Cosmology in John Donne’s Ruine and Bruce Cockburn’s Broken Wheel

donne

John Donne, 1573-1631

THIS is Natures nest of Boxes; 

The Heavens containe the Earth,

the Earth, Cities, 

Cities, Men.

And all these are Concentrique;

the common center to them all,

is decay, ruine.

(from John Moses, One Equall Light – An Anthology of the Writings of John Donne)

 

As Van Morrison says, “Rave on John Donne.” It seems that Donne’s words were still assuming the Ptolemaic universe, at least for his theological purpose to reveal the decay at the center of the universe. Bruce Cockburn sees Donne’s ruine “way out on the rim of the galaxy” in the Copernican universe. In either view, we see the tragic reality of our Manifest Propensity.

Bryan M. Christman @ Manifest Propensity, 2020

 

“The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know” – Blaise Pascal

blaise-pascal

277. The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know. We feel it
in a thousand things. I say that the heart naturally loves the
Universal Being, and also itself naturally, according as it gives
itself to them; and it hardens itself against one or the other at its
will. You have rejected the one and kept the other. Is it by reason
that you love yourself?

278. It is the heart which experiences God, and not the reason. This,
then, is faith: God felt by the heart, not by the reason.

345. Reason commands us far more imperiously than a master; for in disobeying the one we are unfortunate, and in disobeying the other we are fools.

346. Thought constitutes the greatness of man.

347. Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature; but he is a thinking reed. The entire universe need not arm itself to crush him. A vapour, a drop of water suffices to kill him. But, if the universe were to crush him, man would still be more noble than that which killed him, because he knows that he dies and the advantage which the universe has over him; the universe knows nothing of this. All our dignity consists, then, in thought. By it we must elevate ourselves, and not by space and time which we cannot fill. Let us endeavour, then, to think well; this is the principle of morality.

348. A thinking reed.—It is not from space that I must seek my dignity, but from the government of my thought. I shall have no more if I possess worlds. By space the universe encompasses and swallows me up like an atom; by thought I comprehend the world.

349. Immateriality of the soul—Philosophers who have mastered their passions. What matter could do that?

From Pensees by Blaise Pascal

BMC @ Manifest Propensity, 2013

Why Believe? Video on the moral and aesthetic dimensions of life

I found this video to be compelling. There seemed to be a primal quality conveyed in the stark realities: a man –  perhaps a sage – considering the starry universe he inhabits – and the moral universe that inhabits him.

John Cottingham is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Reading.

Two things awe me most, the starry sky above me and the moral law within me.
Immanuel Kant

Through space the universe encompasses and swallows me up like an atom; through thought I comprehend the world.
Blaise Pascal

 

BMC & Manifest Propensity, 2013