Marqués de Tamarón || Santiago de Mora Figueroa Marqués de Tamarón: Persons and Places, de Santayana

jueves, 12 de marzo de 2009

Persons and Places, de Santayana

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.

9 comentarios:

  1. Religion is not dying and will not die in the hearts of humans. It is an aspiration of redemption born at the time of the first bite on the apple and it is a necessity: where to go after the eternal spot of shut eye? To the lap of the Gods, surely. Santayana starts with a tale and ends with an "imbroglio" (taken in its two meanings)

  2. Santayana escribió a William James en 1.890 que "I doubt whether the earth supports a more genuine enemy of all that the Catholic Church inwardly stands for than I do", y quiso evitar que se interpretase cualquier gesto suyo durante los últimos meses de su vida, transcurridos en un hospital de religiosas en Roma, como un signo de conversión. Pero en línea con el sobrecogedor fragmento que transcribe Tamarón, escribió estas líneas en "General Confession" (1.940): "The absence of a positive religion was very far from liberating the spirit for higher flights: on the contrary, it opened the door to the pervasive tiranny of the world over the soul". Y en "The Intellectual Temper of the Age", del año 1.911, había descrito la disolución de la Cristiandad como "the rise of an emancipated, atheistic, international democracy." Y añadía: "In vain do we deprecate it; it has possession of us already through our propensities, fashions and language. Our very plutocrats and monarchs are at ease only when they are vulgar. Even prelates and missionaries are hardly sincere or conscious of an honest function, save as thet devote themselves to social work".

  3. En el fondo estas consideraciones de Santayana podrían resumirse con una frase de C.S. Lewis cuando era joven y descreído: Christians are wrong but all the rest are bores.
    O sea, que los cristianos están equivocados pero todos los demás son unos pelmazos. Como argumento apologético es insuperable, aunque viniese de un agnóstico.

  4. La clave de Santayana está en que, creyese o no en Dios, no creía en absoluto en la insobornable contemporaneidad. Ahora comprendo el gusto de Tamarón por Santayana, tanto como el mío por Tamarón

  5. ¿Qué es lo que ha entrado en cuarto menguante? ¿Dios, o la democracia liberal? Se lo preguntaba alguien en una reseña reciente. Cabe esperar que, digna y modesta como una columna dórica, siga siendo consciente de su diminuto lugar en el universo. Porque si pretende suplantar a Dios en las almas de los hombres, perecerá sin remedio.

  6. Sobre la aproximación tan personal de Santayana a la fe cristiana merece la pena recordar la boutade de Bertrand Russell: "Santayana cree que Dios no existe y que María es su madre".

  7. No poca soberbia aristocrática y suficiencia progre tiene la frase de Bertrand Russell sobre Santayana. Era la forma que tenía el revolucionario III Conde de Russell de despreciar a su viejo amigo. Llegó a escribir que "aloofness and facile contempt were his defects...he could be admired...but he was difficult to love". Lo notable es que cuando Russell publicó ese juicio tan cruel debía de saber que en 1937 Santayana había tomado la decisión de regalarle anónimamente los 25.000 dólares de derechos de autor de "El último puritano", en una pensión de 5.000 dólares al año, porque Russell entonces estaba en apuros. Y ello pese a las radicales discrepancias políticas y filosóficas entre los dos. Sin duda ambos filósofos eran inconsecuentes, pero menos dudas aún caben sobre cuál de los dos era más generoso en sus inconsecuencias.

  8. Inconsecuencias de Santayana, por cierto, casi siempre más iluminadoras que la coherencia de otros. Por ejemplo cuando Santayana, poco amigo de las brumas de la mística, sostiene sin embargo que "la filosofía (...) haría bien en escribir sobre sus puertas lo que hay escrito en una vieja iglesia española, en la que cerca de la entrada a una pequeña cripta subterránea se lee:

    Si a la Soterraña vas,
    Ve, que la Virgen te espera;
    que, por esta su escalera,
    quien más vaja sube más.
    Pon del silencio el compás
    a lo que vayas pensando,
    vaja y subirás volando
    al cielo de tu consuelo;
    que para subir al cielo
    siempre se sube vajando".

    La cita es de "Interpretaciones de poesía y religión". La cripta, de la época romana, está en la iglesia románica de San Vicente, en Ávila.

  9. "I was happy to have been at home both in Spain and in New England and in various countries frequented by tourists; even happier to have breathed intellectually the air of Greece and Rome, and of that Catholic Church in which the world and its wisdom, without being distorted, were imaginatively enveloped in another world revealed by inspiration."
    George Santayana. DOMINATIONS AND POWERS. Preface. February 1951.