That is, most books -- even from the nontenured -- contain one or two ideas swathed in reams of self-indulgent verbiage. Cognitively speaking, such books are totally saturated and therefore dead.
The good book is the opposite: it is alive with ideas that are efficiently expressed with a minimum of fuss and pretension. Instead of being self-important, the writing is soph-important, in service to the idea that is its attractor and leading edge. Or in other words, it is transparent, in Polanyi's from-->to sense.
I suppose the problem is that the postmodern rabble doesn't understand that ideas are real, and instead pretends that words are just about other words.
Therefore, not only are we sealed into a closed cosmos (as per scientistic dogma) with no possibility of escape or inscape, but we are equally -- and for the same reason -- enclosed in language. Because transcendence is a priori impossible, throwing out words is no more (but no less) effective than tossing bricks in the sky.
Which all goes to the central theme of this book, which is: is the universe closed, or open? There are two main ways to live as a shut-in within a closed universe, one religious, the other scientistic.
As we've been discussing in recent weeks, if predestination is the case, then this is another way of saying that time is closed. From our standpoint in the now, it certainly looks as if there are any number of potential paths into the future, each path in turn branching off into additional choices.
In other words, from where we stand phenomenologically, the future looks like a tree, with its trunk planted in the now, and its branches and leaves representing possible futures. But then, a new tree extends forward out of each branch and leaf. We can never embrace or embody the tree, which is always up ahead. (One of the difficulties of writing history is appreciating the unknown future -- the tree -- from the perspective of the past; or in other words, we know the future but they don't.)
But now that I'm thinking about this for the first time, it looks to me as if the tree very much has a fractal structure. Which is to say, it has similarity across scale. Examine any point in time, and we see the self-similar tree structure. The question is, is the tree only similar in form, or also similar in content?
It seems to me that both must be true, or the cosmos would degenerate into chaos. This is another way of saying that there exist attractors within the structure of the tree, i.e., forms, archetypes, ideas, what have you.
To cite one obvious example, we are told that "random evolution" has "discovered" the eye on many separate occasions. Or in other words, it is as if so-called "independent" evolutionary branches are guided by the strange attractor of the eye-idea.
This would also apply to personal development. For the existentialist, in each now we are radically free; there is no past that compels us, nor any future that limits us.
But of course, this is not what it feels like, at least in the absence of chemical fortification. Rather, we are always shaped by our past and constrained by both virtues and mind parasites. Both are attractors in vertical space, the former located above and ahead, the latter behind and below. No one is radically free, least of all Jean Paul Sartre!
(Interestingly, a perversion subjectively feels "free" to the pervert; or the pervert feels existentially liberated while engaging in the perversion, which is why movements that celebrate various perversions -- whether sexual, political, or genderoid -- usually have the word "liberation" in their self-designation, just as one can be sure that a country with the word "Democratic" in its name is a tyranny.)
Anyway, the other way to enclose oneself in time is via scientism, but we've debunked that bunk so many times that I don't want to rub it in. Not sporting.
Among the Big Ideas -- or let's say Big Questions -- that have struck me while reading this book is, How far to take this view? I am all for taking it all the way to God, which I know upsets some readers, but I think the converse is much more upsetting if you really think about it. In short, do you really want to live in closed time, in which choice is an illusion, responsibility a mirage, and meaning impossible?
Let's go All the Way Down and Back, to the free launch of Genesis 1. If you approach the text without preconceptions, you will notice something striking. That is, God does not create the universe all at once, in one big abba-kabbalah, but rather, in stages. But if he already knows what's going to come out, what is the point of this?
The way the narrative is structured, it is as if God is surprised -- for why would he be pleased? -- by what is produced. For example, he begins by creating the heavens and earth, but the latter comes out a mess -- a dark and formless void -- so he tweaks it by shedding some light on the situation and dividing light from darkness.
But even then there are some problems with the rollout. No need to reprise the whole thing, but you get the picture: it is very much as if God creates and then stands back to judge what he has created before taking the next step. And this would be completely superfluous if God knows everything ahead of time.
It's just another way of emphasizing that God is really and truly Creator, and that his very own existence is the quintessence of openness and choice. There are always a multitude of possibilities, even -- or especially! -- in God. To me that's a comfort, not a conceit.
Indeed, I would say that the only reason we are open is that God is. Otherwise, an open mind in an open creation is completely inexplicable. It makes no sense at all.
However, I might add that, just as we are constrained and attracted by various transcendentals, e.g., love, truth, beauty, justice, unity, etc., so too is God constrained by his own nature, so to speak.
Which is why prophecy is indeed possible. Prophecy, which is a memoir of the future, is clearly distinct from history. History deals with the past, which is closed; but prophecy is a foreshadowing of the open future, therefore it cannot be as "exact" as history. Rather, it can provide general outlines and shapes of things to come, since it is apparently a vision of various attractors up above and ahead. But it's about the Big Picture, not the infinite and unknowable details.