Tuesday, April 19, 2011

This is not about reliquaries as physical equivalents of verbal reality

A book review of  Holy Bones, Holy Dust, (by Charles Freeman) which examines the medieval fascination with relics, grabbed my thoughts. Though I just read the review, it had some amazing facts, like that:

In 1239, King Louis IX of France bought the Crown of Thorns (as worn by Jesus at the Crucifixion) from Venice for 135,000 livres – more than half the king’s annual budget. Venice had got it, and some other relics of Christ’s Passion such as the Holy Lance and the Holy Sponge, from the ruler of Byzantium as surety for a loan of 13,134 gold pieces. And when Louis had acquired all of these relics, he constructed the Sainte Chapelle in Paris – the most sumptuous building of its kind in Europe – to hold them.

The review mentions that one function of the relics was they encouraged folk to go on pilgrimages to view these wonders for themselves. Which gave me a perspective of the difference in the greater machinery of life, then, compared to now. In the 13th century roads were bad, horses were only for rich people, and I have read (elsewhere) that most people lived their whole lives within  the sound of their own village church bells.
Nowaday viruses and people encircle the whole globe in hours. And in this comparison we can see perhaps the greater machinery functioning: in 1300 the need was to make sure people literally moved MORE, an issue arugably of the circulatory system of humanity. The need was for people to literally move physically, more. Voila, pilgrimages, and the rusty machinery is moved slowly but surely around a unsuspected (by most) crankshaft. Well, they would have called the crankshaft god. Another story.
Anyway, today with our slippery ways, the need for the machinery, getting larger, is for the bolts in the machinery, (in places) to be tightened, to allow the greater movement of the whole machinery, but a stable movement, so we have a different perspective. Now the machinery needs tightening in some places, perhaps as a stand for this growth. And what do we have--the internet, and of course this serves many purposes, but one---is to keep those bolts snug, by sitting our seats longer in one place. The opposite of the 13th century. Well not the opposite, but that's also another story. Our chairs before the flickering screen of apparent life, are a way to slow certain aspects of the machinery. All interbalanced of course, this machinery, and my views are just to open up a perspective for thinking of it all. 
One thought resultant from this speculation is that the differences between the 13th century and the 21st, are not those commonly assumed. Not religion versus science, but issues of circulation, stability, and the growth of Humanity. 

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