Nevertheless, there is ultimately a lesson to be learned from this, or a lesson about ultimacy: that the body is to the mind as the mind is to spirit: in health, each points beyond itself to the next level. But in illness -- even with something as trivial as a cold -- the arrows are reversed, and everything points back to the body.
For example, Tuesday night I don't think I slept more than five minutes at a stretch. I was up all night, but why? Because of my stupid body: sore throat, sneezing, coughing, congestion, etc. I couldn't escape the planet of the apes, AKA the primate body.
Even now my mind is still hovering too close to the body for a full on plunge into the abyss. Let's stick with this subject of bodies and truth. A while back I read Tallis' Michelangelo's Finger: An Exploration of Everyday Transcendence, which goes exactly to our subject. My cold, for example, was an exercise in everyday... immanence, I guess -- whatever is the opposite of transcendence.
The book is about the mundane reality of pointing, which is not only much more consequential than we realize, but in many ways goes to the essence of what man is. It is one of the reasons I don't think we'll ever discover our kind of intelligent life elsewhere, because no matter how intelligent the species, if it can't point, then it falls far short of the human standard.
In the past -- and in the book -- I've discussed this in the context of our irreducible intersubjectivity: there is no human individual beneath the social animal, because the two co-arise in infancy: our individuality -- our twoness -- emerges out of the prior infantile oneness. But once we are two, we can then "rediscover" oneness in a variety of ways, via knowledge, love, beauty, etc. Love, for example, is the rediscovery of oneness out of twoness.
Knowledge too is only possible because of the unity of subject and object, or of intelligence and intelligibility.
Conversely, think of unsophisticated epistemologies that haven't individuated from their cultural matrix. American Indian tribes, for example, are opposed to genetic research because it disproves their cultural fantasies about having been in America "forever," instead of having been recent immigrants. Barbarous feminists feel the same way about sexual differences.
So, it turns out that what really defines the uniqueness of human subjectivity is its aboutness or "intentionality." It is a big problem for materialists, so they naturally want to try to stuff it back into the brain -- as if mere matter can be "about" anything but itself.
Materialism is about matter, without explaining how matter can be about anything. I say materialists just have to accept the cold hard facts of life, no matter how joyous and liberating.
The simple act of pointing points to the realities of intentionality and intersubjectivity. I, as pointer, have to first put myself in your psychic shoes, and imagine what you can't see or don't know. You, as beneficiary of the point, need to adopt my perspective and imagine a line running from my mind, through my eyes, down my arm, and toward its terminal point. That is something no other animal can do.
And it is a metaphor for every transmission of knowledge. This post is not only pointing to various things, but the words and letters themselves are instances of pointing: letters point to words, words to sentences, sentences to paragraphs, etc.
To deploy a well worn analogy, you won't get the point of this post by pointing back to the letters of which it is composed. Those are just forms, and it's the substance that counts.
The entire human world -- truly, the whole existentialada -- is an instance of pointing. You will also have noticed that the reality of pointing defines the civil war between left and right.
For example, for us, the Bill of Rights points to irreducibly real realities such as freedom of speech, religion, and self defense. For the left, these realities don't actually exist except insofar as we agree they exist. I can point to the self-evident truth of free speech, but the leftist merely smells my finger.
So, pointing is our "passport out of nature." More generally, it is like a vector pointing from a center to the periphery.
Now, this center is quite mysterious, but again, it can't be properly understood outside the context of its pointing, its aboutness, its intentionality.
I find it quite intriguing, to say the least, that the Trinity provides a metaphysical ground for this. The Son does not "reduce" to the Father; rather, although the Father is in one sense "prior," the two nevertheless eternally co-arise, the one pointing to the other. A meta-cosmos that intrinsically points beyond itself, and it back to us. Damn convenient.
Other animals are enclosed in their neurology, but intentionality is "a uniquely human breach in the solitude of sentient creatures" that "takes us decisively out of our solitary, transient bodies, subject to the laws of nature."
In another book, Tallis describes how sickness and death reverse the pointing, such that everything points back to our mere embodiment: "Dying takes you deeper into the inscrutable, lampless hinterland of carnal being." It is "a world whose horizons are drawn ever tighter, to the final collapse of space that had been opened up..."
Not to be a drama queen, but the same thing happens to me when I have a cold: I lose my point.