Monday, June 27, 2011

John Paul II.3: God is a Playwright

Everything is trivial if the universe is not committed to a metaphysical adventure. --Don Colacho's Aphorisms

I don't want to deplane from the flight of John Paul just yet. I hate to read a book of this magnitude -- especially about a person of this depth -- and just move on to the next adventure.

Since he has already been beatified -- and there is every reason to believe he will eventually be recognized as a saint -- this is a life from which we can presumably learn something. To say that it was an "unusual" life is an understatement, especially in comparison to the contemporary ideal -- if there is one.

In the end, it comes down to a rather simple dichotomy: either he thought and acted in conformity to a Truth that transcends us, or he was essentially a lunatic who wasted his obvious talents in thrall to a host of primitive delusions and childish superstitions.

There's not much room to maneuver here. For the vertically challenged leftist, the latter is not a "cynical" belief. Rather, it follows directly from their first principles. What they never understand, of course, is that their first principles render anyone's life a pointless exercise in denial shrouded in hot air, but leftism will never be accused of intellectual depth or consistency.

One wonders: what is the attraction of a John Paul, an attraction that is so spontaneous and widespread? How could a life devoted to unreality resonate on such a deep and familiar level? Just last night I watched a wonderful documentary on Dave Brubeck (produced by Clint Eastwood), in which Brubeck discusses what happened to him after writing a piece of sacred music.

Brubeck suddenly and inexplicably -- one might say dramatically -- found himself being drawn into Catholicism for reasons he did not consciously understand. To the surprise of his family, he underwent formal conversion (although, as he says, he didn't actually convert "from" anything). He is now ninety years old, and conspicuously filled with a kind of "light" that radiates from his being. You'd have to watch it and draw your own conclusions.

Anyway, being that he was a product of modern Europe, the young Wojtyla found himself knee-deep in the same cultural soup as everyone else, between the rockheads of the secular left and the softhearts of a retro-romanticism that rushed in to fill the spiritual void. Both represented "revolutions," the one implying "a complete break with the past" -- including Christianity -- the other a revolutionary recovery of some sort of pre-cultural, edenic state of fusion with nature.

One can indeed see this same duality at work in the contemporary left: We Are the Future We Have Been Waiting For, which is to say, the resurrection of a mythical proglodyte past that never was and can never be.

What can only be, of course, is Truth, regardless of whether we recognize it. Again, Truth is synonymous with "reality," and reality is not diminished by one's failure to appreciate it.

One might also say that truth is among the first fruits of Being, so that our own being can only be (relatively) real if it is aligned with Being as such. Otherwise it is no exaggeration to say that we are not human beings, but rather, uniquely "human non-beings," for we are the only animal that can fail to be what it is -- that can deviate from its own being, truth and reality.

But the fact that we can so deviate obviously implies a reality from which to deviate, which undercuts the alert leftist at the knees and kicks him in the balderdash.

Now, if the secular leftist is correct, then history is obviously just a weird interlude in the eternal march of physics, but of no cosmic significance or meaning. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury but signifying tenure.

But for John Paul -- and for us -- history is of the deepest significance. This is for a number of reasons, but in John Paul's case it was because the Ultimate Real took the time and trouble to incarnate right here in the middle of it; indeed, it is what created history's "center," so to speak -- a point of metacosmic orientation. Thanks to the Incarnation, we all know "where we are" in time, which is to say, 2,011 revolutions around our central star, give or take.

Speaking of which, it occurred to me yesterday that we all carry within us -- either explicitly or usually implicitly -- a solar system around which we revolve. One cannot be human in the absence of a solar system that provides a central axis and direction.

Each of us -- believer and "nonbeliever" alike -- has a central sun which provides both the intellectual light and emotional heat that guides our way. However, the "un"believer has what we might paradoxically call a "dark star" at their center, with predictable results (either that, or they are their own dark center of cosmic narcissism).

In other words, they are either sucked in beyond the horizon of darkness, or they float away, adrift in a centerless void. Such a person becomes a Periphery in search of a Center they will never find (or a false center in search of peripheral people to mirror and prop him up) unless they consciously turn toward it and establish a relation. This turn can only take place in freedom, the latter of which is another word for "nothing" if it isn't oriented to truth.

John Paul's central sun is, of course, the incarnated Godman, or the ultimate universal manifested in the concrete particular. That this "happened" (or happens, to be precise) proves, among other things, that we inhabit the type of cosmos in which such a marvelous thing can happen. For if it couldn't happen, then neither could we.

In other worlds, we would be entirely closed off to the divine realm from which flow being, love, truth, beauty, and integral oneness -- all the Good Stuff this cosmos has to offer.

Among the young Wojtyla's influences was a poet who remarked that "A man is born on this planet to give testimony to truth" (all quotes are from Witness to Hope unless otherwise noted). Indeed, to even say born "to" implies a purpose to one's life, a direction toward which it is shot.

Again, either our life has a meaning and purpose or it doesn't. You cannot deny them up front only to sneak them in later. Have the courage of your absence of convictions, chickens! But there can be no courage in such poultrygeists either, for courage is nothing if not rooted in wisdom and justice.

From early on, Wojtyla was a man of words -- a man who appreciated the unique power of the Word to enter and change us from within. "He was seized by the power of words, not just to communicate an idea [i.e., light], but to elicit an emotion [i.e., warmth], which was both entirely subjective and entirely objective, or true."

This is a meta-idea worth pondering, for it recognizes that no absolutely "objective" account of reality -- if indeed such a thing were possible -- can be complete. For one thing, it leaves out the Subject who realizes it, and what is he, a potted plant? (Also any such attempt at completion is felled by Gödel's mighty axe.)

But nor can an entirely subjective, or idealist, account be complete. Rather, the only complete metaphysic must account for both subjective and objective reality; or, one might say, an intelligence and intelligibility that are thoroughly entangled. They are distinct but not separable. Indeed to sunder them is a kind of original cognitive sin that necessarily exiles one from the paradise of Truth and Intellect (i.e., knower and known at a higher level).

This sort of reminds us of the last page of our book before the whole durn thing dissolves into perfect nonsense and holy babble:

"In the end, we are no longer a scattered, fragmentary multiplicity in futile pursuit of an ever-receding unity, but a Unity that comprehends and transcends the multiplicity of the cosmos. The universe, human history, and consciousness itself all achieve their fulfillment when any being passes into this Unity."

The question is, did John Paul pass into -- or even by -- this Unity? For again, if he did, then his is a life worth emulating -- not in every detail, of course, since we all have different gifts and are who we are -- but in the broad outlines.

Even as a lad, Wojtyla recognized the cosmic significance of language, and was struck by the "intimacy" afforded by words, "between the one who spoke and the one who listened."

In a way, this goes to man's ontological status as "priest" or pontifex of the cosmos, the living link between time and eternity, Creator and creation, the medicine of Truth above and its side effects herebelow. One of his literary mentors taught that properly communicated -- and received -- words could "open up, through the materials of this world, the realm of transcendent truth" and universal moral values.

And if the world of the stage "could unveil the deeper dimensions of the truth of things, might there be a dramatic structure to every human life? To the whole of reality?"

In the past we have written of how we are drawn to music because it discloses vital information about the nature of reality. If John Paul is correct, the same could be said of man's universal appreciation of, and need for, drama.

Here is how Cardinal Ratzinger describes the plot line and theme of this cosmic Broadway -- actually, narroway -- production:

"Man can be and should be a synthesis, comprising every floor in the whole building of creation," ending -- and beginning -- in the living God, for "it is in this that the whole thrill of the human adventure resides." You know, dramatic tension.

On the one hand, the drama "has a fixed shape -- it is always the same -- and yet it is inexhaustible and is ever new. It always leads us farther on. We are not just chained to a past in which there is nothing more to be discovered; rather, it is a whole country of discoveries, in which each of us can also find himself anew" (ibid.).

In any event, God obviously studied math, but his major is in drama.

Modern history is the dialogue between two men: one who believes in God, another who believes he is a god. --Don Colacho

25 Comments:

Blogger robinstarfish said...

In the end, it comes down to a rather simple dichotomy: either he thought and acted in conformity to a Truth that transcends us, or he was essentially a lunatic who wasted his obvious talents in thrall to a host of primitive delusions and childish superstitions.

One could say the same about Jesus, so JPII could not have emulated a better model.

6/27/2011 08:29:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

One of his literary mentors taught that properly communicated -- and received -- words could "open up, through the materials of this world, the realm of transcendent truth" and universal moral values.


Just so; this is what I was thinking of yesterday, after reading about stupidity being contagious. For any word to be "word," it must convey something that acts upon the hearer, one way or another. Thus the belowviations of the foolish are not harmless. But also, thus the words of the holy are not useless - they help to elevate and reorient the hearer toward the true soular center.

6/27/2011 09:28:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

And if the world of the stage "could unveil the deeper dimensions of the truth of things, might there be a dramatic structure to every human life? To the whole of reality?"

Sipp has been watching old movies. In that street scene, an army of faces moves past. In some ways, they even have a sameness about them, in clothing and bearing and expression, yet behind each and every one there was a unique drama, known in wholeness and truth not even by the one who bore the countenance, but only by the One who knows and would be known. All that remains of them, here and now, are tantalizing glimpses of mystery. To the flatminded, the images that remain are the ghosts of the past, signifying nothing anymore but an arrangement of light that happens to show a particular arrangement of particulars at one particular point, but otherwise bearing no deeper meaning. But to the One, they still are, even if we don't know the particulars, for that which is known by the Absolute can never not be known.

6/27/2011 09:52:00 AM  
Blogger Mizz E said...

Anyone who tries to make a distinction between education and entertainment doesn’t know the first thing about either.

-Marshall McLuhan

6/27/2011 10:19:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Tangentially, speaking of words that open, a birthday rumination (emphasis mine):

"When I was twenty I had all the answers. As half a century of living fades in the rear view mirror I increasingly have only questions about the road ahead. When problems are overwhelming I try to fight the trap of certainty and instead employ curiosity. When the problems are big, the working of them make me bigger. I am fifty four years old and have never felt younger."

6/27/2011 11:36:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

...especially in comparison to the contemporary ideal -- if there is one.

I wonder sometimes.
****

We're all going to read from somebody's script. It might as well be from the One who writes the best lines.

6/27/2011 12:16:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"What can only be, of course, is Truth, regardless of whether we recognize it. Again, Truth is synonymous with "reality," and reality is not diminished by one's failure to appreciate it."

Reality isn't diminished by our failure to recognize it, but what does that mean for us? What does our refulsal to recognize it, do to us? Diminishment would seem to be the least of the implications.

6/27/2011 12:21:00 PM  
Blogger Mizz E said...

Hiding from Truth: Denying What We Can’t Not Know

6/27/2011 12:53:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

(Mizze, there's a missing link...)

6/27/2011 12:54:00 PM  
Blogger Mizz E said...

Speaking of birthdays...

♪•*¨*•.¸¸♫¸.•*¨*••*♫♪♪•*¨*•.¸¸♫¸.•*¨*••*♫♪

Happy, day late, Birthday 'Shroom

6/27/2011 12:55:00 PM  
Blogger Mizz E said...

Ooops.

Hiding from Truth: Denying What We Can’t Not Know

6/27/2011 01:00:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Yes, indeed, I had a very happy birthday.

I had Mexican food for lunch and got a fried ice cream. The ice cream was free since it was my birthday. I did talk the waitstaff out of singing.

Then we took the Enterprise out for a spin.

I have to get about 150 more miles on it before I get the break-in oil changed and try the Warp Drive.

6/27/2011 02:15:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

In any event, God obviously studied math, but his major is in drama.

who de
Klass Klown ?
.
.
.
aw shucks, i'd throw the award to Bob!

6/27/2011 03:14:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

And, by the way, if I had a birthday, that means Mizz E just turned 29 as well.

A happy belated birthday to you!

6/27/2011 04:00:00 PM  
Blogger jwm said...

Happy B-day Mushroom! Hope you have a bunch more of them.
Mizz E: Thank you for that great link.

JWM

6/27/2011 04:13:00 PM  
Blogger Mizz E said...

Thanks 'Shroom, close, very close :) Mi cumpleaños es mañana when I'll claim the coveted honor of being an authentic Racc-o.o-n Elder.

6/27/2011 04:41:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Happy belated and be-earlied birthdays, Mushroom and Mizze! And thanks for that link, too.

6/27/2011 05:35:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Thank you, John.

I'm glad I didn't miss it. I have another reason to celebrate tomorrow.

6/27/2011 05:45:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Off topic, Sweden goes full neuter:

"Nearly all the children's books deal with homosexual couples, single parents or adopted children. There are no "Snow White," "Cinderella" or other classic fairy tales seen as cementing stereotypes."

In other words, in this preschool the only acceptable "genders" are the queer ones and the only acceptable families are anything but traditional. I wonder if any of those kids go home and get upset because they have just one mother and one father?

"Egalia doesn't deny the biological differences between boys and girls — the dolls the children play with are anatomically correct."

For what possible reason would a preschool for kids age 1-6, where gender is practically a taboo topic, need anatomically correct dolls for them to play with? Something is rotten in the state of Sweden...

6/27/2011 07:13:00 PM  
Blogger jwm said...

@ Julie:
Re Sweden, and the full neuter.
How can it possibly be that anyone thinks this is a good idea? And it doesn't take five minutes of internet time to find literally hundreds, if not thousands of similar stories. As of late, I've really begun to wonder just what this thing is that has so deeply infected our culture? How is it that such huge numbers of people buy in to this idiocy? I'm trying to get a notion of just what is at the core of this weird notion that every value that has created Western Civilization must now be inverted, twisted, turned inside out and backwards. From whence comes this perverse desire to unmake all that created us? Why the yearning for some undifferentiated world where no one thing is any better or worse than any other thing?
The article that Mizz E linked goes a long way to explain some of it. Still, I can't help wondering just what the hell is happening. And I should know, because I believed much of this crap myself at one time.
All goofing aside I am mystified, astonished, and in no small measure frightened by this.

"Ye shall be as gods..."
They see the serpent as some foolish myth, yet they believe what he says.

JWM

6/27/2011 08:40:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Not just Western Civilization, but against humanity, period. It is downright reptilian - is there even one mammal species where the male and female are identical and interchangeable except for reproductive equipment? I don't know of any. So why in the name of biology would they expect humans (who after all they see only as one animal among all the rest) to be any different? It's insane not only from a religious standpoint, but from a materialist perspective as well. Whatever the reasoning, it serves not to propagate the human species, but to obliterate it with fruitless fruity alternative lifestyles.

6/27/2011 08:57:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

JWM said “As of late, I've really begun to wonder just what this thing is that has so deeply infected our culture?”

Take a little bit of error (I think therefore I am), add a touch of malevolence with a spoonful of flattery to make it go down (Rousseau seduced society into believing that they were naturally pure and perfect before civilization corrupted them through the trickeries of family and property ... why would he do it?... I mean... come on...aside from his private delights of exposing himself at ladies windows at night... this was a guy, who during the era that would produce the likes of Mozart, this cretin proposed a musical system that would reduce, if not entirely do away with, musical harmonies... what more do you need to know about him?)... and then top it off with a pleasing pinch of hubris (we don’t need any of those old tales, we’re smarter than earlier times, we’ve got calculus, we’ll calculate the square root of poems and distill all useful knowledge into a few tables of facts, ain’t we sumpthin?!)... put it all in a pot and let it simmer a century or two, and you get a cultural inclination that whispers that reality doesn’t matter, you are secretly great though others wish to keep you down, and that you can and should decide whatever you want to do simply because you naturally wish to, and you've got the recipe for...

"Ye shall be as gods..."

That is just what they’ve been saying... and teaching, for a couple centuries now... is it really any wonder that the lessons have been so widely learned? This system of thought tells you that your whims are the justification for everything you want, that reality isn’t really real, and that whatever we say, should be real.

What else could possibly follow from that but envy, ugliness and a passion for disharmony? Why is it so popular? I suppose above all else, because it is easy to master, rewards you for not discovering your errors and it enables you to feel like a wronged god.

Sssound familiar?

6/27/2011 09:44:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Happy Birthday's MizzE & Mushroom!

6/27/2011 09:45:00 PM  
Blogger Mizz E said...

Modern history is the dialogue between two men: one who believes in God, another who believes he is a god. --Don Colacho

Yikes. Two 'anothers', i.e. badasses were also born on June 28th.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Henry VIII

6/28/2011 06:43:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Bummer of a pair of birthday buds.

Henry, sure he had some of his wives killed, but at least he let his kids live. Probably wouldn't have had Shakespeare without Elizabeth.

More than you can say for Rousseau, sure he let his 'wife' live, but he sent all of their kids to die. I suppose you could say his intellectual children lived... like Marx... but I'd rather not.

Then again, they're dead and gone, and if today is your birthday, let the sonshine in, it's been redeemed!

6/28/2011 06:56:00 AM  

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