It's My Narrative, and I'm Sticking With It
I realize that this qualifies as a banality, but it just flashed into my melon as I stared at this page of Balthasar while awaiting the inspiration to flow, so it may or may not lead anywhere, much less toward its own denouement on the cosmic stage.
Speaking of narratives, von B. certainly had one, but not really. The sprawling, fifteen volume theological aesthetics that we spent most of 2009 dilating upon may look orderly on the shelf, but once one dives in, it is an unruly jungle of inexhaustible truth and extravagant beauty that one must hack through page by page. And while in the process of hacking, it really isn't possible to keep one eye on the big picture.
Speaking of hacks, this was the underlying purpose of the patented One Cosmos narrative, i.e., of cosmic evolution from Matter (or existence), to Life, to Mind, and on to Spirit. This seems not only like the most obvious structure to place one's Big Toe, but it also provides a dramatic arc, since there is purpose woven into the very fabric of being, both personally and collectively. Indeed, the main difference between us and the metaphysical Darwinians is that we take evolution seriously.
But as we were saying yesterday, it is not actually possible for man to "contain" existence, let alone being. Rather, we must rely upon abstractions and generalizations, and these almost always come down to narratives, either implicit or explicit. There are personal narratives, historical narratives, political narratives, scientific narratives, media narratives, weather narratives -- everywhere you look, a narrative.
But few of these narratives are sophisticated enough to account for the fact that man is an intrinsically narrative creating being whose fundamental way of knowing the world is to tell stories about it.
In other words, in an important sense, "the medium is the message," whether your particular narrative says that the cosmos just banged into being by itself and then came to life for no reason, or did so as a result of the god of the Witoto hawking a loogie on the earth to create the rain forest.
Clearly, there are religious myths and scientistic myths, but both have a kind of binding power that permits one to organize reality and think about what is otherwise unthinkable, but which can also cause us to distort reality in fundamental ways.
Amazing that in the 21st century we still have to remind people that the map is not the territory -- or that one cannot eat the menu -- and that if one confuses the two, one is about to enter a world of pain or indigestion. But what is there if we toss aside the map? Then we're back in the jungle of pure experience, and another kind of pain.
One thing you will have noticed is that our troll persists in the effort to place us in a fanciful narrative of his own creation (or partly his own, as it was mostly composed by more intelligent demons). We are nowhere in this narrative, but this poses no barrier, since one of the elements of the narrative is that it is a kind of "secret" known only through leftist gnosis.
Only the leftist can see into our being and know that we are racist, or homophobic, or anti-science, or misogynistic, or shills for the wealthy, and on and on. There is nothing we can say that could dislodge us from the narrative, since one cannot reason a man out of what he was never reasoned into.
I was thinking about this while reading this typically deep meditation on the current political mindscape by Deepak Chopra. As with most everything he writes, it is way, way beyond parody, at least my sub-Iowahawk powers thereof. For example (and try to just read it in a dispassionate manner, like a therapist, and not react to it emotionally; it hurts a patient's feelings if you laugh at them):
"One of the virtues of being on the liberal side of politics is that total obedience isn't required. There are no hidden agendas. Ideology doesn't lead to unreason.... Liberal politics is based on a non-regimented, all-inclusive approach to democracy. Freedom of thought is paramount.... For thirty years and more, the progressive tradition has been severely undermined, dating back to Nixon's 'Southern strategy' (coddle the racists) and Ronald Reagan's smiling reactionary agenda (AIDS victims deserve what they get), through the first President Bush's Willie Horton strategy (another boost for racism) and the second President Bush's deceptive 'compassionate conservatism.'"
There is so much wrong -- even evil, what with the casual vilification of good people with whom he has policy disagreements -- with this narrative, that it is pointless to correct it. The deeper -- and more unsettling -- issue is that he undoubtedly believes what he writes, and is therefore completely imprisoned in his delusional narrative. It doesn't necessarily mean that he is delusional per se, but rather, that he is delusional by proxy, or "stupid through another's head." In this sense, he is not even crazy, but can only borrow the crazy from others.
Are there Republicans who also end up trapped in their narrative? Of course. Which is why conservatives are such an annoyance to them.
And only a poor or very sloppy reader could confuse my own narrative with the conservative one. If they were identical, then I would undoubtedly have more readers than I do. It requires no effort on my part to write a red-meat post that attracts a great deal of conservative attention, but rarely do these visitors return after the next post.
Nor do I want them to return, because it is wearying to start with someone from the ground up, and dredge up long-ago settled arguments; it took me decades to get here, and I expect nothing less of others, to say nothing of the fact that my Here can be no one else's Here without becoming a there, or an experience once-removed, which is to say a non-experience.
In my narrative, politics is always placed in a cosmic context. It is not, and cannot be, any kind of free-standing enterprise without man taking a steep fall from his true station. We are "in" politics, but unlike the left, not "of" it.
Importantly, the latter is in no way intended to be inflammatory or polemical, since it is an axiom of the Marxian left that man has no essence and is determined by the dialectic (read: narrative) of class struggle. This worldview is hopelessly outdated, but it nevertheless structures most everything Obama sees and says about the world. Recall that the greatest spiritual influence in his life was the Reverend Wright, whose transparent Marxism can be readily seen under the veneer of subChristian kookery.
Back to where we were. Suffice it to say that it has come as something of a shock to see just how closely my narrative hews to the one expressed by such leading-edge Christian theologians as Balthasar, Wojtyla, and Ratzinger. Sometimes I wonder whether the three got together and conspired to get the Christian narrative back on track, but it is certainly different from anything I learned while growing up nominally Christian before rejecting the whole thing by the age of nine.
For example, on this page before me, Balthasar expresses the Raccoon doctrine that the emergence of Life represented nothing less than a cosmic revolution -- or a transformation fraught with cosmic implications and consequences. It is not merely some local aberration in an otherwise dead cosmos, the latter being a hopelessly naive and temporo-centric view.
It is naive because it assumes that the emergence of life "took a long time" or what have you, but what is time from the standpoint of eternity? From this vantage point, is not a day a lifetime and a lifetime but a single day? It is such a childish projection to assume that our profane sense of time has anything to do with Time as such.
Indeed, I assume that even the most diehard atheist has belightful moments when the atemporal breaks through and illuminates the temporal. For us, these are sort of the point, not some aberration that can be ignored and explained away.
To put it another way, we are not less in touch with reality during these unmapped moments of extreme seeking on the ungroomed slopes, but more. Our troll would undoubtedly reduce them to "brain waves" or some other such scientistic nonsense, but this only emphasizes how desperately a person will cling to his dysfunctional narrative for a host of underlying motivations too numerous to catalogue. It would be easy to assume just one -- e.g., fear, omniscience, superiority, contempt -- but the reasons are usually mixed, plus a combination of personal and impersonal (i.e., historo-cultural) factors.
Here Balthasar describes exactly the shocking ontological discontinuity to which we attempted to give voice on pp. 55 - 61 (givortake) of the bʘʘk:
"With the emergence of the animal world, the intimate character of being enters a new phase. Although insentient life suggested an overflowingly rich interiority, this inward dimension remained veiled to itself. In the animal, by contrast, this inner space begins to grow light, to become luminous and accessible to itself. The animal represents a completely new fact that radically changes the situation of epistemology: the object is now a subject. The revolution that this new fact brings with it is fraught with immense consequences" (Balthasar, emphasis mine).
What consequences? Well, for starters, we discover that we inhabit an irreducibly intersubjective cosmos, in which it is possible to "know what another knows," but not "to know as he knows it."
This applies with particular force to the animal world. Yes, we are animals, but can anyone even imagine what it would be like to be a fly, or a snake, or a dog, or Al Sharpton? What would it be like to live in a world in which one's primary contact is via the nose, or to communicate out of one's ass? And would the naso-centric animal understand Sharpton better than we do?
As Balthasar writes, "the world of sensory images is purely subjective and, as such, cannot be objectified." This is, of course, why there are no "brute facts" in the cosmos, and why it is so naive to insist otherwise.
Ack! Out of time. Narrative to be continued...