Gnomicon 056

If you have not already done so, you may wish to read the
Introduction to Gnomica.

Gnomicon  056
Tuesday 1 May 2012

Read gnomica 1-50 here!
51     52     53     54     55

If we wish to make a new world we have the material ready.
The first one, too, was made out of chaos.
Robert Quillen (25 Mar 1887 – 9 Dec 1948)

At first blush one might suppose that Quillen has the biblical Genesis in mind, which tells us that “the earth was formless and empty”, and even before that, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” – but what was before “the beginning” that provided the material for creating “the heavens and the earth” is unclear from that account in Genesis.  Besides, can one really imply that “formless and empty” amounts to “chaos”?

No theologian I but a mythology student of some experience, and I think Quillen had ancient Greek Hesiod (eighth century BCE) in mind, in particular near the opening of the Theogony (‘Birth of the Gods’) — line 116.

ἤτοι μὲν πρώτιστα Χάος γένετ’·
ētoi men prōtista Chaos genet
indeed, first of all Chaos came into being

Now, just what Hesiod meant by Χάος (Chaos) is another question – probably something akin to the biblical emptiness, nothingness, darkness.  But the point is that it was something, however inchoate, and it did come into being.

Thus understood, Quillen’s observation acquires the humorous spin I believe it has: since all that is in the universe originates, he can play on our modern sense of ‘chaos’ and suggest than any re-making of things would also arise from chaos, but not the Χάος (Chaos) of Hesiod or its biblical analogue – just from the general mess of the chaotic contemporary scene that would be the material out of which the new world would be created.

Otherwise, I’m not sure I know just what Quillen was getting at!

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