Gresham's Other Law: Bad Monkeys Drive Out Good (4.23.10)
In a way, that's the big question, isn't it? We're only alive for such a brief period of time between two dark slabs of eternity. As Basil Fawlty summed it up in a famous soliloquy, "Whoosh. What was that? That was your life, mate. Oh, that was quick. Do I get another? Sorry mate, that’s your lot."
So the question is, in being inexplicably conceived and burped out of the cosmic voidgin, has time written us a check that eternity cannot cash? Is no body allowed to cross the phoenix line, or may we purchase a luxury corps at pentecost? Is the rend redeemable on our mirromortal garment, or are we nilled to a blank?
Looked at strictly temporally, our lives are a culmination, the detritus left by of 13.7 billion years of meandering evolution, mere cosmic effluvia deposited along the banks at the terminal moraine of the now. If our existence were truly limited to this temporal line of credit, it is nigh impossible to account for the miracle of the human subject.
For really, all adolescent scientistic kidding aside, how, while drifting along in the stream of mere material shuffling, did the current somehow raise itself above the plane of matter, and awaken to a non-empirical dimension of immaterial idealism? That’s some evolutionary currency. The question is, is it backed by the full faith and credit of the Divine Treasury, or is it only a rubber check issued by the Bank of Darwin located in Fort Hard Knocks?
At some point in the cosmic stream, some 3.85 billion years ago, the stream defiantly wrapped around itself and created a tiny loopwhole amidst the greater whole. Up to that point, the cosmos was truly “one.” But it was a purely material one whose circumference was everywhere and center nowhere. With the emergence of life, the cosmos now had a center, a center with branches in every living thing.
For Life itself is not a spatial center but a hierarchical center. Whatever else Life is, it manifests something that mere matter does not. To paralagiaphrise E.F. Schumacher, it is probably easier to think of matter as “life minus x” than it is to think of life as “matter plus x.”
This is why it is hopeless to defer to biology as to the nature of life-its-own-darn-self. As I mentioned in the book, a biologist knows no more about the nature of life than a watchmaker does about the nature of time. As I have noted before, although it is obvious to me that the cosmos manifests intelligent design, I do not rely on this to inductively leap the conclusion that God therefore exists. This is like proving the existence of time by studying watches.
Etymologically, the word evolution is linked to the word for “unroll,” as in the way an ancient manuscript was unfurled. On the one hand, we see that the unrolling tide of evolution has been accompanied by increasing novelty and complexity which is eventually tucked away in that evolutionary data bank known as the genome. But where does the compound interest come from?
In other words, accompanying the horizontal course of evolution has been a vertical liftoff as well. As human beings, this is the only horizon we are really interested in. This vertical horizon is an area of increasing centration, following in the wake of that first declaration of vertical independence represented by life. Life is that narrow slot we have all leapt through in order to have our precarious existence, like a little eddy formed in the stream of time.
Instead of being swallowed up by the tide, that little primordial eddy grew in strength, widened, and gained increasing vertical centration. Still surfing atop the precarious flow of matter and information--a little whirling dance on the knife edge between immaterial being and material non-being--mere animals eventually awakened to humanness.
And that is not all, for the centration and widening of vertical evolution did not end with that first proto-human primate looking around and thinking to himself, “Hmm. I’m alive. I am screwed.” Rather, it seems that, immediately upon awakening to his humanness some 35 to 40,000 years, our distinguished furbear pledged allegiance to the vertical order that had sponsored him. Admittedly, he sometimes did this in awkward and gruesome ways, such as human sacrifice, self-mutilation, and suicide bombing. But he also did it in some preternaturally beautiful ways, such as the cave paintings at Lascaux and Alta Mira.
Which raises an interesting question. Just what was this new subjective dimension that human beings had stumbled upon? Most mysteriously, why was it not an empty vault? In other words, why did it contain such riches as aesthetic standards? What’s the point of beauty? For that matter, why is the world that we awakened to so beautiful? Is it really beautiful? Or do we just see it that way? If the latter, why?
So human beings erected an altar. The purpose of the altar was to further “widen” that same little slot that was initially opened up by life. By widening that slot, human beings obtained increasing awareness of other inexplicable vertical characteristics, forces, and luxury capaxities: a sense of the sacred, the penumbra of holiness, love of truth, right and wrong, refinement of the heart. Each of these represented a subjectively objective reality that was discovered, not invented.
For proto-man to become mankind proper, it was a matter of assimilating more and more of what was discovered in the vertical, all of these traits and capacities that have no Darwinian utility at all. For vertical evolution does not involve becoming a better animal, but a better human. And the standard of humanness is not found in the horizontal world bequeathed to us by Darwin, or by naive scientism in general. Mankind owes nothing to Darwin for those things that lift us above the tide of animal evolution.
For there are only two absolutes. Everything else is a matter of degree. At one end--call it the lower vertical--is pure insentient matter. The secularist Son of the Earth has pledged his allegiance to Mighty Matter, Mother of All Mamafestation. This is Horizontal Man. He is indeed made in the image of that which he worships. He is king of the lowerarchy, not because he knows about the logos, but because he knows how low he goes.
At the other end of the spectrum, at the toppermost of the poppermost of the cosmic hierarchy, is Beyond Being. This is the horizon toward which Sons of the Light fix their gaze. For we are neither dirt nor divinity, but somewhere in between.
And that is not all. For in reality, each created thing is superior to something below it and inferior to something above. As such, "ye shall be godless" is logically equivalent to the primordial lie, “ye shall be as gods." Thus, secular man is his own god, albeit the petty “flatland god” of an ontologically diminished horizontality. In his relativism he feels no better than anyone else, but in elevating his relativism to an absolute, he secretly knows that he is superior to everyone, especially God. He has no way of knowing his place in the cosmic scheme, his proper caste.
This represents a small triumph for darkness, the primordial darkness accompanied by belief in the serpent’s promise of horizontal self-sufficiency in the closed circle of animal existence. You may have noticed that the serpent has insufficient funds to back that check. As such, there's no way to amortize your life.
We bow before you, O exalted and blessed birthday cake, you who dissolves our crude and undeveloped standards of flavor and moistness with a single bite!