Friday, October 15, 2010

A Child of the Moment, Living Without a Why

Since religion must deal with the whole man (who is not just afflicted in one isolated part), it is addressed to his intellect, his will, his body, and his emotions -- or in terms of truth, love, beauty, and virtue.

But for some reason -- especially lately, i.e., the last couple hundred years -- the general message has become more narrowly focussed on the will and the sentiments, excluding -- and sometimes even being hostile to -- the intellect.

In turn, this has only cleared the way for anti-intellectual modernists and postmodernists to perversely dominate the field of intellect. This leads to the intolerable situation of religion addressing one part of man, "science" another. This creates an existential or even ontological split in man, where no such split actually exists (or could exist).

This is quite insidious, because it violently estranges man from himself, and then posits the resultant alienation as normative. But to the extent that it is normative, it is only a result of our contingent "fallenness" and not our essential being, the latter of which is possible to recover (or, to be more precise, to re-member).

For not only is man whole, but he is the terrestrial refleshion of wholeness, i.e., the microcosm. At risk of being willfully misunderstood, we are "gods in the making," which is sort of the whole point of this verticalisthenic exercise. If "we must be careful not to attribute to God the limitations of men," it is equally true that we must not attribute to man the limitations of the self-styled godlings of atheism, materialism, and ideological Darwinism.

For the soul is all that it knows, which is all that is potentially knowable. And only nothing is not knowable. Everything real is.

Schuon agrees that Westerners tend not to "have a sense of the metaphysical transparency of phenomenon," and instead "insist as a matter of preference on penitential means" of religious practice. In short, they emphasize the "moral alternative, not that of contemplative participation." But as a courtesy to other spiritual types, "if these fideists have no wish to use their intelligence, at least they should not forbid others to do so" (Schuon).

There is of course nothing wrong with the penitential path so long as it is not forgotten that man is (potentially) whole, and that any single path should encompass the others. To say that man is fallen is not just to say that he is prone to moral corruption, but that he is also -- and perhaps even more fundamentally -- susceptible to intellectual betrayals of every kind.

In other words, man transgresses against truth just as much as he does virtue. To not know reality is to not know how to behave. But proper behavior implies some awareness of truth, even if it is only subconscious and not explicitly formulated.

Indeed, truth is nothing more than the inward virtue of the intellect, while morality is the exterior truth of soul. To artificially separate these various modes and functions cannot but help lead to incoherence, confusion, and absurdity. For if man is not whole (both spatially and temporally, vertically and horizontally), there is truly no escape from cosmic absurdity. Then it's just my surd against yours.

One might say that there is an inverse relationship between wholeness and absurdity. This occurred to me yesterday, while thinking about how much sense existence makes to my son. Nothing is yet absurd. We're trying to hold off that realization for as long as possible, while simultaneously nurturing the tools -- or better yet, the unThought deep structure -- to cope with the pressure (and the pressure to conform is intense) society will bring to bear on his spiritual innocence and wholeness.

Culture does one of two things: it compresses us into a dense and spiritually closed metamorphic rock, or disperses us into spiritually impotent fragments. Reversing the former condition requires love, beauty, slack, and dilation, while the latter requires self-discipline, rigor, severity, and boundaries. Or say music and geometry, female and male, mother and father.

Of course we ultimately need both. When both are operative and relating harmelodically, the partition between the upper and lower waters becomes more permeable, so that we may grow with the flow.

Also, as Schuon formulates it, "the psycho-spiritual is exteriorized to the extent that the believing mentality is interiorized." What this means is that if our ¶rimary Orientation is to the "above" (as in ↓↑) and not the "outward," the latter begins to be conditioned by the former, and "paradise" begins to emerge from the fog. Or at least there is an intuition of heaven, so to speak.

To live without a why and to be a child of the moment is very much as I described the situation with my son, except that he has a couple of deputized parents to help ensure the coontinuity. As adults we must rely upon, and place our faith in, the actual Source, i.e., the Father of fathers and Mother of mothers, and thereby be adopted sons after the Son, if one may put it thus.

This was kind of short, but a voice upside my head is saying "the end." I guess that's all for today.


Linda Murphy said...

Hello-I am Julie's lurker pal and I felt compelled to chime in briefly today.

I have a young son of six years who cannot simply move forward without a why. I often struggle with just allowing him to accept the unknown. His mind must figure out how things work and he sometimes expects very black and white answers. His inner workings fascinate and challenge me every single day.

Last week, his first pet goldfish died after four days. In his inner struggle to understand death, he prompted a lengthy discussion on how the physical body dies. He needed to know how the heart stops and how the brain stops. He also needed to know if I had seen someone die and what happens to the body after death. He wanted very clear, scientific answers to the questions.

This followed with questions about spirit. He talked about God taking care of your spirit. But he needed to know what happens to your spirit when you are gone and we waded into the reality of the unknown. The hardest part for him was trying to understand that there might not be an answer as clear as the others. But he was sure that God was going to help the process. He almost had it figured out better than I might have done explaining it.

I have been reading along and trying to figure out my approaches with him in matters spiritual. Perhaps the best moments come when I realize how much I have to learn. Not only in unearthing answers to his science questions-which Julie can vouch that it requires more than a cursory knowledge of the subject at hand-but also how to balance the open-ended questions properly.

I appreciated your post today. Forgive my less than eloquent comments-I feel a bit unpolished in comparison to some (most?) of your readers.

julie said...

I feel a bit unpolished in comparison to some (most?) of your readers


But really, you aren't.

I see what you mean about the spiritual questions, though - he wants concrete answers to everything, things he can test and even have some control over. Uncertainty is the enemy. Mystery is darn near unbearable. If you don't give him something tangible to work with, he'll provide his own very creative answers, but of course they'll often be wrong, given that he's only six. Maybe that's why he likes the "magic" tricks so much. Little "mysteries" he can control.

Rick said...

Welcome, SnoopMurph.

I can't remember exactly how old I was, but I do remember the period of when it occurred to me that I was vulnerable to death. You know, I knew what death was and I suppose even that I would not live forever. I'm talking about when it actually hit me; the reality of it. I was maybe 7 or so. I think I was watching a movie. I kept the deep worry about it to myself. But it was a bad period for me. I don't remember when I got over it. It's a "getting used to the idea" sort of thing I suppose.

Anyway, my gut feeling is that maybe it's not such a good thing to participate in the (frantic?) questioning of your son with answers. I'm reminded of...who is it in the Bible? Paul? Who says to give them milk before meat. That may mean just to comfort your boy and tell him everything is alright. Answer some, but not everything. And in a boy's level of understanding.
But I'm picturing my son, so forgive me that I don't know either of you nearly well enough, even if I knew the right way to treat us.

Excellent post, as you say.
And your comment/question.

dwongmeichi said...

It's really too bad you didn't get that replacement goldfish in there before your son saw "Goldie" floating.
My back up fish saved me a lot of what you are going through!

julie said...

She would have been running out to buy a lot of replacement fish. I don't think there was any hiding how sick they were, anyway. The kids will learn about death sooner or later; losing a goldfish after four days is probably one of the easier ways to do it, imho.

mushroom said...

In other words, man transgresses against truth just as much as he does virtue.

I like that.

The first derivative of reality is morality. If we know the truth and act in accordance with it, we are, by definition moral. Or as Jesus told Petey, There is none good but God.

julie said...

Elbow. I'd never heard of them, but I like the sound...

Jack said...

Just recently received John Hassell's "Power Spot" produced by Eno and Lanois. Great stuff. I am always fascinated by musicians who seem to emerge fully-formed with a very deep and unique identity.

I am clearly of the opposite has taken me forever and much effort to eke out whatever musical expression I am capable of at this point. It seems to take an effort of 10 to receive a result of 1. I take solace in Miles saying:

"Sometimes you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself"

This is true for most of us with most things. Maybe it's true for everyone in all things.

Gagdad Bob said...

As for my musical news, I purchased an excellent SACD player a few months ago, and have been eagerly attempting to collect some SACDs that remain in print, plus some that have gone out. The format was rejected by the marketplace, since most people are content with mediocre sounding downloads and MP3s, so SACD is probably the last chance we'll have to experience hi-def sound for the foreseeable future.

Does anyone else have experience with this medium? A couple of months ago I scored an ultra-rare SACD of Ziggy Stardust for only eight bucks. By far the best sounding version in existence. Early Stones, Dylan and Elton John were also released in SACD. The early Eltons sound especially good, e.g., Tumbleweed Connection and Madman Across the Water. The Dylans sound as good as vinyl, while the Stones will never sound better.

Jack said...

I've heard good things about SACD. I work at an audio-related company and the repair engineer guy loves it. He has also mentioned a 5.1 version of "In a Silent Way". It's amazing that the pace of audio innovation has virtually ground to a halt. We've even taken a step backward with MP3's. I guess people don't want to have to shell out more money and replace their collection AGAIN. But I'd love to hear how it sounds. Increased resolution seems to be the only (current) way of approaching vinyl.

julie said...

Okay, I'll bite - what does SACD stand for, and why is it supposed to be better?

Gagdad Bob said...

Super Audio CD. Streams the data at many times the rate of conventional CDs, resulting in much higher resolution, with greater dynamic range, wider frequency response, and more warmth, depth, and realism. It's analogous to the difference between conventional TV and high def. The discs are also encoded for 5.1 surround sound, but I don't care about that. I'm quite happy with stereo.

julie said...

Ah. I thought maybe it stood for Super Awesome CD, but figured it probably wasn't technical enough...

I do wonder sometimes if all the surround sound is worthwhile, since we only have two ears with which to hear regardless of how many speakers there are, especially for music. It seems as though having the right balance is more important than hearing things in different locations. But maybe there's something I'm missing.

Gagdad Bob said...

I think the surround sound is better for movies, since there are so many non-musical things going on that situate one in the space of the film (not to mention the dialogue coming from the front/center). But with pure music, a good system should throw out a three-dimensional image anyway.

SippicanCottage said...

I keep listening to music on worse and worse equipment. It's starting to approximate a Motown record coming out of a mono dashboard speaker in a '66 Fairlane again, which is fine by me.

My fifteen year-old has discovered the dozens of boxes of lps in the basement. My seven year old calls them "the big CDs."

Leslie Godwin said...

Re dead goldfish, et al.
Snoop, you were very eloquent. Please post again.

I know just what you mean about all of the questions when it comes to something really puzzling like a goldfish being alive one minute and dead the next.

When my father died, Tristan quizzed me for the entire half hour ride to preschool (he was 4.5) and I gave him brief answers and then he would clarify with another question...but I could see he was trying really hard to make sense of how my father's heart could wear out and stop pumping blood, etc.

The most amazing part, as you guys with kids can probably anticipate, is that when we got to school, he summed up the whole half hour of bits and pieces of answers in one sentence to his teacher. I was floored. He put it all together better than I could have done and really bottom lined it for her.

But as Bob was saying, when you can talk to them about God, death, religion, etc. just like you talk to them about why they need to eat their growing food and why it's important to be polite, it becomes part of their everyday thoughts and vocabulary and an integrated way of looking at the world.

It's so helpful in our part of So. Cal. to have him in religious school, which does just that. I really want him to feel like his soul is just as real, if not more real, than everything else they talk about in school.

Thanks for bringing this up,

julie said...

With music stereo definitely makes sense; if it didn't headphones wouldn't be as effective as they are. Or for instance, there's a Dead Can Dance piece on Toward the Within (a live recording) where someone quite clearly walks past the microphones - you can hear the shape of a body as it moves past and blocks the sound, even though the person is quiet as a ninja. Two speakers is all you need for the shape to be apparent.

For movies, I don't know that I'm all that enamored of surround sound, especially at home. The premise is good, and I guess it works for a lot of people, but I find it distracting at times. If I hear something going on behind me or off to the side, I turn to look and it takes me out of the movie. I may be thinking, "hey, cool - it sounds like it's happening over there," but then I'm not paying attention to the story.

Sippi, re. the big CDs, when I was a kid we had neighbors who had a laser disk movie system. Really big CD :)

Shawn said...

I have a few SACD discs, and have enjoyed hearing certain passages isolated in the 5.1 mix that are often just more buried in the original stereo mix. Granted, there's a limited number of such moments, but for a real favorite album, it's a blast (once or twice anyway). I run the 6 channels through a mixer and bring various parts up and down to hear some of the details more clearly.

Magnus Itland said...

I am a true barbarian when it comes to music. Not just because dirges and lamentation make me smile, but I also could not tell the difference between music recorded in MP3 vs FLAC even if you held a gun to my head.

Then again only a fraction of the music I listen to is actually outside my head. The voices in my head are singing pretty much all the time if I let them, songs both familiar and unknown. Why this is, I don't know. I cannot even remember now when it began, but it must be many years ago.

Sometimes I think other people, who wear MP3 drivers even when biking, must be desperate to drown out the voices in their head.

ge said...

got to have...

lovely rita


Gagdad Bob said...

What Sipp said is sadly true. I must admit that my obsessive audiophilia comes down to futilely chasing the high I once felt upon hearing the Beatles' latest single from the dashboard of my father's Ford Fairlane, or out of my Japanese (when that was a pejorative) transistor radio. Why the latest technology can't sound as good as that, I'll never understand.

Verdiales said...


Check out MA Recordings. You can order online.

JWM said...

What was it about Ford AM radios? Actually, you needed a vibrasonic for the full psychedelic impact. "Crimson and Clover" with the vibra turned up to maximum echo- now that was music!


Gagdad Bob said...

We had many varieties of Ford when I was a lad -- a Falcon, a Fairlane, a Ranchero, a Country Squire, a Gran Torino (and how gran it was!), and a big ol' LTD. And my first car was a Pinto Wagon.

ge said...

well let's hear it for...[]-_-[] headphones!
i realize that's how i do most my serious auditioning---been using hi-price Senn's for playback [+ recording even mixing]---like you 'shouldnt' do...

Gagdad Bob said...

My Senns just died last week, so I ordered these Audio Technicas on amazon for only 79 bucks, with free shipping. They seem to be a true steal, since they have a class A rating in Stereophile, in competition with headphones that are many times the price. I love beating the system.

julie said...

OT, Wow - tough words from Germany's chancellor:

Merkel weighed in for the first time in a blistering debate sparked by a central bank board member saying the country was being made "more stupid" by poorly educated and unproductive Muslim migrants.

"Multikulti", the concept that "we are now living side by side and are happy about it," does not work, Merkel told a meeting of younger members of her conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party at Potsdam near Berlin.

"This approach has failed, totally," she said, adding that immigrants should integrate and adopt Germany's culture and values.

"We feel tied to Christian values. Those who don't accept them don't have a place here," said the chancellor.

"Subsidising immigrants" isn't sufficient, Germany has the right to "make demands" on them, she added, such as mastering the language of Goethe and abandoning practices such as forced marriages.

Gagdad Bob said...

Merkel must be German for cojones.

Jack said...

Ah, if only more politician here had the merkels to say such things.

Jack said...

I once had a lefty friend start ranting against those who think speaking English should be required here, by saying, "why should they have to learn the language of the 'conquerers'". At the time I just said something practical like, "because it might be to their benefit?"

But thinking back, isn't *Spanish* the language of their conquerors?

Not that this would have changed anything...

ge said...

Bob--i have had rather amazing luck sending back crippled Senns even way after warranty and they return 'em fresh/fixed, no charge.
for me it'd make sense having 2 different good brands, alternating, so thanks for recomm.

Gagdad Bob said...

They were getting pretty corroded before the wiring finally gave way... I'd be a little embarrassed to demand a replacement...

Nova said...

Not only Merkel. Canada's Stephen Harper refused a seat on the UN Security Council fir Canada due to the pressure it would involve to betray Israel. The US had such conones under Bush, but certainly not now. November -- and 2012 -- cannot come soon enough so that the US can join in the tide of sanity that is gradually rising elsewhere in the West.

Nova said...

Spelling mistakes = iPhone + runway