Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Pascal's crisis

Samhain, and the whole winter season, is a time for reflecting on existential issues, and confronting - even submitting to - periods of nullity, nihilism and despair. Blaise Pascal (1623-62), the French mathematician and philosopher, described this feeling rather wonderfully. I find myself asking if this passage should become part of our Winter Solstice liturgy.

'I do not know who put me in the world, nor what the world is, nor what I am myself. I am in a terrible ignorance about everything. I do not know what my body is, or my senses, or my soul, or even that part of me which thinks what I am saying, which reflects on itself and everything but knows itself no better than anything else. I see the terrifying spaces of the universe enclosing me, and I find myself attached to one corner of this expanse without knowing why I have been placed here rather than there, or why the life alloted to me should be assinged to this moment rather than to another in all the eternity that preceeded and which follows me. I see only an infinity on every side, enclosing me like an atom or a shadow that vanishes in an instant.'