And it's not just oral and written language. What is physics but a translation of matter into mathematics? Likewise chemistry: note that we can, for example, translate water into H2O. Okay. But what happened to the water? It's gone. Obviously a new, large scale phenomenon occurs when H and O get together. What's more real, H, O, or Life? The answer may surprise you!
It's not just that water emerges. Think of all the things that are made possible by water, including life itself. H and O are useless to life unless they are in the form of water.
Think also of all the human meanings implicit in water, everything from watching a rainstorm out your window, to a cool drink on a hot day, to the vastness of the oceans, to baptism. All that -- and more -- when hydrogen and oxygen get together.
Yes Bob, that's nice and poetic and all, but does it really mean anything? Does what you're saying really have any cosmic implications?
This is indeed the nub of the gist of the crux of the matter, because I say Yes. There is a properly human world, and it is not reducible to the electrochemical, quantum, or physical worlds. Here is a vertical crossroads, and you really have only two choices: either the human world is real (I say more real than the others) or it isn't. And if it isn't, then you need to be intellectually honest, and not borrow from the illusory human world in order to sneak meaning in through the back door.
As we've said before, it ultimately comes down to God or nihilism. If you imagine there can be some middle ground, you're just fooling yourself and not to be taken seriously. I won't even argue with you, because either you see it or you don't. It's not negotiable. Truth is true even if no one recognizes it.
Nevertheless. Intriguingly, Genesis 3 implies that people don't wish to recognize this primordial truth, and that our first instinct is to try to build and inhabit that middle ground where we create the meaning. Likewise Babel.
And from the Christian perspective -- I heard this just last night -- the whole list of 613 laws in the OT is a kind of stopgap from the human side, until the gap is truly full-filled from the divine side. Obviously, no number of laws reaches infinity, just as no amount of hydrogen or oxygen has the qualities of water.
Translation. In the Incarnation, God is translated to man. His Word is translated to flesh. How is this possible? Well, first of all because translation itself is possible. Again, as indicated in the first sentence of this post, everything is translation, so why not? Who says Alpha can't be Omega, the first principle can't be last, eternal life can't take on finite life?
Recall the God-or-nihilism bifurcation mentioned above. From the nihilist perspective, any number of everyday miracles are rendered impossible, little things like life, beauty, truth, love, etc. Each of these is reducible to something less, something ultimately meaningless.
Note, however, that translation is still going on. It's just that you're translating meaning into meaninglessness. Neat trick. Do you understand the implications? If you do, you're lying to yourself, because there is no such thing as "understanding" in the alternate universe you have created. That horse left the barn once you pledged allegiance to nothing.
Anyone can get drunk on nihilism, and it's fun while it lasts. The problem is, you can never get drunk enough. Rather, sobriety -- or meaning -- keeps creeping in, which you have to knock back down with another sip of nothingness.
I well remember gulping down the existentialists -- Nietzsche, Sartre, Camus, Kafka, et al. So, Bob, why did you read more than one? Are you a slow learner? Or was there a Nothing beyond nothing you were seeking? Once you get it that existence is meaningless, why press the point? Why so thirsty?
The thirst for the great, the noble and the beautiful is an appetite for God that is ignored (NGD).
Camus at least got one thing right: "There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide." Sr. Dávila -- who combines the literary qualities of Nietzsche and Christ -- is on the same page: If the atheist does not commit suicide he has no right to be thought lucid.
It just now occurred to me how many Aphorisms go to our subject of Translation, especially the primordial kind that we scarcely think about but which undergirds a properly human life. How is this everyday translation from one realm to another even thinkable without God? One example is sufficient to make the point. Ten (which is where I'll stop) is just rubbing it in. Suffice it to say that the universe speaks; we have only to listen and translate:
--Things do not have feeling, but there is feeling in many things.
--Without aesthetic transfiguration all of reality is pedestrian.
--Aesthetics is the sensible and secular manifestation of grace.
--We are saved from daily tedium only by the impalpable, the invisible, and the ineffable.
--The meanings are the reality; their material vehicles are the appearance.
--Imagination is the capacity to perceive through the senses the attributes of the object that the senses do not perceive.
--Every work of art speaks to us of God. No matter what it says.
--The imagination is not the place where reality is falsified, but where it is fulfilled.
--Mysticism is the empiricism of transcendent knowledge.
--Religion is not expressed very well in words. It is done better in architecture, sculpture, painting, and music.