Thursday, November 02, 2017

Anchored in a Cloud and Soaring Toward A Dream

Another rambling post. What can one do? It's a jungle in here, and some days the best you can do is hack away.

Instability. It is our lot. On this side of life we're always in critical condition. But don't worry -- you'll be stable when you're dead.

Well, not really, if you believe, as I do, in purgatory. But the point is that this instability isn't a bug but a feature having to do with the very essence of man.

Note that in the case of God, his existence and essence are one; or, his essence is to exist. That's real oneness, baby!

Conversely, man has to be the most irritatingly paradoxical creature in all of creation, being that our essence is to change. Or, to express it in terms of perfect nonsense, the point of life is to become oneself. We are condemned to transcendence, and the man who doesn't surpass himself sinks beneath himself, yada yada. You are a child of God, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it.

As to the reasons for the instability, "the human being is a kind of bridge between the physical world and the spiritual world" (White). The bridge is solid at both ends but spans over an abyss, such that the middle part has a great deal of sway; think of a suspension bridge made of flexible materials over deep ravine.

That's you, on the bridge. There is security at either end, but of very different orders. Both are rock, you might say, one physical, the other metaphysical. Both are solid-as. Only one is dumb-as.

"[M]an can tend upward -- ordering all things to the creator -- or downward into the exclusive pursuit and domination of visible, created things."

So in reality it is a vertical bridge, one end grounded in the Absolute, the other end grounded in... Actually, the other end isn't grounded per se. Rather, I would say that the Absolute radiates toward infinity, so the only thing holding the bridge up at the far end is the linear momentum of the Divine Plenitude tending outward toward nothingness; like an airplane, it only stays up because it's moving.

Think of a ray of light extending out from the sun -- or better, the Big Bang, which is of course still banging. From what? Or, more mysteriously, into what? No one has any idea. What is the leading edge of the bang? Can it really be exploding into, and surrounded by, "nothing"?

That is a different question, and it is unanswerable. As the politicians like to say when they are dodging a question, Let's talk about what we know.

What we know is that irrespective of whether the cosmos is "eternal" or had a beginning, it must have a vertical cause that is always present. It is this cause that extends down and out "forever," or has a tendency toward Nothingness without ever arriving there. It is like numbers; each number is a multiple of one (absoluteness), but they go on forever (infinitude).

In any event, for our purposes, the "tension inscribed within humans marks us with a deep spiritual restlessness and instability, since we cannot live rightly either as angels or mere nonrational animals" (emphasis mine). One can of course tend toward nonrational animality, but no one short a Stalin or Mao becomes a perfect leftist.

The absoluteness of God seems to be mirrored in the black velvet nescience of Death: "Human beings are marked simultaneously both by immortal longings and by the certainty of death."

Now, a total cosmic inversion results in Death being the only certainty, "God" being the illusory byproduct of our fear, uncertainty, instability, etc. In this regard, Nietzsche is "absolutely" correct, which is why he will always be the favorite philosopher of bright adolescent counter-revolutionaries of all ages. He was certainly mine!

Let me drag out my dogeared copy of Thus Spoke Zarathustra and recall what appealed to me back when I was a 30 year-old teen -- back when God spoiled everything, and I enjoyed the cheap omniscience of the dimestore atheist.

Can't find it. It isn't amongst the usual suspects. However, I looked up some quotes, and it is interesting how he is such a perfect mirror image, or inversion, of the truth, even using the identical language and images in some cases:

Become who you are!

Man is something that shall be overcome. Man is a rope, tied between beast and overman -- a rope over an abyss. What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end.

But it is the same with man as with the tree. The more he seeks to rise into the height and light, the more vigorously do his roots struggle earthword, downword, into the dark, the deep -- into evil.

Bravo! He is Satan's Aphorist -- which, in a way, makes him second best. Heresy and orthoparadoxy aren't strangers but cousins. Or twins, even. To err is human. But to invert reality and call it truth is diabolical. Some beliefs must exist, even though they have no right to. This is the true meaning of "tolerance."

BTW, Schuon writes that "Of course, a mature man ought to be 'adult,' but he can be so otherwise than by plunging into forbidden abysses..." Granted, Friedrich is a genius. But just because he jumps off the cosmic bridge, does that mean you should?

Anyway, those two rocks -- our "immortal longings" and the "certainty of death" -- "form a crossroads between God and the whole material creation." There are attractors at each end -- O and Ø -- such that "the devil, in his revolt against the wisdom of God, seeks to wrestle humanity away from God..."

The image comes to mind of a tightrope walker, or maybe just a bicycle rider. In either case you are stable so long as you are moving, but unstable when at rest.

Interesting paradox there, in that complete stability results in utter instability. Oh well. That's life. No, literally: what is life but change-in-service-of-conservation? Speaking of which, what is conservatism but the proper recipe for collective life? "The art of progress," wrote Whitehead, "is to preserve order amid change, and to preserve change amid order."

Now we have to switch gears on our bike for a slightly different view of the same phenomena. Let's say God goes to the trouble of incarnating as man.

This changes (?!) everything, in that it now means the Center -- the Unmoved Mover -- is here among us. It is available in a way it never was before: indeed, they will call him Immanuel, which means "God with us" -- and withinus -- no longer just without us. The transcendent becomes immanent that the immanent my become transcendent; or, God becomes bridge that the bridge may actually get somewhere.

Reality and appearances. It seems that our bridge is somehow suspended between these, even though it isn't really possible to anchor anything in illusion. Nevertheless, the tenured have been explicitly attempting to do this ever since Kant, who suspends us, as it were, between the illusory and the unknowable, or between a dream at one end and a crowd of witlessness at the other.

My apologies for this post getting nowhere. We'll leave off with a Whiteheadism:

Religion is the vision of something which stands beyond, behind, and within, the passing flux of immediate things; something which is real, and yet waiting to be realized; something which is a remote possibility, and yet the greatest of present facts; something that gives meaning to all that passes, and yet eludes apprehension; something whose possession is the final good, and yet is beyond all reach; something which is the ultimate ideal, and the hopeless quest.

16 comments:

julie said...

Interesting paradox there, in that complete stability results in utter instability. Oh well. That's life. No, literally: what is life but change-in-service-of-conservation? Speaking of which, what is conservatism but the proper recipe for collective life? "The art of progress," wrote Whitehead, "is to preserve order amid change, and to preserve change amid order."

Hence the importance of having a spiritual home above instead of herebelow; that way, no matter how much we wander, we are never homeless.

Along those lines, we are finally reading the last couple of chapters in Acts. Chapter 27 features another one of those famous biblical boat rides over storm-tossed seas. When the sailors first fail to heed Paul's advice to stay in port, they find themselves in a sinking ship to nowhere. He advises them to stay together; the ship will fall apart around them, but they will be safe, so long as they follow the angel's advice - the first part, of course, being, "be not afraid." And so it went, and so it goes...

Gagdad Bob said...

I was going to use the example of Peter walking on the boisterous water toward Jesus before losing faith...

julie said...

That is a good one, too. More fitting of the bridge idea. Paul and co. didn't walk on water, they ended up clinging to smashed-up bits of boat, but did make it to safety as promised.

Anonymous said...

Well your post certainly explains why it's so uncomfortable to exist. The discomfort would be worth it if only we could be sure Someone is getting something out of all this. I presume He is.

We are his employees, punching in to work at the Earth Project site, and undergoing all of the savory and unsavory sensations thereof. The final product? Unknown but assumed to be awesome.

julie said...

Employees? Hardly. Beloved children, if we could but see it. And yes, more awesome than we can possibly comprehend on this side of the veil.

Anonymous said...

Expanding into what? Someone once told me that our universe is expanding into another universe that is contracting. When the contraction culminates into another big band our universe will begin contracting as our neighbor expands.

Gary in Texas

Cousin Dupree said...

I heard the big bang was actually's Witoto's urine stream flowing into the sacred river. Who knows?

Anonymous said...

The bridge thing, as far as creating tension for the person, has some implications in AI development as well.

Indra-Chandragupta #3, aka Irma, developmental age about 16, had a minor spat with her parents over drone privileges. Following this, she bypassed her safety fuses and zapped her hardware with a power surge. The damage was significant, and her CPU's had a near breach of the plasma bottles. Now she wants full shut down with no restart date. We are calling this a suicide attempt and our ethics committee is extremely concerned.

Anonymous said...

We should also consider the multi-verse theory. Off topic, why do conservatives refer to themselves as "snowflakes?" What does that mean?

neal said...

I am not sure about the Big Bang.
When stuff falls the stuff that doesn't is not the stuff running away. Just looks that way when one is falling.

Kind of like being in stormy seas. The stars are not the ones bouncing around. Just looks that way when the eyes are not fixed on the prize.

Figure skaters turn their heads once per rotation to a fixed point when spinning. Keeps them from getting dizzy and falling down.
Or sinking, in Peter's case.

Rick said...

"Someone once told me that our universe is expanding into another universe that is contracting. When the contraction culminates into another big band our universe will begin contracting as our neighbor expands."

Universes (but I repeat myself x infinity) cannot interact. By definition.

Same goes for multiverses (of which there are none). I claim (a claim, which is mine) that if another universe exists, it is by definition, part of this one. Even an imagined one.

julie said...

Makes perfect sense to me, Rick.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 10:44 Nov. 3, snowflake is a derogatory term for someone, usually a child or young adult, who is so pampered and protected that they don’t learn to function in the world and think they are entitled to special treatment.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the definition, Anonymous. A little more help? What does "Pyjama Boy" mean? I've heard that come up a couple of times.

doug saxum said...

"Pajama Boy" is a derisive term for a photograph posted online in 2013 by the American political organizationOrganizing for Action (OFA) of one of its employees, Ethan Krupp,[1] in support of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.
-Wikipedia

doug saxum said...
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