The Terror of History: On the Uncertainties of Life in Western Civilization

By Teofilo F. Ruiz | Go to book overview

III
THE WORLD OF MATTER AND THE SENSES

“Do Not Postpone Joy”

—Bumper sticker in a wonderful little store on Columbus
Avenue, New York, that sold wind-up toys. The store closed
its doors long ago. I hope because the owner went onwards
to have joy.

IT MAY BE USEFUL TO INVOKE Boccaccio once again, as will be done also in the next chapter. Boccaccio pinpointed with extraordinary accuracy the manner in which his fellow citizens in Florence responded to the plague in 1348. In the preface to his Decameron, as has been told in the preface to this book, he described the coming of the plague to Florence, relating in vivid detail the different ways in which the plague worked its way through Florentine society. As noted earlier, while some prayed, marched in pious processions, embraced the bizarre devotions generated by the Black Deaths carnage, others chose different paths. Many in Florence greedily embraced the material world and sensual pleasures. For those whose religious beliefs had been shaken by the catastrophe or who had little faith in the efficacy of prayers, pleasure, revelry, and excess offered an escape from the incomprehensible terror of the plague. Their revelry, as ours does today in the

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The Terror of History: On the Uncertainties of Life in Western Civilization
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • I - The Terror of History 1
  • II - Religion and the World to Come 35
  • III - The World of Matter and the Senses 83
  • IV - The Lure of Beauty and Knowledge 129
  • Conclusion 167
  • Index 173
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