmos, is a structure of relationships, a system in which the identity of elements is constituted by their mutual differences. In spite of appearances, there is no substance in the individual node apart from its relative position in the system of differences.

To be filed under "Narrative Anchoring".


Domingo, 11 de Diciembre de 2016 07:51. José Ángel García Landa Enlace permanente. Semiótica

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José Ángel García Landa

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