Thursday, December 11, 2008

Harmony Not Understood

From Alexander Pope's Essay on Man:

Cease, then, nor Order imperfection name;
Our proper bliss depends on what we blame.
Know thy own point: this kind, this due degree
Of blindness, weakness, Heav'n bestows on thee.
Submit: in this or any other sphere,
Secure to be as bless'd as thou canst bear;
Safe in the hand of one disposing Power,
Or in the natal or the mortal hour.
All Nature is but Art unknown to thee;
All chance direction, which thou canst not see;
All discord, harmony not understood;
All partial evil, universal good:
And spite of Pride, in erring Reason's spite,
One truth is clear, Whatever is, is right.
Whatever is -- genocide, torture, terrorism, poverty, disease, extinction, pickle jars that won't open, you name it -- is right. It's all part of a vast harmony that we lack the means to understand. Alexander Pope's favorite god (the Catholic one if you're scoring at home) can see it, whispered of its existence in Alex's ear, and out poured these heroic couplets.

The same boundaries of perception and knowledge have been addressed on Family Guy, in which we watch with Peter Griffin a talk show loosely based on Oprah's or Jerry Springer's (transcript source):
Diane Simmons: Welcome back to Diane! Erica, it's time for Mario's little confession.

Mario: Erica, you know I love you. But I gotta come clean. I'm not really a man. I'm a woman.

[Audience Cheering]

Erica: My God! You're a woman?

Mario: Actually, I'm not really a woman. I'm a horse! [unzips woman costume to reveal horse]

[Audience Cheering]

Erica: My God! You're a horse?

Mario: Actually, I'm not really a horse. I'm a broom. [unzips horse costume, broom falls out]

[Audience Cheering]

Diane Simmons: Okay. So how do you feel?

Erica: To be honest with you, Diane, I'm surprised.

Peter Griffin: Man, this is a great show.
It is a great show -- a man can become a woman and then a horse and then a broom, all within a few continuous seconds of dramatic television. What a world!

Then again, maybe there isn't a world at all -- maybe it's just a horse or a broomstick underneath. Why worry? Just praise Oprah, Jerry Springer, Diane Simmons, Alexander Pope, and whatever god(s) they recommend.

(via Rust Belt Philosophy)

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