With the sweetness and gentleness of a man comfortable in his faith Giancarlo displayed his collection of small iconographic images to the folks taking their morning espresso at Café La Piazzetta. When he got to our table both Harold and I gave him a Euro coin donation for a copy of Santa Lucia.
“Gnosis,” Harold said as Giancarlo departed.
“I feel an elaborate explanation coming on,” I said.
“Indeed. You’re familiar with St. Lucia?”
“No, I’m not.”
“To ensure her celibacy in the service of Christ she plucked out her own eyes. An act guaranteed to render her no longer desirable to her many suitors.”
“Ouch. An extreme gesture, wouldn’t you say?”
“In her eyes—so to speak—it was barely adequate compared to her Lord’s ultimate sacrifice.”
“So where does gnosis come in?”
“Giancarlo obviously believes that through the intercession of his patron saint he might achieve salvation, no?”
“A reasonable assumption.”
“So now recall the story of Dante and Beatrice.”
“The artist and his muse?”
“It goes way beyond that. I just read a recent interview with Harold Bloom, Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale. Among other topics, he discusses Dante. He points out that the Catholic Church claims the poet as one of its own, even though a close look at his work reveals all sorts of fascinating heresies.”
“Indeed. One of which is not exactly gnosticism, but rather a sort of personal gnosis.”
“Dante claims Beatrice, the woman he loves, is essential not just for his own salvation, but for everyone's salvation.”
“My friend, I’ll have to think about that for a while.”
Harold smiled. “And while you’re at it, lad, think also about the role Vittoria plays in your life as an artist. She’s your muse, isn’t she?”
“Well, then, why does one write a novel if not to help others achieve a form of salvation?”