What I can say, without any such setbacks, is that this city is old. Its artistic wealth is inherited. While in one sense this allows us contact with those who preceded us, there is another where there is a richness in their cultures from which we are blocked. There is an obvious side to this, where most of us, touched though we might be by the beauty imbedded in these things, are oblivious to their meanings. Take a basilica for example. Here stands this massive organism of a church building, almost dormant, "posing" for the photos and plodding of tourists. Yet, it is still active.
One encounters this with a subtle profundity when in many of the churches there lies portion of the church, usually a side chapel, restricted to all save those entering to pray. This is generally the chapel with the universal red candle signifying the presence of Christ in the Holy Sacrament. In one circumstance, in the Basilica di San Domenico, as the Arca di san Domenico was closed for the period of the time this Saturday for the beginning of the rosary and the vigil mass, a handful of tourists and their cameras attempted to plead with a custodian to let them in. Quite emphatically, he pleaded with them to understand that the Holy Mass was beginning, that this was a time of prayer. The building, the organism in a sense was no longer dormant, that again as for many centuries preceding our own was animated and living its inner life, the intimacy between Christ and His Bride. The time of the day for the spectacle of the dead was over, for now was beginning the spectacle of the living. Those who wished to suppress this reanimation were cut off.
For most of the us, viewing the traditions and rituals of the dead is akin to observing someone with untreated schizophrenia. We awe at their blindness in their sapiential darkness that we have now lit through scientific and humanistic progress. We either have compassion on or mock them on account of the phantasmic figures that appeared to them in that darkness, and now we wonder, with that same world illuminated before us, how any could ever see as they did. Friedrich Nietzsche, recounting a parallel story, wrote, "And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music?" The music is phantasmic, and thus they are in some way beyond our understanding. The hallucination-caused antics of the dead inspire pity and fear of any attempting to quench the light of reason we have kindled to ward off such spectacles.
There is an ounce of truth in this, namely that the natural scientific and technological advances of the recent age have dispelled many demons of the past. What was unknown, and the superstitions employed attempting to control the unknown (without mentioning that most of these superstitions were held at bay by the Church, but another time) have hopefully been dismissed for good. This ounce of truth has led us into a conquest to sack all the reasonings of the ancients. Leading ourselves to deceivingly believe our natural science will replace all of that reasoning, we are in reality left with little if anything to replace it.
It is absurd to state that progress in the realm of natural science has thrown into suspect not just the ancients' natural science, but all their philosophical and humanistic sciences as well, if not summarily dismissed them. It is absurd to claim that the ancient sapiential figures, most notably Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Ambrose of Milan, Augustine of Hippo, Boethius, Anselm of Canterbury, Averroes, Avicenna, Albert the Great, Thomas of Aquino and his commentators, Bonaventure, Duns Scotus, and William of Ockham were so blinded by their ignorance of natural science that the whole of their metaphysical and ethical systems are debunked, save that which our modern empirical sciences alone can ratify.
It is reasonable to claim that what is empirically falsifiable will in part be falsified in a growing particularization of our understanding of such empirical natures of given objects. It is unreasonable, or more aptly, insane to claim that lacking the character of empirical falsifiability is equivocal to lacking the character of demonstrability. Demonstrability would imply empirical falsifiability, which not only is false, but misappropriates the terms. Perhaps such misappropriation may make a few chemists and physicist more secure in the stability and legitimacy of their disciplines (for if nothing else is (more) demonstrable, our own wisdom is most secure), but it wrecks the very foundation from which scientific disciplines are constructed. Despite being a misappropriation, it itself would need to be proven, and underscoring the current visible progress of natural science in order to render natural and philosophical sciences into a false dichotomy leads to hopeless non sequiturs grounded in a privation of natural and philosophical scientific erudition. If one misconstrues the relationship between his discipline and others, he misunderstands not only the other disciplines, but his own as well.
This anti-intellectual temper tantrum of an argument, this anti-intellectual disease whose symptoms clog man's natural capacities for reasoned dialogue, debate, and careful particularizations can on its own lead one to wonder if the worldview of the moderns is turned on its head. If the ultimate questions are being dismissed outright as invalid questions, all because their genre is not that of natural science, perhaps it should be suggested that the problem is not that the music is phantasmic, but rather that we have outshouted it.
None of this obviously demonstrates that the music is real, for any who engages these questions must deal with the intellectual giants following René Descartes, David Hume and Immanuel Kant especially. What it does demonstrate is the incapacity of this modern positivism to have reasonable dialogue outside of its own limiting, self-inflicted dogmas.
So in a way, the spectacle of the dead is but a spectacle, and the inner profundity and mystery of its intimate Divine life is shielded from the spectators. The modern world is privy only to a spectacle, a set of antics indiscernible as anything but antics on account of the moderns' own melodrama and self-inflicted, irrational limitations. J.R.R. Tolkien once said, "It is indeed an age of 'improved means to deteriorated ends,'" since we no longer use science to investigate ends, but only means, the material used to achieve an end. The ultimate questions of ends are dismissed. And so we are only tourists, coming in an out while an organism beyond our understanding sleeps, never partaking in the intimacy that would constitute eternal and impermeable bliss. The section with the red candle is roped off to those who would disturb that intimacy.