Friday, October 10, 2014

Man's Perfect Incompleteness

About that hole in the center of man: again, it is unlike anything else found in all of nature. No one expects a pig to be a better pig. A pig is just a pig. It can't fall short of its piggyness, any more than a community organizer can surpass being a community organizer. It is as if there is no space in the pig -- or the dreaded C.O. -- to be anything other than what it is.

Thus, the human space is associated first and foremost with freedom and possibility: if necessity is a two-dimensional line, then freedom is a three-dimensional space (four if we add the time component).

You could say that the pig is already "perfect," because he never fails to be one. But man is never perfect: rather, perfectible. And unless I am mistaken, perfectibility is oddly superior to perfection.

Here again, this has to do with the psycho-pneumatic space we inhabit: because it is empty, it is able to be filled (but never completely). In short, if you never have a question, then you'll never have an answer. But if you have The Answer (in the static, secular sense of the term), then you have no questions and therefore no creative space or love shack.

Balthasar writes of how "man sees himself as the sum and perfect image of the cosmos"; in him there is "a kind of concentration, which makes man the synthesis of the world and raises him above it."

And yet, as with Adam, we are always aware of incompleteness, hence the complementary creation of Eve, thank you very much. Of note, Eve is a part of Adam, and yet, someone obviously separate and distinct.

This is a mythic way of expressing our irreducible intersubjectivity, whereby we are simultaneously one and two. However, the oneness must be prior, otherwise there would be no way for two to return to one. Twoness is an existential fact, oneness an "ontological memory," so to speak. It may be also bound up with memories of paradise, for all I know.

In any event, twoness is always in search of oneness, or of higher unity, integration, totality, etc. It's the arc of our lives. The part wants to know it is more than just a meaningless fragment, but rather, part of a higher unity. God's modus operandi -- and vivendi -- is always "unity in diversity" (Pursell).

So, thanks to our perfect incompleteness, "man finds his completion and his happiness only in communion with another human being" (Balthasar). But at the same time, this "gap in man's nature affects also his relationship to God." That is, our very incompleteness -- which can never complete itself -- points beyond itself toward its own possible fulfillment in relation to God.

For Balthasar, there are really only three ways to pull this off, and two of them may be reduced to one. Therefore, we're really talking about the Human way and the Christian way. This former way "consists in a soaring movement of the heart, which leaves the whole world of contradictory earthly existence beneath it in order to seek a home in the region of a superterrestrial divine power."

Underneath this is the simple premise that "all multiplicity is opposed to unity and has in some mysterious way fallen away from it; only unity can be true being." That being the case, the world is a kind of opaque barrier instead of luminous ladder; the difference between God and world is identical to the difference between true and false, or appearance and reality, or forsakenness and salvation.

As such, this "way of salvation demands an inner renunciation of worldly differences," of "seeing through them all to their identical divine ground."

Now, that idea is not completely wrong; rather, like all cosmic heresies, it is a partial truth inflated to the whole of things. Obviously the world is not God, so in that sense it is not the Truth. And yet, it is everywhere filled with truth and beauty, with intelligibility and harmony, and that's no accident. One might say that it is not Truth but not non-Truth either.

In the heresy under discussion, there is still a residue of love, but it is subtly different from the Christian version, for it involves "fidelity to the thou, not in its difference, but in its ultimate identity with the loving self." In other words, it is not like one loving the other and thereby discovering a higher unity-in-difference, but an obliteration of the twoness -- which results in a profound devaluation of our end of the bargain. We're just God playing hide-and-seek with himself.

Likewise, "compassion" still exists, but in the form of feeling sorry for those poor saps still imprisoned in individuality.

But I like my individuality, and I don't need anyone feeling sorry for it. Thanks but no thanks. I would prefer to participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world than to pretend they're not really happening to someone who doesn't actually exist.

"This negation," writes Balthasar, "is directed against the very nature of man," in that it preserves its own version of truth -- its wholeness -- at the expense of "abandoning [man's] whole worldly reality." And where's the bloody sport in achieving wholeness by "draw[ing] out conclusions which ultimately cancel out man"? I can shoot myself and do that.

16 Comments:

Blogger ted said...

And where's the bloody sport in achieving wholeness by "draw[ing] out conclusions which ultimately cancel out man"? I can shoot myself and do that.

Just don't take out these guys

10/10/2014 10:56:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"But I like my individuality, and I don't need anyone feeling sorry for it. Thanks but no thanks. I would prefer to participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world than to pretend they're not really happening to someone who doesn't actually exist."

Yep. Sort of like going to see John Cage perform 4′33″... and the point would be...?

10/10/2014 11:01:00 AM  
Blogger John Lien said...

I would prefer to participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world than to pretend they're not really happening to someone who doesn't actually exist.

I'll pile on here.

A metaphysical system that ends with a "GOTCHA!" or a "Fooled Ya!" -the whole thing being a deception,
just can't be right.

(Well, it's more a "Got Me!" or "Fooled Me!")

10/10/2014 11:43:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

man finds his completion and his happiness only in communion with another human being

That works great for me. I kind of pity those for whom I am the other human being.

10/10/2014 11:46:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Go figure. We are all the missing piece of someone else's puzzle, even if we have no use for the piece.

10/10/2014 11:53:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

At the very least, with the grandkids, the kids can point and say, "Don't be like Poppy."

10/10/2014 11:57:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Ha - I hadn't thought of that. I wonder if it's really that the pieces have no use, or if it's that they appear to be a close match but still wrong for some reason, or they show up at the wrong time or the wrong place, or they still need reshaping...

Or maybe they only seem to have no use, but in reality they are doing exactly what they ought. Kind of like how Activated Slack can appear to be pure laziness.

Anyway, going back to the post it seems to me that due to our intrinsic incompleteness, even the most seemingly perfect fit would be inadequate to make us Whole. Just enough to expand our own puzzle to some degree.

10/10/2014 12:55:00 PM  
Blogger ted said...

Your post pointed me back to something I read the other day...

"The whole Eastern approach, for all its talk of nonduality and peace, is inherently antagonistic. Because it can see no way to salvage the human self (which it sees as the source of suffering) the only real option it presents is the suppression of that self. That can be through meditation, paradoxes - whatever. Whether it's an attempt at ego destruction or clever circumvention, the ego, the self - you, me - is still seen as the problem. Stillness and peace, they are the solution. It works against the basic nature of the human animal. The basic nature of what the self is. No matter how you embellish it, no matter if you call silence the 'True Self', the basic antagonism of the whole approach is hardwired from the work of Buddha onward. It's just not deep enough. It doesn't have enough insight into the nature of the self to find a way that the self can be reinvented..." Cairan Healey

10/10/2014 01:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Skully said...

"You could say that the pig is already "perfect," because he never fails to be one."

Aye, it's not like we can make bacon more perfect.

10/10/2014 04:13:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

" But man is never perfect: rather, perfectible. And unless I am mistaken, perfectibility is oddly superior to perfection."

Ain't no doubt. If this were not true humans wouldn't have invented beer.

10/10/2014 04:35:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Speaking of bacon, how's your recovery going? Are you back to eating the good stuff yet?

10/10/2014 04:47:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Yes! Bacon, beer, tillamook sharp cheddar cheese (the best for those who haven't hadthe opportunityto try it), cheeseburger, pork chops, spinach with real butter (who says I don't eat balanced meals?) and fried chicken have all gone down with no complications. :^)

Next on the list is tacos and then baby back ribs...jest to be sure.
Also gained 5 of the 20lbs. I lost back. Now if only I can remember to do sit-ups...

10/10/2014 05:04:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Good news Ben! But about those situps, don't listen to Skully; yes, he can do sixty sit ups, but they don't count. Drinking till you pass out, then sitting up to start over while counting out "One...", is not recognized as a legitimate count.

Sorry Skully, it just isn't.

10/11/2014 09:30:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

In other news, those anony-spammers really had a burst of energy overnight, didn't they?

10/11/2014 09:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

About the hole in the center. Humans are no different, just look up, hopefully. The rest look to humans, very logical. You know, nature used to be the elder race.

You may think instinct is mechanical, but that is just sacrifice to keep the kids viable.

I am just saying, unless one has that St Francis Crazy Horse invitation to uplift, respect to those that carry life should be paid.

In other words, angels are not what you think.

10/12/2014 01:14:00 PM  
Blogger Magister said...

Plato has Aristophanes pipe up in the Symposium that human beings were originally hermaphrodites but were somehow split in half to spend their lives in longing for their missing soul mates. This myth still has currency but doesn't extend logically to some theological thought, which is a pity.

10/13/2014 06:09:00 AM  

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