The Story of the Cosmos in Three Words
Against what? That's just it. We don't know what. Being that we're surrounded by It on all sides, it's surprising more people don't go nuts. However, there are actually many more nuts than one might suppose, once one realizes that much of what comes under the heading of "culture" -- and of human activity in general -- is just a giant defense against It. It is what happens while we're busy making other plans.
In last Friday's post, we were discussing how our natural reason is able to lead us to the threshold of the Creator, but no further (except perhaps in a very general sense). As Balthasar writes, the created mind may only come up against "the brink of the unfathomable mystery of the Creator's inmost essence." It is analogous to a vast mansion that we can see from the outside, but cannot enter.
And when we say "vast," that is putting it mildly, to put it it mildly. What we mean is that "vast" is a word we use to describe terrestrial space. It can only be a pale analogy as applied to the Creator, since he is "beyond vast," so to speak. Not only that, but it is a qualitatively different kind of space, in the same way that the "space" of the unconscious mind isn't really analogous to a big bag full of stuff.
In one sense, the cosmos may be thought of as a kind of "exteriorization" of the Creator's interior (bearing in mind that it by no means exhausts his interior, any more than a single work of art exhausts and completely discloses the genuine artist; God is not a "one-hit wonder").
As such, this big bong has an intrinsic "inside-outedness" which represents its intelligibility, precisely. To know something about anything is to understand something of its interior essence, which again proceeds in the direction of Interior --> exterior --> interior.
This intrinsic interiority is also the irreducible source of mystery in the cosmos. Getting back to the question posed in the second paragraph above -- what is It? -- It is ultimately this di-polar, complementary mystery of interiority, with us at one end and God at the ether end.
However, this way of putting it is not mysterious enough for us. That is why we would prefer to further unsaturate it, and just say O <---> (¶). (See bʘʘk for additional self-tautologies.)
In an apocryphal story, Hemingway once bet someone that he could write a compelling short story in under ten words: "For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn."
Well, I bet I can symbolize the longest story ever told in under five symbols. Everything worth saying -- i.e., everything that is real, true, and efficacious -- is necessarily an instance of O <---> (¶). What about all that stuff that's not worth saying, knowing, learning, or repeating? That would be Ø <---> (-k).
Now, "because of this interiority, there are no naked facts" (Balthasar). I mean, right? It is amazing that this still needs to be said in the 21st century, but our detractors are always innocently coming at us with "facts," as if there is some fact somewhere that speaks for itself, with no mediation by a subject.
While we appreciate facts as much as the next guy, if there were such a thing as Naked Facts, they would be "exhaustively defined by their facticity; they would give no hint of any relation to a deeper meaning underlying them; they would have no 'significance' but their superficial meaning; because of their pure, flat factuality, they would be comprehensible in a single glance as independent, detachable units" (ibid.).
I remember having this conversation with a 20th century relative. I was trying to introduce him to the wonderful world of brilliant bloggers, but he insisted that he wanted his facts straight and unadorned by any agenda, as in the New York Times. To which I drew myself to my full height, looked him straight in the eye, and said: oh, never mind.
For where could one possibly even begin? Such a person is no longer up against It, but only up against a severely constrained imaginal world excreted by others: a pre-cogitated delusion, or second hand smoke blown up one's behind.
It reminds one of climate change models. When the climate changes in such a way that it doesn't conform to the models, instead of changing models, they attack the messenger. Everyone talks about the weather, but they finally do something about it: they politicize it. Indeed, "planetary temperature" is the perfect example of a "fact" that takes on vastly different meanings, depending upon the timeline one chooses. For example, where I live, if the temperature continues rising at the same rate it has the last hour, it will be 130˚ by midnight.
It is a fact that before we talk about this or that fact, we must account for the mysterious presence of facts-as-such.
For what is a fact? Whatever else it is, it assumes a cosmos in which "every being, every event, has significance, is laden with meaning, and is an expression and a sign pointing to something else" (emphasis mine). In short, we live in a cosmos in which everything is a symbol, which is exactly what we would expect to see in a logocentric reality. For the world is not made of atoms, or quantum waves, or of Whitheadian processes.
Rather, it is made of language: In the beginning is the Word. Or, in the words of Robert Wright, "In the beginning was, if not a word, at least a sequence of encoded information of some sort." But let's not quibble. It is the Word, which is intelligible because spoken, and vice versa.
So, to revert again to our opening question, human beings are always up against the mysterious Word. And this is true whether one is a Believer or a mere believer, because in either case, one must have faith that this Word discloses the Truth of things.
Come now. It is no less queer to suppose that this mysterious Word only conveys the truth of exteriors, because one still needs to account for the interior who comprehends them, which should -- if one thinks it through -- lead back to our little short story, O <---> (¶).
The crucial insight that springs organically from our discovery of the intimacy of being, then, is that the signifier can neither be perfectly united with nor truly separated from the signified. --Balthasar
(And in our opinion, this is because the world is irreducibly trinitarian, so that no fewer than three symbols are required to map and tell the story of its three coequal storeys, so to speak.)