Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Passion For Eternity

People feel no need to reason about things to which they are insensate -- which do not move them in some way prior to reasoning about them.

In one of his snippy moods -- like Jefferson, he was intellectually labile -- Wittgenstein said "whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent." But different people are qualified to speak of different things, based upon their sensitivity to them.

This is what Giussani means by genius, which refers to the "knack" we have for certain subjects. Genius "needs only a clue to intuit the solution to the problem, while everyone else has to work laboriously through every step."

So we should declare -- for example, to the loudmouthed atheist -- "whereof you cannot speak, you should really just shutup. Believe it or not, no living person cares about what you haven't experienced, nor about the limits of your sensibilities."

There are a multitude of things about which I express no opinion, because it's none of my isness. It takes all kinds to make a cosmos, and we are all built to respond to different frequencies and vibrations.

One of the great tragedies in life is never discovering the Thing that speaks to us in this cosmically intimate way -- that for which we are gifted. But my thing isn't necessarily anyone else's thing. Here you no doubt detect the strands of my neohippie DNA: do your own thing, which is to say, become who you are, an individual.

The educational establishment, the media, the state -- the purpose of each is to drive a wedge between you and your Thing, because it is impossible to control 300 million individuals. It's much easier if everyone is the same, or is at least easily sorted into racial, sexual, and socioeconomic categories.

This is why it's so much easier for a Democrat to design a campaign. For the left, if you're black, or female, or hispanic, that's all you are, so that's all they need to know about you. "Your skin color, your failure to master english, your naughty bits, that's your Thing. And we respect that."

Importantly, this gift we have for intuiting an aspect of reality in a flash is not "unreasonable." The genius of which Giussani speaks bypasses linear reasoning and cannot necessarily articulate the steps it took to reach a conclusion. It sees the totality in an instant, and is thereby transrational, not irrational.

Yesterday we spoke of the space that opens out between human energy and a presence. This human energy is what we call the soul, while the presence can be anything from physical sensations, to interpersonal cues, to humor and wit, to aesthetic sensibility, to religious insights (and much more besides).

"[S]omething always has an impact on the individual's sphere of experience." The presence from whatever dimension "penetrates one's personal experience," which creates a certain creative response in us (I won't say "reaction," because that is too mechanical).

Now, different presences are of different magnitudes. I'm thinking, for example, of the first time I "fell in love" -- or whatever it was. The point is, whatever it was, it was an incredibly powerful presence.

Really, it was like being inundated in an emotional runaround tsunami. I was clearly in the presence of this Other, and yet, how could this Other be anything other than me? (I'm not referring here to the other person, but the Other state of being into which I found myself plunged.)

Now, the same thing routinely occurs with regard to the spiritual dimension. That is to say, we respond to the presence of this ultimate Other with a jarring (?!) or sacred WTF. We then give it a name -- God, for example -- but just like the teenage experience alluded to above, it takes two to Tonga -- in this case, the simultaneous presence of the Presence and of the Religious Sense.

I might add that to be repelled by religion is equally a state of the soul, except a reactionary one. It is always a secondary, not primary, experience. If they just cut out the middle man, they could be religious, like everyone else.

We are all familiar with Blake's wise crack about seeing God in a grain of sand or some blades of grass we'd like to buy from him. "Depending upon the measure of the individual's human vivacity, anything whatsoever that enters his personal horizon... moves him, touches him, provokes a reaction."

What is especially shocking is how specific the feeling can be. I would guess that english words haven't yet been invented for most of these -- for example, l'esprit d'escalier.

I'm just free associating here, as usual, but it occurs to me that a Christian would posit Jesus as having possessed the maximum "human energy" alluded to above. If we are correct, then he should reflect a maximum degree of sensitivity to every degree and dimension of existence. In any event, it's good to have an ideal, an archetype to shoot for -- if not Jesus, then at least someone more alive than you.

In contrast to Jesus, "If someone has a narrow mind and a small, mean heart, he will find much less value in the world around him than a person who has a great soul, who is vivacious." These people are boring in the extreme.

The reason they are boring is that they are less "alive." That is to say, aliveness is precisely this openness to everything. Therefore, when Jesus speaks of a more abundant life, I'm pretty sure this is what he's talking about.

An equivalent word would be passion -- or let us say "passionate engagement," to distinguish it from mere ungoverned life force.

As Giussani writes, "the more nature arouses my interest in something, the more it makes me curious, gives me the need and passion to know that thing.... Indeed, as soon as nature endows me with an interest in an object, it conditions my capacity to know it by the feeling that is produced." To love it is to know it (although the knowledge will increase as a result of the passionate engagement).

To summarize the nub of the gist of the upshot of the bottom line of the whole existentialada: "if a certain thing does not interest me, then I do not look at it; if I do not look at it, then I cannot know it. In order to know it, I need to give my attention to it."

So "the centre of the problem is really a proper position of the heart, a correct attitude, a feeling in its place, a morality."

And let the dead bury the tenured.

31 Comments:

Blogger David J Quackenbush said...

As Giussani writes, "the more nature arouses my interest in something, the more it makes me curious, gives me the need and passion to know that thing.... Indeed, as soon as nature endows me with an interest in an object, it conditions my capacity to know it by the feeling that is produced." To love it is to know it (although the knowledge will increase as a result of the passionate engagement).

One of the most fruitful things I have learned from Giussani is the value of his interest in human desire. He never tells us to stop desiring this thing, and desire that other thinginstead. He always shows intense interest in what anyone wants, and invites him to follow his desire in wonder, asking what it means. He has shown me, just a little bit, what an amazing and powerful thing it is to ask anyone -- myself, or other people -- "Wow, why do you want that? How interesting! Tell me more!"

Giussani trusts that when reality moves us to desire something, it knows what it is doing.

12/13/2012 09:20:00 AM  
Blogger David J Quackenbush said...

In any event, it's good to have an ideal, an archetype to shoot for -- if not Jesus, then at least someone more alive than you.

So, for me, he (and Jesus seen through him) is an archetype to shoot for in his interest in human desire -- he loves human desire, and is accordingly very patient with it. And so, it seems to me, he knows desire very, very well, and can show me what it means, what it is really seeking.

12/13/2012 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Holy robin' Bobman!

We dreamed the same dream last night.

I haven't been reading along on the Giussani book, I'm still making my way through Sheed's "Sanity".

Yet, we are still on the same page.

12/13/2012 09:48:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

There was a remarkable amount of uberlap between those two books. Weird.

12/13/2012 09:49:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Speaking on "eternity" and other words that can't contain the thing they refer to. I searched me digital Bibles for the word just to be sure. Eternal is used, but I think mostly as "what is to come" or what a person may come to...
Infinite and infinity are not used (that I can find) similar, perhaps, to the same reason that "Trinity" is not.

In at least three areas of the Bible, God or Jesus do some things that seem to indicate that either person does not know what will happen or did not know for certain. Jesus more so. I bring it up because Sheed describes God as being infinite in every way, direction, etc. Obviously, Sheed is not the only one. But this seems to be a different sort of mystery (paradox) than say the Trinity (which, incidentally, I'm sufficiently satisfied with how I understand it.)

Any thoughts on this Infinity Isness, Bob?

12/13/2012 10:02:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Importantly, this gift we have for intuiting an aspect of reality in a flash is not "unreasonable." The genius of which Giussani speaks bypasses linear reasoning and cannot necessarily articulate the steps it took to reach a conclusion. It sees the totality in an instant, and is thereby transrational, not irrational.

I'm reminded once again of Whitehead's tacit knowledge.

David - I would agree, and yet can't help feeling a touch of wariness inasmuch as it is possible - in fact, so very common - for people to love and/ or desire the wrong things. For instance, I have no desire to find out what interests a Lena Dunham (or any member of her revolting family, for that matter), and asking her to "tell me more" is like asking to be mired in a festering bog.

In other words, it is important to have a sense that the desire is inspired by reality, lest one get caught up in someone else's psychodrama...

12/13/2012 10:18:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

One of the great tragedies in life is never discovering the Thing that speaks to us in this cosmically intimate way -- that for which we are gifted.

Kind of makes me wonder if some are not passing through this world gifted for another one. But, yes, most of us could find the Thing if we will seek it.

12/13/2012 10:29:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

As the rabbis say, at the very least, each of us carries the missing part of someone else.

12/13/2012 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Rick

If Jesus is the infinite become finite, then that itself will produce great mysteries, including to his own finite nature. If he couldn't be surprised, he wouldn't be one of us.

12/13/2012 10:36:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Also, I like to think that God can be surprised, even though this would superficially seem to contradict omniscience. I think of a kind of Godhead <--> God complementarity that is analogous to the conscious <--> unconscious complementarity in man (or, we are analogous to it). At least it helps me think the unthinkable.

12/13/2012 10:39:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Or better yet Dreamer and Dream. Our dreams are full of surprises, even though we author them.

12/13/2012 10:40:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Or Other them, I guess...

12/13/2012 10:40:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Perhaps I'm wrong, but it seems to me if God couldn't be surprised, humor would be impossible.

12/13/2012 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger David J Quackenbush said...

Julie, yes, right! I think that's why Giussani's example is so powerful for me. I might start off with high ambition to "go down" and rescue someone from their desire swamp, by pointing them to a better object. But it rapidly happens that the festering is just too powerful, and I can't see how the particular yucky scent they are following is really a sign of the real good. So, I think, I just give up on them and get out of the swamp, back to dry ground of more clearly true and good desires.

Sometimes, no doubt, everyone but Jesus enters swamps he just has to let fester. But I think that I, in fact, tend much too often to let that possibility encourage in me an impatience to really accompany other people in the adventure of discovering what is really moving them. I'm in a hurry to show them how the Good appears to ME, and to show them how swampy their desires are. But if Giussani is right, the really urgent thing for them to learn, see and follow is actually already at work in this desire, and in turning away from it, perhaps in obedience or imitation of me, they lose the possibility of learning to notice, to judge, what they really want. And if I spend my time encouraging that, it seems to me I'm primarily teaching myself and others to abstract ourselves from how reality actually moves us. And we will, accordingly, see the Real less and less well.

But I really do agree with you, and so that just shows that it takes courage, wisdom, and the example of our betters to learn how to inquire into the loves of others, to really ask about them, to expect to LEARN something from them.

Because, finally, I need to see much better that my own swamp-hunt is the Right Track if I just trust that my own circumstances are a sign of the True and the Good.

12/13/2012 10:56:00 AM  
Blogger David J Quackenbush said...

Julie, that was to your previous post.

12/13/2012 10:57:00 AM  
Blogger ted said...

Bob, this is humorous. You were almost in the right business.

12/13/2012 11:12:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Ted -- what is even sadder about that is that I've worked with these people, and they are as dysfunctional as the people they treat. In particular, I did my internship at Camarillo State Mental Hospital, and the psychiatrists and psychologists there couldn't possibly have been employable outside the state.

In California we are experiencing end-stage liberalism.

12/13/2012 11:15:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

And like any end-stage disease, it's incredibly expensive...

12/13/2012 11:16:00 AM  
Blogger John Lien said...

Man! I'm loving this. Gonna have to buy the book. Maybe read it, even.

Yes to the knowledge/love connection. My experience, and probabably everyone else's, has been I love X first and then I really learn about X.

Now, as to why I love X? Not sure about that part.

Come to think of it, as for my recent quest for God, it simply started out as a turning towards God. The rest just followed.

THIS IS BIG!

12/13/2012 11:48:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

...they are as dysfunctional as the people they treat.

For a very brief few months (in MSMY), I was a psychometric tech at a state mental hospital. Most of the other techs were OK, as were most of the inmates, but several of the docs were nuts. At the time, as a kid, I thought it was maybe that I didn't understand how deep and brilliant they were. Now that I'm older, I'm pretty sure they were at least as out of touch as they seemed at the time.

12/13/2012 11:51:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

"as for my recent quest for God, it simply started out as a turning towards God. The rest just followed."

Ditto. I had no idea it would get this out of hand.

12/13/2012 12:02:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Yes, same here. Once upon a time, I decided it might be interesting to learn more about this whole Trinity thing...

12/13/2012 12:04:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

In a way, instead of love at first sight, it's sight at first love. In other words, you only see the thing because you love it (at first implicitly), and then the love for it just grows.

12/13/2012 12:04:00 PM  
Blogger ted said...

We are all completely out of control! God help us. And he is.

12/13/2012 12:05:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

OT -- They came for the 5-hour Energy, and I said nothing ... because I was nodding.

I did know a boy who went off the deep end so badly one morning that his mother called her pastor to come up and perform an exorcism. He took me along just in case the devil needed somewhere to go, I guess.

It turns out the kid had worked late the night before stocking shelves at a grocery and one of his coworkers had given him some Vivarin. He had no idea what was in it or what to expect. He'd been raised in some variation of Seventh Day Adventism and had never had caffeine in his life.

12/13/2012 12:11:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

They can have my energy shot when they pry it from my limp, sleeping hands.

Re. the Vivarin, yikes! I took one once when I was in high school; made my heart race, and I was no stranger to caffeine. That kid must have been terrified.

12/13/2012 12:20:00 PM  
Blogger John Lien said...

Mush, not really OT. The kid was still sensitive. Hadn't been dulled by caffiene use.

Makes me see the wisdom of asceticism. By avoiding the big shocks of the world it allows you develop your sensitivity to the more delicate signals that would be drowned out otherwise.

12/13/2012 01:26:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

"If he couldn't be surprised, he wouldn't be one of us."

So you know which parts I'm talking about... :-)

Seems the Cosmos would be awfully dull if One knew how everything turned out in every detail.

Maybe Its like that joke in "It's a Wonderful Life" when George asks his pregnant wife, "iiiis it gonna be a boy or a girl?"

She says, "Uh huh!"

12/13/2012 01:46:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

Julie, cooncur.

Seinfeld proved that Superman must have superhumor. Or maybe it was Sheed. Anyway, I swear I felt at least a couple jokes in the Bible.

New word for your review:

finfinity

12/13/2012 01:52:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Yes, you can almost understand why he thought it was a demon -- demon caffeine.

One Bible joke is when Aaron (Curly) is explaining to Moses (Moe) about the golden calf: So I said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.”

The next line -- not recorded -- is, "Why you knucklehead! I oughta -- ". Doink!

12/13/2012 02:13:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Now that's funny, Mush - just a bit ago, playing in the background here was the story of the 1933 double eagle coins, minted after FDR declared all your gold are belong to us, but before anybody told the US mint. The relevant part, of course, is when FDR decreed that everyone must turn in their gold at the bank, in exchange for other forms of currency.

12/13/2012 02:24:00 PM  

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