Lord Help Me, I'm Lookin' for My Mind!
Why? And not only is this species able to appreciate beauty, but it is driven to create beauty in all its forms -- visual, auditory, tactile, linguistic, mathematical, scientific. Why is that? Why this appetite for beauty? It seems so unnecessary. Why are women so much more excruciatingly beautiful than they need to be to get the Darwinian job done? Ouch! Why beauty to the point of pain?
As Col. Beaglehole sang on the lone (sadly unreleased but oft-bootlegged) album he did with Alexis Korner during the British blues revival of '67,
You upsets me baby, Yes, you upsets me baby
Like being hit by a fallen tree,
woman, woman what you do to me
In my book I posed the non-obvious question -- at least it wasn't obvious to me or the Colonel -- of whether the beauty that surrounds and abides in us is discovered or just projected. In other words, the universe has been in existence for what, 14 billion "years," right? During its first 10 billion years there was no life and therefore no consciousness -- or so they say, as little sense as that makes. Biological life has only existed for 3.85 billion years, and human consciousness in any meaningful sense only emerged 40,000 years ago next Tuesday.
So if we truly believe that this was a dead and unconscious universe prior to 4 billion years ago, we can't really say that it had any qualities at all, let alone something as complex as beauty. After all, beauty -- along with every other quality -- is a perception of a nervous system. Therefore, it is very difficult to say which is weirder: that a dead and unconscious universe suddenly produced a creature with an ability to apprehend, and a drive to create, beauty; or, alternatively, that the beauty was already there, just waiting to be unpacked and appreciated. And if the latter, I again ask: how and why?
For beauty is always a function of wholeness. That is, the beauty of a beautiful object inheres in its wholeness, harmony and radiance. A work of art cannot be reduced to its parts without losing sight of the artistic vision that organizes the parts and reveals their beauty. Thus, we would have to affirm that wholeness is a prior condition of beauty. But... assuming the cosmos is full of beauty -- which it is -- is the wholeness already there, or is it only in us? Are these "beautiful wholes" a function of our nervous system, or does the universe just effortlessly crank them out?
It's not just the material beauty of the earth and heavens; how about all the incredibly beautiful animals? It's easy to understand how one reptile will be "attracted" to another for the purposes of reproduction -- say, Britney Spears to Kevin Federline.
But animals of one species do not find those of another species beautiful or attractive, unless they are very, very coonfused -->. Rather, they are generally either indifferent to them or frightened of them. They certainly don't find them beautiful (please, no "Beaglehole" jokes -- he's a little sensitive). No deer thinks to itself, "wow, what a majestic mane on that lion!," or "those beady little eyes of Federline's are kind of a turn-off." No. For animals, it's either 1) have sex with it, 2) eat it, 4) ignore it, or 4) run away from it.
But in the case of humans, we find our fellow animals to be beautiful. We even collect them and put them in zoos so that we can admire them. Again I ask: are these animals actually beautiful? Or is it just a trick of our nervous system? If the former, why were these animals beautiful with no self-conscious being to appreciate them until 40,000 years ago? And if the latter, what possible evolutionary reason is there for humans to be hung up on the beauty of other animals for reasons totally unrelated to our reproductive fitness?
It's not just the obvious things, like sunsets, mountains, oceans and thunderstorms that are beautiful to us. How about a long and happy marriage. Why is that a beautiful thing, while divorce is felt to be ugly (not to cast moral aspersions or deny that it is sometimes necessary)? Marriage is a kind of "frame" that serves a similar function as the frame around a painting -- after all, without a frame to define it and set it apart, you can't have a work of art.
Balthasar writes that marriage is "a kind of bracket that both transcends and contains all an individual's cravings to 'break out' of its bonds and to assert himself. Marriage is that indissoluble reality which confronts with an iron hand all existence's tendencies to disintegrate, and compels the faltering person to grow, beyond himself, into real love by modeling his life on the form enjoined. When they make their promises, the spouses are not relying on themselves -- the shifting songs of their own freedom -- but rather on the form that chooses them because they have chosen it, the form to which they have committed themselves in their act as persons.... "
Spouses "entrust themselves foremost to a form with which they can wholly identify themselves even in the deepest aspects of their personality because this form extends through all the levels of life -- from its biological roots up to the very heights of grace and of life in the holy spirit." Paradoxically, freedom "is discovered within the form itself, and the life of a married person can henceforth be understood only in terms of this interior mystery, which mystery is no longer accessible from the sphere of the general."
I didn't intend this post to be about marriage, but that was such a nice passage by Balthasar, I just kept going with it. Actually, I'm still waiting to find out what this post is about, since I haven't even finished my coffee. You could say that I'm looking for my mind.
Which reminds me of a song by the immortal Merle Haggard -- like Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan, and many other artists who could only have arisen in America and nowhere else, a practitioner of uniquely Cosmic American Music:
I lost my mind the day I lost your love
I'm not crazy but sometimes I wish I was
If you turn around and find me crawling close behind
It's not you I want, I'm lookin' for my mind
Yes, I'm still searching for the point of this post, which is another way of saying that I'm lookin' for my mind. Or you could say that I'm looking for the wholeness which is somehow guiding me but which I have not yet discovered. I can intuit it -- it's there, just over the interior horizon -- but it's up to me to bring into existence -- to convert its potential into actuality.
Which emphasizes the point that both Truth and Beauty -- and the freedom to discover them -- are a function of wholeness. Indeed, wholeness is the cosmic prerequisite of the possibility of truth or beauty. And as a matter of fact, as I pointed out in the Coonifesto, it is also a precondition of Darwinian evolution. That is to say, natural selection rests on the assumption that there exist prior "wholes" -- whole organisms -- for it to operate on. There is no materialistic philosophy that can account for wholeness, or true unity in diversity.
Therefore, I think I understand the point of this post: love, truth, beauty, and freedom are not effects of existence. Rather, they are causes of existence. Thus, to say, for example, "God is Love," is not a mythological or speculative statement. Rather, it is a scientific statement. No, it is beyond that -- it is a metaphysical certitude upon which the foundation of science rests. For who is not in love with truth, with beautiful Sophia?
Don't get me started.
I just received an email from a Raccoon that illustrates my point. He seems to have spent most of his life "looking for his mind," but without really knowing that he was embarked on the search until relatively recently. An excerpt:
"I had been learning this one language, English, for the past 41 years. What I didn't realize during those 41 years is that either I've been learning another language or it was already in me, waiting -- unused, but there. This other language was made up of just, let's say, nouns. I read some of your writing and the thing I read that I call the 'last thing' constituted a verb. The instant I read that, everything I had learned about language (structure, usage, grammar, rules, etc.) from the 1st language suddenly overlaid the 2nd one and the verb I'd learned from you linked it all together in the 2nd language, and in an instant, all the meaning flowed down like a dam breaking.
"Or, sort of like a puzzle was being built -- I wasn't building it, didn't even know I had pieces -- but I found the missing piece, which, independent of what this particular last piece stood for, was no more significant than any of the others, its only distinction being perhaps that it was the last piece. It was placed with the other pieces and in an instant I recognized, 'Hey there's a puzzle here!' But a completed puzzle. Where literally, before the puzzle appeared, I didn't even know I had the pieces."
That's what I call a clean kill, or eros shot straight through the heart.
This is another way of saying that parts cannot exist in the absence of the whole -- nor time in the absence of eternity, the many in the absence of the One, or beauty without a Creator. Or, in the words of Rabbi Kushner, "the end is seeing for even one moment that the apparent multiplicity is in reality a unity." But a dynamic unity in diversity in which the one is a necessary condition of the other -- and whence the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time (Eliot).
Wholly matterimany, congratulations on the equation of your cosmic birth. Oh my stars, He expectorated a mirrorcle, now you're the spittin' image!