Tuesday, June 07, 2011

You Shall Have No Gods Before the New York Times

As we know, liberal politicians are generally loath to articulate their actual principles, because those principles are unpopular if not offensive to a clear majority of Americans.

Therefore, they have developed the dual-track strategy of, on the one hand, defensively concealing their true motivations under clouds of rhetoric that is at once empty of specific content, but, for that very reason, potentially omnipotent in its reach, such as "helping the little guy," "diversity," "tolerance," "fairness," and "social justice."

In other words, if one's first principle is, say, "social justice," this term is so elastic as to authorize virtually anything to attain it -- whatever "it" is.

Never mind that the Constitution makes no reference to the term, and with good reason, since the Founders were well aware of how such mischievous rhetoric could be used by demagogues to inflame the passions of the mob. Let the heirheads of the French Revolution speak of such laughty principles.

The other prong of the liberal strategy -- to which any conservative prongee can personally attest -- is slander, vilification, and smearing. The reason for this second tactic is the corollary of the first.

That is, because our ideas are both popular and susceptible to fact and logic, it is necessary to attack our motivations. This means that the liberal needn't do battle with us in the arena of ideas, but in a kind of rhetorical underworld where they are much more comfortable, as they are already acclimated to the darkness.

One might say that, Rather than an ideological strategy, the Left is a lexicographical tactic. But Reducing another’s thought to its supposed motives prevents us from understanding it (Don Colacho's Aphorisms).

For example, I would really need solid proof before branding a particular individual a racist, or misogynist, or homophobe, or greedy bastard. But conservatives are routinely accused of these evils with no proof whatsoever.

Rather, being conservative is its own proof, so to speak. The charge is a metaphysical/theological one, not dissimilar to our belief that man is a fallen creature, except that our principle applies to everyone, not just our political opponents (which in turn is an important reason why we oppose big government).

A couple of years ago, Howard Dean said that the difference between liberals and conservatives is that liberals don't like to see children go to bed hungry at night. Such a manichaean worldview must be comforting in its childish simplicity; but not really, because it is necessarily persecutory, since it means that the liberal is surrounded by vicious people who wish for children to suffer. That's got to feel a little creepy.

Similarly, liberal racers who are obsessed with racial animus are undoubtedly comforted by their own nobility and moral rectitude, but this virtue is purchased at the high price of being condemned to a Nazi-like country in which more than half its citizens secretly embrace a doctrine of racial superiority. This is not a recipe for happiness or peace of mind.

Truly, as Taranto observed yesterday, liberals are not ready for a black president. The liberal cannot just be "enlightened" about race, and let it go; rather, he must be obsessed with the "racists" under every bed and behind every bush:

'As early as April 2008 we learned that it was "racist" to call then-Sen. Obama "elitist" (which means "arrogant," which means "uppity") or "out of touch" (another word for "other"). In August 2008, "skinny" joined the list. Slate's Timothy Noah observed:

"When white people are invited to think about Obama's physical appearance, the principal attribute they're likely to dwell on is his dark skin. Consequently, any reference to Obama's other physical attributes can't help coming off as a coy walk around the barn."

'Noah added that this was foretold by the prophet Fonzie. In February 2010, "professor" joined the list of putative racial slurs. Harvard's Charles Ogletree said "professor" is another synonym for "uppity," and he's a professor, so he should know.'

If you are a conservative and haven't yet been slurred as a racist, it just means that you're not trying. You haven't yet appeared on the liberal radar. Ironically, what this means is that the conservative does indeed inhabit a persecutory world, except the persecution is real.

We are not complaining, mind you. But we constantly hear and read about our own racism, xenaphobia (hatred of lesbian warriors), greed, misogyny, anti-intellectualism, etc. If there were any truth to the smears, they might actually sting, or at least provoke embarrassment. As it is, it's just a little surreal, and surreality is not without its charms, so long as one is lucid as it is occurring, and the bullets are only verbal and not metal.

Exaggeration? Hardly. For example, a few days ago, Nicholas Kristoff, star fifth columnist of the New York Times, penned a surreal idiotorial in which he explained how tea party conservatives would like the United States to resemble Pakistan. That being the case, what else do you need to know about us? After all, we want to enforce traditional Islamic values, behead petty criminals, and abolish civilian rule of the military. Who wouldn't detest such menaces to republican government?

We often say that contemporary left/liberalism is not so much an ideology but a substitute religion, hence the emotionalism and moralism that attach to it. It also becomes the "crusade" around which the liberal activist organizes his life, thus his source of meaning and identity (which amount to the same thing).

And because his politics is so entangled with his identity, it is difficult to detach from them. One loses one's perspective, and also cannot keep things in their proper place, largely because the vertical has been collapsed into the horizontal.

Therefore, horizontal things are inevitably imbued with the power and significance of the vertical, while vertical things become idols and graven images. Contemporary liberalism would be unthinkable in the absence of this idolatry.

For example, the newly named editor of the New York Times, Jill Abramson, is refreshingly transparent in disclosing her liberal idolatry, in that she frankly regards the Times as God: "In my house growing up, the Times substituted for religion.... If the Times said it, it was the absolute truth."

How oppressive. But I have friends and relatives who would essentially say the same thing if they were as honest with themselves as Abramson. In fact, we are all familiar with the liberal paradox that "truth doesn't exist, and only I know it," but rarely do we hear it expressed so candidly by one of their heaviest eliteweights.

It reminds us of a comment by then Cardinal Ratzinger, that although Christianity developed "its most effective form in Europe, it is necessary to say that in Europe a culture has developed that constitutes the absolutely most radical contradiction not only of Christianity but of the religious and moral traditions of humanity."

The important point is that this new ideology is not a negation of the Judeo-Christian metaphysic, nor its contrary; rather, it is its converse, i.e., an inverted form of it.

In fact, if you will review your Ten Commandments, you will see at a glance that doctrinaire liberalism embodies a mirror image of them. But I guess I don't have to belaborate the point, since I have apparently already posted on their sacred dreckalogue.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Truth is a Poor Excuse to Swindle Us of Our Slack

They always come at you with the TRUTH, don't they? -- even the ones who otherwise have no use for the concept.

As we have mentioned before, even if a person is unable to know truth directly, he can know it indirectly by virtue of what evildoers pretend is true.

For example, all evil regimes that are manifestly steeped in falsehood claim to be aligned with a Truth that confers their bogus legitimacy, from the world-historical powers and principalities embodied in National Socialism or communism, to more regional demonocracies such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and Berkeley.

In each case, they not only maintain that they are founded upon truth, but that in most cases they are the very guardians of a precious and beleaguered truth to which the world is implacably hostile.

This has led many secular sophisticates of the postmodern left -- okay, all of them -- to reject the very concept of Truth. But this is like rejecting medicine because of what Nazi doctors did with it, or education because of how our elite universities disfigure it.

You might even hear a proglodyte of the left accuse us of "anti-intellectualism," which is only to miss the point entirely. It is because we cherish education that we criticize the educational establishment, just as it is because of our compassion for the poor that we champion the most demonstrably successful ways to escape poverty, none of which involve statism.

For that matter, it is because it harms blacks that we oppose state-mandated racial discrimination. We know this is true, if only because it is considered a terrible offense to suggest that Obama is our first "affirmative action president." If racial discrimination is such a wonderful thing, why take offense when we point out that some individual has benefited from the practice?

Speaking of how evildoers claim to be acting in the name of truth, just yesterday we were reading of how the uncompromising pursuit of truth was largely responsible for Hitler's downfall. For example, in invading Russia, he was simultaneously engaged in a battle of annihilation and a war of racial genocide.

But because National Socialism was founded upon the "truth" of racial superiority, it often interfered in completely irrational ways with the prosecution of the overall war, which took a back seat to the sadistic elimination of "inferior" races. Precious resources were committed to the latter enterprise, in ways that severely hindered the allocation of resources.

In a perverse way, we can be thankful that Hitler was such a principled man, because if he weren't, he would have been a much more rational and formidable enemy.

In comparison, Stalin and his heirs to power were much more unprincipled. The USSR pursued its irrational beliefs in relatively rational and predictable ways, whereas, say, Islamists are willing to pursue their irrational ideology in completely irrational ways, up to and including self-destruction (as was the case with Imperial Japan).

In any event, "truth" is clearly a problem, because most of the wholesale evil in the world is committed in its name. Ratzinger writes that although we all supposedly cherish freedom, "we are inclined to react with suspicion to the concept of truth: we recall that the term truth has already been claimed for many opinions and systems, and that the assertion of truth has often been a means of suppressing freedom."

Thus we see at once that there is some sort of relationship between truth and freedom. But is it a direct or inverse relation?

We might say that the psychospiritual left maintains that the relation is inverse, and that the only way to secure our freedom is to deny any kind of epistemological totalitarianism from gaining power. Thus, as Ratzinger observes -- since he has often been their target -- "Anyone who maintains that he is serving the truth by his life, speech, and action must prepare himself to be classified as a dreamer or fanatic."

This is hardly an intrinsically meritless point of view, given man's bleak track record. History is a chronicle of malignant stupidities masquerading as truth, so why not chuck the whole nasty business, and limit "truth" to what can be empirically demonstrated, like climate change, or Keynesian economics, or queer theory? That way, only the good people will have power over us.

In some ultimate sense, man is oriented toward the One, Good, True, and Beautiful. But only because he is so oriented, he is susceptible to becoming dis-oriented. Although many people are uncomfortable with the idea of absolute truth, they all know a lie when they see one.

But in the absence of absolute truth, there is actually no real ground for arbitrating between various lies. Rather, one opinion is intrinsically no worse than another, hence the absurd doctrine of multiculturalism -- an "absolute relativism" that somehow coexists with its ideological opposite, the dogmatic absolutism of political correctness.

Is there a course between these two varieties of false absolutism? Yes, but only if man has free will. Everything is rooted in this principle, without which there is obviously no freedom, but more subtly, no truth -- including, of course, the "truth" that free will is an illusion, for what can an illusion prove? It's like asking how to obtain food from a dream of it.

Now, if truth is an illusion, then at once human intercourse is reduced to a matter of will. One could say that in such an existentialist worldview, man is condemned to freedom. Truly, freedom becomes just another word for "nothing left to lose," or, more succinctly, nothing.

Such a system would understand freedom "as the right and opportunity to do just what we wish and not have to do anything we do not wish to do." It "would mean that our own will is the sole norm of our action" (Ratzinger).

This raises the immediate question of whether, say, an irrational man is actually free in the pursuit if his irrational ends. If we do not believe in free will anyway, then it is a moot point. Nor do we have any basis to object if we don't believe in truth. Rather, freedom only becomes meaningful -- and therefore valuable -- if it is exercised in the light of real -- not "false" or illusory -- Truth.

In the Raccoon view, Truth is absolutely real. Indeed, it is the real Absolute. That being the case, no relative being could ever "contain" it.

This has some resonance with Gödel's theorems, which, among other things, prove that man has access to a whole world of transcendent truth that cannot be proved with mere reason. Rather, any such system is always founded upon assumptions the system cannot prove, rendering all such systems epistemologically closed circles in the lost roundup.

The Raccoon prefers to call this absolute truth O, so as not to confuse it with something we already know. For example, it is quite easy for an atheist to disprove the existence of God, but fundamentally impossible to disprove the beyond-existence of O without absurdly disproving oneself.

Now, tradition, properly understood, is not supposed to be a kind of binding tyranny from which we need to be liberated. Even so, one must not absolutize the system and conflate it with that to which it points, O.

Rather, you might say that it is a whole system for the articulation of O, generally worked out by people much better and smarter than you -- unless you believe there is no one better than you, in which case your faith in yourself is total. And I never argue with another man's faith.

Gotta get ready for work. To be continued...

Sunday, June 05, 2011

The Fruit of Forgotten Meditations

Here are a few random aphorisms of Don Colacho -- or what he calls "the spontaneous fruit of forgotten meditations" arrived at by a man who is "but a rag blown about by sacred squalls."

--Liberty is the right to be different; equality is a ban on being different.

And how. But how do they sell the latter? Easy:

--To corrupt the individual it suffices to teach him to call his personal desires rights and the rights of others abuses.

This results in a new race of humans: a race to the bottom, comprised of

--individuals dissatisfied with what they have and satisfied with what they are.

But linguistic sleight of hand comes to the rescue, so

--“Social justice” is the term used to claim anything to which we do not have a right, while “Raising awareness” is the modest version of indoctrination.

As a result,

--Each day we demand more from society so that we can demand less from ourselves.

This appeasement of envy only ends in frustration, since

--Man would not feel so unfortunate if it were enough for him to desire without pretending to have a right to what he desires.

In any event,

--A man is called a liberal if he does not understand that he is sacrificing liberty except when it is too late to save it.

Which is why

--Wise politics is the art of invigorating society and weakening the State.

For in the final analysis,

--It is not to realize his dreams for which man can strive, but to appear worthy of their realization.

Now, our first principles are the opposite of the left's, in that we believe

--The permanent possibility of initiating causal series is what we call a person.

In other words, man is a subject with dignity, not a mere object to be manipulated by third parties who know better how to run our lives. The whole catastrophe is rooted in an absurd metaphysic, whereby

--Modern man treats the universe like a lunatic treats an idiot.


--Nothing makes clearer the limits of science than the scientist’s opinions about any topic that is not strictly related to his profession.

Ho! But at least these tenured barbarians unwittingly teach us that

--To become cultivated is to learn that a particular class of questions is meaningless,

thus allowing us to "move on." The ignorantsia speak of "evolution," oblivious to the fact that

--To change thoughts repeatedly is not to evolve. To evolve is to develop the infinitude of the same thought.

Yeah boy, the real action takes place on the vertical plane, which is why

--Religious thought does not go forward, like scientific thought, but rather goes deeper.

I mean,

--Everything is trivial if the universe is not committed to a metaphysical adventure,

right? But how does this effect Bob? In a couple of ways, I suppose. For

--Intelligence is enabled to discover new truths by rediscovering old truths,


--To write honestly for the rest, one must write fundamentally for oneself.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Lord, Teach Us to Play

Is this subject not reasonating? In the absence of comments we never know, for the intersubjective circle remains broken. We are not complaining. Rather -- in the colorful argot of your urban youth -- we are "just sayin'."

Is it the word "play" that rankles? Need I remind you that we are not talking about frivolous play but of the dead ernest kind? Playing as if our lives depended on it (very much unlike the Miami Heat)? Let us recall the words of our esteemed UnKnown Friend:

"The little child does not 'work' -- he plays. But how serious he is, i.e. concentrated, when he plays! His attention is still complete and undivided, whereas with he who approaches the kingdom of God it becomes again entire and undivided."

UnKnown Friend -- who is one of our fundational raccoondati and a coronary teachstone -- regards this principle as a key to the whole innerprize, so perhaps we should spend a moment dilating on it to see if we pupils can't open our third eye, arrest our cardiomyopia, and make some progress toward 20/∞ geistzeit.

Do you really think the SlackMeister is here just to amuse you? Do you?

Then you are correct. That is indeed why we are here. To paraphrase Hippocrates or some other old quack, the primary job of the physician is to amuse the patient while the body heals itself.

Ah, but physician heal thysoph!

Yes, precisely. We are first and foremost amusing ourself.

Well then, Maestro, what distinguishes this from the vulgar Ønanism of any other infertile egghead?

This is like asking how the metacosmic love of the Trinity -- you will pardon the analogy -- differs from some perv politician exposing himself to a constituent. The latter is hardly "sharing." Rather, it is mere exhibitionism, which is always just the other side of shame, i.e., a compulsion aimed at undoing unconscious inadequacy.

The problem with this little Weiner dog is not that he is shameless, for anyone who follows politics at all knew this before last week's national erection.

Rather, it is that he cannot tolerate shame, and continues to deny shame in ways that only deepen it and then require more frantic and transparently absurd denial. Dysregulated shame provokes both the uncover- and the coverup.

The point is that just because we are sitting here playing with ourself, this hardly means that we are doing so in the immature manner of an adolescent Weiner.

We are reminded of a passage in Ratzinger's excellent (and misleadingly titled) Introduction to Christianity (and in citing him, we do not mean to imply that he would ever endorse our methods):

Actually, while searching for that passage, we were guided to another relevant one from a different book: "A Christianity that has really been accepted interiorly comes with the dynamic requirement to communicate."

By this he does not mean the exterior directive to evangelize, but a spontaneous impulse to share: "It's exactly like when you are filled with joy about something, you have to express it and communicate it in some way, otherwise it's not authentic joy at all. The fact is, then, that the dynamism of passing on the gift is an essential component of the mission that Christ gave his followers..."

Thus, if something of the interior joy isn't conveyed along with the message, there are two problems, one interior, the other exterior.

As Ratzinger suggests, the joy that isn't shared is not the true joy. Secondly, if we communicate only the message denuded of the joy, then it loses much of its appeal -- you know, like the grim news of Islam.

Put it this way: the principle message of Christianity is not an idea but a person -- the fruit, not the tree. And this principle shall apply forever. Hence the necessity of the saints, who are the very embodiment of the joy ("ananda" might actually be a less misleading term) of which Ratzinger speaks.

Can't find the passage we were looking for, but this one will do:

"God's dialogue with men operates only through men's dialogue with each other.... Man's conversation with God and men's conversation with one another are mutually necessary and interdependent."

He adds the critical point that what can be communicated of God is never just an unambiguous "something" that can be sharply designated, like an object. Rather,

"No real dialogue yet takes place where men are still only talking about something. The conversation between men comes into its own only when they are trying, no longer to express something, but to express themselves, when dialogue becomes communication."

What this means is that the con-versation -- "flowing together" -- becomes trinitarian, in the sense that it involves both intersubjectivity (the ground) and soul-to-soul contact (as opposed to the mere depositing of exterior facts from brain to brain).

Some are better speakers, others better listeners. The SlackMeister cannot play a musical instrument -- okay, he can noodle around with one -- but this by no means diminishes or interferes with his love of, and need for, music.

Ratzinger cites this as analogous to theology, which is centered around the "word," which, in order to be itself, requires both creativity and receptivity, or "passively active" and "actively passive" modes (the latter is our formulation, not his).

"Passively active" is none other than play, while "actively passive" is openness to (vertical) experience.

In terms of the "experiential theology" of which we speak, there are more who are adept at receptivity than expression; but again, this should by no means interfere with our in-joyment, since genuine communication provokes joy at both ends:

"Over against these few, for whom the divine thus becomes undisguised certainty, stand the many whose religious gift is limited to receptivity, who are denied the direct experience of the holy yet are not so deaf to it as to be unable to appreciate an encounter with it through the medium of the man granted such an experience."

So "hearing" is no less a gift than "speaking," or at least they are two sides of the same game: a "duet for one" or "solo for two."

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Come for the Salvation, Stay for the Play!

One of the reasons Christianity can be a tough sell these days is because of this word "sin." Yet, there was a time that this wasn't remotely problematic.

Rather, it seems that people were spontaneously aware of its persecutory presence, both in individuals and in history. One can deny it, repress it, project it, or sublimate it, but one cannot get rid of it (unless one is a sociopath). It always comes back in one form or another.

For example, who is more sanctimonious and judgmental than the PC secular liberal whose very identity is rooted in the idea that he is "beyond the superstition" of religiosity? As Bob has discussed a number of times, the liberal has the same moral impulses as anyone else, only worse.

Remember, morality is intrinsically "aggressive," in the sense that the conscience is precisely that which sanctions behaviors that are normally forbidden. For example, we are not normally permitted to kidnap people and hold them captive in a small cage. But we routinely do this if said person is a violent criminal.

Likewise, we shouldn't aggressively slander and verbally abuse good people, but the liberal is permitted to do this because he knows in advance that the people with whom he disagrees are racists, misogynists, and homophobes. The abuse is sanctioned by their -- albeit corrupt -- conscience.

The apostles apparently didn't have to spend a great deal of time convincing people they were sinners before getting down to isness. Rather, they cut straight to the choice -- e.g., John the Baptist, who warned people that they had better repent before it was too late. His message would have made no sense if people weren't already aware of this vague need to repent -- which simply means to "turn around" from the path one is on.

If such were the case, then JB's pitch would have been analogous to a television commercial trying to sell a product for an imaginary problem. One of the purposes of advertising is to first create the imaginary problem or desire it supposedly solves or fulfills. He didn't have to say, You know that uncomfortable feeling that some busybody is judging you even when you're alone? That even if you get away with it, you still feel guilty as hell? Have I got the answer for you!

From the very start, there have always been two sides to Christianity, a "positive" and a "negative," justice and mercy, good coptic/bad coptic: a stop doing that, assoul! and a come in and enjoy the slack, brother! You can hear it in the Forerunner, who says knock it off! Why? Because the Kingdom of Slack is at hand!

More deeply, this repentance means to turn away (the negative) from one cosmic orientation and toward another (the positive). For in the ultimate sense, there can be only two (or at least the illusion of two): O and Ø.

Thus, the apostle of slack might say: turn away from Ø, because O is right under your nous! I'm not sure the words "sin" and "salvation," what with their overly saturated connotations, adequately convey the principle we're driving at.

What is that principle? On the one hand, "original sin," or man's "fallenness"; on the other, his deiformity, i.e., the idea that he is fashioned in the "image and likeness" of the Creator.

Thus, one can pursue the matter even more deeply, and say that one path leads "down and out," the other "up and in"; man is deiform in potential, but so too is he potentially "terraform." In the case of the latter, he reflects only "the world" and all this implies.

In the final analysis, we could say "celestial" vs. "terrestrial," except that this is a principial distinction made by every religion in some form or fashion.

The difference with Christianity is that it resolves this false duality through the Incarnation and its many ramifications. Celestial and terrestrial -- matter and spirit, soul and body -- become "one," but not in any pagan-pantheistic manner which only con-fuses the two, whereby God is reduced to nature.

Rather, it is the opposite movement, through which nature -- including human nature -- is divinized from above.

I don't want to get sidetracked, but yesterday we ran across a post by the atheist believer, Sam Harris, called Morality Without Free Will.

In order to save time -- which is the form of slack -- we have trained ourselves to stop reading any article with the first sentence that is unalloyed horseshit. Thus, we are breaking mama's rule by proceeding beyond the intrinsically absurd title of the piece. The first sentence reads:

"Many people seem to believe that morality depends for its existence on a metaphysical quantity called 'free will.'"

Really? Many people believe free will is a "metaphysical quantity"? How come I've never met one? And what does he even mean by words such as "people,""morality," "existence," "quantity"? Forced to define his terms, you would immediately discover that his conclusions are simply his premises.

"There is simply no description of mental and physical causation that allows for this freedom that we habitually claim for ourselves and ascribe to others."

But if this is the case, then nor is there any description of mental and physical causation that allows for Harris's to habitually deny free will in himself and others. Besides, what does he mean by "mental causation"?

In any event, either one understands the following, or one does not: if free will didn't exist, then we couldn't know it. Or, conversely, if free will exists, it is obviously beyond the ability of mere science to account for it.

Might as well try to use the crude tools of a neuroscientist tool to disprove the existence of truth. To succeed is to negate one's conclusion. Sometimes the only way to make an intellectual appreciate free will is to forbid it, as in the case of National Socialism or Russian communism.

This is not a minor point, for the existence of slack is predicated on the reality of freedom. Nations that value freedom will obviously have infinitely more slack than those that don't.

Now, slack is also closely related to the concept of "play," which is what man is born to do; to say that a line has some "play" in it is equivalent to saying there is some "slack" in it.

Think of your life as a line that stretches from conception to death. If you should reach a point that there is no play in this line, then your life is pretty much over. At that point it would indeed be accurate to say that the person has either abdicated his freedom or has had it stolen from him.

I think we'll wrap this up with a passage by the former Cardinal Ratzinger: "play, though it has a meaning, does not have a purpose and... for this very reason there is something healing, even liberating, about it. Play takes us out of the world of daily goals and their pressures and into a sphere free of purpose and achievement, releasing us for a time from all the burdens of our daily world of work.

"Play is a kind of other world, an oasis of freedom, where for a moment we can let life flow freely."

So, what is the purpose of our writing? There isn't any. It's how we know we are free. The meaning? That's for you to play with.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Persons and Other Absolute Miracles

There can be no science of the utterly unique, which is why science can only pretend to understand such things and events.

In other words, it is not possible to do a controlled study of the one-of-a-kind, since there are not two of them to subject to variable conditions.

Science can only deal with aggregates and statistics, but it cannot disclose the secret of the individual for the same reason it can't reveal the nature of the One.

Science must assume the existence of this One, for all science is predicated on the reduction of multiplicity to unity.

At once this reveals a possible totalitarian temptation, since there are some things that simply cannot be reduced to anything less than themselves. But the state never stops trying.

Science divorced from theology leads toward an incomprehensible one -- incomprehensible because it has no other to comprehend it -- no genuine partner in the climb.

What is unique in the world? First and foremost, persons. I assume that even the most jaded materialist -- if only for the sake of propriety -- will concede that each and every person is a unique and unrepeatable cosmic event.

One can always speculate about how things "might have been different" if one had made this or that choice, but it is impossible to subject oneself to a controlled experiment in order to examine the alternate outcomes.

But just because it is what it is, this doesn't mean that you am what you am, with no I in the matter.

This metaphysic can also lead to the stubborn illusion of an absence of free will, since there aren't two of you to prove the case scientifically.

And even then, the two of you couldn't have identical circumstances, so there would still be no way to prove that the differences weren't a result of free will.

What else is unique? I just said "first and foremost," persons. But that can't be correct -- at least without a qualification.

That is, First and Foremost must be God -- or what we should probably call O, since "God" can be compared to other gods. We can always assign a name to the unique, but that hardly means that we understand it. Rather, to the extent that something is truly unique, there is no possibility of complete understanding.

This shouldn't be confused with the necessary existential barrier that forbids complete understanding of anything whatsoever. In other words, we can all gain sufficient understanding of, say, rocks or gravity, without knowing what either is in its essence.

But in the case of a human being, we can keep knowing more and more without ever getting to the bottom. The unique individual is a kind of inexhaustible fount of his own uniqueness.

As we have said before, the world is only relatively intelligible because it is absolutely unintelligible. In other words, it is only because the world is created that we can understand it at all.

But for the same reason, we can never completely understand it, since we can never be the Creator. Therefore, in the ultimate sense, the cosmos too pours out its own inexhaustible stream of truth and beauty.

In a cosmos that could be completely "contained" by science, science would be impossible, for the same reason that a person who could be completely understood wouldn't be a real person, but more like a machine.

This is not to say that many, if not most, persons end up living like machines, but that is a different story. It is difficult being unique, and in the absence of a unique God who cherishes uniqueness, there is a tendency toward conformism or rebellion, blandness or eccentricity, dependence or pseudo-independence, group identity or faux individualism. Two sides of the same worthless coin.

Science necessarily deals with a world of accident and necessity, but then covertly assimilates the view that all reality is governed by them.

Thus, if necessity rules, then free will is an illusion. But if accident does, then identity is an absurd and pointless iteration of material shuffling. There would be no point to self understanding, since there would be no self to understand (although, curiously, there would still be an impoverished "scientific self" to understand this banality).

What else is unique? For the faithful, the Incarnation is unique, for the same reason God is. The one follows from the other, if not strictly "necessarily," then certainly logically.

But more generally, one could say that any miracle is unique. To put it the other way around, anything that is scientifically repeatable is not a miracle.

Wait a minute, SlackMeister. You just said that human persons are not repeatable. Does this mean that each person is a miracle?

It most certainly does. How could it be otherwise, and still be? As Bob has said in his uniquely annoying way, human persons are "mirrorcles of the Absolute." What does this even mean?

It means that each human person is somehow a unique image of the singular uniqueness at the bottom -- or top -- of it all.

But... wouldn't that make us all the same?

Yes, precisely! This is the common source of our cosmic brotherhood. But the Absolute is absolute, whereas we can only be his middling relativities who are here for a brief visit, so we can mirror without ever completely exhausting the One we reflect.

In Salt of the Earth, Ratzinger is asked how many ways there are to God. His answer may surprise you: "As many as there are people."

For otherwise we wouldn't be persons, nor could God be One.