Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Cosmic Who- and Whydunnit

It just occurred to me that I've come full circle. Or spiral, to be exact. That is, before entering graduate school in psychology, I had been in film school. And now, here I am, back studying drama. My film degree is finally bearing fruit!

Actually, the whole narrative is not as unlikely as you might think. I've mentioned before that I had a particular teacher in film school who proved to have a tremendous impact upon my life. Long story short, because of a couple of years spent analyzing character, motivation, plot, theme, author, etc., I ended up being better prepared for graduate school than the other students, most of whom had degrees in psychology. And you can well imagine how worthless an undergraduate degree in psychology is, especially when compared to a familiarity with the great writers. After all, most people are just trapped in their own lousy be-movie, written by an author of whom they are unconscious.

One of the reasons why great writers are great is because they are often accomplished psychologists, except that their psychological knowledge is implicit and expressed in terms of character and plot. But in point of fact, as mentioned yesterday, it is not as if "narrative" is simply something added to our humanness. Rather, it is very much analogous to culture, in the sense that a radically individual human being is absurd. Rather, we can only be individual because we are social.

You might say that culture is the "space" in which we dwell, whereas narrative is the "time" in which we live. Our particular narrative structures time and confers a sense of purpose, even if we're just kidding ourselves. For in the end, we all understand that any man-made narrative is a fairy tale, whether "spiritual" or "scientific." In the absence of God, there is no objectively true narrative, just a bunch of likely stories.

This should be an uncontroversial statement to both religious and secular alike. A Darwinian should be mature enough to realize that his glee over the discovery of Ida is no more or less rational than my glee over the Lakers pulling out that game over Denver on Tuesday night.

Indeed, the older I get, the more difficult it is to be a passionate fan, because I just can't give myself totally to the narrative that it matters. When I was younger, I lived and died with the Dodgers. Even after they were mathematically eliminated from the pennant race, I would still listen to every last game, as if hoping that they could somehow overcome the math. If someone had said to me at the time, "Bob, why are you taking this so seriously? It's just a game," I would have dismissed him as someone hopelessly "out of it."

(It is no coincidence that Mrs. G. was a huge sports fan. At the time we met, she would routinely watch six hours of football on Sunday. For me, she was like a beer commercial come to life, with all those models who stay slim by watching sports and guzzling beer with the guys.)

This reminds me. We were friends with a couple down the street. The husband was a typical sports fan, while the wife was an extreme spoilsport. She was nagging him to get off the couch for one reason or another, to which he responded with words to the effect of, "I can't right now. This is a really important game." The wife responded, What are you talking about? There's no such thing as an important game!

Suffice it to say that they are no longer married.

The point is, narrative is much more important than we might realize. For example, the dispute between metaphysical Darwinists and ID'ers is not at all a dispute of facts, but of narratives. I have no hesitation in accepting any fact discovered by science. It's just that I place the facts in the context of a very different narrative, in which consciousness is at the top, not bottom, of the cosmos.

And you will have noticed that Queeg, for example, never argues the facts. Rather, he simply accuses the other side of having a bad narrative, that is, creationism. I realize that some literal creationists exist, and I would agree that that is an inadequate narrative, not just for science, but more importantly, for religion. But Queeg clearly argues in bad faith by suggesting that anyone who does not accept the Darwinian narrative therefore believes the literal creationist narrative. That's just crazy.

The whole spectacle is ironic, again, because we know in advance that the Darwinian narrative is false, since it is only a manmade story superimposed on existence. In reality, human beings can no more understand "where they came from" than can a lizard. Again, isn't this obvious? There can be no whydunnit in the absence of the Who that dunnit. If nobody dunnit, then there is no reason for anything.

As mentioned yesterday, I both agree and disagree with Schuon and Aurobindo about the role of evolution in the cosmos. In short, the former dismisses it too lightly, whereas the latter elevates it to too high a place. For while I agree with Aurobindo that this is an evolving cosmos, I disagree with him that there will ever be a species "beyond man."

Rather, I agree with Schuon that man is, in his own way, "absolute." For once a being is capable of truth -- not to mention, beauty and virtue -- he cannot be surpassed. Truth cannot surpass itself. Nor can beauty. It is preposterous to think that more random shuffling of genes will result, say, in a better writer than Shakespeare, or a better composer than Bach, no matter how long the shuffling continues.

This again suggests that there is something quasi-absolute about the human station. Now, I have no problem with this idea, since I believe that human beings are in the image of the Creator. But here again, we must be careful not to "spatialize" the metaphor. That is, the Creator is outside time, whereas we are "inside" it. Therefore, our ultimate narrative is the story of how the image becomes more like the likeness. For the human being, this is the "meaning" of evolution, no matter how you cut it, i.e., scientifically or religiously.

For example, if the discovery of Ida brings us closer to the truth of ourselves, then that is the implicit "meta-story," isn't it? The Darwinist inverts the situation, as if Ida discovered us. But again, it is a truism: either we can explain natural selection, or natural selection explains us. And if the latter, then we would have no basis for believing it to be true.

We're getting a little far afield, but the point is again that the only narrative that can possibly be objectively true is God's narrative. And this is the very topic of the Theo-Drama. Outside that narrative, nothing is really true. In this regard, the existentialists are absolutely correct. Human existence is 100% absurd outside God's narrative.

Now, is it possible to have access to God's narrative? Yes, but only if he reveals it to us. To a certain extent we can discover hints and clues in nature that inevitably lead to the threshold of the Creator. But we cannot know the ultimate purpose of this Cosmo-Drama unless he shares it with us. Otherwise, we'd just be guessing. Is it because God really likes beetles? Or because he's playing a practical joke on the humans? Or because he just enjoys twiddling the knobs of the cosmic console to see what kind of universe will pop out?

We just don't know. Therefore, in the absence of God's revelation, I would agree 100% that there can be no philosophy higher than Plotinus in the West and Shankara in the East, for both men essentially conclude that all narratives are false, and that the only logical task for us is to realize this by ascending into the One, and making the maya go away.

But what if the Father descends into our little narrative, impregnating mamamaya and making her his own?

Then you've got yourselves a rip-roaring Cosmo-Drama. Why, it even has a prequel we now call the "Old Testament."

To be continued....

27 Comments:

Blogger Warren said...

"Therefore, in the absence of God's revelation, I would agree 100% that there can be no philosophy higher than Plotinus in the West and Shankara in the East"

Ditto. And so, once we have figured out that (some kind of) God must exist, and put aside what C. S. Lewis called "boys' philosophies" (materialism, atheism, etc), then we are led to the next stage of enquiry: namely, has this God revealed himself to us? Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism all claim divine revelation (I would not include Buddhism on this list) - are any of them right? All of them? Some of them? None of them? And how would we decide that a genuine divine revelation has occurred? What criteria could we possibly use for that?

This is where, for me at least, things really get interesting....

5/21/2009 09:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Cassandra said...

"A Darwinian should be mature enough to realize that his glee over the discovery of Ida is no more or less rational than my glee over the Lakers pulling out that game over Denver on Tuesday night."

LESS rational, I should think, since even the discoverers of Ida are admitting they wildly exaggerated the importance of Ida for the sake of press attention. At least the Lakers' win wasn't disputable nor its contextual importance bogus.

(It is precisely the tendency of Darwinians to hyper-inflate, to distort, or occasionally to manufacture evidence that made me sceptical of their grand theories even in my atheist days. My sense of smell has always told me that the missing link in the Great Darwinian Narrative is not a hominid, but a rat.)

In any event, I wouldn't degrade the importance of spectator sports too much! Where else in today's mass culture do we see courage, loyalty, strength, and pure merit celebrated? Where else can we see heroism displayed without the obligatory bow to post-modern 'nuance' and moral angst?
Where else do we have cheaters and blowhards called 'cheaters' and 'blowhards' instead of 'Senator' or 'Professor?'

5/21/2009 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Heh - speaking of narratives and drama...

5/21/2009 10:40:00 AM  
Blogger NoMo said...

...and tiny Israel, the guardians and recipients of the "prequel", still sit at center stage of the ongoing narrative... tiny, yet enormously significant.

For the Author remains in
controlfrom alpha to omega.


"proist" - wv's spell-checker is on the fritz

5/21/2009 10:46:00 AM  
OpenID kaffepaus said...

“But we cannot know the ultimate purpose of this Cosmo-Drama unless he shares it with us. Otherwise, we'd just be guessing.”

I think this narrative is the one that scares the atheists the most. When they find out they can’t get into the narrative of God and “now it all”, they give up and start to claim that there is no meaning at all. I had the similar attitude back when I still had the agnostic viewpoint of “since God has not revealed anything to ME, then I don’t have to give a damn”… Totally narcissistic of course.

I think this is the attitude of the lazy man who wants it all served and without struggle, that is, without adventure and drama. And it is very much the attitude of the leftists.

Oh and by the way, have I mentioned that these dramtic posts are really great?!


/Johan
vw: doets

5/21/2009 11:10:00 AM  
Blogger lance said...

Warren said = "namely, has this God revealed himself to us? Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism all claim divine revelation... - are any of them right? All of them? Some of them? None of them? And how would we decide that a genuine divine revelation has occurred? What criteria could we possibly use for that?"

I really liked how you worded this Warren. I would have to say that these questions are what makes things interesting for me as well. It really is a most fascinating set or questions.

5/21/2009 12:14:00 PM  
Blogger James said...

Good Post Bob.
Thanks

5/21/2009 12:26:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Since there is a dearth of comments today...takes a deep breath...

That the Bible even exists demands attention. Sixty-six books written by over 40 diverse authors including a fisherman, kings, a butler, priests, and a tax collector over a span of 1,500 years in three languages on three continents - together presenting one overall theme... Well, there was either One Author inspiring the human writers and then protecting the integrity of the message over millenia, or...what, I wonder?

Not to mention the history of Israel itself (following up on my previous comment). Beginning with a wandering nomad named Abraham who never owned a single plot of ground except his own burial plot, they grew in numbers as slaves in Egypt (somehow not intermixing with the other races of that land). After 400 years as slaves they somehow left Egypt and conquered the nations living in Palestine even though they were not trained in warfare. Half the nation was destroyed and exiled during the rule of the world empire of Assyria (722 B.C.). The other half was destroyed and exiled during the Babylonian rule
(586 B.C.). They returned under the Persian rule somehow not losing their identity during the forced domination and exile. The Greeks sought to annihilate their identity by forced integration; anyone who stood in their way was killed. After the Greeks, the Romans subjugated them and eventually destroyed the temple and banned all Jews from their homeland (70 A.D. and following). For the next 1900 years they roamed the earth as nomads under constant persecution (prophesied in Hosea 3:4-5). The Muslims would kill and disperse their groups. So-called Christians would force them to recant their beliefs or kill them. Their money was constantly being confiscated. All of this led up to the atrocity of Hitler who exterminated six million of them. Still today anti-Semitic prejudice runs rampant. Most of the Middle Eastern world wants nothing more in life than to see the total annihilation of the Jews. The Six Day War was an incredible victory for Israel against the entire Arab world because all the odds were against them. How can we even account for Israel's existence apart from Divine intervention? How can we account for the widespread hatred toward Israel throughout history unless there is a supernatural evil controlling their opposition? The survival of Israel and the fact that they are back in their homeland after 1900 years alone demands that one at least consider the claims of the Bible.

And on and on. Now ask me how I really feel about scripture.

5/21/2009 02:20:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

Now ask me how I really feel about scripture.

Go for it Nomo


(Also, it's great to hear from the not-so-often-commentors/regular readers here too)

5/21/2009 03:55:00 PM  
Anonymous bob f. said...

Given the reems of political b.s. and melodrama, if anyone is interested in reading the words of an adult who has had a significant role in the world, The Weekly Standard on-line has published the text of Dick Chaney's speech at the AEI. This is what political discourse could be if the spoiled brats & pathological liars, i.e., the Democrat Party, went away.

5/21/2009 04:48:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

Different source than bob f.'s but same Cheney Speech Text

5/21/2009 05:42:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

BigFurHat strike again with O bama

5/21/2009 06:17:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Speeching of narratives, from Rush today:

“RUSH: I must confess, and let me be clear, these kinds of Obama speeches are getting old to me. And I frankly think the economy is crashing because of speeches like this. But as to the Obama speech itself, ultimately every speech Obama makes is about him, and this one was no exception. And that's because his followers all have a personal emotional investment in Obama. Obama knows it; he's got to fuel it. But I am here to tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that only a charismatic demagogue -- highly skilled in the low art of political seduction -- would try to weave his personal story, talking about his two communist parents (that both abandoned him, by the way) into a discussion on national security.

Let me say that again. Only a charismatic demagogue, highly skilled in the low art of political seduction, would try to weave his personal story into a speech or discussion about national security. As if Obama's personal story, misguided as it is, is the foundation for everything! And if you're a cult follower, and if you are an Obama supporter simply because of emotional investment, Obama knows that emotional investment has gotta be enforced. So he's gotta tell his personal story.”

5/21/2009 06:22:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"I have no hesitation in accepting any fact discovered by science. It's just that I place the facts in the context of a very different narrative, in which consciousness is at the top, not bottom, of the cosmos."

Darn those pesky contexts. Everytime someone tries to squash an idea flat, just a little bit of context, reinflates it all over again.

Works the same with a narrative... just inserting a little context (inspiring)... like... "why were they happy?"... causes the whole thing to take begin taking shape all over again.

5/21/2009 06:22:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"But what if the Father descends into our little narrative, impregnating mamamaya and making her his own?

Then you've got yourselves a rip-roaring Cosmo-Drama. Why, it even has a prequel we now call the "Old Testament.""

No that's a context!

5/21/2009 06:29:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Warren said "What criteria could we possibly use for that?"

It requires going within, where you are judge, counsel and jury... be careful about ruling on evidence , hearsay and misconduct... I hear the court of appeals can be hell.

;-)

5/21/2009 06:37:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Rick:

Rush is absolutely correct: it's all about the narrative. Who controls it, controls the past, present, and future.

5/21/2009 06:38:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Ximeze and Bob f., thanks for the Cheney link.

The more he talks, the more I ♡ him. And the more troubling the current narrative becomes.

5/21/2009 06:46:00 PM  
Anonymous maineman said...

Not to worry, Julie. A good story doesn't go where it seems to be headed, and we have to assume that God can spin yarns with the best of them.

5/21/2009 08:06:00 PM  
Blogger QP said...

AMEN to that Maineman.

5/21/2009 08:24:00 PM  
Blogger Warren said...

"It requires going within, where you are judge, counsel and jury..."

Gnostics (all flavors of them) have tried that approach over and over again throughout history. The result (relativism) is always the same. Been there, done that.

Not that the inner dimension is unimportant - far from it! But if it's the ultimate criterion we can use, then I think we would have to admit that the original question ("how do we determine what is a divine revelation?") cannot be objectively answered.

That's a legitimate viewpoint, of course, but I am unsatisfied with it.

5/21/2009 08:33:00 PM  
Blogger QP said...

BTW, tomorrow's, regular Frugal Friday post @ the 'Torum begins with this prayer from Chesterton:

"O God of earth and altar,
Bow down and hear our cry,
Our earthly rulers falter,
Our people drift and die;
The walls of gold entomb us,
The swords of scorn divide,
Take not thy thunder from us,
But take away our pride."
---

5/21/2009 08:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the end, the only reasonable stance is to fully cooperate with God. Discerning what He wants us to do then becomes the main thing to do.

Prayer is talking, meditation is listening.

To use a military model, first the human being enlists in God's army, requests an assignment, then listens for her orders.

The parsing of philosophies and ideologies will then be abandoned, unless the soldier recieves discreet orders to parse philosphy.

In the absence of clear-cut orders from God, which are in fact hard to come by sometimes, the soldier falls back on good self care, diligent work at a respectable occupation, and abstemption from vices like lechery, avarice, gluttony, and so forth. Keep it simple until fresh orders come through.

And that's how life should be lived. It's not rocket science and anyone can do it, but you have to know and trust that God is real and orders will come. Otherwise you're screwed.

5/21/2009 09:17:00 PM  
Blogger debass said...

"In any event, I wouldn't degrade the importance of spectator sports too much! Where else in today's mass culture do we see courage, loyalty, strength, and pure merit celebrated? Where else can we see heroism displayed without the obligatory bow to post-modern 'nuance' and moral angst?"

The US military.

5/21/2009 09:26:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

This is an
interesting approach
...and the NKJV is solid.

5/22/2009 06:53:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Warren,
I perhaps worded that badly... and if what I said was used as a way of gathering info of any sort, it would be precisely the thing I criticize about Descartes, and yes, relativism and the rest would soon follow.

What I was pointing at was only that in the end, you are the one, your judgment alone, is what you will stand or fall on... better make it good, any "... but obie said..." will be ruled immaterial.

Good catch.

5/22/2009 07:57:00 AM  
Blogger Warren said...

Van,

Gotcha. We agree completely, I think.

5/22/2009 08:22:00 AM  

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