Gotham Diaryt:
Moving Along
18 November 2014

This is also my view, but I can’t see it right now, because sunlight is pouring through the window, and it’s difficult to read any of the screens. I’m even wearing a cap, to protect my scalp from solar carcinogens.

It’s also difficult to write because today is a waiting day. The locksmith has come and gone (very expensive), but I’ve heard nothing from the phone man, who was supposed to appear between eight and noon. I can’t call the phone company because I don’t have Kathleen’s PIN. It’s no big deal; very few land line calls are of any interest. But Kathleen insists on keeping it, because when all else fails…in the past, anyway.

The men from the cabinet shop will come when they finish with their current job. Once the bookcases and the china cupboard are reassembled, we can begin to unpack in earnest. And yet. The china is in the linen closet, and the boxes of linens are out on the balcony, so the clutter in the apartment won’t be significantly altered by putting those things where they belong. As for the bookcases, they need to be repainted. I thought about starting on that yesterday, but I never found the moment, what with errands and visits from tech god JM (who hooked up two of the three A/V systems, and did glorious battle on our behalf with the cable company) and Ray Soleil, who hung pictures in the long entrance hall. JM was here so late that he had dinner with us when Kathleen came home. It was nothing special, just spaghetti with Marcella Hazan’s buttery tomato sauce. As for Ray’s fantastic assemblage, I found myself loitering with pleasure by the house phone, for a change, while I waited this morning for the locksmith, who had just been announced, to make his way upstairs. There is so much to look at now!

After dinner, Kathleen and I watched another episode of Lewis. We reached Season Three, Episode Four, “Countercultural Blues” I think it’s called, the one with Joanna Lumley and Simon Callow. Season Eight comes out on DVD in Britain tomorrow, and I’ve already placed my order.

Shortly before dark, when JM and Ray were both at work, I was wandering around the apartment aimlessly (not really — but don’t ask me to remember what I was doing) feeling almost faint. Kathleen was exhausted at about the same time. But we stayed up very late. It will be weeks before the panic of moving drains from our bloodstreams. Meanwhile, the tempo of Kathleen’s work has picked up; “a maelstrom until February” is promised. At the moment, Kathleen is attending a business luncheon on the subject of something called liquid alts, which sounds to me like a rather nasty kind of enema. (Remember that tremendously funny Tom Sharpe farce with scenes at an abandoned spa?)

At last, the sun is passing about to pass behind the front of the building. Is it something to do with old age? When I was young, the sun stood still, wherever it was, but now it moves. What I mean is that I can see the drift of shadows across a wall. I used to be incapable of perceiving this motion. I am not altogether happy about losing the incapacity. It is not altogether reassuring to see time change on a celestial scale. One knows all about it, of course, but seeing it — how many things there are that we know about but do not care to see.


It is taking a long time to get through the final essay in When I Was Young I Read Books, because Marilynne Robinson’s arguments are, if not subtle, then well outside what currently passes for common sense among educated people when they think about the world and especially about science. Robinson is scrupulous about excluding scientists themselves from the number of her “new atheist” opponents. Scientists “doing science” are not a problem for Robinson, which is to say that they don’t at all interfere with her faith in God. Her target is speculation, whether more or less learned, about propositions that, because they cannot be falsified, do not fall within the activity of proper science, and therefore play no part in the “scientific” undermining of religion. She makes many statements that I have already but otherwise come to agree with, such as the “religious” nature of atheism. If I feel that something is being left out of account, it is not a matter that really belongs in an essay entitled “Cosmology.”

Insofar as Christianity matters as a religion, and not merely as a complex of ethics, it requires a loving God who cares about each of us personally. It’s easy to lose sight of this when contemplating the origin of the cosmos and the meaning of life and —  easiest of all — those ethics. Specifically, Christianity insists that Jesus Christ, only begotten son of God, was crucified and died for our sin, to absolve us of Adam’s disobedience and to assure our physical resurrection on Judgment Day. Very little of this dogma can be traced directly to the utterances of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels, but that is water under the bridge so far as Christianity is believed in by Christians. I myself am convinced that Jesus (who certainly believed in a God who cared about him) was more concerned about our caring for each other than proving ourselves worthy — how could we even begin? — of God’s love. God’s love was a model for us all, and I have no trouble taking the model as the ultimate authority of humanism.

So my difference from Marilynne Robinson, and from the new atheists that she writes about, and from those who speculate about the multiverse is that I feel no pressure to explain existence. I take it as a given, an axiom that I don’t need to demonstrate and couldn’t if I tried. I perhaps more comfortable with mystery than Robinson is herself.