Monday, January 07, 2013

Great moments in heresy

This statue of Bruno was erected on the spot
 where he died 300 years after his execution
It glares in the direction of the Vatican
Giordano Bruno was a Catholic heretic, burned at the stake in 1600. In the passage that follows, you can see an example of the penetrating wit that raised the ire of the Inquisitors, as he challenges the common understanding of divine providence by teasing out the implications. In this piece the god Mercury details all that Jove has assigned him to do in a corner of a small Italian village
That today at noon two of the melons in Father Franzino’s melon patch will be perfectly ripe, but that they won’t be picked until three days from now, when they will no longer be considered good to eat. Jove requests that at the same moment, on the jujube tree at the base of the Monte Cicala in the house of Giovanni Bruno, thirty perfect jujubes will be picked, and he says that several shall fall to earth still green, and that fifteen shall be eaten by worms. That Vasta, wife of Albenzio Savolino, when she means to curl the hair at her temples, shall burn fifty-seven hairs for having let the curling iron get too hot, but she won’t burn her scalp and hence shall not swear when she smells the stench, but shall endure it patiently. That from the dung of her ox two hundred and fifty-two dung beetles shall be born, of which fourteen shall be trampled and killed by Albenzio’s foot, twenty-six shall die upside down, twenty-two shall live in a hole, eighty shall make a pilgrim’s progress around the yard, forty-two shall retire to live under the stone by the door, sixteen shall roll their ball of dung wherever they please, and the rest shall scurry around at random. 
Laurenza, when she combs her fair, shall lose seventeen hairs and break thirteen, and of these, ten shall grow back within three days and seven shall never grow back at all. Antonio Savolino’s bitch shall conceive five puppies, of which three shall live out their natural lifespan and two shall be thrown away, and of these three the first shall resemble its mother, the second shall be mongrel, and the third shall partly resemble the father and partly resemble Polidoro’s dog. In that moment a cuckoo shall be heard from La Starza, cuckooing twelve times, no more and no fewer, whereupon it shall leave and fly to ruins of Castle Cicala for eleven minutes, and then shall fly off to Scarvaita, and as for what happens next, we’ll see to it later. 
That the skirt Mastro Danese is cutting on his board shall come out crooked. That twelve bedbugs shall leave the slats of Constantino’s bed and head toward the pillow: seven large ones, four small, and one middle-sized, and as for the one who shall survive until this evening’s candlelight, we’ll see to it. That fifteen minutes thereafter, because of the movement of her tongue, which she has passed over her palate four times, the old lady of Fiurulo shall lose the third right molar in her lower jaw, and it shall fall without blood and without pain, because that molar has been loose for seventeen months. That Ambrogio on the one hundred twelfth thrust shall finally have driven home his business with his wife, but shall not impregnate her this time, but rather another, using the sperm into which the cooked leek that he has just eaten with millet and wine sauce shall have been converted. Martinello’s son is beginning to grow hair on his chest, and his voice is beginning to crack. That Paulino, when he bends over to pick up a broken needle, shall snap the red drawstring of his underpants….

As Bruno's parody suggests, don't you think it's a little silly to claim that God the infinite being micro manages every detail of the universe? If I told you that company manager ran his business like that you'd correctly call him a fool yet it's somehow pious to say it about God instead? If you were really frum -and also smart enough to understand the consequences of the doctrine- I think you'd take Bruno's point and embrace the POV of the Rishonim who agree with him, in part

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