Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Out of My Head

In yesterday's post we pondered the question of how the whole can be "contained" in one of its parts: "How is it that something vastly smaller can contain what is immeasurably larger?"

For example, what is Paul talking about with his Christ-living-in-me isness? That idea is fundamental to Paul, but it is rooted in a more general biblical metaphysic that doesn't necessarily obey Euclidean geometry and Aristotelian logic.

So, what kind of logic does the Bible reflect? This is important, because if one doesn't understand the logic, one might be tempted to think something in it is illogical when it is merely obeying a different and possibly higher logic -- perhaps even the Logic of logic.

Barron suggests that "When Christ is the center of one's life, then all the elements that constitute the self" will "tend to fall into an ordered pattern around it." Thus, the Christ-principle is the magnetic center, or the person-to-person call that pulls order from chaos.

Which is not too far from our very first description of the Creator in Genesis 1, where he hovers over the dark and formless void. Nor is that too far from its sister passage in John 1, where we read that nothing is created without God's Logos, his creative word-logic. This implies -- sort of -- that there are things in the world that are not created by God.

This is an ill-sounding assertion, but what I mean is that, just as creativity is a signature of God, un- (or better, anti-) creativity would be its counter-sign. For practical purposes it would mean that where we see the trite, the trivial, the banal, the lifeless, the boring -- you know, leftworld -- God has been exorcised from the persons involved. Say what you want about God, he is never boring. Rather, the boredom is in you.

As you probably know, "sin" is etymologically related to "missing the mark" or target. What target? "Because we are, by nature, supernaturally oriented toward intimacy with God," deviation from our target "results in the disordering and disintegration of the entire self: mind, body, spirit, and passions." In short, sin "involves the unmooring of the self from its properly divine origin and telos."

Thus, when we are not aimed at our proper telos, our prior wholeness breaks up into its constituent parts. You might say that when we fall, we fall apart. Instead of pneumanauts orbiting around the central sun, we are like those stranded astronauts in the film Gravity.

In that situation, the astronaut discovers that all of his usual gifts -- from physical strength to training to intelligence -- are precisely worthless. He is missing the one thing that would render all the others efficacious: connectedness.

However, now that I'm thinking about it, the George Clooney character does accomplish one thing, which is to mysteriously transmit something of himself into Sandra Bullock. This is depicted as a kind of dream-hallucination, but this whole scene is riding piggyback on our still (albeit distantly) Christo-centric culture, such that she assimilates and "contains" his spirit in order to summon the skill, creativity, and presence of mind to save herself: not I, but Lieutenant Kowalski in me.

Gravity indeed: something organizes her hysterical, deathbound fragmentation before it takes her life. Something pulls her together, such that she rises above slavery to her dysfunctional passions into a higher freedom.

Now, I think you'll agree that this is weird. I just looked up the film on wikipedia, and it says this: "Some commentators have noted religious themes in the film." Oh? Like who?

"For instance, Fr. Robert Barron in The Catholic Register summarizes the tension between Gravity's technology and religious symbolism. He said, 'The technology which this film legitimately celebrates... can't save us, and it can't provide the means by which we establish real contact with each other.... there is a dimension of reality that lies beyond what technology can master or access... the reality of God.'"

If this were a movie, Fr. Barron would no doubt be sitting next to me in a spacesuit.

The "real contact" to which he alludes is not surface-to-surface, as in two contained substances coming into contact. Rather, we must abandon the "language of substance" in favor of a "sheer relationality and other-orientation, the coinherence of love."

Referring back to the meta-logic of our cosmos, we see that the principle of coinherence cannot even be expressed in the language of Euclid or Aristotle. And yet, if we fail to apprehend (and express) it, we are missing its most important feature.

As Bortoft puts it, if we begin our analysis with the "self-conscious subject, conceived as a self-entity," we are actually beginning at the end, which is therefore literally pre-posterous.

Rather, we must begin with coinherence and intersubjectivity. In practical terms we must "go to the stage prior to our usual awareness, which has the effect of reversing the direction of our thinking so that we can recognize that we usually begin from what is, in fact, the end." This is what it means to reverse worldward descent and cross the bridge of darkness to the father shore (p. 256).

All of this suggests that ideas are active, in that an idea about reality brings about the reality the idea is about. This is similar to how God works: he "speaks" his ideas into creation, whereas we hear them. Remove the ideas, and there is no there to be perceived. There is raw sense perception, and that is all. But raw sense perception doesn't disclose reality. Rather, limited to our senses, real reality would be foreclosed.

Bottom line for today: "We are accustomed to thinking of mind as if it were inside us -- 'in our heads.' But it is the other way around. We live within a dimension of mind which is, for the most part, as invisible to us as the air we breath. We usually only discover it when there is a breakdown" (Bortoft).

Which is to say, when we lose contact with the nonlocal source that is simultaneously beyond and within.

8 Comments:

Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Kind of related.

9/16/2015 09:08:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Get ready...it gets stranger.

Was written 4 days ago.

Easier to decipher if you have been reading along or if you are out of my head with me.

9/16/2015 10:40:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Clearly, Nonlocal Operators are not merely standing by, they're nudging people in a particular direction.

For practical purposes it would mean that where we see the trite, the trivial, the banal, the lifeless, the boring -- you know, leftworld -- God has been exorcised from the persons involved.

I had to run to the local megamall today. On the one hand, it's an interesting place for cultural anthropology, as it's a truly diverse tourist destination. On the other, virtually everything there is designed to dazzle the eye (and other senses), and yet underneath it has almost nothing to offer - just a mindless, repetitive drone of Look here! Look here! Banal, lifeless, boring, and a visual assault to boot.

9/16/2015 01:16:00 PM  
Anonymous maineman said...

So here is the question, Julie. Is it getting worse, much worse out there, or are we getting better? Or neither?

I had an epiphany a few weeks ago in that I began to think that I was wrong about leaving everyone else behind and moving on or up. Now, I see them as sailing off, heading out into the middle of the ocean to sink. I mean, people are really crazy these days, so crazy that all Trump has to do to get a head of steam is refer to reality as most of us see it. And that's because so many of us live in a bleeping Fellini movie.

One of the most important things that scripture does is keep you grounded. It seems that without it, you might as well be popping LSD, because the next thing you know you think chopping up babies and selling off the parts is health care, sex (i.e. male and female) is a matter of opinion, and killing people when you've had enough of them is merciful.

9/16/2015 07:34:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

True about the craziness; in my experience, there usually isn't anything much we can do about the ones who choose to charge headlong into the ocean with nothing but a leaky dinghy and a few million like-minded and supportive companions. As a matter purely of scale, things are getting worse by virtue of the simple fact that never before have so many people been alive at one time, and thus never have so many caused such simultaneous mayhem. However, people themselves are, I think, no worse than they have ever been. As Solomon said, there is nothing new under the sun.

A few weeks ago, I read a good analogy somewhere that for a long time, because the cultural tilt was predominantly Christian, it appeared that most people in America really were. As things shift, though, most people, even many of those who seemed so strong in their faith, will roll like ball bearings to the lowest point of the table, whether to a different religion or a belief in nothing but whatever feels right at the moment. It is only then that the ones who refuse to roll with the prevailing culture but choose instead to stake themselves down to the Truth will be revealed.

9/16/2015 09:24:00 PM  
Anonymous maineman said...

Maybe. But I think it's more like Bob is implying: our de-Christianization is moving us away from the light, and darkness is descending so that many cannot see much of anything at all, even through a glass darkly. Just like it says will happen in Thess. II.

9/17/2015 05:22:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

I don't disagree. Rather, I was thinking that the sins of modernity aren't necessarily worse than the sins of old, they're basically the same as ever under the sterilized surface. Maybe the biggest difference is that people tell themselves that what they do, they do for reasons of logic and science and even "wisdom," whereas of old, they knew that they threw their children to Baal because they were appeasing an ugly god and hoping to gain by it.

9/17/2015 06:15:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

I think you're both right.

Related: Berlisnki's new book "The Best of Times" looks right up this alley.

Well, he's still working on it.

9/17/2015 06:27:00 AM  

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