Wednesday, May 04, 2005

walking through the fog

Milton wrote
Others apart sat on a hill retired,
In thoughts more elevate, and reasoned high
Of Providence, Foreknowledge, Will, and Fate--
Fixed fate, free will, foreknowledge absolute,
And found no end, in wandering mazes lost.
Of good and evil much they argued then,
Of happiness and final misery,
Passion and apathy, and glory and shame:
Vain wisdom all, and false philosophy!--
Yet, with a pleasing sorcery, could charm
Pain for a while or anguish, and excite
Fallacious hope, or arm th' obdured breast
With stubborn patience as with triple steel.
-- Milton, Paradise Lost, chapter 2
The passage comes just after the fallen angels have reached Hell. (I hope I'm not spoiling the book for you.) The fall has shattered their vision of the truth, so they're reduced to argument, trying to recapture what they once knew by piecing together shards.

I've been thinking about these words a lot lately, as I read court opinions, blog entries, and columns. Are we making progress towards some greater understanding, or are we simply adding more shards to a puzzle?

No comments: