Friday, May 26, 2023

Temporal Normality

Improbable blogging conditions this morning, and impossible tomorrow, especially given the nature of the subject. I need to think about this one. The Maestro must have SILENCE -- a silence that should resume once the boy officially graduates high school tomorrow and there are no visitors disturbing the peace. You know me:

I'm a quiet living man,
who prefers to spend the morning in the silence of his room,
who likes an atmosphere as restful as
an undiscovered tomb,
A pensive man am I, of philosophical joys,
who likes to meditate, contemplate,
far for humanity's mad inhuman noise,
A quiet living man....

Chapter 22, Time. Clearly, it is one of those fundamental *things*, like being, experience, space, or order, that cannot be thought away, because they are the very basis of there being anything to think about. Try thinking away "experience" and see how far you get.

A few posts back we spoke of how, in the case of a primordial complementarity, one side is nevertheless more fundamental, since it could account for the other side, while the other side could not account for it. Now I'm wondering if it also works the other way around.

In other words, if we find something that seems to be fundamental, it must have its complement without which it cannot be understood. In the case of time, its complement is eternity, and the traditional understanding of eternity is that it is not time everlasting but timelessness. 

I frankly don't like either option. Infinite time is obviously absurd, but timelessness is no bargain either. It is literally unthinkable, and I like to think that eternity and thought are compatible -- in other words, that it's a joyous cerebration.

We'll sort through some options later, but first let's see what McGilchrist has to say. He mentions something that reminds me of the early Christian councils that were more about excluding error than defining truth in a perfectly rigid way; or at least they gave some leeway to the latter, even while defining no-go interpretations.

"As in the approach to all deep questions," McGilchrist proposes "at least to see more clearly what it is we now believe that is unlikely to be the case."

What are some of time's no-go zones? Sounds silly, but there's nothing silly about 100 million dead due to Marx's idea of time and history. And his is far from the only one. 

How about the Aztec, who needed to slaughter thousands of victims in order to keep time rollin' along -- to feed the gods, keep the sun from dying, and ensure the continued existence of the world, in short, to stay on the right side of history?

McGilchrist also suggests that perhaps we can learn something about time by looking into what happens to it in cases of psychopathology, especially schizophrenia (which seems to be more an RH dysfunction) and depression (more of an LH problem). 

This implies that there must be something like Temporal Normality, something McGilchrist nowhere implies, but hey, why not? 

If we really want to widen out our discussion, we could always bring in Balthasar's five-volume Theo-Drama, which does indeed posit a kind of normative time -- a dramatic structure of history that comes to us directly from God. (

Balthasar shows how many of the trends of modern theology (e.g. “event”, “history”, “orthopraxy”, “dialogue”, “political theology”) point to an understanding of human and cosmic reality as a divine drama. 

This discussion would take us so far afield that we'd never finish the present opus. Remind me to come back to it.

Now I'm curious. Just a peek. 

The aim is to make the individual's short span of life coextensive with the whole span of the life of the world.

So, a person is a temporal fractal of the whole. I like that. 

Is time "a cathedral in dramatic form?" 

"Something has changed in salvation-time as it flows onward, something that makes it different from pre-Christian time." 

And here's an interesting question: "If the Creator gives his creature [temporal] freedom, does he not become dependent on him?"

But we haven't even finished a single page of McGilchrist!



Gagdad Bob said...

This book could be relevant: The Immutability of God in the Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar.

julie said...

Poor Professor Higgins; I have always agreed with his preference for peace and quiet.

Congrats on the boy's graduation, I hope he has a lovely weekend! My boy is turning 13 this coming week. Pray for us. Though in fairness, I worry less about his teen years than his sister's.

Van Harvey said...

Congratulations and prayers for both Bob & Julie on their boys' passages!
A couple of questions in the vein of being & becoming, first, which comes first, the Top, or the Bottom? Second, Bob, you often mention being out of time, but as a now retired slacktivist, what's eating it up?

Gagdad Bob said...

Good question. I guess just respect for the reader. Also, when I notice that it's getting on 11:00 AM, a voice in my head says "get a life!"

Gagdad Bob said...

As for top vs. bottom, I've already started reading a corrective to McGilchrist's overly bottom-up process view, called Bergsonian Philosophy and Thomism, by Jacques Maritain.

Gagdad Bob said...

"his incisive critique of the thought of Henri Bergson was Jacques Maritain's (1882–1973) first book. In it he shows himself already to have an authoritative grasp of the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas and an uncanny ability to demonstrate its relevance to alternative philosophical systems such as that of Henri Bergson....

"Soon after his conversion, Jacques Maritain immersed himself in the thought of Thomas Aquinas and was struck by the comparative weaknesses of Bergson. This book is Maritain’s relentless criticism of the philosophy of the man whose lectures had meant so much to him. Its ferocity marks it as a young man’s book, written in part to exorcize the defects of Bergson’s philosophy as they were understood by one now schooled in Thomism."

Van Harvey said...

Gagdad said "...when I notice that it's getting on 11:00 AM, a voice in my head says "get a life!"" ;-) Ah, so less running out of time, than reclaiming it. Good move!

I found a site a while back that has Jacques Maritain's writing online, commentaries about Aquinas & education, that I find myself returning and dipping into fairly frequently, a nice mental bracer. I'll grab the link later.

Randy said...

Congrats on your son's graduation! My daughter graduates herself in a few weeks.

Anonymous said...

We are living in a simulation created by (and mostly for) the rich and famous.

I’m finding it especially interesting that the two RAF who popularized the simulation idea, chose a beautiful woman to wear the red dress. Why wasn’t it instead: “Were you listening to me, Neo? Or were you looking at the man in the red dress?”

Obviously, because that’d be a dead giveaway for an agent. But less obviously, because it’s a lot easier to get away with the extravagance of dressing in drag if one’s wealthy. You think wearing a red dress to your construction job interview is gonna end well? Fuhgeddaboudit.

Just as all working Agent Smiths are men, all matrix creators get to be whatever sex they wanna be.

Van Harvey said...

The parent site has Maritan's writings, but under it are a number of related collections, like this one, the Thomistic Institute Papers. All in all a good site for using time in pursuit of the useless.

Gagdad Bob said...

The book turned out to be rather wooly and longwinded compared to the sharp verbal shiv into the ribcage of a Garrigou Lagrange.