Acabo de terminar las memorias de Santayana, Persons and Places. Pocas veces he disfrutado tanto de un libro, y quiero ofrecer a quienes miren en esta bitácora unos párrafos que muestran la belleza, la profundidad y la complejidad del pensamiento de Santayana y a la vez la aparente sencillez de su estilo literario. Por eso no he querido traducirlo; quizá no hubiera sido capaz de hacerlo como el original se merece.
Tan sólo quiero añadir lo que muchos sin duda saben: Santayana hacía años que había perdido la fe católica cuando escribió sus memorias, e incluso cuando en 1905 asistió a la escena en Italia aquí descrita. Y sin embargo... Juzguen ustedes.
Doric purity is not a thing to be expected again in history, at least not yet. It indicates a people that knows its small place in the universe and yet asserts its dignity. In early Christian art there may be simplicity and naïveté, but never self-knowledge. The aspiration in it is childlike. For anything like Doric fortitude in the West we must look to the castles, not to the churches; and the castles are Christian only by association. Here then was an ultimate point of reference, a principle of manly purity, to mark one extreme in the moral scale of all human arts, and to give me the points of the compass in my travels. And by a curious chance, during this same excursion to Paestum, I came upon the opposite extreme of the moral scale also, in a form that I have never forgotten. The reader may think it trivial, but I assure him that to me it has the most serious, the most horrible, significance.
At Paestum there was only the railway station and no hotel, but travellers might spend the night comfortably at La Cava, not far away. I had done so, and in the morning was waiting at the station for the train to Naples. The only other persons on the platform were a short fat middle-aged man and a little girl, evidently his daughter. In the stillness of the country air I could hear their conversation. The child was asking questions about the railway buildings, the rails, and the switches. “Where does the other line go?” she asked as if the matter interested her greatly. “Oh, you can see”, the father replied, slightly bored, “It runs into that warehouse.” “It doesn´t go beyond?” “No, it stops there.” “And where does this line go?” “To Naples.” “And does it end there?” “No, it never ends. It goes on for ever.” “Non finisce mai?” the girl repeated in a changed voice. “Allora Iddio l´ha fatto?” “No,” said her father dryly, “God, didn´t make it. It was made by the hand of man. Le braccia dell´uomo l´hanno fatto.” And he puffed his cigar with a defiant resentful self-satisfaction as if he were addressing a meeting of conspirators.
I could understand the irritation of this vulgarian, disturbed in his secret thoughts by so many childish questions. He was some small official or tradesman of the Left, probably a Free Mason, and proud to utter the great truth that man had made the railway. God might have made the stars and the deserts and all other useless things, but everything good and progressive was the work of man. And it had been mere impatience that led him to say that the Naples line never ended. Of course it couldn’t run on for ever in a straight line. The child must have known that the earth is round, and that the continents are surrounded by water. The railways must stop at the sea, or come round in a circle. But the poor little girl’s imagination had been excited and deranged by religious fables. When would such follies die out? Commonplaces that had been dinned all my life into my ears: yet somehow this little scene shocked me. I saw the claw of Satan strike that child´s soul and try to kill the idea of God in it. Why should I mind that? Was the idea of God alive at all in me? No: if you mean the traditional idea. But that was the symbol, vague, variable, mythical, anthropomorphic; the symbol for an overwhelming reality, a symbol that named and unified in human speech the incalculable powers on which our destiny depends. To observe, record, and measure the method by which these powers operate is not to banish the idea of God; it is what the Hebrews called meditating on his ways. The modern hatred of religion is not, like that of the Greek philosophers, a hatred of poetry, for which they wished to substitute cosmology, mathematics, or dialectic, still maintaining the reverence of man for what is superhuman. The modern hatred of religion is hatred of the truth, hatred of all sublimity, hatred of the laughter of the gods. It is puerile human vanity trying to justify itself by a lie. Here, then, most opportunely, at the railway station returning from Paestum, where I had been admiring the courage and the dignity with which the Dorians recognised their place in nature, and filled it to perfection, I found the brutal expression of the opposite mood, the mood of impatience, conceit, low-minded ambition, mechanical inflation, and the worship of material comforts.
George Santayana, Persons and Places, Capítulo XXVII. Critical Edition, The MIT Press, 1986.