Change, Growth, and Metamorphosis
As Ken Wilber has written, mere change is like rearranging the furniture on the floor of a building, or "translation." But real growth is analogous to taking the eschatolator to the next floor, which I believe he calls transformation. But that is really more like a transition. Metamorphosis is real transformation, something like retrofitting the entire building -- or perhaps like putting wings on it and turning it into an airplane.
Obviously, it is not possible to avoid change. However, we can only know change in relation to changelessness, or some static benchmark. The Buddha taught that resistance to change -- or attachment to one particular phase of it -- was a primary source of suffering. And yet, to achieve the awakened state he describes, one must go through some rather profound changes. As Cardinal Newman put it, "to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often." We might call this kind of challenging directional change sophering.
"To be perfect" is an interesting way of putting it, for it implies that change for human beings has a definite deustination or final cause. I believe one aspect of grace is the "lure" of this final causation, which literally pulls us in our ding[h]y wake toward our higher self. In other words, this developmental energy cannot merely be a "push" from behind, as it were, or it wouldn't have any direction. In that case, we'd all be like ten week-old Great Dane puppies or two year old boys, constantly dissipating energy that doesn't really go anywhere and is frankly a little annoying at times. [A little pupdate -- I have now finished the post and am in the backyard, where I see that Future Leader and Coondog are digging a hole in the dirt together; hard to say who is dirtier -- ed.]
Or we might say that mere change is a result of deterministic causation, like billiard balls knocking each other around. It cannot result in something truly new, just something that was implicit in the past. But true growth is "top down," teleonomic causation. Instead of present-to-future, it somehow operates in a whole-to-part, future-to-present manner.
Just as one aspect of grace is this future-to-present causation, prayer is the effort (or perhaps non-effort is more like it) to align ourselves with these subtle cosmic winds. And they are subtle, at least at first. However, I think you'll agree that as you move closer to your destiny, it becomes a less subtle and more "present" -- though still distant -- reality. As you leave the orbit of the earth, you are eventually drawn into the attractor of the sun. In fact, when it comes right down to it, that's pretty much your choice: the mundane vs. the celestial.
This turning toward the celestial sun represents "metanoia," true repentence, or preparing yourself to be changed (for in metamorphic change, you cannot change atoll without first ceasing to be an I-land). The first step of the spiritual path -- and the last step, which is simply the first step repeated endlessly -- is "turning around" and phasing your unKnown future.
Again, this is nothing like mere change, which is just endless turning, spinning, and rolling through the hay like a -- speaking of puppies and children -- puppy child, fun though that may be, especially if it's with Amoreena over at the diner (nudge nudge). Now that I think about it, there are times that I am gnostalgic for that corefree and flateral existence, but when I was actually in it, was I really happy or philfulled, or just fallfailed? Or was I just ec-statically spinning around to conceal the fact that I was merely drifting -- down or out, anywhere but up?
Because the True Growth is a movement in and up, which is the only place where "wholeness" can abide -- which literally means "await." Whatever or whoever we are meant to be patiently awaits our arrival there. But where is it when it is not here? Put another way, who am I when I am not me?
I suppose I can handle that one, Petey. Let's see. I was something external, something that was a product of its environment. Any direction I thought I possessed had been imposed from the outside, even if I had internalized it and therefore thought I had come up with it on my own. Not until this drama had played itself out and exhausted all its possibilities was "turning around" possible. For many, it requires that they reach a state of "moral bankruptcy" to reach this stage, or launch pad. Fortunately, that was not the case with me. Nor, fortunately, did I ever do anything that fundamentally damaged my soul, and from which I could not recover in this life.
But enough about rising on the schlepping stoners of our dead selves. Obviously, our society venerates change, but not growth and certainly not metamorphosis. In fact, there is a kind of implicit ban on growth (not just economic), which is the secret of the Democrat party in general and the progressive movement in particular. Neither of them has the slightest interest in making better humans. Rather, they want to skip that little muddled man and create the perfect society.
But you cannot accomplish that by patronizing (literally) man's lower self. As Schuon so eloquently describes it, sircular humanism "decapitates man: wishing to make of him an animal which is perfect, it succeeds in turning him into a perfect animal." Indeed, this must be so if there is no awareness of the proper end of man as such. Leftism can only result in making man more of what he already is instead of what he was meant to me -- human, only worse.
For example, to cite just one disgusting example (TW: Brian), thanks to progressives, it is now going to be against the law in California to teach children about the proper end of human sexuality. Rather, as per a recent senate bill -- which passed along straight (so to speak) party lines, 23 Democrats for, 13 Republicans against -- teachers and textbooks cannot depict transvestites, transexuals, or any other sexual deviant in a negative light in any public school textbook. Instead, positive portrayal of transsexual, bisexual and homosexual lifestyles will be mandated upon all children, beginning in kindergarten.
Why a public school textbook would ever deal with sexual perversions is beyond me, but now I suppose you can't even call them "perversions." Unlike any other bodily function, sexuality has no proper end, no healthy manner of expression. We might as well teach that high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity are all normal as well. After all, who said that one's fasting blood sugar should be below 105? Isn't that just an arbitrary number? I'm being oppressed! What white European male said that diastolic blood pressure should be below 80, or cholesterol below 200? Those numbers are difficult to achieve for some black folks, who tend to have higher blood pressure and cholesterol. What's normal for whites isn't normal for everyone. It isn't fair!
This is why a classical liberal is not a strict libertarian and certainly not a leftist. As we all know, the leftist is a totolerantarian, as reflected in the above legislation which forces people to accept the abnormal as normal -- its project is nothing less than the abolition of the human archetype, and with it, the human being. Why? Why is it so important for leftists to confuse children about sexuality? Is it just a reflection of their own confusion, or is there something more cosmically sinister going on?
Interesting that all of last night's Democrat condidates promised to find a special role in their administration for Bill Clinton, who is aptly described by Harvey Mansfield as "the envy of vulgar men." To put it another way, he is an archetypal lower whorizontal man who has never mastered, much less transcended, himself, so he is a perfect symbol for the left -- vain, greedy, calculating, unmanly, self-serving, governed by his appetites, indifferent to truth, and articulate and intelligent in ways that are simultaneously vacuous and portentous.
Anyway, since the postmodern world has successfully taken the reeking bull to man's archetypal nature, something must rush in to fill the void. Thus, as described by Stanley Jaki, modern man is "addicted to change. He needs fresh forms of novelties to satisfy that addiction. Nothing satisfies him unless he finds it exciting, which merely subjects him to change." In short, since modern man turns the cosmos upside down, horizontal change replaces vertical metamorphosis as the highest value. It is nothing less than the valorization of man's fall, which rapidly creates conditions in which everything becomes a thrilling race to the bottom to determine who is highest, since man cannot stand still. If he is not transcending himself, then he will sink beneath himself. Them's the rules. I didn't make 'em up.
Hey now, what a beautiful example in the new (but not merely novel) New Criterion, which includes a couple of priceless quotes:
It is now that we begin to encounter the fevered quest for novelty at any price, it is now that we see insincere and superficial cynicism and deliberate conscious bluff; we meet, in a word, the calculated exploitation of this art as a means of destroying all order. The mercenary swindle multiplies a hundredfold, as does the deceit of men themselves deceived and the brazen self-portraiture of vileness. --Hans Sedlmayr, Art in Crisis
Some of what she said was technical, and you would have had to be a welder to appreciate it; the rest was aesthetic or generally philosophical, and to appreciate it you would have had to be an imbecile. --Randall Jarrell, Pictures from an Institution
(See also here for more Roger Kimball.)
Hmm, I'm getting that eery foreboding that chaos is about to strike in the Gagdad household and that unwanted change -- including of a diaper -- is about to be forced upon me. Therefore, I will have to take up this strand when the now is available again tomorrow morning and I can dilate time in the usual "Raccoon way."
Oh, and don't forget -- speaking of change, Ben could use a little right about now. You can coontribute on his website.