Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Evolution of History

Some thoughts provoked by Daniel Boorstin*, his chapter on evolution of history.

I am rather inclined to think that there is only one absolute truth, the conditio sine qua non, though infinite approaches to that truth are possible. These approaches are mere artifacts, and this is Boorstin, "shards" of mental pottery, transient vessels of aspiration for the "Truth". Therefore, knowledge is not constant or immutable, but ephemeral, as dew on the rose. Knowledge is a mere contemporary of its zeitgeist. It paints the way, yes, but soon along that way, there will be newer signs appropriate to new contemporaries.


When there are no clouds
the sun shines-

Is that drinking tea from an empty cup?

All historians, indeed, all artists, theologians, and scientists, sate themselves on the contents of an empty vessel. I agree with R. G. Collingwood that only philosophy, of all man's endeavors, categories of being, Stages on Life's Way**, provides the framework wherein its practitioners can come to see that true understanding springs from the consciousness that returns on itself. Release the dichotomies! One simply cannot be brought out of darkness into light because darkness and light are in an interesting way the same thing.

So! Jews were never brought out of Egyptian slavery into the promised land. This historical/mythological paradigm of Christian salvation, coming out of the evils of the flesh into the salvation of the spirit, is one dichotomy. Christians are never "saved" from their sins by virtue of one defining moment in history. Similarly workers never free themselves, by whatever device, be it collective bargaining or revolution, from bondage to the controllers of the machine apparatus of production. And don't fail to note the "self similarity" of the two historical trends of Christianity and Marxism touched on here. (One is a fractal of the other.) Freedom, individuality, independence are a simple turn of the mind away for one and all. A gymnastic juggernaut is not required. Living through a hellish history based on false myths of original sin is not requisite. See that art, religion, science, history are mere preparations of the mind for philosophy. Philosophy is the culmination of the journey past or through these signposts. Their modes of consciousness are directed out from itself. Philosophy is man's consciousness turned back on its origin. That turn of the mind is a requisite of true understanding.

Collingwood's Speculum Mentis lays out this idea that the first signpost, Art, is expressive of the aspiration for beauty and is a search for, a longing for, the "other", that which is lacking. But is it really? In what respect would we lose our identity in blissful union? Isn't annihilation already and always there in that empty cup? Religion posits absolute reality in an absolute other. History posits its goal in a distant future to be achieved through evolution. The faith of science is that measurement of infinity is achievable and mistakenly conflates knowledge with understanding. All are instances of the attempt of the soul to go beyond itself, of the urge to see reality as greater than it is.

There are, of course, many other considerations some of which I have addressed previously in this space. Beauty, truth, liberty, love, and similar attributes of consciousness are, besides what I say here, I believe, facets of a divine being and are in a sense also spirits in themselves in that "their" being is added to, enhanced somehow by participation in them of sentient life. The principles grow by being called on and their luminescence increases through this use. It also bears repeating that existential mass embodies these principles as potentialities that emerge, so to speak, in the presence of sentient life. Our consciousness directed in these categories is fertile soil for the growth of these spirits. Thus it is that God has commerce with creation. Thus it is that God has self experience. For what other purpose could there be for making this being? I am here at the cusp of projecting, I see, my human nature on the cosmos. This is a conundrum that recurs throughout history. My answer is that I am the cosmos in a sense, so this projection is of the cosmos onto itself. Keeping all the caveats mentioned here and elsewhere in mind, that is how I am able to be confident in my appraisal.

*The Discoverers
**Soren Kierkegaard

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Note on fractals

Yesterday I mentioned fractals in comparison to the increasing complexities of life. Creation has built in uncertainty so while every instantiation of the real contains within itself all that went before it also embraces new elements. This is why it is true that while nothing changes in reality it is also true that at the same time the real is forever new. Look closely at your breathing, for instance. Every breath is somewhat like all that went before yet if you look closely you will see that every breath is also unique. This pattern repeats itself endlessly. To know something in this environment is impossible just because of the uncertainty that seeds the new. Therefore only heuristic learning is effective learning. As we approach an understanding we see that final knowledge escapes our precision and minor flaws emerge in our calculations. On these "mistakes" we ground ourselves anew and the self learning, self teaching, continues.

For a fractal galery go here. More from MathWorld here.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Old Flames

I don't think this is going to work the way I would like. Usually when I come here I have a fairly clear idea of what I want to write but today I have only the need to write. I am patient though, and will dwell here a little to see what happens. There is plenty to say but I just don't know how to do it this time. I am not confused. I am overwhelmed. Life is so full of so many myriads of experiences and all need to be put to words. Doing so not only is an affirmation of those events it is also a validation and a way to immortality. Sort of. It is like having children and knowing with certainty that you live on in them and in those of their issue forever.

The landscape of my dilemma is vast and presents itself like a white dove fluttering in the featureless void. This is what I feel like. I pull back from the abyss, or I am pulled back by fate. Invisible strings? Fruits of intention? Answers to fervent petitions to a personal deity? I don't know but it is certainly true that whatever your intention or petition the response when it comes will be rife with complexities unanticipated. Life is above all a kind of fractal. Recall E.E. Cummings, "Deeds can't dream what dreams can do." Knowing this, that discovery is the action of the unknown, vulnerability is my natural state. Risk is almost a metaphysical category in my life so I trust instinctively, and love. This is something I have long cultivated. Yet at this juncture there are no paths and I must pick my way carefully. Not that there ever were, though I imagined them. Here is a generous spirit, an incomparable beauty, and compelling desire but these are understood. Not as a measurement, not as something known, but as something intimately owned. A part of me that is a part of another, truly an apotheosis. Yet, it is an expression only begun, a running, tripping, headlong rush through the void. That plummeting, fluttering white dove suspended in darkness, no place to rest, find completion, no twig to grasp, none, nowhere. So vulnerable. So helpless.

We make our own light here in this fastness of the soul. I would shine and thus show a path for others but how to make a path through the abyss? What are the signposts? The dove? No, that is an aspect of spirit. Love? I think love is more. This is it. Love is a lot more. It is, in fact, the void itself. The abyss unrecognized. The unfathomable void. If someone asks you what you mean by love tell them that love is meaning capable of filling any emptiness whatsoever. Even if that emptiness is the whole cosmos. And with that the circle is completed and Beauty and Truth with Love shine like facets of the same jewel and their light penetrates any darkness whatsoever, any darkness anywhere. To be open to this is to share in everlasting, eternal joy and to make another see this is even greater because it is in reality the divine spark finding and kindling anew eternal fire, fire that burns everywhere and consumes everything. It is the annihilation we so earnestly desire, to be lost in the other. So, yes, I have looked into eyes and realized while I was falling, a white dove fluttering, that the darkness in the midst of our eyes was the same place, that we were one and the darkness is also the light universal, centered everywhere, bounded nowhere, an infinity to be discovered, not a mystery to be unraveled. I don't want to know. I want to always be on the cusp of the new, discovering roads untrodden, lighting the way on an eternal journey. So, yes, I have and still do love. The words come easy. So right. So easy. "I love you." Go tell someone in words, in deeds, even with a soulful look into their eyes, and if they ask what you mean, and that is natural, they are asking for what is said here. Choose your words carefully after a close reading of your hearts and the meaning they convey will be near the truth here expressed.