Saturday, March 09, 2024

Of Course You Can Change the Past

It is impossible to say how much of the Bible is improvised, only that it is, being that it is always (vertically speaking) a harmony of two voices, divine and human. Moreover, it is symphonic, in that it is a unity of many voices over a period of 2,000 years or so. That's a long time. 

Nor can we say that it begins with the writing of Genesis, since Genesis adverts to the beginning, or to the beginning of time itself. It reminds me of a movie with a plot which in turn adverts to events prior to it, i.e, backshadowing. 

Also, it is not as if it literally ends with the composition of Revelation in AD 95 (or whenever it was), nor with the closing of the canon in AD 363, because that's just another beginning -- of ceaseless riffing and improvising on the text. 

Analogous to musical improvisation, it is as if scripture provides the chordal structure that supports the countless melodic improvisations we can draw from it, from trivial to profound. At any rate, it is inexhaustible.

And if we're going to be literal, we cannot even say that earlier events are fixed, since only future events can reveal their full meaning. We do not mean that the earlier events change figuratively, but literally. 

For example, an eyewitness to the Crucifixion would not only have have no idea of its meaning, the meaning continuously unfolds through time, thus changing its very character.

Once again it's a relief to stumble upon a book that makes the same point, Deep Exegesis: The Mystery of Reading Scripture. Chapter two in particular, Texts Are Events, not only explains how it is possible for past events to undergo "change," but how this is built into the very fabric of temporal being. 

For example, supposing it were possible to witness the Big Bang, what could we really know of it? As we've said many times, the later emergence of such shocking properties as Life and Mind cause us to reconsider the very meaning of the Big Bang. 

And not just the meaning, because the universe that suddenly comes to life is a changed universe: things require time in order to disclose what they are; in a single moment, nothing is anything. 

Now, you will ask: are you saying that the future operates causally on the past? Because that's more than a bit woo woo. But Leithart makes it clear that

Events themselves change over time, taking on new properties because of later events. 

And again, not just vis-a-vis scripture. He uses the mundane example of an assassination, but let's consider one in particular that occurred on the morning of June 28, 1914, since its effects continue to resonate and reveal "what happened." 

Such an event is in one sense "fixed": "the assassin aims, shoots a gun, and hits his target with a bullet to the head" (or jugular in the case of the Archduke). 

Assuming the victim doesn't die instantly, all an eyewitness could say is that an attempted assassination has taken place. Certainly he would have no knowledge of World War I, and how this in turn led to World War II, the Cold War, and even to the wars in Ukraine and Gaza. 

We cannot know the event fully because we do not yet know how the events of 10:00 a.m. will be modified by later events.   

This sounds like some fallacious trick of logic, e.g., Zeno's paradox or something. But no: "This is not simply a change of description but a change of the event," because "the event is brought into relation with subsequent events and acquires new properties that change the very thing it is" (emphasis mine). 

I don't know, Bob. Too clever by half. 

Clearly this has to do with the metaphysics of time. Back to our discussion of how music mirrors the nature of temporality, a note in one moment reveals next to nothing about the melody. Does the note undergo change? Yes and no, for the same unchanging note can support an infinite number of melodies which, once played, reveal the nature of that note.

What happened on January 6? Whatever it was, it's still happening, as per the amphetamine addled ravings of last Thursday's State of the Dementia. 

Again, music is a quintessentially temporal event, not a static and atemporal thing. And last I checked, we to are allavus Plunged into Time, whatever that is.

To hear the simplest melody, we need to listen for at least a few seconds. And more complex pieces of music can take an hour or more to experience. Notes follow notes, measures follow measures, movements follow movements.... If we are going to listen to music at all, we have to give it time to unfold.

What if we're listening to history? Or to scripture?

Texts are musical in that they take time, and the time texts take is musical time. The time of music and the time of texts always involve reaching for the next moment.... we are always reading beyond the individual word.  

In reading, we have to suspend judgment until the texts unfolds itself, but note that the Bible is again a special kind of text that spans from before-the-beginning to after-the-end, AKA Alpha to Omega and thensome. And

Not unjustifiably may we say that musical motion is at the core of every motion; that every experience of motion is, finally, a musical experience. 

With respect to scripture, "the meanings of earlier texts shift with the introduction of later texts," and this is all over, for example, John, the prologue of which very much changes the meaning of Genesis 1. 

Only in a timeless universe could the "past" be fixed: "Everything depends on the temporal dimension." And what it is, precisely.   

The meaning is disclosed only by taking the time that the text takes..., and the story changes not only what we thought happened but what did happen. 

Maybe. But "we need to consider what happens to texts after they seem to be finished." This post is finished, but we don't yet know what it means. We'll keep you and I in suspense for another 23 hours.

Friday, March 08, 2024

God is a Swingin' Jazz Trio

"Improvisation provides a powerful enactment of the truth that our freedom is enabled to flourish only by engaging with and negotiating constraints" (Begbie).

True, but a bit pedestrian. Anything else? 

by enabling a freedom in relation to a vast array of constraints, [improvisation] can enable a freedom with respect to a fundamental continuous constraint which permeates them all, namely the world's temporality...

It is true that the higher we ascend into vertical freedom, the more, not fewer, constraints. I think. For example, wild animals have no constraints but are thereby "enclosed" in a meaningless kind of freedom. The same could be said of a human being raised in the wild, who would scarcely be human. 

I am completely free to pick up a saxophone and blow on it. Conversely, the great ones who play with real freedom tend to be obsessed with practice. It is as if they internalize more constraints, only to transcend them.

I wonder if this is what motivated Joyce -- as if to say, "I've mastered conventional language, but it's too confining. Time to move on to something more challenging." For example, instead of using just one language and culture, he

invented a unique polyglot-language or idioglossia solely for the purpose of this work. This language is composed of composite words from some sixty to seventy world languages, combined to form puns or portmanteau words and phrases intended to convey several layers of meaning at once (wiki).

 More constraints = more freedom:

Joyce was attempting "to employ language as a new medium, breaking down all grammatical usages, all time space values, all ordinary conceptions of context.... the theme is the language and the language the theme, and a language where every association of sound and free association is exploited."

As is the case with music, "the writing is not so much about something as it is that something itself" (emphasis mine). "The essential qualities and movement of the words, their rhythmic and melodic sequences..., are the main representatives of the author's thought and feeling" (emphasis mine).

Dreamspeak: "a language that is basically English, but extremely malleable and all-inclusive, a fusion of portmanteau words, stylistic parodies, and complex puns."

There are rules!, even in dreams. Freud attempted to nail them down, and these were later systematized into a kind of new logic -- called "symmetrical" -- by Ignacio Matte Blanco, who argued 

that in the unconscious "a part can represent the whole" and that "past, present, and future are all the same." He set out to examine the five characteristics of the unconscious that Freud had outlined: timelessness, displacement, condensation, replacement of external by internal reality, and absence of mutual contradiction....  
He deduced that if the unconscious has consistent characteristics it must follow rules, or there would be chaos. However the nature of these hypothetical characteristics indicates that their rules differ from conventional logic.

Now, I'm guessing that this is not just a right-brain thing, but expresses the "metaphysics of the right brain," insofar as it is abstracted from its left-brain complement. 

In health there is a dynamic and holistic interaction between the two, out of which emerges a "higher third," so to speak. But over-reliance on one to the exclusion of the other will result in varying types of pathology.

For example, earlier this year we spent a lot of time discussing how ideology is very much an LCH phenomenon. It is a kind of static grid that is superimposed over the world, when the world -- AKA reality -- is always much more complex, multifaceted, and hyperdimensional than the the models we invent. In other words, Gödel.

And now I'm thinking about scripture, which lies on a variable continuum between dreamspeak and relatively straightforward propositions such as the Ten Commandments. The synoptic Gospels are relatively linear histories, but John partakes of more dreamspeak, which I suppose is why it is our favorite. 

And what is the book of Revelation but a rather florid dream, bearing in mind again that there are rules in dreaming. Prior to Finnegans Wake it was one of the tricksiest texts out there, defying any linear LCH approach. Indeed, my Orthodox Bible says that

in the second and third centuries Revelation was widely twisted and sensationally misinterpreted, and the erroneous teachings brought troublesome confusion to Christians -- a trend that continues to this day.

To put it mildly.

I think it is more accurate to say that we are always already in the end times, although no one knows when the end will be. If your doors of perception are cleansed, you know that the future's uncertain and the end is always near.

Let me stop improvising and get back to improvisation as such, because I want to finish our discussion of this book. With it,

new futures with hitherto unconsidered possibilities are opened up. In addition, continuous constraints are drawn into and promote this process....

The freedom realized in the best improvisation is not an amorphous "openness" struggling to conquer (or ignore) constraints, but a fruitful interaction between contingency and constraint. 

This dialectic leads to "a theology of human freedom," but I want to say divine freedom as well, for what kind of freedom has God? I strongly suspect that he's not only a jazzman but a jazz trio with a sensitive collective ear for co-creative harmony, melody, and rhythm.

For example, with improvisation there is a "growth of personal particularity through musical dialogue." In other words, one player discovers his musical identity via interaction with others who are equally adept at finding their identity in the same way. It reminds me of the most famous version of the Bill Evans Trio:

This trio is still widely regarded as his finest, largely because of the symbiotic interplay between its members.... Along with bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian, Evans perfected his democratic vision of trio cooperation, where all members performed with perfect empathy and telepathy (wiki).

In such a setting,

the constraint of others is experienced not as essentially oppressive but as conferring and confirming an inalienable particularity and uniqueness (Begbie).

There are certain jazz players who are so strong that they have difficulty playing with others. Louis Armstrong, for example, often overwhelmed his compatriots and his musical surroundings, which served simply as a background for his own flights of improvisation. 

The following is an exception, in that Johnny Dodds certainly holds up his end on clarinet. The rhythm section is somewhat rudimental but check out Armstrong's second solo in particular, which is both spontaneous but has a kind of propulsive inevitability:

Contrast this with the Bill Evans Trio, where everyone is improvising with everyone else all the way through, and the beat is more elastic, dancing, and "breathing":

Armstrong is a musical god, but I think the latter is more like how the trinitarian God must sound.

Thursday, March 07, 2024

Improvisation in God and (Therefore) Man

In any proposition about man its paradoxical fusion of determinism and freedom must emerge. --Dávila 

Must? Doesn't sound very free to me. 

People who want to be spiritual and not religious are like a musician who wants to be unconstrained by any musical structure. Do you remember nothing? 

That freedom is dependent on constraint is patently evident in many spheres. In cybernetics there is a principle that states "Where a constraint exists, advantage can usually be taken of it" (Begbie). 

Like a good tax accountant, or similar to Polanyi's conception of how the boundary conditions of one level may be exploited by a higher level, e.g., words by sentences, sentences by paragraphs, paragraphs by post, etc. 

Except I have no idea where this post is going; it is "open," but there must be something to which it is open -- one hopes, anyway -- a higher level of meaning.

Sometimes it's there, sometimes it's not. Or perhaps the problem is on the lower level: sometimes I am not here, apparently. 

Analogously, if God is omnipresent, any lack of presence isn't his fault, rather, ours. Properly understood, O is what is always here and cannot not be here.

But if Christianity is correct, then O itself has a kind of dynamic musical structure.

This reminds me of a comment by Keith Jarrett about the encounter with music, which may or may not occur in the case of improvisation, which is simultaneously a search for and a manifestation of the search for music: the jazz musician:

goes onto the stage hoping to have a rendezvous with music. He knows the music is there (it always is), but this meeting depends not only on knowledge but openness. It must be let in, recognized, and revealed to the listener, the first of whom is the musician himself.

Shamanic, that's what it is: a negotiation with the unseen, unheard, and unwritten. Nevertheless, there are rules!

if there were unlimited degrees of self-communication we could not advance beyond chaos. Organizations of energy become possible because stable limits are set on their possibility: "Elaborate networks of constraint, running down eventually into laws of motion, set the conditions and boundaries...." 

Human beings have developed the capacity to submit to the constraints deliberately in order to extend the possibilities of their interaction with the world.

Is this what the world is "for"? To provide the boundary conditions for our improvisation? It certainly seems so. The only alternative is a determinism that would render improvisation impossible. 

Does God himself improvise?, that's the question. In the classical view he does not and cannot, because he is timeless and immutable. But to repeat Zuckerkandl's quote from a couple of posts ago,

A God enthroned beyond time in timeless eternity would have to renounce music... Are we to suppose that we mortals, in possessing such a wonder as music, are more privileged than God?

Well? I often wonder how much Jesus improvised. To the extent that he was human, we would say "a lot." 

But are we to believe that his divine person underwent no change whatsoever? If so, what is the point? Does the revelation of the Trinity not reveal anything new about God? Is God not "constrained" by his triune structure -- a structure that is a kind of perpetual process?  

Time out for aphorisms:

Two contradictory philosophical theses complete each other, but only God knows how.

For example, the theses of change and immutability, of freedom and necessity, of time and timelessness. 

If the Father is "absolute freedom," it is nevertheless "constrained" by his eternal engendering of the Son. 

You think so, Petey? That's a bold claim. And yet, it seems that even -- especially -- the Father isn't "free" to not be the Father. Otherwise we land in ontological contradiction. At least from our end of the cosmos,

Freedom is not an end, but a means. Whoever sees it as an end in itself does not know what to do with it when he gets it.

God himself doesn't know what to do with his infinite freedom but to generate the Son. Or rather, the Son is what the Father always knows via his freedom.

The Aphorist suggests that

The permanent possibility of initiating a causal series is what we call a person.

Does this apply equally to the divine persons? Or more so?

I'm going with the latter: that -- so to speak -- the person of the Father is the permanent possibility of generating the Son. 

The Aphorist also says 

Authentic freedom consists in the power to adopt an authentic master. 

It would seem that this freedom of ours is grounded in the authentic freedom of the Son to do the will of the Father. Thus

The free act is either rebellion or obedience. Man establishes his godlike pride or his creaturely humility. 

Genesis 3 All Over Again. For *ironically*

Total liberation is the process that constructs the perfect prison.  

That checks out: the tyranny of relativism under which we currently live. Give me back my boundary conditions! Starting with the Constitution. 

The ultimate boundary conditions are those between the Father, Son, and Spirit.  

And ultimately,

The free act is only conceivable in a created universe. In the universe that results from a free act.

The free act of engendering the Son or Word? Petey? Little help? Nicolas? Anyone?

When we forget that to be free consists in the power to seek the master that we should serve, freedom merely becomes the very opportunity for the vilest master who commands us. 

You gotta serve somebody.

Is that true? What if I want to serve myself? Why can't it be a self-serve and self-serving cosmos?

Whoever is liberated from everything that oppresses him soon discovers that he is also liberated from what protects him.

No loopholes, no special exemptions? After all, I am a Good Man. 

Man is the the most contemptible refuge of men.

 I know, I know. Don't remind me.

"Human" is the adjective used to excuse any infamy. 

Okay, so remind me.  

If man is the sole end of man, an inane reciprocity is born from that principle, like the mutual reflection of two empty mirrors.  

Which implies that the full mirror is the one full of God?

Man inflates his emptiness in order to challenge God.  

That's true. The biggest conceivable nothing is still nothing. Conversely,

Authentic humanism is built upon the discernment of human insufficiency.

The first baby step toward Genesis 3 not all over again.  

Let's come full circle to an aphorism about the aphorism at the top, and call it a post:

An individual is defined less by his contradictions than by the way he comes to terms with them.

Wednesday, March 06, 2024

Timelessness Waits for Everyone

Jazz is more closely related to the realm in which music occurs -- time -- than is European music... if music -- as almost all philosophies of music hold -- is the art expressed in time, then jazz corresponds more fundamentally to the basic nature of the musical than European music. --Joachim Brendt 

Well, this book on Theology, Music and Time is a bit of a disappointment. Not much for Bob to work with, a few quotes notwithstanding such as the one above. 

That passage does go to questions of freedom and structure in time, for time cannot be just one or the other. That is to say, pure freedom and spontaneity would be unintelligible, while pure structure would be as lifeless as metronome or drum machine. 

Time marches on. Or does it? Sometimes it feels that way, but it can also slow, stretch, and dilate. Indeed, if not for the latter, then there would be no possibility of slack in the cosmos. Rather, life would be an unrelenting drill until the marching stops at death.

There is a chapter on the modern composer John Tavener, who calls his music "liquid metaphysics," and although Begbie doesn't mention it, it so happens that Tavener was a student of Schuon. I just googled it, and he set a number of Schuon's poems to music. 

There's a chapter on the relationship of music to time, which begins with a quote that poses the question of whether time "is a threat or gift." I suppose it depends on how we look at it. Is it just a velvet glove hiding an iron fist called Death? 

No, it's an ironic redemption disclosing a love ensconced in velvet.

Ouch, Petey. You can do better. 

Not this morning I can't. 


If in Christ "all things" have found their fulfillment, then, presumably, the same can be said of time as an integral dimension of the created order. 

The Incarnation is either "central and decisive for all time and history," or we are somewhat screwed timewise. We would have little rational choice but to escape it by any means necessary, as in Neoplatonism or Buddhism. Time would have no purpose except insofar as it affords us a brief opportunity to flee it.

But in the Christian view "the reality of time" is "intrinsic to God's creation" and has an "essentially positive character." However, our post-Christian culture features a paradoxical combination of too much time and not enough of it:

To state the obvious, being "pressured by time" is a pervasive feature of contemporary life in the West. "It is because our days are too full and because they move too fast that we seem never to catch up with ourselves."

As a result, we are always hurtling toward a future that never arrives, no matter how much we accomplish in the moment. 

Human beings have always tried to control time by attempting to decelerate transience, to postpone the entropic processes of decay.

Which goes to the very purpose of religion. And to its denial, especially as seen in the disordered political religions of the left.  

One must live for the moment and for eternity. Not for the disloyalty of time.

Time, it seems, is our best frenemy, depending upon how we approach it. The conditions "that produce the time-scarce condition are the selfsame ones that produce its opposite."

Meaning what, exactly? Again, no humans in all of history have been so liberated from the necessities of time, and yet, so persecuted by its presence: "The dominant modern response to the relentless approach of death is massive denial." With the postmodern compression, dislocation, and scattering of time,

there is much to suggest that elements of an intractable sterility and even destructiveness are also at work, extending rather than healing the malaise of modernity.

And Here We Are: a "tyranny of clock-time" amidst "postmodernism's fragmentation and multiplicity of times."  

Where is the slack?! This sounds like a joke, but the perpetual cry of the left is that the fascist dictator Trump is literally going to steal all our slack. But these are clearly slackless people to begin with, or they would be celebrating how much they have under Brandon. It's a simple question, really: do you or do you not have more slack than you did five years ago?

Music "seems to offer a temporal adventure in which time is experienced not as an absolute receptacle or inert background," a time-affirming model of change which doesn't end in death or entropy. 

For example, it "accustoms the mind to grasp immaterial reality." It "enables us to delight in" the unseen and untouched, being that it is independent of the senses (for it isn't actually perceived by the ears but by the immaterial mind).  

Perhaps it serves as a model "to empower the mind" and "to apprehend the unified order of eternity." It "demonstrates that there can be ordered change, that change need not imply chaos," and that

dynamic order is possible, that there can be ordered being and becoming, form and vitality, structure and dynamics, flux and articulation. For something to be subject to persistent change need not imply disorder.

Well, good. Call it Developmental Cosmology:

The created world takes time to be. Music presents us with a concrete demonstration of the inseparability of time and created reality, of the truth that it need not be seen as a vice of creation, that it can only reach its fulfillment, its perfection, through time. It shows us in an intense way that "taking time" can be good, profitable, and enriching.

"Music asks for my patience, my trust that there is something worth waiting for." It "relies with a peculiar intensity on transience for its very functioning," thus liberating us "from the assumption that limited duration is of necessity problematic, that we can only discover authentic meaning in the unbounded and unlimited."

After all, God himself "once took time and thus treated it as something real," and "has allotted the time we need to fulfill our destiny."

"The universe is suspended between nothingness and the infinity of God," and "music can exemplify and embody just this suspension."

All I got.

Tuesday, March 05, 2024

Water Everywhere, But Who Will Slake Our Thirst?

A God enthroned beyond time in timeless eternity would have to renounce music... Are we to suppose that we mortals, in possessing such a wonder as music, are more privileged than God? --Victor Zuckerkandl

Turns out I didn't make up the word "theomusicology." 

It's difficult to track down a precise definition, but it it has more do with the cultural and anthropological interface between music and the sacred, as opposed to our concerns, which are more metaphysical in nature, going to how music as such reveals the nature of God and of ultimate reality.

Again, we're looking for clues in a book called Theology, Music and Time: it

shows ways in which music can deepen our understanding of the Christian God and his involvement with the world. The author explores rhythm, meter, resolution, repetition and improvisation, and through them opens up some of the central themes of the Christian faith -- creation, salvation, eschatology, time and eternity, eucharist, election and ecclesiology. He shows that music can refresh theology, giving it new ways of coming to terms with God.

Thus far I can't give it an unqualified raccoomendation, because it's simultaneously rambling and pedantic, a reminder that I could never be one of these academic types. Only a blogger? True, there are no minimal qualifications for being one, but nor is there an upper limit. Like music, come to think of it. Anyone can do it, but comparatively few do it well, am I wrong? 


Thaaat's right, Petey. Name another blog that features tips, quips, and insults from a discarnate frenemy. 

Let's flip.

it is clear that music is one of the most powerful communicative media we have, but how it communicates and what it communicates are anything but clear.

True, but the mere fact that music "clearly communicates" is what we want to focus on. In the past we have discussed Christopher Bollas' theory of idiom needs, whereby objects in the external world in-form us about our interior world: everyone has

their own idiom for life -- a blend between the psychic organization which from birth forms the self's core.... we spend our time looking for objects of interest -- human or material -- which can serve to enhance our particular idioms or styles of life...

We are perpetually looking for those external objects that evoke a kind of re-collection of our own interior. For me, this is proof enough of the soul. 

Bollas also calls these "transformational objects" whereby one is "metamorphosed by one's interaction with the object world." That music speaks to us at all indicates that it is just such a transformational object. That it can also communicate the sacred presupposes this idiomatic/transformational structure, very much like a key that unlocks something inside us. 

This is no different from art in general, which, according to Schuon, 

has a function that is both magical and spiritual: magical, it renders present principles, powers and also things that it attracts by virtue of a “sympathetic magic”; spiritual, it exteriorizes truths and beauties in view of our interiorization, of our return to the “kingdom of God that is within you.”

Thus, art is at once an exteriorization of what is interior to us and vice versa. Otherwise to hell with it. Its ultimate purpose is "so that the human soul might, through given phenomena, make contact with the heavenly archetypes, and thereby with its own archetype." Again, a transformational object. It is "a movement from ourselves to ourselves, or from the immanent Self to transcendent Being" (ibid.).

Talent. Plenty of people have it, but as the Aphorist reminds us,

Mere talent is in literature what good intentions are in conduct.

Same with music. There are many more virtuosos than artists. Which is why so much music is inadequate, beauty being an adequation, precisely. "The modern conception of art is false insofar as it puts creative imagination -- or even simply the impulse to create" in the place of an adequation to the object of beauty:

a subjective and conjectural valuation is substituted for an objective and spiritual one; to do this is to replace by talent alone -- by talent real or illusory – that skill and craftsmanship which must needs enter into the very definition of art, as if talent could have meaning apart from the normative constants that are its criteria (Schuon, emphasis mine).

We are drowning in talent, in creativity, in imagination, that only make us more thirsty for the real thing -- a real thing that is again both interior and exterior. 

Words do not communicate. They remind.

Same with music: we know it when we hear it. And we know it when we hear it, for it's a two-way communication or it's not communication at all. It is a Platonic re-collection, such that

The purpose of art is not a priori to induce aesthetic emotions, but to transmit, together with these, a more or less direct spiritual message, and thus suggestions emanating from, and leading back to, the liberating truth (Schuon).

Boom. Can't put it more clearly and concisely than that. Except to say that

It is not the sole obligation of art to come down towards the common people; it should also remain faithful to its intrinsic truth in order to allow men to rise towards that truth. 

Sacred art is made as a vehicle for spiritual presences.... profane art on the other hand exists only for man and by that very fact betrays him. 

We're still just tuning up. I guess we haven't gotten very far, but then again, we've already gotten all the way to the toppermost of the poppermost. Not only is God not bereft of music, but we say he is the nonlocal source and pattern of music as such. To be continued.

Monday, March 04, 2024

Theomusicology and the Song Supreme

As I've said before, music had better be important, or I've wasted most of my life. If you tally the hours, it's probably tied with reading for how I've spent the bulk of my waking hours. So it's heartening to read that "Music is not only an art. It is a clue to the cosmos" -- and that it's "not just one phenomenon among many but the secret key to understanding the whole of reality" (Leithart).

But what have I learned, exactly, from all those hours? For it's not as if music conveys propositional statements about the nature of reality. Rather, its very form is the message it conveys. Its mere existence leads us to wonder in what kind of cosmos it is possible for it to exist. To paraphrase Nietzsche, a Cosmos without music would be a mistake.

Supposing we take that literally, it would have to be possible for God to err. But God cannot err. Therefore music is necessary? Well, it's one of the constants of human nature, and we are I & L of the C, so there's that.

Augustine, for example, "recognized that music offers special insights into the nature of time," for it is the quintessentially temporal art, seemingly testifying to an irreducibly positive character of time -- again, in contrast to the pagan view of time as degenerative:
To be ultimately real, something has to be static, ever itself, not turning into something else, not aging or decaying..., impervious to time's changes.

Conversely, it is impossible "to take in music in a moment" but "only through the process of listening":

Music forces time upon us, but shows us that the passage of time and the patience it demands are gifts to be received rather than evils to be endured. 

Otherwise the best song would be the shortest and fastest, or maybe just a single note, like an eternal siren blast. 

In the previous post we spoke of the intersubjectivity of man, which is -- in my opinion -- gorounded in the intersubjectivity of the Trinity. Well, this is mirrored in music too: its

overlapping and interpenetrating quality is one of the ways that music points to the mysteries of the world, for time has precisely this layered musical quality.... Music's form is a trace of the form of the whole cosmos.

Change my mind. But wait until I dive into this next book on the pile, Theology, Music and Time. Right now I want to finish with Traces of the Trinity before circling back to theomusicology proper. 

In the penultimate chapter, Leithart describes what amounts to (IMO) a purely left-brainish view of the world whereby

Every thought is constructed with sharp cuts, and thoughts are combined at right angles. Everything depends on this not being that, on keeping that and this from touching or slopping into each other.

In other words, an atomistic -- and tone deaf -- world of pure external relations. But music, it seems, is a quintessentially right-brain activity. I'll have to check back with McGilchrist as we plunge into the next book.

At any rate, it sounds very right-brainish to say that "the Spirit is the music of God, who lends melody and rhythm to the Father's Word," and that "The Father, Son, and Spirit live in a harmony and love that is a model for human life." Likewise,

the Spirit who hovered over the formless and empty waters harmonizes, orchestrates, and sets the rhythm for all things.

Bottom line, at least insofar as this book is concerned: RELATION is a "transcendental category," "the leading feature not only of the divine life but also of created life." 

In his book Sound and Symbol: Music and the External World, Zuckerkandl asks

What must the world be like, what must I be like, if between me and the world the phenomenon of music can occur?

I guess we're about to find out.

Sunday, March 03, 2024

Our Metaphorical Cosmos

Human beings, like any other biological entity, are open systems. Now, it's one thing to be open to objective things such as food, water, and oxygen, but what makes a human human is our openness to other human subjects: our intersubjectivity, a mutual indwelling that begins even before birth, in the womb. 

There is and never has been such a thing as a radically isolated human being who only later becomes "social." So, philosophers who imagine otherwise, such as Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau, are not even wrong. They're anthropological nonstarters we can dismiss with extreme prejudice. 

How these [intersubjective] individuals come to be in the first place is a large lacuna in early modern political and economic thought (Leithart).

I'll say. Man is a "political animal" because he is an intersubjective animal, not vice versa. And -- as explained in my book -- the first society is the mother-infant dyad, which coarises with the mother-father dyad: fathers are needed in order to protect mothers who can care for premature, helpless, and neurologically incomplete infants.  

The principle of this mysterious and otherwise inexplicable mutual indwelling is the Trinity. If creation bears the marks of the Creator, vestiges of this intersubjectivity are exactly what we would expect to find, instead of the last thing we would expect to find.

Yesterday I read a book that expands upon this idea, called Traces of the Trinity: Signs of God in Creation and Human Experience. As always, it's a relief to discover someone who suspects what I suspect, and has targeted God as a person of interest. Indeed, there is sufficient evidence to hold him for interrogation.

Of course, it's not the book I would write, since I am too lazy to write one. So let's just flip around and expand upon what Leithart has written. It's a fairly short book, so we may be able to manage it in a single post. I will try to focus on the new rather than the same old same old you've heard before. 

You don't have to be an advocate of woowoo physics to know that

Nothing is other than what it is, but nothing is what it is except by the other things that dwell in it, the other things among which it dwells. 

We touched on this yesterday via Whitehead's fallacy of misplaced concreteness. Not only is everything in motion -- a field of energy -- but everything is everywhere at all times, and every spatio-temporal standpoint mirrors the world. I call this alone a pretty, pretty big vestige of the Trinity, wherein the whole is in the parts, and vice versa.

Back to human development,

everyone I know started life in a pretty intimate "engagement" with another human whom the child eventually learned to call mother...

That's how I remember it: "We all begin life indwelling another human," and "if there's one thing we're not at the beginning, it's by ourselves." In The Beginning "we're already a society."

Prior to I think, therefore I am is We are, and with your help, maybe I can start organizing these chaotic thoughts without a thinker. We all start out as progressive crybabies, but some of us move on.

Society + individual are "equi-primordial," existing "as distinct realities only by virtue of their interaction with each other." 

Now clearly, to say that we develop is to say that we are temporal beings who change with time, and yet, remain the same. If not for the latter, then every developmental change would result in a new being with no continuity with what came before. As we discussed a couple of posts ago, this problem of time was handled very differently by pagan folk for whom "the fundamental agenda was to escape time" (Leithart).

Greek religion was a quest for a rock of ages, resistant to the flow of time, a place or part or aspect of reality immune to change.... All Greek religion was a metaphysical "quest for the timeless ground of temporal being" (ibid.).  

Again, we can find that illusory place, except we can't be there to enjoy it. The cosmic d'oh!  

But what if time is a cosmic woo hoo! What if "we say that time is of the essence of things, and that change is good, very good." After all, we are interrogating God, and that's what he says. 

Time isn't a problem to be solved. It's a wonder and a mystery of human existence.... Without change, we wouldn't exist at all (ibid.).

I would qualify that and say that "mere" temporality becomes problematic to the extent that it is detached from its nonlocal source and ground. Our time is complementary to -- we won't say timelessness. Let's just leave it open for now.

The next chapter is on the subject of language, and here again, without the mutual indwelling alluded to above, "language would not exist at all." In an analogy we've used before, "Language is like a Möbius strip in which inside and outside form a continuum" (ibid.). I actually prefer the image of a dynamic Klein bottle, but the point is the same:

We began yesterday's post with the Aphorist's claim that

Metaphor supposes a universe in which each object mysteriously contains the others. 

Leithart writes that

The property of metaphor depends on the mutual indwelling of word in word, and of world in word.... if words indwell words, and if things and words are mutually indwelling, then metaphor is not imposed from outside but a revelation of the character of language, the intimate interpenetration of one word by others. 

This is ultimately because "mutual penetration is not something imposed on the world but the basic pattern of reality." 

That's enough for today. I think we have sufficient evidence to bring an indictment, but we'll spell it out further tomorrow.

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