Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Some Things Great and Small

This article by Umberto Eco is from November, but I found the link still on my computer and was reminded it struck me back when I read it. I am in agreement with most of it, but less so with this:

"The pianist Arthur Rubinstein was once asked if he believed
in God. He said: "No. I don't believe in God. I believe in something greater."
Our culture suffers from the same inflationary tendency. The existing religions
just aren't big enough: we demand something more from God than the existing
depictions in the Christian faith can provide. So we revert to the occult. The
so-called occult sciences do not ever reveal any genuine secret: they only
promise that there is something secret that explains and justifies everything. The great advantage of this is that it allows each person to fill up the empty
secret "container" with his or her own fears and hopes."

I don't think contemporary people seek out the occult, New Age thinking, or the World-According-to-the-Davinci-Code type conspiracies because they want something larger than Judaism and Christianity. I think it is because they want something smaller. Any religion that we create out of our own head--whether conciously and deliberately as eclectic neo-pagans do or simply by filling up the empty secret container of an existing system with our own fears and hopes as Eco talks about--is bound to be smaller than one that grew up over many generations and has cultural accretions and thoughts contributed by many places and people. We don't want a religion that requires anything out of us that we haven't already thought of on our own and are ready to give. We don't want to be challenged. But that is smallness, not largeness.

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