synaptic-disunion

Category: Book Reviews

Umberto Eco’s “The Name of the Rose”

I’m still absorbing this book, having only just completed it recently.  I think it may stick in my psyche for some time to come, even as I move on to more of Eco’s work.  Aside from the murder mystery, embedded in this book are symbols, meanings, allusions, signs and signifiers.  Every line, every description has multiple possible meanings or metaphorical signs.  A passage toward the end of this novel stands out to me, above all others, though I’m still struggling with it’s implications.  The line is as follows:

“It was the greatest library in Christendom,” William said. “Now,” he added, “the Antichrist is truly at hand, because no learning will hinder him any  more.  For that matter, we have seen his face tonight.”

“Whose face?” I asked, dazed.

“Jorge, I mean.  In that face, deformed by hatred of philosophy, I saw for the first time the portrait of the Antichrist, which does not come from the tribe of Judas, as his heralds have it, or from a far country.  The Antichrist can be born of piety itself, from excessive love of God or of the truth, as the heretic is born from the saint and the possessed from the seer.  Fear prophets, Adso, and those prepared to die for the truth, for as a rule they make many others die with them, often before them, at times instead of them.  Jorge did a diabolical thing because he loved his truth so lewdly that he dared anything in order to destroy falsehood.  Jorge feared the second book of Aristotle because it perhaps really did teach how to distort the face of every truth, so that we would not become slaves of our ghosts.  Perhaps the mission of those who love mankind is to make people laugh at the truth, to make truth laugh, because the only truth lies in learning to free ourselves from the insane passion for the truth.”

Is this a treatise on the love of learning, or an admonition against the passion for truth?  Is this a statement against truth as an end, or against close minded fundamentalism?  The central line “Fear prophets, Adso, and those prepared to die for the truth, for as a rule they make many others die with them, often before them, at times instead of them.” seems to be the key to understanding this passage.  But I’m open to other interpretations.  A friend of mine, A. Scott White, wrote to me after he read this, saying:

To me it’s about the danger of believing absolutely that you know the truth and deciding that you will unquestioningly champion that truth with zeal. Most true tyrants and despots believe things with great fervency. They are always wrong. Good people question their beliefs, change them, reject them.

I think he’s right about that.  Even science, that bastion of knowing through rigorous testing, re-testing, and peer review (when done correctly), leaves open the possibility of new knowledge that changes current knowledge.  In all cases it does this, in every case.  If there were evidence enough to proclaim errancy in the law of gravity, it would be taken seriously, considered, and tested in order to establish its veracity.  The only difference is the probability of that evidence coming to light.

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another beginning, of sorts…

I wanted to write again, I don’t know why, or to what end.  I have things I sometimes want to share, about what I listen to, about what I read, about what interests me, and I suppose I need an outlet, of sorts.  One thing is for sure, I want it to be simple.  There is so much clutter in our lives, so much vying for our attentions, alerts, emails, calendar invites, facebook comments and posts, twitter feeds, news, news, news, an endless barrage of content hammered into our senses, that sometimes it’s hard to find what’s important, between our ears, and behind our eyes, and send it out into the world through our mouths or our fingers.

I want this to be simple.  Clean.  I want it to be thoughtful, intellectual (if I can use that term without sounding elitist), and maybe even graceful.  I want to write about the things I enjoy, that’s really the thing.  That’s really the only thing.  I have a number of things I find interesting and enjoyable, and hopefully someone else will find these things interesting and enjoyable also.  Some of those things are, in no particular order:

Music:

I have always enjoyed music of many types, with very few exceptions.  To be sure, I find some styles more appealing than others.  Modern Country music, for example, does not appeal to me, nor does much of modern Pop music.  However, from my perspective, leaving those two out is like leaving two salt grains out of the ocean, and enjoying the rest.  They have very little meaning to me, in the long run.  I guess you could say I enjoy listening to things that were made to be listened to, not made to be sold.  I don’t know if that makes sense to anyone but me.  It probably, again, sounds elitist, maybe it is elitist.  I can’t tell.  I enjoy what I enjoy, for my own reasons.  I hope people can appreciate some of the same things I appreciate.

Anthropology:

In 1995, I completed an undergraduate degree from the University of North Texas, in Denton, Texas, labeled Bachelors of Applied Arts and Sciences.  I did over 98 credit hours in Anthropology, covering all of the sub-disciplines in that science, Archaeology (I was in the only Archaeological Science class in the nation, at that time, that had a Lab component), Linguistics, Cultural Anthropology, and Biological Anthropology.  I rounded out the rest of my BAAS in Film Production, Music Theory, and Sociology.  The BAAS was a catch-all for those of us who could never really decide what we wanted to be when we grew up, the result of which was, most of us never grew up and are still students today, as I am.  Since 1995, I have taken Hebrew Language, more Linguistic courses (both sociological and anthropological), and advanced linguistic courses such as Rhetoric, Narrative and Discourse.  Additionally I have taken Medical Anthropology, along with Myth, Magic and Ritual.  You could say I know a lot about Anthropology, for not actually being an anthropologist, but I would say, the more I learn about Anthropology, the less I feel like I know, and the more complex the human species seems to me, but perhaps I’m just overthinking things, I have that tendency.

Semiotics:

Semiotics is, well, the science of signs, symbols, and analogy.  Questions  like “why is a stop light or sign ‘red’?” is asked by semioticians.  How did it come about that the color ‘red’ has the meaning it does?  I came across semiotics during the coursework in Anthropological Linguistics, and found it fascinating.  Ferdinand de Saussure is hailed as the “father” of semiotics, but I’ve recently been reading books by many others in this field, Barthes, Eco, Guiraud, Foucault, and etc.  Semiotics appeals to my inner need to overthink things, and make things much more complicated than they probably need to be, in order to discover why mankind thinks, acts, and cognates the way he does.  I’m odd that way, I suppose.

Film:

Film.  Of course film.  Film was my other major in college, and I always love to talk and pontificate about good cinematography and creative story telling.  In film, I can blend all the above areas I enjoy, (music, anthropology, semiotics), in to a cohesive whole.  Film is sometimes where all these elements meet.  Sometimes those elements blend well together, marrying and creating a child of beauty, and sometimes they bump into one another, fight mercilessly with one another during the course of a film, and eventually fall apart leaving the viewer empty.

For the time being, that covers most of what I find interesting in this world.  Of course I am a political person, but I will be actively trying to disengage myself from any and all political or religious discussions in this venue, especially with the 2016 election cycle beginning in earnest, and people choosing sides, and the media spinning up their blitzkrieg-like coverage of the minutia of each of the candidate’s lives, successes, failings, ideas, clothing, hairstyles, and so on.  It’s not that I’m not interested, I am.  I want my candidate to win as much as everyone else wants their candidate to win, but I don’t want this venue to be the place for that.  I need an escape from that, I think we all do, from time to time.  It seems to me that we often times need to be reminded that we are citizens of the world, first, and our home country, less so.

Thanks for reading this lengthy opening post.  As I’ve indicated, I have no idea where I will go with this.  I have a few ideas.  Some prose from the past I might dig up, from previous lives.  I hope at least one or two of you check in from time to time.  Thanks.