Friday, January 27, 2023

Reaching for Everything and Grasping Nothing


Ever have that feeling that your reach exceeds your grasp -- that you can touch and see it, just not describe or contain it? I’ve had this feeling for going on 18 years of blogging, but yesterday I think I figured out why. 

Except it’s difficult to explain -- like my reach exceeds my grasp or something.

I’ve been slowly making my way through a book called The Irreducibility of the Human Person. It’s on the pedantic side, but parts of it are stimulating a lot of (?!). 

What I mean by this is that they’re not exactly completed thoughts, rather, a recognition that here is a fascinating little rabbit hole that I’ll need to revisit. If I stop and jump down every rabbit hole, then I’ll never follow the argument and finish the book.  

So, it’s difficult to retrace the path, because it consists of a collection of discontinuous and unexplored rabbit holes. I sense an underlying unity, but we can’t know until we’ve explored them all. I suspect the holes lead to a den below the surface where all the rabbits live. 

Which in turn reminds me that -- I don’t know if this is true, but Too Good to Check -- the largest organism in the world is some species of mushroom connected underground by a vast mycelial network. The mushrooms we see growing on the surface may be  be miles away from each other, and yet, united as one.

A place below the surface where the rabbits all live. Clearly, there is a metaphysical “place below the surface” where everything lives, or rather, where life, light, love, truth, and beauty emanate or are anchored: the mother of all principles and trinitarian network of all interior relations.  

Which perhaps sounds a little kookie or unorthodox, but it sure sounds like Eckhart. That’s another giant rabbit hole, and now you see the problem -- it’s rabbit holes all the way up. But let’s pause for just a moment to look into this one, because I think it goes to the carpet that ties the cosmos together. 

By the way, we’re looking at the Coon Classic The Mystical Thought of Meister Eckhart by Bernard McGinn, and talk about reach exceeding grasp! This is why Eckart practically had to reinvent language in order to unsay what he wanted to say.

But in a more down-to-earth, straight talkin' way, he agrees with us that 
everything that is true, whether in being or in knowing, in scripture or in nature, proceeds from one source and one root of truth.
That root being like a ginuminous mycelial network.

And like Schuon, he identified “the intellect as the power in which the human being is informed by God” -- as in in-formed, or formed inwardly. 

We might say that the intellect as such is the One Rabbit Hole, and when you think about it, how could this not be the case? For “Nowhere does God dwell more properly than in his temple, in intellect.”

Just don't conflate this with the egoic and passional intellect of the tenured, God forbid. Rather, this is the view of Nobodaddy from Nowhere. (The subtitle of the book is The Man From Whom God Hid Nothing, which you can take two ways, in that God keeps the latter to himselves.)

If you call to mind the image of the fingers of Adam and God, the space in between is where the spark in the dark of intellect lights up the room. Now, is it God’s intellect, or ours? The eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me.

Shocking? It supposed to be:
The Dominican deliberately adopted a strategy designed to shock [?!] the reader. He obviously thought that his excessive mode of exegesis corresponded to the intention of the biblical text itself, which so often spoke “excessively.”

There’s a reason -- a principle -- why “the whole world could not hold all the books that would give the full tale of Christ’s signs," for "Everything divine, as such, is immense and not subject to measure.

This last word is important, because it is precisely the perpetual excess that makes it impossible to measure, quantify, or grasp: there’s always more where that came from. Which is at once strange and not strange at all when you think about it. With the intellect.

It is beyond our grasp but not our reach, or I’m not here and this isn’t happening. “It is the presence of the Word made fleshere and now that is [Eckhart's] concern.” Here? Check. Now? Check. BOOM! 

Did you hear that? Why, it’s another Big Bang, only on the inside of the cosmic network: Eckhart wants to break through the shell to arrive at the kernel, and thereby "reach the infinite inner understanding" that "explodes upon itself.” Like a mind grenade.

Equipped with these linguistic mind grenades and depth charges, Eckhart often stretches and abuses language in order to get the point across from flesh to flesh or fingertip to fingertip: he “consciously adopted” a “fluid hermeneutic of multiplication and mischievousness.” 

Like an annoying blogger of our acquaintance, he deployed and deplayed with “paradox, oxymoron, and negation,” not to mention antithesis, parallelism, hyperbole, chiasmus, and more. He invited listeners “to become one with the message,” even while “destroy[ing] formal meanings.” Creative destruction. 

Truly truly, what else can one do when using a tool designed to describe the material world in order to describe the immaterial world? The latter is not only more real than the former, it is the Source and Ground from which worlds and words worldwordly flow. 

But at the same time, there is hyperdimensional Word behind all the words, and all the words in the world can never contain this Word. Rabbits multiply. 

Ekhart’s peculiar use of language “is inseparable from his wider ontology,” and once you realize this, then you might get a sense of where Bob is coming from. Tomorow we’ll try to jump into a new now, sniff through the reekage, and grasp what we can.  


Gagdad Bob said...

Speaking of reach & grasp, I just read this line: "we grasp our irreducibility in part by grasping our intellectual openness to what is new and to what exceeds all that we have previously grasped."

Gagdad Bob said...

"When I grasp a being as beautiful, I directly grasp that I could never adequately express what I grasp in concepts or words."

Gagdad Bob said...

One for Gerard: poetry is "instant metaphysics: it can directly put us in touch with features of being that exceed conceptual explanation."

julie said...

And yet, even though it is inexpressible, that mustn’t stop one from trying.

julie said...

Sorry, didn’t mean to interrupt the flow, but of course the first thing that came to mind with the second quote was Gerard’s writing.

Petey said...

A person is formless subjectivity dwelling in a formal subject.

Petey said...

If our reach didn't exceed our grasp, this life would be one of pure boredom or unremitting tenure. Just another way of saying Gödel was right.

Petey said...

By the way, those aren't rabbit holes, rather, portals between time and eternity.

Petey said...

God is restless until he rests in us.

Petey said...

Waters of grace flow through the portal into the basin of being.

Petey said...

Every moment is the confluence of wonder and novelty.

Petey said...

Everything is an analogy. Including analogy.

Petey said...

Everything is like God, but God isn't like anything.

Petey said...

Time is like eternity, only longer, as eternity is like a moment, only deeper.

Petey said...

One hand can grasp the other as object to subject. The two-sided möbius strip of being.

Cousin Dupree said...

Okay Sphinx.

Gagdad Bob said...

My night tome reading is a book I picked up for a dollar at the library sale, a surprisingly good biography of Jann Wenner, publisher of Rolling Stone. He's about the same age as Gerard, was at UC Berkeley at the same time, and got into the same racket, magazine publishing. I wonder if they ever crossed paths?

At any rate, the book does a pretty good job of identifying Wenner as patient zero for everything foul and toxic about the boomers, the same sick world from which Gerard escaped with extreme prejudice. Makes one wonder about fate and destiny.

Gilbert said...

I cannot talk about anything without talking about everything.

Anonymous said...

Everybody likes it when somebody says, "I can see God". It usually means the party's gotten off to a good start.

But if you're at a party and somebody says, "I can see Satan", then get the hell outta there.

And if you're at a party where somebody says, "I can see Hunter Biden's naked laptop", then get the hell outta there right quick.

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