memoirs, art and fragments by Thomas Milner

Is this all a stitch-up?


Here is picture from the British Library called Christ in Majesty from the Stavelot Bible. Mosan School, AD 1097.

I love this picture. Monks painted this exquisite page patiently in the fervor of their belief in the glory of God. I have always admired and revered sacred, as well as profane, art, be it the early illuminations of monks or the Plain-Chant echoing distantly from the college chapel of my school-days or the time when I was introduced (at the age of eleven) to Chartres Cathedral by my father who remarked that it was astonishing that the architects, engineers and stone-masons who designed and built what was arguably the pinnacle of Western Art were anonymous.

Neither the great masters of the Italian Renaissance nor the popes who commissioned their works were particularly devout – the formers’ genius was too broad to encompass such narrow doctrine and the venality, greed and lust-for-power of the latter too great. But The Last Supper and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel are marvellous creations, are they not?

But might it not be that instead of being the product of Divine intervention they are the result of human creativity reaching upwards to the sublime. In other words instead of God creating us in his own image we are creating God in our image.

I read or heard somewhere that catholic children learn in the catechism (which is a simplistic paring down of an already rather narrow doctrine) that if a baby dies before being baptized then he/she is technically denied access to the Kingdom of Heaven; his/her soul is technically transferred to a sort of limbo-créche; one is immediately transferred to a vision of a vast grey vault containing countless little grey cradles silently waiting until … until what, until when? In Zeno-like terms (reductio ad absurdum) the proposition breaks down completely. How could the Divine Architect get it so wrong? How could he/she/it make such a hash of it? Or is he/she/it is just winding us up? Is this all a cosmic stitch-up?

Mathematicians (and who are we to argue with such purity) posit that in the limitless universe the presence of a planet identical to our world is a certainty.

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