How Did I -- Of All Things -- Get Here?
Let's do this thing. Go!
About that comment yesterday to the effect that there is more difference between a man and a monkey than between a monkey and an inanimate object. I would go even further and say that there is sometimes more difference between men than between men and animals.
One needs to be cautious here, because by no means does it imply that every person isn't of infinite value. But I was thinking of JWN Sullivan's remark to the effect that -- musically speaking, of course -- there is a greater distance between Beethoven and the average man than between the average man and a dog.
There are indeed a handful of men who tower above the rest, whether saints, or scientists, or novelists, poets and painters. Why is this?
I believe that it is essentially a necessary consequence of the ontological category of "man," who contains within himself all the hierarchical degrees of being, and spans the entire cosmos in both space and time, vertically and horizontally.
That being the case... Put it this way: it is analogous to the biosphere, in which there are no gaps whatsoever.
In other words, wherever one goes on the planet, from the deepest depths of the ocean, to the north pole, to the hottest desert, to the wastelands of MSNBC, there is some form of primitive life that has found a way to adapt itself to environmental conditions. It has found its niche.
But there is also a vertical space uniquely inhabited by man. This space too is populated wherever one travels within it. Indeed, one can go to hell and back -- Dante proved this -- but one will always find footprints of our predecessors and/or contemporaries (and occasionally descendants from the "future").
Even if one regards "hell" as a metaphor of the Freudian unconscious, this dimension was well-traveled even before Freud came along. It's just that he demythologized it and attempted to fit it into a scientific/mechanistic paradigm. But that is impossible, for the same reason religion cannot be so contained.
In fact, religion as such bears upon the ultimate container, not the contained. To imagine that one could ever be the former is to 1) misunderstand religion, and 2) create a narcissistic monster. Science becomes scientism -- and evolution evolutionism and politics religion -- when it presumes to be a self-sufficient explanation.
Back to the Beethoven-man-dog thingy, the point is that vertical space is densely populated, with some people near the top, others closer to the bottom.
But man possesses such protean gifts, that almost everyone has something that places him near the top, even if it is only -- only! -- kindness, or mothering, or decency, or sincerity. For example, although Beethoven was in the stratosphere musically, his interpersonal skills were evidently closer to a junkyard dog.
More generally, saints are not usually sages, scientists are not philosophers, celebrities are not political scientists, community organizers are not statesmen, etc.
Interesting, however, that someone like Thomas Aquinas was indeed both saint and sage, and at the highest levels. In his case, this convergence was necessary, because there is a kind of personal purity needed to disclose the realities he touches upon.
I think I have mentioned in the past that the ultimate question motivating my book was: how is it that I am possible? And I don't necessarily mean that in any special way, rather, just the naked fact of the most unexpected thing one could possibly imagine in a cosmos.
It turns out that in order to answer the question, you can't just say, for example, "my parents just happened to stumble upon one another, and you know the rest."
Yes there's that, but there's also cosmology, history, anthropology, linguistics, etc., etc., etc. It turns out that Purcell is motivated by that same question -- the very Question that defines man:
"What led me back to philosophy from psychology was a sense that, as a human being, I myself wasn't really, at least not exclusively, 'an object,' the kind of a thing a science could wholly encompass [read: contain] and explain."
Rather, "I realized I'm something other than a world-immanent thing -- a subject -- and that there's an inexhaustibility to the within-ness that marks me out as a human being as distinct from a galaxy, an ecosystem, or an animal."
Same here. In my case, I-
STOP! Please lay down your pencil, return to time, and prepare for work.