Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Miraculous Journey to the Heart of the Living Cosmos

It seems to me that what we call modern or postmodern thought doesn't actually eliminate the miraculous, but just kicks it down the road; or rather, just paves the road over it.

Looked at another way, this form of thought conceals an unthinkable anti-thought that restricts our view of reality, such that the miraculous is consigned to the black of beyond. You know, sweeps it under the rug that can never pull the room together. Whistles past the graveyard of unexamined ideas. Or puts its hands over its ears and sings LALALALALALALALALALA!

Again, as well-cosmoed students of reality know by now, there are no less than four miracles that cannot be eliminated (but actually many more). At the very least there is existence; there is life; there is subjectivity, and all this implies; and there is salvation.

But there's also love, truth, intelligence, beauty, and science, which iterate in so many directions: music, painting, poetry, faith, virtue, nobility, selflessness, progress; miracles of sound, rhythm, and color; or the sheer miracle of the present, which is to say, conscious awareness, or being-for-itself, the providential loophole in creation, the ultimate guffah-HA! experience.

And being-for-itself doesn't even properly exist, for it is always being-in-relation, which might be the rock-bottom miracle of them all.

Or, to quote W. Norris Clarke, to be is to be substance-in-relation. Behind or within the I AM is always the WE ARE. Being is always twogather in threeness, which is why you need to take existence personally.

mir•a•cle \ [ME. fr, L miraculum, fr. mirari, to wonder at -- more at SMILE]

Yesterday we spoke of scotomas and scotosis, i.e., scientistic holes in the whole of reality, which render it less than wholesome, which is to say, healthy. The failure to appreciate the irredcible WE of the subjective horizon would have to constitute the most conspicuous hole in the materialist metaphysic.

Indeed, even if you disagree with me, you need someone with whom to disagree, AKA ME. I know. Ironic.

Clarke writes of "the experience, without which none of us could be truly human, of knowing other human beings as equally real with ourselves....

"This experience can be condensed as follows: I know that we are, that we are like each other, that we can engage in meaningful communication with each other." In short, subjectivity is always intersubjectivity, so that in a way, love is simply the radical ratification of being. Or in other words, it is good!

And please note that the existence of this WE could never be known unless first lived. To live outside the WE is no more conceivable for us than trying to imagine the consciousness of a reptile, or an MSNBC host. One might say that autism is a failure of the WE, genuine love its crowning achievement.

Reminds us of the old joke about the I asking for directions to the WE: the smiling O-timer responds with a knowing wink, you can't get there from here.

Not that it matters in terms of the truth which cannot not be, but it is interesting that science is catching up with the trinitarian nature of a cosmos that is substance-in-relation, or "self-communicating active presence."

This is laid out in a recent book called Mimesis and Science: Empirical Research on Imitation and the Mimetic Theory of Culture and Religion. I don't know that I can recommend it, since it doesn't affirm anything that isn't covered in our bʘʘk in a much more thoroughly silly manner.

The scientific upshot is that the primordial we of the mother-infant dyad is gateway hug to "more complex social, cultural, and representational abilities." Not I think, therefore I am, but we are, therefore I am, and can think about it to boot!

Speaking of miracles, of the self-expression of being, and of the cosmic journey, yesterday I read a fascinating article in the latest National Review about a contemporary American composer and pianist named Michael Hersch. You'll want to read the whole thing, but here is a man who seems very much in awe of the miraculous gift he has been given:

"He sits down to play his massive and monumental piano work The Vanishing Pavilions.... It is apocalyptic, visionary, and staggering. And it takes approximately two and a half hours to play. Hersch does not play it all, in this pre‑concert concert. He plays excerpts, a little suite. And he plays it with his prodigious technique, one that draws gasps. Apparently, his fingers can do whatever his brain commands."

He was not a child prodigy, and didn't discover his gift until the late age (for classical music) of 18, at which time it was somehow waiting there, not only fully formed but unspoiled by the kind of drudgery that might have been imposed by more agenda-driven, or less child-centered, parents:

“I didn’t look at it as, ‘I have so much to catch up on.’ People sometimes say, ‘You started so late, it must have been daunting.’ But I wasn’t thinking in terms of chronology or lost years. I was just overjoyed at my luck. I had found this world, and I had it all to explore.”

'His parents, he says, have "caught a lot of flak from people who think, ‘What if he had started at four or five?’ Well, maybe I would have burned out.”

Remarkably, he doesn't have to practice in order to play even the most difficult pieces, nor does he "struggle to compose, but he does need time. He cannot be rushed. He works on a piece in his head until it’s ready. Then he writes it down, with no revision. It took almost a year to write down The Vanishing Pavilions, which runs more than 300 pages."

Hersch speaks of how "the music is lying dormant, waiting for you. You can activate it anytime, simply by engaging with it”; and of how "it just anguishes me that there are so many people out there, possibly, who could have been like me, or are like me, who weren’t fortunate enough to have a brother who would say, ‘You need to sit down and listen to Beethoven.’ What about all the people who are just as talented as I am, or more talented, and didn’t have the opportunity?”

Now, there's a guy who isn't wasting his shot at a miraculous journey to the heart of the cosmos.


Blogger JP said...

"'His parents, he says, have "caught a lot of flak from people who think, ‘What if he had started at four or five?’ Well, maybe I would have burned out.”"

There's nothing quite like people who Miss The Point.

5/30/2012 09:09:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Hersch discovered, as geniuses will, that he somehow already knew what he was doing.

I think that's my favorite quote.

What hits me about this post is that we are just not what we usually think we are. We are very close -- frighteningly close, for me anyway, to being what we often think of as gods. I am not sure why that scares me, but it does. I hope there is a little wisdom in the fear of gods as well.

5/30/2012 09:24:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I remember a lyric from a Dead Can Dance song I heard yesterday: we are a bridge for the spirits to pass over.

5/30/2012 09:27:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

That's good.

5/30/2012 10:04:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

"What hits me about this post is that we are just not what we usually think we are. We are very close -- frighteningly close, for me anyway, to being what we often think of as gods. I am not sure why that scares me, but it does. I hope there is a little wisdom in the fear of gods as well."

I'm more concerned that I'm a non-omnipotent, non-omniscient immortal than a god.

And apparently, I have a Purpose, which I apparently want to accomplish regardless of what I think about the matter.

And it's not like I can get away from myself. Wherever I go, there I am.

5/30/2012 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Here's one to ponder: they say that our DNA isn't substantially different than that of man from 100,000 years ago. This leads to the obvious question: why would a man from 100,000 years ago be born knowing how to play piano?

5/30/2012 10:39:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

... non-omnipotent, non-omniscient immortal ...

And how is that different than, say, Thor?

5/30/2012 10:43:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

"... non-omnipotent, non-omniscient immortal ...

And how is that different than, say, Thor?"

Thor is a fictional character.

5/30/2012 10:51:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

We also share 99% of our DNA with mice. Out of 30,000 genes only 300 are not common to both species.

There will be a Wolfgang Amadeus Mouse any day now.

5/30/2012 10:52:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

OK, then, during the Incarnation, Jesus limited Himself to human form, did not know all things -- by His own statements -- past, present, and future, and did not have all power. Though He clearly had access to a whole lot of power, He did not claim it as His own possession.

5/30/2012 10:56:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Re mouse-art, that's the thing about natural selection. If you're honest about it, you have to say that there are no lines in the biosphere, just DNA doing all these wild & crazy things like eating cheese and composing music.

5/30/2012 10:59:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...


Just reading something similar about Jesus the other day in a book by Schuon:

"Christ as living God could not help showing in his humanity the supernatural prerogatives which it would be in vain to seek to enumerate, but inasmuch as he was incontestably man, he was bound to have certain limits; this is proved by the incident of the fig tree whose sterility he did not discern from afar."

5/30/2012 11:03:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

You know, DNA is a really weird place to decide to focus on to the exclusion of everything else.

I mean, massive strings of molecules.

It's a weird kind of arbitrary point to pick.

5/30/2012 11:05:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Schuon puts it well, Kenosis of the Logos and all that.

It's also noteworthy that we are called "sons of God" repeatedly in Paul's epistles, e.g., Galatian 3:26 -- for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.

5/30/2012 11:22:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

and all the music ever created weighs not a gram!

5/30/2012 12:13:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Unless you add Wagner.

5/30/2012 12:16:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

Is like suggesting we can know everything about the car, and whether its driver plays the piano or not, from the model number printed on the tires.
The model number is completely necessary, and necessary in its en(tire)ty, but what we know of it doesn't define everything. Not nearly.
Maybe we should be more surprised that we don't share 100% of our DNA "code" with mice (since I don't believe there is any difference in our chemistry, molecules, atoms...).
I think we use the word DNA as a container. And there is much more in that container in terms of quality than can be contained. There is no border to what we think we are containing with the word DNA.

5/30/2012 12:41:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

In other words, perhaps what we think of as the DNA code actually "rides on top of" a much larger and more complex code.

5/30/2012 12:50:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

There are some thought provoking ideas in this piece which begins with a group of critical letters writen in response to David Berlinski's article in Commentary magazine titled "The Deniable Darwin". Berlinski begins his lengthy response (that's the thought provoking part) about 60% of the way in. Scroll down until you reach the section "DAVID BERLINSKI:" in bold:

Letters from Readers

5/30/2012 12:59:00 PM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

"I have said: You are gods, you are all sons of the Most High." (Psalm 82:6)
So far, so good.
"Yet like humans you shall die, like one of the princes you shall fall."
Evidently, being a god is not good enough. I guess gods aren't what they used to be. Thank God for that!

5/30/2012 01:08:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

Wagner... ah, Parsifal!
his esoteric Christian swan song
glows from mysterious lugubrious sapiential within

5/30/2012 01:39:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Yet like humans you shall die, like one of the princes you shall fall.

And then --
For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.
(I Corinthians 15:53)

Now, death where is your sting, and grave where is your victory?

5/30/2012 02:02:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...

I'm still going with the theory that man is the point of evolution in the first place.

Anyhow, I'm going with the equation:

Properly Sized Rocky Planet In Star's Habitable Zone + Enough Time = Man

And I'm pretty sure that this arises specifically because of what the specific geometry of space-time.

I just need some other planets to study.

I will refine it as needed when more data arises. But it *is* a testable hypothesis.

After all, I'm a cosmologist at heart.

5/30/2012 02:42:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Gagdad said "This leads to the obvious question: why would a man from 100,000 years ago be born knowing how to play piano?"


The wonders of Object Oriented Programming - doesn't matter which object a particular subject grasps Truth through... it'll sing!

5/30/2012 09:40:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

(Now if I could just get my hands on that Ompiler)

5/30/2012 09:41:00 PM  

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