Thursday April 27th 2017Tim
In the year
1760 something, Edward Gibbon was stricken by a vision.
He was watching barefoot Christian monks at evening
prayer in what had once been the Temple of Jupiter in
Rome. Nor was he a great believer in stuff like
miracles, his quarrels had led him toward the more
rational theology that always struggles to accept the
idea of a Divine Mystery, so I guess seeing the monks at
worship in a temple once dedicated to the Roman God of
Thunder might have presented him with a sense that in
our species worshipping the irrational had an eternal
provenance. His vision was to write a history of
the decline and fall of the Roman Empire on the
understanding that he would attempt to answer the
question why that empire declined.
I guess in almost
every respect Gibbon's adventure was an "Arc Exploration."
And here I don't mean Arc in the Noah sense, I mean Arc in
the sense of lighting the fuse of a rocket, following into
the air and back down to earth again and there where it
lands finding what may or may not be a pot of gold. Gibbon's
pot of gold, his answer to the question, was vague but his
Arc was an account, in my view, of a long series of power
hungry lunatics whose sole sense of purpose was to destroy
rival egos in pursuit of self enrichment. It took a long
time for the Roman Empire to divide and crumble into the
history books, its artifacts worshipped, its administrative
structures emulated, its language given the attributes of a
Masonic handshake. On the bright side the Scary Compost Pile
is 105 degrees of Fahrenheit and rising. That's what's
called huge where I live.