Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Cosmic Desire: What Make a Bulldog Hug a Hound

I want to articulate some lust wishes before moving on from Being Alive. Caldecott asks the key question: could Life itself "be a transcendental" in the manner outlined by Christopher Alexander? I don't think there's any doubt about it, because otherwise who or what is Good, True, Beautiful, and One? Something dead?

"Of course, for Life to be regarded as a transcendental, it would have to be in everything, not just biological organisms" (ibid).

I frankly don't see this as a huge conceptual problem, or requiring any kind of great ontological leap. Rather, the converse: you actually need a leap of faith and a heap of credulity to imagine this whole manifestivus comes from, and returns to, death, truthlessness, ugliness, and ir-irreducible multiplicity.

"If God is life in the highest sense," then this life revolves around "self-giving and self-receiving" (ibid.). As we have already discussed, this is exactly how a living system maintains life: one doesn't want to stretch the analogy, but life itself is always rooted in exchange with the other. It's just that in God, the self is the other and the other is the self -- or, they are distinct but undivided.

But here again, it is possible to look at the ecosystem through the same spooktacles. I've mentioned before Alan Watts' quip that there can be no radical distinction between, say, the honey bee and the flower. So intertwined are they, so interdependent, that the one cannot live without the other. It is as if each is an external organ of the other -- except there must be some sort of "interior glue" holding them together.

Which reminds me. One afternoon in... let's see, must have been 1986. I had just passed some sort of written exam for my doctoral program, and was having a little celebration with myself. Not a major buzz, just a few be-ers while sitting on the balcony of my apartment in Pacific Palisades. (I even remember the soundtrack of the moment: REM's dreamy Fables of the Reconstruction.) It was springtime, and the birds were quite active, darting in and out of the trees. You know. Randy. Libidinous.

While contemplating the scene I fell into a sort of light trance, as it occurred to me that it wasn't the birds who were doing this. How to explain... It was as if I intuited the underlying "desire" of nature, just flowing through the birds at that moment. After all, nature revolves around this abstract desire, filtered through everything from bacteria to Bach.

And what is this desire? Yes, it is in the service of life. And it's a self-giving, or self-abandonment, except it doesn't become conscious until it reaches the human plane.

Think of all those Medieval stories of courtly love; or come to think of it, Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.

Again: self-abandonment seems to be the essence of love, and would therefore be the inverse of narcissistic self-love. Which is why the encirclopedia says that everything about God must be completely unnarcissary (p. 10).

Bottom line: Brofessor Dixon was quite right about the generalized nature of this metacosmic desire:

Why do all these men

Try to run a big-leg'd woman down?

Why do all these men

Try to run a big-leg'd woman down?

Must be the same old thing

What make a bulldog hug a hound

So, God's interior activity "must be reflected throughout the creation. The existence of a thing is a receiving and a giving of itself" (Caldecott, emphasis mine).

And interestingly, while the self-giving High Life becomes articulate in man, so too does its inapposite mumbler, for only lowlife humans can "fail to be fully what they are or should be, and fall short of the real" (ibid.).

I just thought of a bumper sticker. That no one will understand. Still, here it is: Entropy: Don't Fight it, Join it!

In other words, as Caldecott explains, the essence of human life is not to simply "exist passively" or "merely to resist entropy," but to love actively, which ultimately implies -- well, if Jesus is the cosmic person (we'll be swimming this Ovocative nocean at length later), the human quintessence, then the implication is Jesus; or, more precisely, the self-abandoning -- and therefore, other-serving -- contours of Jesus's life.

Since the transcendentals converge, being alive would have to be an expression of truth, and vice versa. We all know phonies, don't we? But Caldecott suggests that (he's actually quoting Alexander here) most human beings "are not fully true to their own inner natures or fully 'real.'" Thus, "When you meet a person who is true to himself, you feel at once that he is 'more real' than other people are."

And not only. For I myself am more real in the presence of a real person, and indeed, will have a hard time being myself, or selfing my being, should I fail to discover those person(s) without whom I am not real.

17 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

Funny - that song comes up on my playlist fairly frequently, but somehow I missed that particular lyric. Funny mental picture, though, especially now that I live in Miami...

6/11/2013 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I know Wille Dixon performed it too, but I'm only familiar with the Muddy Waters version. That whole album -- Folk Singer -- is one of the greatest blues albums ever, with astonishingly good sound.

6/11/2013 09:40:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

"Three Fathers used to go and visit Blessed Anthony every year and two of them used to discuss their thoughts and the salvation of their souls with him, but the third always remained silent and did not ask him anything. After a long time, Abba Anthony said to him, 'You often come here to see me, but you never ask me anything,' and the other replied, 'It is enough for me to see you, Father.' "

-Sayings of St. Antony the Great

6/11/2013 09:43:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Wow - I don't have the Muddy Waters version. Very different from Willie's, but yeah, I can see how it would be part of the greatest blues album ever.

6/11/2013 09:47:00 AM  
Blogger Magister said...

"When you meet a person who is true to himself, you feel at once that he is 'more real' than other people are."

Spot on. I saw one such person this weekend. People with integrity shine because integrity comes from commitment and courage. There are so many forces at work these days that try to force you to cover yourself up. Cf. IRS, NSA, et al.

Even this "live and let live" culture with its refusal to judge anything forces people into politeness, "correctness," and deceit.

People who keep their opinions to themselves are shadowy. Someone who is playing a role, parrotting talking points, behaving one way toward one person and another way toward another, is unclear. This is why people cheer when Muddy Waters swaggers and asks "ain't that a man?" pointing to himself. At least he's being honest and true to what he thinks he is.

I myself am more real in the presence of a real person, and indeed, will have a hard time being myself, or selfing my being, should I fail to discover those person(s) without whom I am not real.

We're plenty real when we stand before God alone. That particular circumstance suffices. But it's true that there are certain people around whom we can more comfortably "be ourselves."

But are they really asking us to be more than we comfortably are?

In my case, yes. My wife, for example, is *always* asking me to be more than I comfortably am.

Especially on Saturdays.

6/11/2013 10:52:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

"But are they really asking us to be more than we comfortably are?"

That's an important question. There are no shortage of people who believe in "keepin' it real," or "calling a spade a spade;" usually, these are just excuses for being a complete asshole. Such people are "true to themselves," but only in the sense that they believe themselves to be perfect as they are and therefore have no need for improvement.

On the other hand, those who ask us to be more than we comfortably are generally do so not explicitly, but implicitly, inasmuch as their presence and personhood makes us want to be better people, ourselves.

6/11/2013 11:16:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Anyone who wants to seriously upgrade their audio system for CHEAP should check out this company, Emotiva. I already bought the XPA-2, which delivers an earth-shaking 500 watts into 4 ohms for only $719 on sale, and just ordered a stereo pre-amp to go with it. The old amp will now do service in the back yard.

I'm pretty sure they must do it with Chinese slave labor, but I don't want to know.

6/11/2013 12:22:00 PM  
Blogger ted said...

Bob, is it worth getting such a system if you're in the mp3 world (I know, I know, but it is convenient)?

6/11/2013 12:54:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

It's all a matter of how it affects your soul. You should go into a high end audio showroom, bring some familiar CDs, and give a listen. If you aren't shocked by the unrealized potential of recorded music, then you don't need to change. For me, it's very much a qualitative difference with a good system -- like the difference between, say, regular TV and high def. But the qualitative difference has to translate to improved soul communication.

6/11/2013 01:01:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Like, when I put on Muddy Waters Folk Singer, I can actually smell the champagne & reefer.

6/11/2013 01:03:00 PM  
Blogger ted said...

Lots of my friends getting back into vinyl for this very "improved soul communication." And I believe they're on to something, it's just I can't bring myself to going back.

6/11/2013 01:04:00 PM  
Blogger ted said...

Champagne & reefer?! Ha ha, now that's a robust and deep experience!

6/11/2013 01:06:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

It was as if I intuited the underlying "desire" of nature, just flowing through the birds at that moment.

Lost in love -- as you say, self-abandonment is the essence.

Rick and I are like vine-dressers now. So I'm reminded, too, that a branch that is allowed to grow out for itself is barren -- just bark and leaves. It's most productive when it is cut so close to the vine that oneness is not lost.

6/11/2013 01:38:00 PM  
Blogger Open Trench said...

I love all of you.

6/11/2013 09:35:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I think I'm gonna hurl.

6/12/2013 06:06:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"And not only. For I myself am more real in the presence of a real person, and indeed, will have a hard time being myself, or selfing my being, should I fail to discover those person(s) without whom I am not real."

Ooh.... that's too good to not be True.

6/16/2013 12:19:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

In the Iliad, Agamemnon sends a group with gifts to try to convince Achilles it was all just a misunderstanding, and he tells them something like "I hate like the gates of hell that man who speaks one thing while holding other words in his heart"

Oh, and the zombie movie I mentioned the other day, "Warm Bodies", the zombie who's trying to re-awaken, one of the things he does privately is play vinyl records "mmmore realll" ;-)

6/16/2013 04:20:00 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home