Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Pope on Eternal Life

This excerpt from "Living in Hope," the new papal encyclical, reminded me of the verse from Rimbaud in turn cited by Georges Bataille that I quoted in my blog entry about his "Erotism" two days ago. Rimbaud's verse: "Elle est retrouvée./ Quoi? L'eternité./ C'est la mer allée. / Avec le soleil."

The writer at gives two different translations. "It is now refound!/ What? eternity./ It is the sea/ commingled with the sun." And/or: "It is found again./ What? Eternity./ It is the sea/ lost in the sun." Bataille employs this to explain how death and sensuality blend though our perception of the erotic; recall how Bernini's Vatican sculpture "St. Teresa in Ecstasy" as she's pierced by angel's dart becomes the cover image for "L'Erotisme."

Pope Benedict also talks about the dangerous appeal of Marxism and atheism-- he understands their relevance but of course rejects their solutions to our existential and spiritual malaise. The New York Times (which contains at the article permalinked here a URL for the entire document) observes:

As he has often done in his writings, Benedict emphasizes his points in several passages by summing up the arguments against God as well as any doubter could. One section addresses the prospect of an eternal afterlife as one source of Christian hope.

“But then the question arises: do we really want this — to live eternally?” he asked. “Perhaps many people reject the faith today simply because they do not find the prospect of eternal life attractive.”

He continued, “To continue living for ever — endlessly — appears more like a curse than a gift,” before describing a heaven that is not, as he put it, “monotonous and ultimately unbearable.”

“It would be like plunging into the ocean of infinite love, a moment in which time — the before and after — no longer exists,” he wrote. “We can only attempt to grasp the idea that such a moment is life in the full sense, a plunging ever anew into the vastness of being, in which we are simply overwhelmed with joy.”

[I must add that whenever I think of the Pearly Gates, Mark Twain's wicked account of "Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven" comes to mind.
Images: banner & still from the Guardian's obit for Deborah Kerr, here featured in "From Here to Eternity."]

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