Sudden, Like a Word
Yes. The human word is very much like the metabolism which is the basis of life. There is nothing "in between" metabolism and death, just as there is nothing between word and... What could be its opposite, anyway? Anything we can come up with will be another word.
I think this equates to the Thomistic idea that to exist is to be intelligible, and to be intelligible is to partake of the Word. Likewise man: he has a soul, which is both his seat of intelligence and the intimate form of his identity. Thus, it has a public and private face, one that exteriorizes itself toward the objective horizon, another that is the invisible essence of the subjective horizon.
"I tried to think of my first thought and it's as impossible to know and as far away as the Big Bang. And yet, it's as true for the first man is it is for the cosmos. The Word is our soul" (J of A). Or as Aristotle put it, "the soul is all it knows." And it can know any-thing in potential: again, there is nothing in existence that cannot potentially be known, because to exist is to be intelligible.
Thus, it makes no sense to search for the "beginning" of man in historical time, for the simple reason that his beginning transcends time. "His body may have evolved from the brutes," writes GKC, "but we know nothing of any such transition that throws the smallest light upon his soul as it has shown itself in history."
The ambiguous term "prehistory" tends to elide this irruption (or vertical ingression) of soul within biology. It again implies a gradual transition where there cannot be one. It draws a linguistic veil over an intrinsic mystery and pretends the mystery is due to the veil, not vice versa. It is somewhat like the linguistic misdirection of calling a baby a fetus, not in order to comprehend, but in order to mis-comprehend or de-understand -- to render what must be a singularity into something gradual so as to avoid the sixth commandment.
Just so, the "monkey does not draw clumsily and a man cleverly.... A monkey does not do it at all; he does not begin to do it at all; he does not begin to begin to do it at all" (GKC). For to begin to do it is to be doing it: "A line of some kind is crossed before the first faint line can begin."
More generally -- you know, logic -- "it is hardly an adequate explanation of how a thing appeared for the first time to say it existed already." Unless the "already existing" is a radically different thing than we had thought it to be. Either way, the conventional explanation fails.
Importantly, it doesn't just fail atheists and other materialists, but it fails man. It is wholly unworthy of him, infinitely beneath his station. Now, why would man want to auto-castrate in this manner? I don't know, but it is mighty similar to the ubiquitous compulsion on the left to denigrate western civilization, or our Judeo-Christian heritage, or the United States, or the founders, or the free market, or technology...
But why, Bob, why? I'll tell you why: because man, as man, loves truth. Therefore, all one must do in order to pervert a man is to convince him that the lie is true, and he will defend it to the death. Or, in the case of a craven liberal, until it is extremely inconvenient to do so. Otherwise he requires a bodyguard of likeminded bullies to defend his outrageous claims.
This is why the left requires near total dominance of the media, academia, and the culture just to gain roughly fifty percent of the vote. Think about that: suppression of truth cannot occur on terms of equal power, because then truth can rely upon logic and evidence to win the day.
But the lie can hold 90% of the ideological ground, and this will never be sufficient, hence the inevitable "totalitarian temptation" of the left. Truth must be burned from our midst and its ground salted in order to kill it, but even then, you can't, because truth isn't ours to create or destroy (see the Resurrection for details). Or, at the other end, see the Soviet Union for details.
Yes, God makes a special covenant with the Jews, but Balthasar reminds us that prior to this, with Noah, he makes a more general covenant "with the whole of mankind and the whole of creation." I hadn't thought of that one before, but in Noah all peoples are explicitly blessed, although "they had already been implicitly blessed since Adam..." Even so, it's good to get things down on paper.
The wider point is that there exists "an historical logos proper to the 'peoples' as such," something touched upon by Joan, who writes of how interesting it is "that Man's first 'work' was to name the animals; to name them was to recognize his transcendence, his otherness. To see that none of them were like him was the first philosophy lesson of Man." In order to name at all, reality must first be intelligible; thus, to name is to recognize essences, which is the very basis of transcendent intelligence.
Balthasar writes of how, in the early fathers, there is "the curious alternation between two contradictory motifs. The first is a logos in the nonbiblical peoples, which in turn has in it seeds of the whole, which ripen toward the fullness of the incarnate Logos in the gospel." The second is the elucidation of the Logos as such, again, as particular is to universal. The task is actually to situate the latter in the former -- which is say, situate man in Christ rather than vice versa.
As to how this gets inverted, coincidentally, Balthasar cites Chesterton, who wrote of how "the world is full of Christian ideas gone mad. The Gospels and the Church are plundered like a fruit tree, but the fruit when separated from the trees goes rotten and cannot be used." Nor can the "ideas" of Christ be separated from the person of Christ without losing their value.
Here we confront the question of "stars that have long become extinct continuing to shine." How to tell the difference? In other words, we can look up to the night sky and the living star will look identical to the long dead one.
Every visible star is "a long time ago." But man is always "in the beginning," for we are the occasion for the light to be seen at all. It is again a matter of the Logos, for "wherever being is illuminated, however obscurely, there is [man's] humanity, and he becomes illuminated to himself as spirit."
The "miracle of language" involves an orthoparadoxical "unity of oneness and distance" (Balthasar). It is (as alluded to by Joan) "what gives man dominion over nature and raises him like a king above all the beasts.... By themselves they are unnamed, as they are incapable of raising themselves into the light of self-comprehension; but the word of man knows and names them from the height of his light, and, thus, he dominates them in their innermost being from a higher point than they can themselves" (Balthasar).