Sunday, October 31, 2010

Penicillin, from EROS to AGAPE : synthetic crystals to the natural mold

Anders Nygren,1890-1978, Swedish theologian and pharmacologist ?!

Why not ?

His seminal text of 1932, "Eros and Agape", does offer an unique way to compress the long wartime penicillin saga into something vividly digestible.

On one side, we have Professor Florey.

He basically ignores that:

 (a) there is a war on and people are dying daily from infected wounds from the Blitz
 (b) that natural impure penicillin had no toxic effects from its impurities and is available - now - to help those Blitz victims.

Despite this,Florey and his wartime coterie of Platonists and New Alchemists wasted their time and ours seeking after the chimera of a 100% pure --- all white---- crystalline penicillin for their Scientific monstrance, to hold aloft before the adoring Faithful.

Its just the sort of New Age nonsense we've come to expect from the hardheaded science departments of Oxford University.

And I really do think that its a 'guy thing' ,this growing of crystals.

Women prefer to grow living things: plants, pets and above all their own children.

But crystals are about the only non-living object that grows before your very eyes.

They don't lay you up for nine or more months,change your shape, never wake you at night, never have to have their diapers changed.

What is there not for men to like ?

And if your vision of BEAUTY sees it as a pure, austere, hard-edged sort of mechanical regularity, you will find it best displayed in crystals.

In Nygren's definition of human EROS love, EROS is found whenever humans seek to ascend to a 'god-like' status , by demonstrating their love for (and ability to grow) beautiful (literally beauty-filled) objects - in this case crystals.

They take in/ draw down some of that beauty
and by loving beauty,add some of its value to their own worthfulness.

But Nygren contrasts this to AGAPE love - a spontaneous, undignified, excessively operatic, self-denying,heart-on-our-sleeve love of the unloveable - with our enemies being the best possible objects of our agape out-flowing.

We don't draw down some of BEAUTY's perfection and purity to give us additional value and to help us ascend upwards.

Instead we give away love -and our life if necessary - down to the 'ugly' and the evil and they gain BEAUTY by our doing so.

We become "like God" by descending to the level of the ugly, flawed and evil and giving them all our love nevertheless -- just as Jesus did.

In 1940 ( as it is in 2010) people tended to see that gooey smelly mold ruining their basement walls and fixtures as something almost evil and definitely ugly and unloveable.

It took a special sort of person to see the worthfulness of the penicillium mold - that person being Doctor Dawson.

His co-worker Gladys Hobby writes of his tiny band of followers creating their own Monstrance of the furry, blue-green, smelly, mold with its clear urine-like drops of yellow penicillin, holding it aloft daily before the unlovable SBE patients, to give them courage and comfort in this world - and in the Next.

And because of Dawson's AGAPE love of this humble mold, millions of other beings - human beings - had their chance to live out their three score and ten.....

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