Friday, May 22, 2020

Breaking the Fifth Wall & Living on the Right Side of History

Viewed from the inside, or from below, it seems that history is a jungle. Or a maze. Or a blind alley. How then can anyone presume to speak of the "right side of history"? If such a side exists, it could only be seen from outside, or from above or beyond history -- by a god, or an Obama.

Alternatively, the beyond-history would have to enter history and disclose its own meaning, direction, and telos. Supposing this occurred, we might even be able to demark history with, say, "BCE" (Before the Centration Event) and "AD" (Annus Diametros).

Hold that silly thought for a moment. In Hope and History, Pieper discusses how "theology expands the scope of empirically accessible history into a realm of trans-empirical reality" and "testifies to the conviction that the history we can experience derives its meaning... from being anchored in a more comprehensive, universal structure..."

Time could never be "complete" from within itself. In terms of pure temporality, one moment is no different from any other, and they just keep coming. The second hand on your clock knows nothing of qualities, just identical units of space.

Like history, time could only be complete in reference to something beyond time, and this something would have to be qualitative (I would say personal, but we'll leave that for another post). And again, it could also be complete if the transtemporal Beyond were to somehow pay us a timely visit.

This reminds me of the theatrical convention of breaking the fourth wall, when the actor steps out of the play or film and directly addresses the audience in a "metatheatrical" manner.

Analogously, what if the playwright could break the fifth wall (or ceiling rather, i.e., time) and enter his own play? Is there a name for such a meta-metatheatrical occurrence? Besides incarnation?

Note that we're not talking about the play simply submitting to the playwright, because this happens anyway; rather, in this case, the playwright submits to his own play -- i.e., the creator becomes subject to his own creation, even while remaining wholly playwright.

In our cosmos, I suppose a prophet is someone who breaks the fourth wall in a big way, whereas the Incarnation breaks the fifth wall in a final way, such that it stays broken once and For All.

Now, if the fourth and fifth walls cannot in principle be broken, then this has certain dire implications, for I don't see how such elementary human realities as freedom, science, or creativity would be possible. Put another way, if human beings can grasp even the most trivial truth, we have broken the fourth wall of the cosmos. We are prophets with a message to deliver.

In the past I have said something to the effect that either natural selection explains man, or man explains natural selection; and if the latter, then natural selection doesn't explain man. Why? Because, in effect, man has broken the fourth wall of natural selection. If natural selection is true, then one of its players can't leap off the stage and begin telling the monkeys where they came from!

Pieper writes that "human existence takes place wholly and utterly within the force field of an infinite, trans-historical, and 'creative' reality," such that "what can be experienced of the here-and-now could never be identical with the totality of existence." Rather, again, "the end, and also even the beginning, of human history as a whole and of individual biography, must necessarily remain beyond our empirical grasp."

Nevertheless, we do -- all of us -- receive bulletins from the eschaton, or we couldn't be human. In other words, a human is human because he lives downstream from his own telos, and the discovery of this vertical stream is the event of human awakening. I know, I know, all of this no doubt sounds a bit woo woo, but I mean it literally: man is a longing for what surpasses man, and that's just the way it is:

Man is not a mundane object to be examined and grasped within the confines of a concept; rather, he is a process in which a center of mystery attempts to illuminate itself reflexively....

[M]an as such is constituted by a relation to infinity, a transcendental dimension within his very existence and without which he could not properly deserve the name of "man."

He is man, in other words, by virtue of the presence within his experiential field of the divine pole that draws him, and by drawing him -- insofar as it does so effectively -- constitutes him as the being that tends toward the divine -- toward the light of truth, toward beauty, toward love, toward all possible perfection of being (Webb).

Anyone living on that side is on is the right side of history. And on our side.

10 comments:

julie said...

...the Incarnation breaks the fifth wall in a final way, such that it stays broken once and For All.

And yet even now, 2k years later, we still struggle mightily with that fact. Humans are a peculiar bunch.

Anonymous said...

Good Lord, I'm not worthy to be the first commenter. But I can't hold it in.

First off, loved the post. The concept of the Fourth and Fifth Walls was fascinating. I'll have to cogitate on that for a week or more. Where do you get this stuff? You are very inventive to say the least.

One section of the post resonated with me and I'll add what I can to the discussion.

You wrote "...either natural selection explains man, or man explains natural selection;..."

The Master in the Centre where I grew up used to say something to this effect:

"Mankind ascends two lines of evolution simultaneously. Natural selection is part of the gradual development of an ever more appropriate body, the physical vehicle for the soul. We each participate in this evolution by reproduction and survival.

The other line is the evolution of the each individual immortal soul into an ever more complex, sovereign, and beautiful formation. So each human life pushes forward this dual evolution. For each successive life the soul enters the body as one might enter a vehicle for a drive. During this drive the vehicle combines with others and is modified. The soul has experiences which it keeps. At the end of the drive the vehicle is returned to Earth and the soul returns to heaven, with advances to both the vehicle and the soul."

My Master, God bless his immortal soul, was seldom wrong about anything.

Gagdad Bob said...

Regarding the soul and natural selection, about the most we can say is that at some point the brain of the human primate becomes sufficiently complex to host an immortal soul. Evolution, which is wholly horizontal, cannot in principle account for this vertical reality. Much more on this as we proceed.

Anonymous said...

Natural selection and dialectic materialism seem like one and the same. Are Darwin and Marx on the same page?

Marx theorized clashes of opposing social forces driven by materialism (goods and services, the means of production, ownership of land, etc) formed the warp and weft of history; that is, all that was important. Religion was relegated to being a sop to the feeble-minded.

Reading history books one is struck by how much recorded history focuses on kingdoms, empires, and the wars that created them. Another common theme is the development of technologies such as sailing vessels, cannon, steam engines, and on up through atomic bombs and onward to todays killer drones and space forces.

Military history is the single most prominent branch of historical studies, beyond a doubt.

Religious history tends to focus on schisms, controversies, inquisitions, and crusades. Mostly violent.

Every topic can be viewed historically, but our culture tends to favor the military and the mercenary.

This carried on from the start. Egyptian Pharoahs of the Old Kingdom devoted most of their historical communication describing how many enemies they smote and where they smote them.

Are we doomed to continue on like this?

The exception was the great Akhenaton (hallowed be thy name). He alone devoted stelae, pylons and wall to illustrations of people being grateful to the one God and portrayed living in the present moment loving children and each other.

Let us be more like Akhenaton.

Daisy said...

No thanks, my head shape is fine just the way it is.

Anonymous said...

Admittedly Akhenaton had an odd-shaped head. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

The radiant beauty of his wife Nefertiti makes up for that. His son and four daughters were very comely as well.

Was ever a family more loved by God? Have you not seen the reliefs of God reaching down with multiple open hands to cares?

Therefore I propose the founding of New Amarna and a gathering of the faithful to this city of hope and love. But where shall it sited? And how funded?

Those are the questions on the table.

Anonymous said...

Daisy, apparently Akhenaton was what we would today call a "visitor." Not that there is anything wrong with them visitors.

I've heard bullies refer to visitors as "bug-heads." Notably bullies do not call them that to their faces. A wise choice.

Anonymous said...

What if God is inherent in the material world and seeking Him in an imaginary other world place is displaying a blindness to His cosmic presence and an ingratitude for the miracle that is self and furthermore to find out what happens when we die follow the body and see does it become part of a poppy plant or a nettle.It doesn't make a lot of sense to me knowing that each of us must have two parents and four grandparents and so it keeps on doubling with each generation of ancestors to spin a yarn that if you go back far enough and call it the beginning there were only two.

Anonymous said...

The Egyptian elites were inbred. And like the Habsburgs, were well known for their bad teeth and unusually large ears.

And then there are the scientists, large of brain but small in soul, who say that we're are all living inside a black hole, our infinite universe being inside a singularity of somebody else's black hole. And in that one a lusty sinful couple also ate the forbidden fruit. And in the black hole universe above that one. And the one above that one too. And on and on.

An endless mirror hall of black hole universes with forbidden fruit, populated with Egyptian elites sporting bad teeth and large ears.

Our God may be great, but he's also quite a strange one methinks.

friendsafire said...

This part especially resonated: "In other words, a human is human because he lives downstream from his own telos, and the discovery of this vertical stream is the event of human awakening." To be downstream from the source that pulls us in time is transcendence itself. As I see it, "The Telos exists in order to do the will of the Logos, which is to unfold Love into Creation."