Friday, November 25, 2022

Cosmos and Freedom

A little more distracted than usual this morning. Wife is home, and making all sorts of novel sounds, what with the clattering of the walker. Everything okay? Yes. You sure? Yes. Need anything? No. You sure? Yes. What was that noise? Just breathing. 

The cosmos is a creature and so are we. However, they say we are in the image and likeness of the one who creates both, so that gives us a leg up on the cosmos: among other things, we can know it, but not vice versa. 

That we can know the cosmos is at once self-evident and yet not remotely self-sufficient. In other words, such a miraculous ability hardly explains itself, and yet, here it is and here we are.  

I spend a fair amount of far too much time on the internet, and it is somewhat disconcerting that so few people share my concerns, because it suggests that one of us -- me or the world -- is concerned with nothing and unconcerned about everything else. One of us is grabbing reality at the wrong end. The other way around, stupid!

This has been a long and tedious debate -- i.e., which is the business end of reality? Matter or mind? Being or becoming? Reason or revelation? Object or subject? Science or faith? Plato or Aristotle? Boxers or briefs?

Apropos of nothing — or possibly everything — I saw a headline this morning that celebrity atheist Sam Harris has deleted his twitter account in protest of free speech. Not in support of free speech, mind you, but against free speech. 

Now, what is an atheist but someone who knows nothing about freedom and even less about how it gets here and why we have it?

The why is easy: in order to discover truth and conform ourselves to reality. The how is a little tricksier, but it has to do with the Image and Likeness referenced above.

So, while we’re giving thanks, let’s give some for freedom, especially the vertical kind, since there really is no other. Because a merely horizontal freedom wouldn’t actually be freedom, rather, something like “indeterminacy” or unpredictability at best. Who gives thanks for randomness?

Well, I would, but only in the context of something higher. If randomness means “ontological wiggle room,” or “metacosmic loophole,” or divine Slack, then I’m glad it’s here. 

For example… well, first of all, I would never kick my dog, but if I did, I don’t know what she’d do. But that doesn’t mean she’s free to react in any way she wants. 

However, if someone kicks me, I can think about how to react. On the other hand, if I’m kicked off twitter, then there’s nothing I can do about it, at least before Musk. There was no higher authority than the Committee to Enforce the Latest Thing.

I don’t know if I even like the term “free speech,” for the same reason I don’t like the term “hate speech.” How about just freedom, which encompasses thought, speech, religion, self-defense, private property, and assembly — in other words, inside and out, vertical and horizontal. For the left, it always comes down to “freedom doesn’t really exist, and besides, only certain people get to exercise it.”

Bah. Moving on. All scripture is important, but some things are more important than others. In other words, there are degrees. Of verticality. What are the most important points? Good question, but right now we’re focusing on cosmos and freedom. The cosmos as such doesn’t have it but we do. 

Now, the cosmos has been here for 13.8 billion years, and we’ve been here for far less than 1% of that time. Even our sun has only been here for about 4.5 billion years, and our existence proves there can indeed be something new under the sun -- and not just freedom but life itself, which has been here for 3.7 billion years, give or take.

Like anyone could even know such things. But we do know them. 

Here is a passage from Schuon to which I often return, because it describes the essence of our situation so concisely:
One of the keys to the understanding of our true nature and of our ultimate destiny is the fact that the things of this world never measure up to the real range of our intelligence.
True. At least the latter: as indicated at the outset, we have one up on the cosmos, in that we understand it but not vice versa. Or at least we are free to understand it, even if some people reject both truth and the freedom to explore it.

But is this really a key to anything? Or just another lock?
Our intelligence is made for the Absolute, or it is nothing (ibid).
Now, that is at once a Bold Statement, but surely true, for the same reason the Aphorist tells us Either God or chance. All other terms are disguises for one or the other.  

As I suggested in the book, this is a true Binary, in that one of them cannot be a little or even a lot more likely. Rather, it is simply one or the other. 

Some people make their choice at the outset, based on common sense, tradition, culture, conformity, or even full-blown tenure, whatever. 

Others start at the empirical end and reason their way up to the Absolute, but it’s the same Absolute, AKA, necessary being, or that which cannot not be. Absent this, then there can be no basis whatsoever for truth, freedom, or any other transcendent reality. We are all Sam Harris. Or, there is “truly” nothing and Sam Harris is its prophet.

We judge that claim impossible, or rather, infinitely stupid.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Spacetime and Other Problems

An inexcusably rambling post, but what's done is done.

It has probably occurred to you that the problems of time cannot be solved by more of it. Time itself is the problem. No time, no problems. But how and why did it get this way? 

We live "in" time and space. But we are not -- or so we have heard from the wise -- of time and space. Or at least some “part” of ourselves is not their product (i.e., evolved in time), but rather, is said to be a special creation, something inserted or added to the already existing one. The human soul seems to be Bonus Material that is both unnecessary and gratuitous, and maybe even a hassle.

In a wide-ranging discussion yesterday, my son asked whether existence is even a good thing. He’s very sensitive to the evil and suffering in this world, and wondered whether the whole existentialada might not be worth the salsa. 

I certainly know what he means. Is it worth the bother to exist, or rather, why not create existence minus all the suffering? Or, how about just a floor to the suffering? 

If there is an infinite intellect behind it all, he no doubt considered and rejected this idea, and indeed took it on directly with the assumption of human nature. Reminds me of this:
The history of Christianity would be suspiciously human if it were not the adventure of an incarnate God. Christianity assumes the misery of history, as Christ assumes that of man (Davila).
Who would invent such a God? I know I wouldn’t.    

The problem of evil is a notoriously difficult one, and without question the strongest argument against the existence of God. However, it seems we cannot have a creation genuinely separate from the Creator and not have Problems. Best we can do. 

Rather, we have to look at things from the other way around and wonder why there is all this beauty, truth, and goodness. How did they get here? Obviously they’re not self-explanatory. As to the dark side of our spacetime matrix,
that which is “other than God” could not possess the perfections of God, hence in the final analysis and within the general imperfection of the created, there results that privative and subversive phenomenon which we call evil (Schuon).
Evil “must be” if there is to be anything at all, even though, at the same time, it doesn’t cease being evil: freedom permits any number of things that are against the natural law. Absurdity only enters the picture when the left conflates the possible with the natural and necessary, as with the transgender insanity. In any event, 
the “absurd” cannot but be produced somewhere in the economy of the divine Possibility, otherwise the Infinite would not be the Infinite. But strictly speaking, evil or the devil cannot oppose the Divinity, who has no opposite; it opposes man who is the mirror of God and the movement towards the divine (ibid.).
But let’s get back to where we find ourselves, which is to say, spacetime. Schuon breaks it down for us:
Space has three dimensions: length, width and height; then six subjective dimensions: above, below, right, left, before, behind. 
Analogously, time has four objective dimensions -- the four phases of a cycle: morning, day, evening, night; or spring, summer, autumn, winter; or again, childhood, youth, maturity, old age -- and two subjective dimensions: the past and the future; the present being beyond our grasp, as is the center in space.
If you’re like me, you’re no doubt thinking to yourself waitwut? But Schuon is on to something with the distinction between subjective and (merely) objective modes of space and time. You may recall a few weeks back, when we were discussing the nature of objectivity, which is actually a mode of the subject. 

What do we mean by “objective”? Ultimately we mean that something is, but this only follows the considered reflection and judgment of a well-informed subject. Obviously, only a subject may know what is objectively true. It’s how we distinguish between a hallucination and the objective world.

Back in the old days of clinical psychology, we used to have a concept called “reality testing.” Part of a routine mental status exam was to assess a patient’s capacity for reality testing, i.e., their ability to distinguish between mental content and objective reality. 

The weakness here, of course, is that it presupposes the sanity of the psychologist, and this can no longer be taken for granted, to put it mildly. For the very concept of sanity must be nested in a hierarchy of objective truths from top to bottom. I want to say that your sanity is only as strong as its weakest link. Therefore, for example, it does no good to affirm physics and deny biology, or to affirm biology and deny the human nature that transcends our animality.

But now that perception is reality, reality testing is off the table. For example, if a man claims to be a woman, there is no objective standard outside this subjective claim. 

Same with wild claims of "systemic racism" or “patriarchy." Indeed, if you subject the former to scrutiny, then you’re the racist: "Psychologists need to work with individuals to challenge their or others’ denial of structural racism as a means of working toward eradicating it" (APA website). Paranoia, projection, and subjectivism are the new objectivity.

Here’s another doozy from the APA, this one regarding the recent mass shooting in Colorado:
The gunman in the Colorado Springs shooting has been charged with a hate crime. It is clear that violence rooted in hate and racism is all too common.… We need to commit to both eliminating hateful rhetoric and strengthening gun laws.

So, because of this non-binary mental case, normal folks need to give up our first and second amendment rights. I have a better idea: how about if we stop pretending mental illness is normal?

I’m afraid that’s not going to happen in our lifetimes, and probably not ever. What we used to know of as sanity will be limited to a marginalized and persecuted remnant. Humans specialize in adapting to the culture, and if the culture is insane, then abnormality is the new normal. In case you haven’t noticed.

There’s more, but let's give it a rest.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Space is to Spacious as Time is to (x)

Yesterday we were thinking to ourselves that space is to spacious as time is to (x). After pondering it for a good ten or twenty seconds, we concluded that there is no word for (x). 

Timaeus? Plato already yoinked that one for unrelated purposes, although the dialogue does indeed touch on our theme. According to Prof. Wiki,

Timaeus begins with a distinction between the physical world and the eternal world. The physical one is the world which changes and perishes: therefore it is the object of opinion and unreasoned sensation. The eternal one never changes: therefore it is apprehended by reason.
The two worlds are conditioned by the different nature of their objects. Indeed, "a description of what is changeless, fixed and clearly intelligible will be changeless and fixed," while a description of what changes and is likely, will also change and be just likely. "As being is to becoming, so is truth to belief." Therefore, in a description of the physical world, one "should not look for anything more than a likely story."

Platonism is one of the permanent possibilities of philosophy (or philosophizing). It is a respectable approach, but like most philosophies, it gets some things right and many things wrong. 

Bob knows it's difficult to arrive at an explanation that doesn’t unexplain even more. This is because -- come to find out -- “complementarity” (so to speak) is built into the Substance. With this one weird trick, it is possible to explain it all without leaving anything out, at least insofar as self-conscious finitude — AKA the human station — allows.
I am aware of no other metaphysic short of a triune ontology that places complementarity at the foundation of things without devolving to a vicious dualism.
But that’s not the subject of this post. Then again, since I’m the one who brought it up, perhaps it will help us understand what (x) can possibly be.
Could it be that I’ve discovered an obvious and experience-near reality for which there is no word? Well, let’s begin with the reality, which is something like “spacious time.” 

Note that it’s difficult to even talk about time without bringing in spatial metaphors. For example, Time is Tight by Booker T & the MGs, or Tomorrow is a Long Time by Dylan, or As Time Goes By from Casablanca.

There’s also Summertime, when the livin' is easy, and now maybe we’re on to something, because ease is a noun and not just an adjective: the state of being comfortable, as freedom from pain or discomfort; freedom from care or worries, tranquility of mind; freedom from labor, effort, inconvenience, or burden: RELAXATION.

By Jove, I think we've got it: space is to spacious as time is to... SLACK. I can’t assume everyone knows the religious origins of the term, which can be found here: (https://www.amazon.com/Book-SubGenius-Sacred-Teachings-Dobbs/dp/0671638106/ref=sr_1_1?crid=33YM2QB2W2XDL&keywords=subgenius&qid=1669058008&s=books&sprefix=subgenius%2Cstripbooks%2C145&sr=1-1)

Of course, slack is a joke, and of course Bob an even bigger one. For the secret protects itself, sometimes behind gales of laughter. But now that we have something to grab hold of -- a word -- I think we’re in a better position to investigate its relevance to the human journey "through time." Whatever the case may be, I think you'll agree that


Sunday, November 20, 2022

Presence and its Absence

The most important things are so difficult to think about that people either take them for granted or get them entirely wrong when they do try to think about them.

Irrespective of how many things he got wrong, the Bhagwan did get this bheegwan right:


The people are retarded. Which is why we never want to leave it to the demos to decide upon the big things. These things -- the Permanent Things -- are vertically prior to democracy, which is why the left’s hysterical talk about Threats to Muh Democracy! makes us want to reach for our second amendment.

In short, keep your 1st amendment close and your 2nd closer, for speech can only go so far in defending speech. In one sense the left is correct about politics devolving to power, but it’s a matter of who is deploying it: good or evil. Indeed, the left wants us to believe that the common term between a good or evil man with a weapon is the weapon, when the distance between these is two infinite.

At any rate, back to the Big Things that are difficult to define because they are difficult to reduce to anything less than themselves, but also because anything we think, do, or say presupposes them.

For example, “existence.” Just try to define that one without presupposing your own. I was about to say “we’ll wait,” but that would be forever, and our timelessness is limited.

Now, although we can’t define existence, we can relate it so something else, and this is Being. It turns out… 

I shouldn’t put it that way, because this post is coming to you live and not pre-recorded. Rather, as we ponder existence, it’s turning out that it can only be understood in relation to a source or ground we call Being -- a verb, mind you.

We can’t actually understand either term, but here we are, not only situated between them but the only creature in all of creation that is aware of being so situated.

Wait -- did you just say creation? Doesn’t jumping to that conclusion presuppose a rush to judgment into a leap of faith? No, that’s not what we mean, at least not yet. Rather, we’re speaking more of the empirical fact of Creativity. Creativity is here, it’s queer, and it’s not going away, so we will eventually need a principle to account for it.

But what I really want to talk about is Presence. What is it? Like “experience,” “existence,” and “subject,” it’s another tricksy one. 

First of all, it has at least three modes. For example, this coffee cup is present. But only to me. It’s not present to you, nor is it present to itself, since it’s not conscious. I suppose we could call that “objective presence,” which is a bit paradoxical, since the object is only present to a subject.

There is also the intersubjective presence that makes humanness possible, and without which it could not exist. As we’ve said before, this is one of the things that makes me skeptical of extraterrestrial intelligence, since it doesn’t matter how big the brain if the consciousness to which it is host is not intersubjective. 

The existential ground of our intersubjectivity is in our neurological immaturity in the context of the mother-infant dyad. As explained in the book, absent this transcendent interpersonal space, we would be as instinct-bound as any other creature. But here in this space we are innerduced to an infinitude that is a kind of abyss -- an abyss of love at one and and dread at the other should emotional development go sideways. 

(By the way, the trans-ontological condition of intersubjectivity is, of course, the Trinity.) 

My larger point is that human subjects may be present to one another. I suppose we could call this “intimacy.” But other adjectives come to mind, for example, “depth.” Obviously, the relationship between subjects can be deep or superficial. What’s up with that? For it implies that Presence, whatever else it is, has this vertical span.

It also implies absence -- for example, our very much absent president. What happened to him? Where did he go? More problematically, did he ever properly exist, or did he always have the character of a husk -- not so much an empty suit as a reptile wearing one? At any rate, he is Present Absence or Absent Presence incarnate (notwithstanding the Malevolence that makes its presence known and felt through him).  

Moving on -- and speaking of which -- there is also self-presence, or self-awareness, which is again visibly absent in our president, but also, not coincidentally, in his supporters, who do not have the presence of mind to perceive Biden’s absence thereof. Curious. Or perhaps obvious.

Now, if you are anything like me, there is another important kind of presence, this being the presence of God, or something. Call it what you want, but I don’t know what I’d do without it. This post has already taxed the reader’s presence, so how about a few sharp aphorisms to the ribcage:
God is not the object of my reason, nor of my sensibility, but of my being.
God exists for me in the same act in which I exist.
The most dispiriting solitude is not lacking neighbors, but being deserted by God.
In short, being is an act, this act is a presence, and this presence is of someone, i.e., a subject. Not only is this subject not me, nor could I be me in the absence of this bheeg someOne.