Friday, November 06, 2009

The Cosmic Symphony

This post has been sitting around unfinished on my desk. It's part of a much larger project that investigates the possibility that we love and need music because it discloses important insights (or insounds) into the nature of reality. Dedicated to the memory of Ximese.

To what point must we enlarge our thought so that it shall be in proportion to the phenomenon? --Schelling

The problem with the various -isms ,-ologies, and ismologies of our day is that they are simply not in proportion to the phenomena they seek to explain. Rather, in every case, they make the phenomena go away by subsuming it into a system out of which it could never have arisen to begin with. As a result, man has a total explanation of the cosmos, but at the price of eliminating himself from it. It seems that no one asks what kind of cosmos must this be in order for truth -- and a being capable of knowing it -- to exist in it.

In other words, let us say that Darwinism as commonly understood by tenured vulgarians is "true." This immediately creates a host of problems for the theory, for now one has to explain how it is possible for truth to be known, given the impossibly narrow constraints of natural selection. For to know truth is to adapt oneself to the timeless, so to speak, whereas natural selection is strictly an ephemeral adequation to a changing environment. How can that which only changes know that which never does?

Traditionally, we have a word for "the thing that never changes." We call it God. Unfortunately, this word has become detached from what was once extremely experience-bound, so that it is often an empty abstraction (or alternatively, a saturated concretion) -- especially for those who "do not believe" in God. In the end, it is not a matter of belief or disbelief; rather, it is -- and must be -- a matter of experience, to which we only subsequently give the name "God" (even those who wrote the scriptures had to simultaneously have the experience; I don't think they were just glorified stenographers).

The experience must be of something that is "other"; and yet, there must be a part of us that is capable of conforming itself to this object. In other words, humans can only know what they are capable of knowing, and they either can or cannot know this transcendental object.

If they cannot know it, then this hardly resolves the problem. Rather, then you have to explain what all those people were experiencing when they thought they were experiencing God, including many of the most brilliant and accomplished minds in human history. It will not do to simply say it was "nothing." At the very least, you would have to concede that it was something, just not "God." It's like saying, "I thought I was in love, but it turned out I wasn't." Just because things turned out that way, it doesn't mean that the object of your affections didn't really exist. You just thought that she was something she wasn't.

Let's think about this transcendental Object. For human beings, since vision is our dominant sense, when we consider the word "object" we probably imagine something material, like a pen, or a cup, or a hat. But this can be misleading, for there are also "aural objects," most notably, musical objects consisting of melody, harmony, and rhythm.

Note the first difference between a visual and an aural object; the former exists all at once in space, while the latter unfolds serially in time. Specifically, a melody is a kind of "musical object" that is "nothing" at any instant. That is, to hear just the note in isolation is to kill the melody -- like looking at a letter in isolation from the word, or a word in isolation from the sentence. An individual note is not just "nothing" -- i.e., neutral -- but a kind of lie if it was really meant to be part of a melody or harmony.

Now, human beings exist in time. I think we can all agree on that. But this is not just the physical time of pure duration, as it is for a stone or an aerosmith. Rather, we live in developmental time, in which we constantly change and grow, and yet, retain our "selves." A helpless infant who stayed a helpless infant would not be an occasion for hope and joy, but a tragedy and a nuisance.

As time passes and the infant reaches various developmental milestones, he unfolds like a flower. The adult could hardly be more different than the infant if looked at in isolation, like an object in space. But we are always, from infancy to adulthood, an arrow aimed beyond our present state to a future self we cannot know until we arrive there. To grow is to coherently unfold in time, not merely expand in space.

Along these lines, please note that it may be as artificial an exercise to separate the first living thing from the last man as it would be to separate the fetus from the baby. Who said that things are really as separate as they appear to our eyes? Who said that the future doesn't disclose the meaning of the past? Indeed, how could it not?

The critical point to bear in mind for those with ears to hear, is that man is not an object but a melody -- or rather, a complex musical object with a deep continuity extending back to the womb and before (and above). In the absence of this deep continuity, we could never have become the melody. Every man was once a helpless baby, and if he hadn't been, he could never have become a man. What this means is that man is not just melody -- which exists in time -- but harmony -- which exists in space.

Think, for example, of a chord, which consists of two or more notes played simultaneously. It is a truism that the childhood experience that we do not consciously remember is stored away in the "unconscious." But the unconscious is not "past." Rather, it is very much present, as one of its principle characteristics is timelessness.

Thus, if you want to understand the proper relationship between the conscious and unconscious minds, it is very much like two notes that must be harmonized. To the extent that they become "dissonant," this will result in what we call "symptoms," which are unconscious emotions or behaviors that clash with our conscious will, and cause pain or dysfunction.

Please note that symptoms are not unambiguously negative, as they can and do carry vital messages about ourselves which we need to understand and integrate. Not only that, but they can serve as important reminders that we are not yet "complete," and that we are ignoring something to which we need to pay attention. To cite one example, the atheist's obsession with God is a kind of painful reminder that God is absent in his life -- or present in an inverted manner.

But when the conscious and unconscious minds are harmonized, this leads to a new depth of experience that could never occur with just one or the other. In fact, it is very much analogous to one of those "magic eye" pictures which leap out of the page, or even like our two eyes which create the perception of depth owing to their having slightly different vertices.

Or, it's like a chord that is much more interesting to the ear than the bare note. I've always loved vocal harmony, e.g., the Beach Boys. I guess they remind me of the celestial harmelody of the Song Supreme. No wonder Brian Wilson called one of his greatest works, Smile, a "teenage symphony to God."

Our Prayer, from the original Smile:

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Up to Bismarck

Yesterday I received the sad news that a member of our lodge has suddenly and unexpectedly died. We knew her as Ximese, but her real name was Kathy, age 53. I don't want to speculate, but from the description of her friend, Todd, it sure sounds like swine flu, although I suppose thousands of people die from the regular flu as well every year. Todd says there will be an autopsy.

I'm sure Todd -- or Kathy -- wouldn't mind my passing along the following: "She really loved your book, that you had a website, and fell in love with the regulars. It was always what was going on at OC every day, she would always tell me about what happened, what was said, if Van had done something amusing, if Ben was ok, etc. You were her family in a way, as she found you when God took away her alcoholism -- literally took it. I was there.

"She had heard a sermon by (the sometimes infamous) Dr. Gene Scott about Abraham, 'Lift up now thine eyes, from the place where you are...' He was using this to say that God deals with you where you stand, not where you or anyone thinks you should be. She told me, she was in her bedroom (around 10 pm) and had the DTs, and looked up at her ceiling and asked God to help her.

"He did. She never touched it again, never wanted to, and had no desire. Period. She has been dry ever since. So, she found your book about then, and then the site, and helped out at a local Church's 'Celebrate Recovery' program, to help people realize there was more to 'recovery' than just the old rehab stuff from reworked AA."

Todd passed along this photo:

That would be her owner, Beaky, on the right. Todd says Kathy is radiating her take the f*#%ing picture look. You know, her usual look (she did not suffer trolls gladly).

Here is some more biographical info from Todd: "Her family was in the diplomatic service, and she grew up in Argentina and Paraguay. She spoke fluent Argentine Spanish, and also Japanese. She was an international student at University of the Pacific in Stockton CA, and did a home stay in Japan.

"She was a black belt in Aikido, and had worked her way from being receptionist to VP in charge of operations for a large debt management organization.

"She loved to cook, was a voracious reader, and also an online researcher. Although she read many sites -- Ace of Spades, The People's Cube, Big Fur Hat, etc. -- One Cosmos was her home."

I don't remember when Ximese found home, but it was a case of instant re-cognition. She is the archetypal person for whom I'm always writing, and without whom I could not write -- the one who whacks their furhead in d'light and exclaims, finally! Where has this been all my life!

But the feeling is always mutual -- where have you been all my life! -- since the teaching is just what goes on in the space between two people who recognize it and resonate at the same frequency. It's a vibrating triad, not a static monad or dyad, since it's two people in love with a common third that comes into view between them. It's how we can (implicitly) know each other without having to undergo the formality of (explicitly) knowing each other. Just innocent spirits at play in the fields of the word, like children learning to speak, only of higher things.

Kathy's comments are part of the permanent arkive, so that in a hundred years, unborn Coons will speak with reverence and awe of her legendary troll-bashing. Sure, she liked soccer, but nobody's perfect.

Tonight at Be'er O'clock, let us raise a glass and remurmur our bright Ximese twinkle, Kathy, and give her a proper zendoff to Bismarck, secure in the knowledge that she is slackfully kicking it with Toots and the boys.

.... a drop embraced by the sea held within the drop....

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Loose Thread

The Endless Thread, part II. Please sign our geistbook.

And don't forget to nominate One Cosmos for Best Religious Blog starting November 3. We need to extend our streak to three years for not Best Religious Blog. Keep the joke alive!

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