Little Big Mankind
Thus, God's infinity is "imprinted within us." It sets up a dynamism, because our infinity is on a perpetual search for the object that matches it. Nothing short of God satisfies the longing. This is because only two things are beyond all possible finites: God and man, in complementary ways.
Note that this automatically renders man superior to any finite object. It is why no finite object can float our boat in any permanent way.
However, in the absence of God, our own infinitude will be experienced as a kind of persecutory defect. Instead of engendering a fruitful dynamism, it will sponsor a restless compulsion for sensations and experiences that leads nowhere in the end.
You could say that the immanent God is a kind of infinite abyss, while the transcendent God is an infinite horizon. And one can sail after him in either direction and wind up in the same harbor. As Clarke writes, "the inner spiritual ascent of the soul to the One and the outer metaphysical ascent through the cosmos reveal themselves as two sides of the same coin." They "mirror each other in different orders."
Clarke says that Augustine is typically regarded as the quintessential exemplar of the inner ascent of the soul, while Thomas is the seen as our tour guide extraordinaire for the metaphysical ascent through the cosmos.
However, looked at more deeply, Thomas' carefully constructed ladder can be repurposed as a "springboard for [the soul's] final metaphysical-mystical leap to the Infinite Fontal Source of the whole, hidden in mystery from our direct gaze but pointed to by every finite image..."
So we got that going for us.
We are always face-to-face with the Ultimate. No wonder we feel so small! And yet, no other being is aware of this confrontation. No wonder we feel so big!
You'll often hear scientistic types talk about how small man is compared to the infinite spaces of the vast starry heavens blah blah blah. Well. Lots of rocks are bigger than man, too. So what? Does it make the rock superior to man? Obviously, no matter how big the rock, it's still just a rock.
Well, the same principle applies to the cosmos. I really couldn't care less how big it is. I mean, I care, but not really. Just as an intellectual curiosity, but not as any kind of ultimate statement about anything. Man always has the infinitude discussed above, so he transcends every object, up to and including the cosmos.
Pieper writes that "whenever we speak of the ultimate, of the ultimate and last, we have already implicitly thought of a penultimate and first. And with that, something has already been said about the human being: namely that his everyday life is situated between these different states of realization, disposed toward his ultimate potential but not necessarily reaching it..."
Thus, "By the act of creating him, God sets the human being upon a path whose goal is that 'ultimate' which can be called 'virtue' in its true sense: the realization of the divine design incorporated in the creature."
When we get this principle through our thick skulls, we are in a position to understand Jesus' shockingly orthoparadoxical statement that No one is good but One, that is, God.
And no one but man is small or large enough to get the gag.