Between the Darkness and the Light:
II. Philosophy, Poetry, and the Void

The shades of Plato and Boethius rose up from their tomes and offered to guide me to some obscure chapel among the spires of the Kashmir. I went through the narthex, right through the flaming walls of the world, found Philosophia standing at the altar, and married her on the spot. She was an older woman, old like Galadriel in Tolkien, stern, wise, terrible, beautiful. We honeymooned among the clouds of thought. In every sense, I thought I knew her. Between multiple intellectual epiphanies, she showed me the kingdoms of the earth and explained their histories. As I was now a man, she gave me her ring, and sent me down to hunt legends in the world below, a world of which she could never really be a part.

Philosophia had bid me look for her old ally and erstwhile rival, Poetry, who could only live upon the green earth, under broad elms amidst echoing woods. I passed through vales sounding with epic thunder. I picnicked besides the golden streams of lyric. At last, in a secluded meadow, I found her. She was a young girl, dressed in warm pastels, probably still in high school. (I didn’t ask.) I lay in her myrtle-strewn bower and held her a little with chalk-dirty hands. She began to chant to me of Love and his mother, and the generation of things, and lo! the scales fell from my eyes and I saw before me not … Poetry, but Philosophia herself, fey in her beauty and majesty, terrible as the storm and the wind and the flares of our star.

The meadow-bower faded around me and I found myself on the roof of the world, bloody fingers jammed amidst the ice, searching for granite. The height made me dizzy and sky with mountain swam before my eyes. I felt as though I were looking not up but down, down at a black sky filled with an infinity of bright, hard diamonds endlessly removed. It seemed as though I would fall through that void and be dissolved between those particles of light. And then I felt her hands around my biceps, holding me, her nipples hard against my shoulder blades.

“Look, behold, and tremble,” she was saying. “This is the universe as it really is. As a child, you squinted from your backyard through the veil of your little world up out at this immense whole of being. You laughed at those who found themselves alone out in its depths, between the ice and the fire. And now, at last, you are with them.

“But you were always falling in the void. Only now, now that you are mine, do you know it. You see the majesty and terror of the face of the universe, and your fear it. Here, on the edge of the apeiron, you are not so sure now that there really is a God behind those stars. Perhaps he is not quite the person, the father, as of whom you had thought your own. Are you so sure that that man, so great in your little world, the prophet of Nazereth, was really one with the infinity of number which upholds these atoms in their being?

“That shudder on your spine is my gift to you. You are free to try and stop it with food and drink, and Viennese music and cheap poetry. But you will never forget what you have seen here.”

I went black and found myself stumbling in una selva oscura. Almost involuntarily, I began to rub a cord which I found at my breast and numbly to intone, “Ave Maria, plena gratia . . .

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