Setting Up Camp On the Sacred Mountain and Enjoying the View
As we have been discussing, the now-and-not yet of (•) --> O maps the human journey from outer to inner and existence to essence, toward the Being without whom our life is not real. It is why we're here, because in the absence this sufficient reason, there is no other way to explain why this journey exists, nor why it is so universal (cf. The Spiritual Ascent: A Compendium of the World's Wisdom).
To try to account for this trajectory on wholly naturalistic grounds is analogous to affirming that eyes exist but that vision doesn't. But if vision exists, it is surely in order to see. And if (•) --> O occurs, it is in order to evolve, specifically, in faith, hope, and love toward the true, good, and beautiful, respectively (although the categories are all interlinked in an organic manner).
The very possibility of truth, love, and beauty only exists because O casts a shadow back in time (or down in vertical space, if you prefer). These three transcendentals (the good, true, and beautiful) -- or their "degrees," to be precise -- are all located on the right side of our Ø <-- (•) --> O schematic. Conversely, sin, falsehood, ugliness, Helen Thomas -- each of these may be located on the left hand side. Human choice, i.e., free will, is located at that vertical innersection between O and Ø.
This is simply a truism, even for the atheist, for surely the atheist -- we're being charitable here -- wishes to move "closer" to truth and to avoid "falling" into error? Or to be a "good person," not a flaming assoul? This is not something that can be said of any other animal, which simply is what it is, a stationary point in the fabric of existence. No pig fails to achieve the essence of pighood, not even Rosie O'Donnell.
Now, as Pieper explains, "the 'way' of man leads to death." You could even say that death is his ultimate meaning, since it is where he accidently came from and where he necessarily returns at the conclusion of this fleeting absurdity known as Life. There is simply no avoiding the fact that the life of natural man bears upon death and therefore nothingness.
That being the case, there is no rational basis for hope, faith, nobility, justice, or anything else, really. I don't mind the atheists who are honest about this. It's the ones who try to wrench truth, goodness or beauty from Ø that are so annoying and childish. But as a psychotic patient of mine once said, "you can only get so much blood from a turnip." And you can get bupkis from Ø, precisely.
Even the atheist must concede that the life of the believer bears upon something transcending death, even if he insists that the latter isn't real. The believer sees this target and tries to hit it, while the atheist insists that there is no target to hit (even while absurdly maintaining that atheism is the only real target, and that those who fail to hit it are in error).
Man's journey is rooted in the reality of time. If, as some physicists say, time were just a "stubborn illusion" or a mere quantitative measure, then (•) --> O would not be possible. But as Pieper explains, "man's 'way' is 'temporality.' Time, in fact, exists only in reference to the transitoriness of man." And we can only know this because a part of us -- our spirit -- stands "above" time.
I should immediately amend that statement, because in reality, spirit is not a "part," but our essence. In an analogy used by Steinsaltz, the soul is not a point, but a "continuous line of spiritual being" that stretches from the general source (O) to "the specific body of a particular person," (•).
You could say that this is the lifeline that God tosses down into our existence. It is not only the source of our wholeness, but its very ground and possibility. An assoul is precisely someone who is not a whole but an a-hole. Nor is he the existential hole that only spirit can fill, but already full of himself.
You could say that O is Absolute Being, where essence and existence are one (or not-two). In contrast, man is "not his own essence." Rather, "his essence is 'in the process of becoming."
But there can be no real becoming for the man oriented to Ø , who is "imprisoned in nothingness." Even so, being that man is condemned to freedom, turning toward death and nothingness is a choice -- a choice which, ironically, wouldn't even be possible unless its alternative were a real possibility as well. To say that "free will exists in order to choose nothing" is really to say that free will doesn't exist in any meaningful sense.
Here is how Pieper describes the human situation, as we hang suspended between O and Ø : "The whole span of creaturely existence between being and nothingness can never be understood, then, as though the relationship to nothingness were simply to be assigned equal rank with the relationship to being -- or were even to be ranked before or above it" (Pieper).
Rather, Ø is only even possible because it is a function of O, just as falsehood cannot exist in the absence of truth, or ugliness without beauty. Ø is "parasitic" on O, so to speak, as death is parasitic on Life.
Therefore, the human adventure "is not a directionless back-and-forth between being and nothingness." Rather, "it leads toward being and away from nothingness; it leads to realization, not annihilation, although this realization is 'not yet' fulfilled and the fall into nothingness is 'not yet' impossible" (Pieper).
Which is why both existential despair and its useless sister, certainty of salvation, "are in conflict with the truth of reality" (ibid.), and not befitting the magnanimous gentleman who is going places in this life. With the fear and trembling appropriate to such a steep climb.