Monday, April 09, 2012

Journey to the Center of the Person

To review: there is more difference between man and ape than ape and planet, being that when cosmic evolution crosses the threshold of Man, it enters a vast and inexhaustible Within that might as well represent a second cosmos. And yet, there can be only One.

This second cosmos is somehow "within" the existing one, and yet, transcendent of it. Thus, in his own way, man has a similar relationship to the cosmos as does God, i.e., both immanent and transcendent. Which is what it means to be a mirrorcle of the absolute, i.e., microcosmos, and why nothing short of the absolute quenches man's innate thirst for absoluteness.

As Schuon writes, "One of the keys to understanding our true nature and ultimate destiny is the fact that the things of this world are never proportionate to the actual range of our intelligence. Our intelligence is made for the Absolute, or else it is nothing."

Now this vast and protean cosmic interior is bound up with the universal Quest. Obviously no material object embarks upon a quest to discover its origins and destiny, nor does a dog give a hoot about where it came from so long as it is fed, watered, and walked. And yet, if one is a strict materialist, man's quest would have to be considered utterly quixotic and as doomed from the start as that of any other dog.

Yes, a houndfool of auto-condemned souls conclude that human existence is absurd, and leave it at that (even fewer can actually consistently live in such a desiccated fantasy world without constantly barking at the ghosts they deny). But man is not built this way, and it goes against human nature to imagine and project an absurd cosmos. Rather, meaning is everywhere and at every level of existence.

That being the case, it shouldn't be a surprise that existence is ultimately meaningful. Indeed, to say that meaning is everywhere except in the whole is analogous to affirming that every part of an object is white, but that the object itself is black, like Obama.

So everyone has a story, a story that confers meaning upon the person who tells it. And if this story gets you through the night, hey, who are we to argue? Just don't try to impose your father's gin-soaked dreams on the rest of us, okay?

Purcell's From Big Bang to Big Mystery is his own story, his own attempt to situate himself within our 13.85 billion year cosmodrama. As it so happens, this is impossible to do without recourse to thousands of other cosmodramas.

In fact, this is one of the most baleful effects of living in any kind of totalitarian regime: that only one drama is permitted, e.g., the drama of Darwinism, or of scientism, or of Marxism, or of White Oppression. Yes, you are "free" to discover your life's meaning, so long as it is approved by the state and doesn't cramp its lebensraum.

"Mass education" is a key to facilitating the kind of concentrated power lusted after by the left, for if everyone thinks the same way -- lives in the same narrative bubble -- this makes their job a lot easier. "Thought," such as it is, runs in only one direction, converging upon the almighty state. There is a reason why so many of the wealthiest zip codes in the land encircle D.C.

Conversely, a liberal education is anathema to the state-media narrative of the left, because people might discover a meaning that clashes with state interests. Thus, for the state to "allow" school vouchers is as likely as the IRS operating on the honor system. Without coercion -- whether intellectual or economic -- there is no left. One cannot claim to be "against bullying" while sending money to the DNC.

One of the keys to life is discovering the useful narratives. One might even say that this is the ultimate purpose of an education. How can it be that one can complete thirteen or seventeen or nineteen or twenty-four years of education without having encountered a multitude of these? That was me: after twenty-four years of schooling and one Ph.D., I was pretty much just starting out. But at least they put me on the dayshift.

Purcell writes that as he embarked upon his quest to explore the inner dimension of the cosmos (i.e., humanness), he discovered "a thousand and one mirror quests" in "the multiplicity and variety of quests of other individuals and cultures" down through the ages.

What this means is that, as we set out on our quest, our primary data is not the world per se. In other words, none of us starts from scratch. At the very least we are given a language, a culture, a tradition, a particular family, etc. But for the person who wants to go beyond the given, our data includes the "quests" of a multitude of others, separated in time and space by hundreds of years and thousands of miles. Man is a temporal mountain range containing many peeks behind the veil.

This is a key point raised by Chesterton in his Orthodoxy. That is, mankind is one, not just in space but in time. By no means are we permitted to consider the dead as mere links to us -- as if their only purpose was to serve as stepping stones to something better. If one is an evolutionist, that is the inescapable conclusion: nothing simply "is," but is always on the way to something else. Including the evolutionist.

But just as it is immoral to treat a living person as a means and not an end, treating past generations as means robs them of their dignity as persons: "If we don't respect those who have gone before us, who will respect us when we are gone?" This is why no one in the future will respect, say, Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris. They will be tossed on the same rubbish heap as the persons they denigrated and disrespected in life. Except those folks won't be there. D'oh! What dreadful company.

For Purcell, "meditative re-enactment of the expressions of the quests of others, animates our existence with a heightened sense of the worth of human existence -- our own and others -- and grounds a sense of human family that is universal across space and time." Another word for this is tradition, which is essentially the temporal prolongation and iteration of an essential truth.

15 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

What this means is that, as we set out on our quest, our primary data is not the world per se. In other words, none of us starts from scratch. At the very least we are given a language, a culture, a tradition, a particular family, etc. But for the person who wants to go beyond the given, our data includes the "quests" of a multitude of others, separated in time and space by hundreds of years and thousands of miles. Man is a temporal mountain range containing many peaks.

Lots of resonance in this post. I'm reminded of so many bits of commentary I've read in the past few weeks, it would be hard to know where to begin linking. One thing that is becoming increasingly clear, though, is that as successive generations are blinded to the validity of our past culture and traditions (given only long lists of the sins of the fathers, as it were), the more imperative - and the more difficult - it becomes for individuals to transcend themselves: to go beyond the constraints of biology and impoverished circumstance, and learn once again the truths we are admonished by those in power to forget.

It seems a more Sisyphean task with each passing day.

Yesterday was Easter Sunday, but frankly it still feels as though we are caught in that long, dark Saturday instead.

4/09/2012 09:22:00 AM  
Blogger walt said...

Well, yeah:

One of the keys to life is discovering the useful narratives.

It takes some shopping before one finds the proper fit/look/feel.

"...meditative re-enactment of the expressions of the quests of others, animates our existence with a heightened sense of the worth of human existence..."

Sheesh: synthesized here, so often. Thanks!

4/09/2012 09:58:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

I read a story recently about the burial site of a guy who was out of his cultural element and brought really rudimentary metalworking to a tribe somewhere in stone ageish Europeland. He was probably kicked out of his tribe or exiled or something. Maybe he just got bored and wandered off. But his people had basic metalworking skills.

I thought "you know, it would have been really cool to be that guy" once he figured out "hey, I can make metal things and these people can't. I'm so golden, here! Winning!"

The tribe really revered him and buried him with like a bajillion trinkets because, let's face it, life is *much* easier if you can make metal arrrowheads. They are a great time saving device, both more durable and more effective than stone.

He was an ancient provider of (material) Slack.

4/09/2012 10:17:00 AM  
Blogger Cond0010 said...

"Another word for this is tradition, which is essentially the temporal prolongation and iteration of an essential truth. " (Bob)

"One thing that is becoming increasingly clear, though, is that as successive generations are blinded to the validity of our past culture and traditions" (Julie)

Huh... funny that you both wouldmention this as I was thinking about this for the last few weeks also.

Tradition, essential truths, past culture... and core truths.

One thing that has been bothering me of late is the term 'The Great Forgetting' which is the mechanism for a culture to collectively forget valuable experiences. Now, I understand that there are a certain amount of experiences that can be stuffed into the heads of the next generation before the history lesson becomes a 24/7 affair (and boring and 'unecessary', but I digress). After thinking about this for a bit, I came across a word that fits real nice:

Core principles.

You see, when I was a kid, I simply looooooved mathematics. Not for the love of math, per se, but because it was so easy. How?

Core prinicples.

I would look at the mathematical formula, think about how it worked. Took it apart. Mixed and matched it with other mathematical concepts until I could invent my 'own' mathematical formulas from the original and then proceeded to ignore any other redundant formulas that were put on the chalkboard as they were considered redundant and unnecessary by me (why clutter up my memory with minutae, when i can think about gurls, and video games and far more important stuff). The next morning, 5 minutes before it was due, I would write all the answers to the hojmework and hand it in.

Core Principles.

The same goes for the Metaphysical. If you really 'get' the core principles (that which are eternal - or classical - ideas that do not change from epoch to epoch), many, many issues can be resolved quite easily and 'The Great Forgetting' is no longer a problem as you can (through some spiritual effort) whip up the appropriate 'formula' to resolve the issue in your own heart.

The trouble is that the Core Principles that made our civilization great is under attack: The powers that be want us dependent upon them and to be shaped and molded at their whim (cattle fit for merely hay, barn and 'consumption'). Without our core Principles (Universal Truths) to guide us, our 'formulas' no longer work. We can no longer solve issues on hte fly and must resort to massive amounts of memorization and poring over dusty history books to see how it was done in times past. When the last vestige of our core principles go down the memory hole, then, truly will we be dependent and enslaved - But most importantly: enslaved to THEM in our minds and unable to break free because we no longer have the ability to know how.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8zNsUTWsOc

4/09/2012 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger Cond0010 said...

"Without our core Principles (Universal Truths) to guide us, our 'formulas' no longer work."

Perhaps this is why the Left is so dead-wrong on sooo many things.

4/09/2012 10:43:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Cond0010 - what you refer to as ' core principles' is what was once referred to as an Education. That has been outlawed. Please report to your nearest govt indoctrination depot (aka school) for a firmware update. Now.

4/09/2012 12:31:00 PM  
Blogger Cond0010 said...

...and get my tattoo:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtI1MtMVrco

Too bad 'Not sure' has been taken as a name...

4/09/2012 12:37:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Cond0010, Isaac Asimov wrote of the dangers that would add up if people began to again learn the principles of mathematics 'The Feeling of Power'. Scary stuff. So please, no more talk about 'core principles', people must be taught that their accumulation of separate skills and answers are the only means to advancement - how else can they be controlled, but through their access to such info?

Very, very dangerous ideas you got there. Never fear, Arne Duncan has proposed 'Common Core Curriculum', and just as 'Human Rights' enabled us to wipe out the concept of Property Rights and so Rights altogether, this will enable us to finally wipe out the concept of principles, core or otherwise.

So pipe down. We have your IP Address. We're coming for you. Stay put. And stop clicking that.

4/09/2012 12:49:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Cond - I love that movie. Although, it's looking less and less like fiction, and more and more like prophecy...

4/09/2012 12:49:00 PM  
Blogger Cond0010 said...

Ha ha!!! you can't find me!

I'm just using one of many, many terminals here at the University on Trantor!

Rats... out of time. Gotta go get some painting done. :(

(The Asimov short Story looks good, Van. I'll finish it later. Thanks!)

@Julie. Yea. Prophecy, indeed.

4/09/2012 01:07:00 PM  
Blogger John Lien said...

"That is, mankind is one, not just in space but in time."

That's a big statement. Have we stopped evolving since the cosmic software upgrade that made us human?

I need to contemplate that. I was always assuming the ol' "brain in a jar" scenario circa 100,000 AD.

4/09/2012 02:38:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

... analogous to affirming that every part of an object is white, but that the object itself is black, like Obama ...

Careful, now, you'll wind up derbyshired. The truth is too scary for nightmare riders.

4/09/2012 02:38:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Derb's error was in not making it humorous but scary, or in not making the scary humorous, as does, say, Chris Rock.

4/09/2012 02:40:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

That, and of course Derbyshire was the wrong color to make those observations.

4/09/2012 02:41:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

In fact, this is one of the most baleful effects of living in any kind of totalitarian regime: that only one drama is permitted, e.g., the drama of Darwinism, or of scientism, or of Marxism, or of White Oppression. Yes, you are "free" to discover your life's meaning, so long as it is approved by the state and doesn't cramp its lebensraum.

I have to quit or I'll be copying the whole post. Yet another powerful insight.

4/09/2012 02:42:00 PM  

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