God was Framed
While the frame around a painting is obvious -- setting it apart from its surroundings -- there are other types of frame. A book's covers are a kind of frame. Likewise, poetic structure and musical form.
Polanyi cites the critic I.A. Richards, who writes of how, "Through its very appearance of artificiality metre produces in the highest degree the 'frame' effect, isolating the poetic experience from the accidents and irrelevancies of everyday existence."
Rhythms are frames, both in poetry and in music (and in good prose as well). Thus, there are temporal frames (rhythm) as well as spatial frames, as in a painting. In a play or motion picture there are both spatial frames (the stage or screen) and temporal frames (the script or screenplay).
Life is framed, isn't it? In the most obvious sense it is framed by birth and death. There are also recurrent rhythms such as the seasons, holidays, birthdays, and rituals. Morning-Noon-Evening-Night is another rhythm, as are weeks and months. The liturgical year is an obvious temporal frame that confers meaning on what is otherwise a kind of one-way dissipation.
In one sense life is framed at the extremes by birth and death. However, in another sense birth and death constitute a kind of intra-life rhythm. And when you come right down to it, the birth-death rhythm is perpetual. A line from Joni Mitchell's Clouds just popped into my head: well something's lost, but something's gained / in living every day.
Watching my son grow is constant loss/gain. In a year or two I'll lose the boy but gain an adolescent, just as I lost the infant and toddler before that. A long time ago I came to the realization that all loss is a dress rehearsal for death. Or prehearsal, rather (emphasis on the hearse).
People don't normally speak in poetry, which sets it apart from regular speech. "Thus, the formal structure of a poem... forms a blockage, insulating the poem from everyday affairs" (Polanyi). As such, a frame is also a kind of wall (as is dogma, as we shall see).
Similarly, "the recital of a myth is an experience that is detached from the day-to-day concerns of the reciting person," and "raises us to a timeless moment." Therefore, it is a kind of temporal window(frame) into (and "around") the timeless. It cannot be approached or understood in any other way.
How could God, who is by definition infinite, ever be framed? Well, that is precisely the function of any religion. And just as there are good and bad poems, paintings, and melodies, religions are more or less adequate to the task.
Now, God cannot be framed by man. If he could be, then we would be God. Think of O as the container of any and all conceivable content. Thus, O is a symbol for that which can never be symbolized -- a container of what can never be contained. In the ultimate sense, religion says what cannot be said.
Is there any other religion that frames all of history in the manner of Christianity? All religions posit a beginning, but Christianity also posits its own temporal end (as opposed to a circular rhythm or endless line).
Furthermore, one of its most provocative orthoparadoxes is that the end has appeared in the middle -- which is a bit like the frame appearing within the painting. I'll bet if I look it up, there is some dadaist whose paintings consist of the frame that frames it. If not, then this one will do until the surreal thing comes along:
How did we get here? By two routes, one of which will be the topic of tomorrow's post. The other route was by way of Chesterton, who remarked that "All my life I have loved frames and limits; and I will maintain that the largest wilderness looks larger seen through a window" (in Reardon).
What an excellent orthoparadox. I've noticed the same phenomenon with respect to movies. Probably explains how movie stars are seen as gods by the vulgar.
Reardon writes of how "only a measured form -- and every form imposes a limit -- can produce freedom." Branford Marsalis (in Reardon) makes the point that in jazz "There's only freedom in structure, my man. There's no freedom in freedom" (emphasis mine).
There is no freedom in freedom. What a brilliantly concise way to put it. Nor, for that matter, is there any equality in equality, but that is the subject of a different post.
In any event, Marsalis's quip could morph into a whole post, but I think you can see where I'm going with this. However, it will have to wait until tomorrow, since I'm up against a temporal frame.