On the Annoying Gap Between God and Man
Now, aren't you glad human beings don't communicate that way?
I suppose we sometimes do, as with pheromones. For example, they say that baby pheromones have a powerful effect on maternal behavior.
Ants apparently do something similar. I don't imagine there is much information in the signal -- maybe "picnic over there" or "check out the asshole with the garden hose." (About eight years ago I wrote a long-forgotten post on the similarities between ant and liberal communication.)
But then, neurons don't pass along much information either. There aren't all that many neurotransmitters, and besides, like digital code, they only have two possible messages: excite or inhibit, i.e., fire or don't fire.
How this results in consciousness is anyone's guess. Mine is that it doesn't. That is to say, brain activity -- and even brains -- is ultimately an effect of intelligence, not its cause. Similarly, a computer can't program itself, and if we leave it alone, it's not as if it will eventually grow hands and blunder itself into self-consciousness.
This is all by way of prelude, waiting for the coffee to squeeze some adrenaline into my synaptic gaps. While we listen for that sucking sound in my axons, let's reflect upon a famous image, and see if it has anything to do with this post:
As you can see, despite the fact that God is by definition "everywhere," there is nevertheless a visible synaptic gap between God and man. What goes on within that gap?
Well, religion, for starters. There is also a gap between the world and the senses, and science is what takes place within this gap. For that matter, there is a gap between persons, and this gap is filled with anything from love to knowledge to touch to whatever.
So, gaps are everywhere. For example, history fills the gap between past and present. Likewise, one of my primary hobbies is filling the gap between ear and atmosphere with arresting sound vibrations, AKA music.
Back to the religious gap. That this gap exists is beyond dispute. One doesn't necessarily have to fill it with religion per se, but one must fill it with something. By way of analogy, it needn't necessarily be truth, but everyone has something in his head, even if it is unalloyed BS.
Viewed in a purely abstract manner, the religious gap is a result of the distinction between relative and Absolute. Therefore, the gap is essentially necessary, in that we know we are relative, i.e., contingent, and relative implies Absolute just as contingency implies necessity.
Now that I think about it, this same gap accounts for our free will -- it is the space in which freedom occurs -- which is why the question of freedom is intrinsically bound up with the question of God. At Grandma's birthday party this weekend, I attempted to explain this principle to a couple of relatives, to no avail. Indeed, despite the fact that they are Jewish, they could not appreciate the remarkable parallel between Exodus and the Gap. For what is wandering in the bewilderness but life in the divine-human gap?
In this little book of flaming homilies on the subject of creation, Ratzinger writes of how the biblical account of cosmogenesis makes it impossible to think of the world as a closed and self-sufficient system. Rather, it has a source beyond itself. As a result, the Most Important Things can't be understood without reference to this Source.
This is, of course, a binary question: either the cosmos is created or it is not created, and therefore dependent or independent, closed or open, static or evolving. There is no "in between." (Come to think of it, I also tried to explain to the same two individuals why evolution, i.e., to higher states, is impossible in a materialistic cosmos, but no luck.)
The following passage by Ratzinger is relevant: "The Bible is thus the story of God's struggle with human beings to make himself understandable to them over the course of time."
This implies that the gap cannot be filled -- or at least was not filled -- in an all-at-once manner. Indeed, if it could be so filled, then it wouldn't be a gap at all. The existence of the gap implies the need for both space and time -- an evolutionary space, as it were -- to fill it.
On a macro level, God can't very well make himself understood by pre-human animals. And once human beings are here, he can't very well make himself known by, say, a book, since they first have to learn how to read. And write.
So there is God's side of the gap; there is also the human side, for which reason the Bible "is also the story of their struggle to seize hold of God over the course of time."
The most abstract possible way to depict this gap is like so: (⇅). If Michelangelo had had access to the ancient Raccoon wisdom, he would have painted little arrows between the index fingers of God and Adam. Oh well, nobody's perfect.
Therefore, the story of creation is not just a once-upon-a-time deal, but rather, is ongoing. You might say that man is the creature that carries on the creation. Thus, human existence is a gift that keeps giving. But only if we open God's presence in the gap.
The Hebrew Bible tracks the journey of God's people through time and history: "indeed, the whole Old Testament is a journeying with the word of God." It is a step-by-step process, at first quite concretely so, e.g., "go to the land I will show you."
Where we depart from our Jewish friends is in seeing a continuation of this journey toward a Person. As Ratzinger describes it, scripture reveals, "in its totality, an advance toward Christ."
Thus, like any narrative, the meaning of everything that has come before is only revealed at the end: "every individual part derives its meaning from the whole, and the whole derives its meaning from the end -- from Christ."
The preliminary bottom line this morning is that by definition, the Gap cannot be filled from our side, no matter how much (↑) we pour into it -- or how much (k) we flood the zone with.
But it seems that the same goes for God. No matter how much (↓) he pours in, it is never enough, especially if we are to retain our free will. This is why no amount of knowledge, no matter how sublime, turns us into God (i.e., the Gnostic temptation), for we are always limited by our relativity.
"Perhaps there's another way," said God to himselves. "One of us ought to go down there and actually embody the Gap."
"It's crazy," said the Holy Spirit, "but it might just work."