The Economics of Time and the Metabolism of God
And writing these posts specifically requires timelessness. But at the same time, I suppose I wouldn't even bother to try if it weren't for the time constraint. As I may have mentioned before, this is one of the things that surprised me about having a child. We waited to do so until my life was pretty much over. The idea was to cram everything into one book (and one life), because that would be it. The end of Part One of my life. On to Part Two, in which there would be no time for reading, thinking, writing, etc. Which was fine with me. I was done. I said what I needed to say. Time for death and rebirth.
So it's come as a big surprise that I've been able to be so productive over these past three years, much more so than during all the years before. How does that work? Assuming that what I've written is of value -- which of course it may or may not be, depending on your point of view -- the value only emerged within the context of time scarcity. But this is apparently why it is possible for our lives to be meaningful: because they take place within time, and time is short.
Which is interesting when you think about it, because the materialist or existentialist take the exact same set of facts and (assuming they are self-consistent) come to the opposite conclusion: that because WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!, it's all meaningless. But in my case, it was all much less meaningful when I lived in the illusion of eternity.
I guess the fundamental question is, why is slack precious? Like anything else, it is precious because it is scarce (even though it is simultaneously "eternal" and therefore unlimited). But even then, it is only valuable if you know what to do with it. I definitely had more slack prior to April 20, 2005, a day that will live in infancy. Only now do I realize that I really didn't know what to do with my slack, because there was too much of it. It was just like an economy in which money becomes less valuable because of inflation. The other day I heard that in Zimbabwe they now have a billion dollar bill. Thus, you can have a situation in which more and more buys less and less.
So there is no question that the fact of death is precisely what confers meaning on our lives. In fact, a moment's reflection will inform you that you couldn't even know you were alive in the absence of death, any more than you could have bodily existence in the absence of spatial boundaries. In other words, our bodies bind and define us in space, while our death binds and defines us in time. I remember once hearing Alan Watts make this point in a lecture, to the effect that if our life did not come to an end, it would be no different than if our height did not come to an end, and we grew to infinite size -- which is no size at all. As we were saying yesterday, existence is synonymous with definition, and to define is to give boundaries. Thus, God's first act is one of definition or separation of the upper waters from the lower waters. Good call, Moses!
Much of psychological growth entails the acquisition of boundaries. This is a fine example of a profound subject that will have no meaning for the materialist, for how can something immaterial (and probably illusory anyway) have a boundary? It's like placing a sharp line between the sky and a cloud. In reality there is no such border, no place where the empty sky ends and the cloud begins.
Nevertheless, psychological growth is founded upon the development of what we might call a semi-permeable membrane, only on the subjective plane. As you know by now, I wasn't paying attention in biology class, partly due to boredom, partly due to Suzie Campbell sitting at the adjacent desk, but I do remember that term: "semi-permeable membrane." In order for something to be alive, it obviously must have a boundary, or it will be indistinguishable from the environment. But at the same time, the membrane must allow for the passage of information and energy in and out.
There again, that's another subtle point. The very first living being created the ontological category of "inside." There was no "interior" to the cosmos until that very first itsy bitsy teeny tiny turned around on itself and said, like the Everly Brothers, "let it be me." (Not to get ahead of the story, but as it so happens there is an ontological interior that was necessarily prior to its appearance in time, AKA, God, or I AM; but we'll save that for later.)
Just so, in order to be a person and not just an anonymous performing flea in the mother of all Chinese fire drills, we must be psychologically distinct from the group. Just as our bodies are born into a physical environment with which we exchange food, water, and oxygen, we are also born into a psychological environment in which we exchange information and emotion, which are conveyed in a number of ways, including touch, sound (which transmits meaning even before we understand words), introjection, and projection (which are just two sides of the same phenomenon).
That latter concept -- projection -- is a critical one in developmental psychology, in that it is an artifact of our being "members of one another" on the psychic plane, just as our bodies are members of the same biosphere. Just as no body can declare independence from the biosphere without dying, no human being can declare independence from the "psychosphere" without undergoing a psychological death -- like, say the Joker. Again, I haven't seen the film, so I'm operating on second hand information, but it seems that he is radically separate from the human environment, a kind of psychopath on stilts.
Because that is what a psychopath is: a radical individualist who does not share any interior relationship with other human beings. What we call empathy is really the ability of one interior to know another and share in its joys and pain. A sociopath specifically lacks this faculty, which is why they can treat subjects like objects. They are truly undead which is an entirely distinct ontological category from life and death. The reason for this is that the undead person still must "metabolize" experience in order to go on being, but he will be unable to distinguish between life and death, good and evil, love and hate, lies and truth. It would be analogous to a living being that is unable to distinguish between food and feces. If that were the case, we would all be tenured.
One of my first academic papers was on the subject of dissipative structures (i.e., open systems that exchange matter, energy, and information with the environment) and their implications for human psychological development. I don't have time or space to get into details here, but to a certain extent, in my book I applied the same ideas to our relationship with God, or the Absolute, or O if you like. Here again, just as there is surely a material environment and a psychological environment, there is a sprititual environment. You all know it well, as it is characterized by such enduring phenomena as the sacred, the holy, the celestial light, the fullness of being, the presence of presence, the influx of grace, the mercy of Petey, etc.
Now, just as the possibility of human psychological development is dependent upon becoming an open system with "wise and loving" others, the possibility of human spiritual growth is entirely founded upon the ability to become an open system with that which transcends us, i.e., the Permanent Real. In the final analysis, this is the "way of the Raccoon," which is to say, to become an open system with O by any means necessary. To a certain extent -- and within intrinsic limits -- we all have to identify the means and method that are personal to us, or our "spiritual idiom." We all have to eat, but we don't eat the same things. You may like pepperoni on your pizza, while Dupree likes crawfish and burnt bacon.
Likewise, we all fall in love, but we all know how that works -- one person's deal of a lifetime is another's bargain bin castoff. It seems that our love has a specific idiom that clicks into place when we meet the right person. I felt that click on my very first date with Mrs. G in May of 1984. Somehow, that single "click" was loaded with all the implicatiosn that woytld take years to unpack. One of them is now crawling into my lap and prevebting me fgrom tyoibet]ng. why? becyanuese he has certain idiomatic needs that he would like for me to fulfill RIGHT NOW, since it is always RIGHT NOW for him, like he has ultimate slack but no slack at the same time.
There. He's watching Curious George now. Be a good little monkey!
Anyway, one doesn't "get married"; rather, one "makes a marriage" (through the resultant boundaries) in order to find out what it is, which will require time. Marriage is only a container, not its content.
I suppose we could go so far as to say that we need to discover a similar "click" on the spiritual plane -- to "fall in love," as it were, or create the boundaries that will allow us to find out "what God is." For many folks, they have what amounts to an "arranged marriage" with their religion. Sometimes this works out, while other times it ends in divorce and disillusionment.
So we're all looking for that nonspatial One with whom to settle down and sail hopefully foriver rafter, 'til we remerge with our wholly sea.
Well, he's back. End of slack. Beginning of meaning.