Monday, July 11, 2011

The Completely Little Big Man at Evolution's End

Frankly, we're on the road to romance -- that's safe to say -- but why not make all the stops along the way? In other words, we'll get back to the theology of the body when we get there. But how do we get there? We evolve there, nice and easy -- not via the paltry evolution of the Darwinian faithful but the much grander evolution of the philosophers.

Only the latter comports with man as he is as opposed to how atheists would like him to be. It should come as no surprise that the random man -- the man who has not discovered his reason for being -- discovers only randomness at work in the cosmos. He discovers the god who made him, but then expects the rest of us to bow down before it. But if you're smart, you don't just accede to KAOS.

In the end, it comes down to only two possibilities. As Ratzinger explains, one possibility is that what we call matter is the only "demonstrable reality," which "consequently represents the real being of all that exists."

However, there is no goonslaying the fact that when we consider matter, we soon enough "discover that it is being-thought." Even the fact that we may think about it -- that it is intelligible, in other words -- means that it cannot be "ultimate." Rather, it is as if it only completes itself by reaching into our own subjectivity, don't you know -- as if the two somehow go together.

We might say that matter is being "that does not itself comprehend being," whereas the very existence of man testifies to the cosmic fact that there exists being-for-itself.

Man represents the cosmic loopwhole whereby being loops upon itself and creates this little big space for contemplation, reluxation, and a little gymgnostics. And religion is the sacred "area rug" that pulls it all together. Otherwise, man is condemned to living within the walls of his own little gratuitous prison pod devoid of any coherent design scheme.

Now, man -- the thing about man is that he is an open system, not just biologically but psychologically, emotionally, cognitively, etc. Let's just call this (o) for short, in contrast to the hard-and-closed (•). We might say that man is intrinsically -- at least in potential -- open to what is "other," all the way up to the ultimate Other, the radical otherhood of God. This is why on Christmas and Easter we celebrate Other's Day.

Man, in order to be one, is constantly overstepping his boundaries. This is why, say, a man of 100,000 years ago is so different from one today. Although there is apparently no genetic or essential difference between the two, one has benefitted from 100,000 years of man's constantly reaching beyond himself from what is to what can be -- or from potential to actuality.

But if we are honest, there is no real basis for saying that this "reaching beyond" only appeared in bipedal hominids one- or two hundred thousand years ago.

Rather, it would appear that the cosmos itself is never just "what it is," but always on the way to something else -- for example, from matter to life, life to mind, mind to spirit, etc. Ratzinger seems to have conceived my egg before it was hatched, in that he agrees that the cosmic phenomenon of "hominization" represents a definitive Rubicon that was crossed by mother evolution. One might also call it a caesura, or cosmic see-section, where the Light gets into these rubes.

As Ratinger explains, "Man came into existence out of the 'clay' at the moment when a creature was no longer merely 'there' but, over and above just being there and filling his needs, was aware of the whole."

In other worlds, in all other animals there is no "residue" between nervous system and environment. Nature just doesn't waste her time in this manner. Rather, she is ruthlessly efficient. You might say that all other animals are mere effect. Only man breaks the chain of necessity and introduces his own independent and self-willed causes into the world.

It is this "openness to the whole, to the infinite, that makes man complete. Man is man by reaching out infinitely beyond himself, and he is consequently more of a man the less enclosed he is in himself, the less 'limited' he is" (Ratzinger).

Thus, a kind of paradox -- a persistent orthoparadox, to be exact. One might address it in the form of an orphic riddle: who is the being whose being consists not only of being-from but being-for and being-toward? Whose incompleteness is his completeness?

And Who, might we ask, would represent the ultimate instance, or final reconciliation of, this Being-From and Being-For? Let's just say that it's an impossible task, so someOne has to accomplice it.

Ratzinger cites Teilard de Chardin, who undoubtedly got some things wrong, but also got some very important things right. For example, he agreed with the oracle above that the human being "can only be absolutely itself by ceasing to be alone."

Frankly, it is not good that man should be allone, but we knew this already. He needs to not only be open "at the top" to truth and beauty, but horizontally open to others "from the side." He needs to not only get a clue, but get a date. According to Ratzinger, it is more accurate to say that Eve was formed from Adam's side than his sparerib. And, from what we can infer from Adam's reaction, she must have been quite a side dish.

But in any timeless event, man again inhabits this undeveloped third world notion "which determines the real drift of evolution.... It is the real goal of the ascending process of growth or becoming; it reaches a first peak in the genesis of living things and then continues to advance to those highly complex creations that give the cosmos a new center" (Ratzinger). It requires a kind of unsane humility bordering on the grandiose to deny the reality of this cosmic center.

In another oracular orthoparadox, we might ask, who is the center who eternally longs for his Center? Man, wherever we find him, has a passion for wholeness. But can man ever achieve, without God's help, a whole-in-One? Again, no, not if the essence of man is a perpetually open being-for -- which is one of Love's names; perhaps even its given name.

One might say that man is the goal who isn't one. Does this mean that the ref simply made a bad call? No. For there is no "I" in team, and it requires a team of no less than two persons to score this cosmic goal.

Somewhat surprisingly, since I was sure I had thought of it first -- see p. 228 regarding the divine fleshlights who are "end made middle," or "eternal made temporal," or urgent telograms from the office of the eschaton dropped from on high like spiritual depth charges into the ocean of history -- Ratzinger writes that Jesus represents "the next evolutionary leap, as it were," in that he is "the man in whom the breakthrough out of the limited scope of humanity, out of its monadic enclosure, has occurred" in the most definitive and final way.

Again, he is end-made-middle, whereby One's upin a timeless there was a little sondown in time, and we all lived hopefully ever after. The end.

In other words, "it is precisely his complete openness that makes him the man of the future." Conversely, the "man for himself, who wants to stand only in himself," is the progressive "man of the past whom we must leave behind us in order to strive forward." Yes, this is evolutionary "progress," but decidedly not the "cheerful romanticism" of the flat earthers.

Ultimately -- again, in parallel with the bOOk -- Ratzinger writes that "one might say that for history God stands at the end, while for being he stands at the beginning." Not just alpha or omega, or even alpha + omega, but the very alphomega deployed in time, which is indeed why time seems to take such an eternity while eternity just takes its sweet time. "To put it another way," says Ratzinger,

"the result is that God, the first principle, the Alpha of the world, appears as the Omega, the last letter in the alphabet of creation, the lowest creature in it." Little planet, little tribe, little village, little man, little hill, little cross, little church, little blog. Little big!

Of all the sin joints in all the towns in all the cosmos, he walks into ours. Go figure.

8 Comments:

Blogger Rick said...

"And, from what we can infer from Adam's reaction, she must have been quite a side dish."

You yada yada'd over the best part!

7/11/2011 09:32:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Rick - funny, I just saw a reference to "yada" in a similar vein the other day. Puts a whole new spin on Seinfeld...

We might say that man is intrinsically -- at least in potential -- open to what is "other," all the way up to the ultimate Other, the radical otherhood of God.

That "potential" bit is important; it seems to me most people are more closed than open when it comes to others, much less the Other. Especially now, when people are encouraged from early childhood to esteem themselves, love themselves, be proud of themselves, yada, yada... it's downright onanistic after a while.

7/11/2011 09:55:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Or rather, (•)nanistic

7/11/2011 09:56:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Julie, I ran over it the other day too. I thought it was in the Kyriacos Markides book, Riding With The Lion.
Who knows...

7/11/2011 10:55:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Apropos, Ratzinger again:

"Hell consists in man's being unwilling to receive anything, in his desire to be self-sufficient. It is the expression of enclosure in one's own being alone. These depths accordingly consist by nature of just this: that man will not accept, will not take anything, but wants to stand entirely on his own feet, to be sufficient unto himself. If this becomes utterly radical, then man has become the untouchable, the solitary, the reject. Hell is wanting only to be oneself; what happens when man barricades himself up in himself. Conversely, it is the nature of that upper end of the scale which we have called heaven that it can only be received, just as one can only give hell to oneself. ... As fulfilled love, heaven can only be granted to man; but hell is the loneliness of the man who will not accept it, who declines the status of beggar and withdraws into himself."

7/11/2011 01:19:00 PM  
Blogger Skorpion said...

Meanwhile, back among the hip-oisie....

7/11/2011 06:08:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Rather, it would appear that the cosmos itself is never just "what it is," but always on the way to something else -- for example, from matter to life, life to mind, mind to spirit, etc.

It is always moving toward something or opening up toward something. And man is -- perhaps not the pinnacle but a plateau. I know that because the Son came as the Son of Man and not overtly in some other form. God found a new way to express Himself in the Son of Man:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature... (Hebrews 1:1-3b)

7/11/2011 08:26:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"As Ratinger explains, "Man came into existence out of the 'clay' at the moment when a creature was no longer merely 'there' but, over and above just being there and filling his needs, was aware of the whole." "

IOW it must have seemed as if someone said ' Let there be light!'

7/13/2011 01:30:00 PM  

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