Friday, November 22, 2013

An Inspiring Post About Nothing

In yesterday's post we discussed What We Can Know. But there is no knowledge in the absence of a knower. Just as the world has its appearance and its reality, its surface and its depth, the knower is situated along a gradient of meaning within the horizon of subjectivity.

As our knower attains depth and density within this space of meaning, the world becomes increasingly transparent. The logocentricity of the cosmos assures that there is always this two-way mirror between world and mind, or intelligence and intelligibility. Nothing -- nothing that exists -- can be essentially unknowable.

As we know, there are people who see surfaces only, but this is a function of their own shallowness. There are others who see what might be called "false depths" as a result of paranoia, projection, and ideology. The left is full of such individuals.

These primitive proglodytes forge their illusions "for the triumph of the general over the individual," for politics over person, for force over freedom. The essential problem of the left is that they cannot tolerate the Nothing required for knowledge. Instead, they fill this vibrant space with the debris and detritus of their own broken souls.

As alluded to at the end of yesterday's post, the world is both being and non-being, or a dialectic of something and nothing. To put it another way, it is surely created. But not "all the way," so to speak. It has always been a principle of Judaism that the creation is left unfinished, so that man may participate in its perfection. After all, we can't bloody well imitate the Creator if there is nothing left to create!

Berdyaev agrees that "the world is not finished" and that "its completion is left to man," who must deploy both his knowledge and his freedom to "continue the world's creation."

But remember what was said yesterday about the abyss of nothingness at the foundation of freedom. This suggests that creation is very similar to what is described so well in the Tao Te Ching: for example, in building a house, we need the walls but we live in the empty space they enclose. No one can live in a wall.

Likewise, the purpose of a cup is to render emptiness useful. We need the emptiness in order to fill it with something. Just so, even God needs emptiness, which, it seems to me, is the deeper meaning of "creation from nothing." In a very real sense, all creativity is from nothing, at least relatively speaking.

This is because the future is not determined, and this lack of determinacy may be thought of as the temporal nothingness that is the basis of our freedom (or dread, depending). If the world were wholly determined, there would be no freedom, no creativity, no progress.

So "the world does not enter into me, passively." Again, there is always an element of co-creation, such that "The world I face depends upon my attention and my imagination, upon the intensity of my thought," which is naturally "determined from within, not from without."

To say this results in the world's increasing transparency is another way of saying that the light shines through the creation more vividly: "The knowledge of existence is the accumulation of light and meaning within existence; it is the illumination of being, and consequently its renaissance [literally, rebirth], its hitherto-unknown enrichment."

And speaking of birth, "Knowledge has a conjugal, masculine-feminine character," for "it is the meeting and union of the two, the possession of the feminine element by masculine sense and meaning."

It seems that most people emphasize the masculine pole, but just as a cup is useless without its empty space, knowledge is impossible in the absence of the feminine mystery that lures us into it. Vive la différence! Or rather, vice versa, for this difference is life, on every level.

Two big errors: radical union with the cosmos, as in Buddhism; and radical separation from the cosmos, as in scientism. Both deny the beautiful differences alluded to above. Thus, "fusion with cosmic life does not liberate personality, but rather dissolves and destroys it." Conversely, all the knowledge of the tenured will never add up to reality, since "the endlessness of the objectified world cannot be the cosmic whole."

In the absence of the Nothing of freedom, "Man moves in a vicious circle. To break out of that circle requires an act of spirit," and this act must be free. Again, if it is determined, then we are by definition in the closed circle.

It is useful to distinguish between two knowers in man, one who knows the objective world, one who knows the subjective world. In the Book For Which the Blog is Named, I symbolize these (•) and (¶), respectively. Why the irritating symbols? In order to preserve the nothingness without which they cannot accumulate experiential meaning. Again, think of that Taoist cup, without which you shouldn't play baseball.

About those two modes of knowing, Berdyaev writes that man "is a dual being, living in both the phenomenal and noumenal world." Thus, "On the one hand, man is phenomenon, a thing of nature, subject to the law of this world." This concrete fellow is (•).

The other fellow -- (¶) -- "is a 'thing in itself,' a spiritual being, free from the power of this world." Note the operative word: free. This is the essential bit of Nothing that makes one either a spiritual pneumanaut or a cynical and morbid existentialist. The choice is yours, but only if you know how to properly use your Nothing.

As Petey always says, our inspiration is God's expiration. And being that it can only occur now, there is no expiration date. "Spirit is, as it were, the breath of God penetrating man's being." Our in-breathing of this spirit of freedom communicates "a higher dignity, a higher quality in [our] existence, inner independence and unity...."

"Spirit is a break-through into our heavy-laden world: it is dynamic, creativity, up-surge." It is by this spirit that image transforms to likeness, in a divine-human partnership: "Spirit emanates from God, is poured in, or breathed into, man."

Even so, you still have to inhale.

God is completeness toward which man cannot avoid striving. (All quoted material from Christian Existentialism)

7 Comments:

Blogger stephen b said...

A post about nothing. I think you may have something there.

11/22/2013 08:33:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

As alluded to at the end of yesterday's post, the world is both being and non-being, or a dialectic of something and nothing. To put it another way, it is surely created. But not "all the way," so to speak. It has always been a principle of Judaism that the creation is left unfinished, so that man may participate in its perfection. After all, we can't bloody well imitate the Creator if there is nothing left to create!

Yes, just so. Some of the best stories, the best works of art, even the best music, are all so because they leave enough of themselves unfinished that the audience can participate, and thus make it more complete (though never entirely). When there are no questions left, no stones to turn, no veils to be lifted, what then remains?

11/22/2013 09:22:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

To say this results in the world's increasing transparency is another way of saying that the light shines through the creation more vividly.

Again, this is right in the wheelhouse. Amazing. Almost like there is somebody out there answering my questions.

Thanks.

11/22/2013 08:33:00 PM  
Blogger Leslie said...

Riffing on what Julie commented: I teach art at VBS every summer. One particular year, I was given a "helper", who was a government school teacher, and the director thought that would be a good thing. My usual method of doing art with kids is to; have materials waiting for them, show them an example, give them directions and then sent them off. I wander the room and assist as needed. Well, this "helper", didn't like the controlled chaos that was going on with 25 kids being creative. She took over and, after getting their attention, made them put everything down, and follow her steps exactly point by point. There was no room for innovation, no room for creativity and no room for problem solving. Basically, no fun, no nothing. But, it was quieter.

11/23/2013 09:30:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Yikes. That brings back a memory of my 5th grade teacher. I think the class collectively decided she was off her gourd after she gave us an art assignment where we were all supposed to make a paper leprechaun using various art supplies, which were to be hung on a class display in the hallway. Because of the display part, she wanted to approve our design before we could finish, and she made it clear that each was supposed to be unique. One by one we brought our little cutout figures up for her approval, and one by one they were rejected. Finally, she liked one kid's figure. The whole class then went and copied that kid's figure, and we were allowed to continue.

It was truly bizarre. We all learned something that day, but it had nothing to do with art...

11/23/2013 10:06:00 AM  
Blogger Don Johnson said...

Like 'Shroom suggested, this is also eerily on-gong for me today.

So here's a visual.

11/23/2013 12:54:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Nothing to see here, enjoy and move along.

;-)

11/23/2013 07:31:00 PM  

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