Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Why Are We Here?

How can any conscious person not wonder about that? And how can he not realize there are only two possible reasons, one of which reduces to no reason at all. God or nihilism. The rest is distraction.

In a book called Reclaiming the Atonement, the author outlines the following reason, which sounds about right to me:

"Man was created to be joined with God in an intimate union, whereby he would be incorporated -- in the elevated measure divine grace makes possible to a human being -- into the very life of God. Man was created in order to be 'at-one' with God. Man was created for theosis. Theosis, then, is the true and proper ordo rerun [order of things]."

And "order of things" is correct, because it isn't just that man is ordered to God, but that the cosmos itself must be ordered to man if man is to be ordered to God. In a very real sense, man is the reason for the cosmos. This is why, for example, it is intelligible to us. But we can't just leave it at that; rather, we must ask why it is intelligible, and for what reason. Which goes back to the divine purpose.

As to the latter, Reardon further points out that we couldn't "share in the divine nature unless the Word shared a human nature," which is precisely why man's theosis requires God's Incarnation.

In the absence of the latter, we can still know that the cosmos is preternaturally ordered to us, but we couldn't know that we in turn are reciprocally ordered to its very creator.

Of the four causes -- material, efficient, formal, and final -- it is final cause that answers the question of why something exists. Eyes are for seeing; a car is for driving; hands are for grasping.

If you ask why cars exist, you can point to the materials of which it is composed, the people who built it, and its design, but none of these make sense without final cause: it was built in order to take us somewhere. Duh!

Note that the final cause is the last to be realized in time but the first to be contemplated in thought. I don't know how long it takes to realize a car from conception to fulfillment.

But it takes about 10 million years for solar-type stars to form, and about 10 billion for habitable planets. After that, life appears pretty quickly, but it takes another 3.5 billion years or so for self-conscious persons to arrive on the scene. It then took about 50 to 100,000 years to prepare man for the God-man.

And we've only had 2,000 years to assimilate him. As discussed in yesterday's post, the assimilation is ongrowing. As Kerouac said, walking on water wasn't built in a day.

So, when we come right down to it, everything exists for the sake of theosis. This makes perfect sense, because the purpose of something resides in its mature state. We all -- secular and religious alike - believe man "matures," the question being "how high?" -- does maturity extend all the way up, or end at some arbitrary point?

The latter makes no metaphysical sense, because a hierarchy is conditioned from the top down, i.e., it exhibits final causation.

Which helps to make sense of fallenness and sin, or at least looks at it from a slightly different angle.

By way of analogy, think of the concept of "pathology," which can only apply to living things. There cannot be a sick rock, although Al Franken comes close. The purpose of the heart, for example, is to pump blood. Anything that interferes with that -- clogged arteries, arrhythmias, valvular damage -- is pathological. Pathology only makes sense in light of final causation.

It has always been a pet peeve of mine that psychology attempts to speak of pathology in the absence of purpose. In reality it cannot be done. Rather, there will simply be an implicit and unarticulated purpose.

But ultimately, if theosis is man's purpose, then anything interfering with it will be pathological. On the spiritual plane, this is sin, precisely. Sin can only be understood in the context of what man is for. Sin, you might say, is "spiritual illness."

I'm thinking of a couple of Aphorisms:

The radical error — the deification of man — does not have its origin in history. Fallen man is the permanent possibility of committing the error.

And Radical sin relegates the sinner to a silent, gray universe, in which he drifts on the surface of the water, an inert castaway, toward inexorable insignificance.

Note that the deification of man goes to what was said above in paragraph three: it is to believe that the cosmos is mysteriously ordered to man, but to leave it at that -- to not realize that this is because man is ordered to God.

As to being relegated to that gray and silent universe, this is simply the logical consequence of denying God and hierarchy: it is as if the cosmos is ordered to man, but man is nothing. Therefore, everything is nothing.

Reardon notes that the early fathers were more aware of this than we seem to be. "The more traditional approach begins, not with fallen man, but with man in his Christian fulfillment: union with God."

So, our ultimate purpose explains sin better than sin explains the need for a sacrificial atonement.

22 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

So, our ultimate purpose explains sin better than sin explains the need for a sacrificial atonement.

Yes, just so.

1/11/2017 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Al Franken -- the new Larry King.

1/11/2017 01:42:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

It has always been a pet peeve of mine that psychology attempts to speak of pathology in the absence of purpose. In reality it cannot be done.

Lack of purpose is always going to lead to bad things. Now we have a pathological society that tries to find its purpose in the temporal and transient, fads, whims, and fashions.

1/11/2017 01:51:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

OT, for Christmas, someone, for some strange reason, gave me a four disc set of Sinatra. It's good. I really enjoy listening to Frank, whom I confess I always kind of classed with Lawrence Welk, which is wrong in every possible way.

1/11/2017 05:05:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

That he could be classified with Lawrence Welk is a most grave heresy! I'm not sure which collection you have, but his prime work between 1951 and 1965 is certainly among the greatest music of the 20th century. It is inconceivable to me that his interpretations of the great American songbook could ever be surpassed.

1/11/2017 05:25:00 PM  
Blogger John Lien said...

But ultimately, if theosis is man's purpose, then anything interfering with it will be pathological. On the spiritual plane, this is sin, precisely. Sin can only be understood in the context of what man is for. Sin, you might say, is "spiritual illness."

So, our ultimate purpose explains sin better than sin explains the need for a sacrificial atonement.


Aha! Thanks. Got to give you my periodic ATTABOB!(FWIW) Great posts. I hope it's just that Dumdum Kroger effect wearing off, but the more I listen, the less I want to say something.

1/11/2017 07:48:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Well, it's a subject something I myself struggle with, so I feel the same way as you. But as usual, the early fathers, in an act of anticipatory plagiarism, stole my ideas.

1/11/2017 07:55:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Forgive me, for I indeed sinned in this. In my defense, I grew up only a few miles from the studios where the Ozark Jubilee took place.

I have some of the early stuff, a bit of the later, but mostly '50s and '60s, it appears. It is like an epiphany.

1/11/2017 09:13:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Since I was raised on rock & roll, I didn't truly discover Sinatra until the mid-1980s, when there was a reissue campaign of the Capitol material -- a string of magnificent concept albums from the '50s and early '60s. I dipped in to them and discovered to my shock that what he did was magic. There's no other word. Although he did work extremely hard at it. It took a lot of hard work to sound so effortless.

Before that I had mostly heard only the 1960s crossover hits such as Strangers in the Night and Something Stupid, not at all representative of the majesty and glory. You will notice that there is something inimitable about his phrasing, how he just "breathes" the song over the arrangement, sometimes ahead of the beat, sometimes behind, like he's in conversation. I've tried to analyze it, but you can't. He's sui generis. Like Wayne Gretzky, the only argument is over who's second best.

1/11/2017 09:34:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Oh, and you can't say enough about Nelson Riddle's arrangements, which are their own form of magic, a perfect match for the Voice. Amazing how those two found each other, like the Beatles and George Martin.

1/11/2017 09:47:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Or Flatt and Scruggs, if you prefer.

1/11/2017 09:48:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

He does make it sound like conversation. My theory, which is mine, is that it's because he actually pays attention to the linguistic aspect of what he's singing. I have often had the impression that for a lot of people, lyrics are just a bunch of sounds strung together, with little inherent meaning from one phrase (or sometimes even word) to the next.

Not to say that they never know what they're saying, just that there's a mental translational issue - I think for lots of brains, if something is being sung it just isn't processed and expressed in the same way language usually is; instead, it comes from a different, more mathematical part of the brain. Thus lots of people can even sing something in a foreign language without having a clue what it means. The focus is on specific sounds, rhythm, intonation, and musical phrasing, but the linguistic element gets left out. Too much for most people to process at once.

Incidentally, I think that's why he drives perfect pitchers batty. He bends the notes and doesn't strictly follow the rules of intonation; rather, he follows the rules of conversation.

1/12/2017 12:09:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

That's a bingo. He would actually study the lyrics beforehand and try to get into the meaning, so as to sing them from the inside. He often sounds as if he's speaking the words off the top of his head, or thinking out loud, as an actor might. In a way, he's as much method actor as singer.

Also, very early on he learned to imitate a wind instrument, which is what gives his voice such a sheer musical quality. He really worked hard at breath control. Also on diction.

1/12/2017 08:21:00 AM  
Blogger debass said...

Johnny Hartman, Dinah Washington, Ella; you youngsters!

1/12/2017 11:26:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I love Dinah Washington, and appreciate Johnny Hartman. But Ella has always left me a bit cold. No soul. I don't see her as capable of getting inside a lyric in the manner of Sinatra. I can certainly enjoy certain performances for their musicality, but it seems to me that she lacks a certain emotional depth.

1/13/2017 08:41:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I've always thought this performance should win some kind of prize for "emotional believability." Etta James has a lot of those too, like this one.

1/13/2017 09:06:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Another favorite, this one by Aretha. That wail at 3:42 always gives me a chill.

1/13/2017 09:11:00 AM  
Blogger debass said...

I work with a singer, late twenties who has that wail in her voice. It does the same thing to me. I know what you mean about Ella, too show bizzy, though her voice never seemed to age. She always sounded like a young woman.

1/14/2017 11:29:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Concur -- to me she sounded even "girlish," which served her well in some contexts but prevented a certain depth of expression in others.

1/15/2017 08:50:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I'm thinking of how Paul McCartney may have had the better voice but John Lennon much deeper expressiveness. "Soul" is a mysterious quantity.

1/15/2017 08:53:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

It can come out in unexpected ways. For example, I find that Karen Carpenter and Brian Wilson (in his prime) have an achingly soulful quality, even though they are by no means soul singers, and would sound foolish if they tried to be.

1/15/2017 08:57:00 AM  
Blogger debass said...

Karen Carpenter, yes. One of my favorites. So pure and clean tone. She sings slightly behind the beat like a jazz horn player. Sinatra set the standard for phrasing the same way.

1/16/2017 03:48:00 AM  

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