Monday, December 30, 2013

Time and its Alternatives

It doesn't take long to lose the plot, does it? A few days in ordinary time and one quickly becomes disoriented. So let's see if we can slip into our usual state of deusorientation.

Which takes time. What then is the difference between these two kinds of time? Well, it seems to me that one is anabolic while the other is catabolic; one creates while the other decays; one makes you better while the other just makes you older; one is negentropic, the other entropic.

So, creativity "presupposes a change in time" (Berdyaev). But which is more fundamental, creativity or time? Clearly it must be creativity, which means that time must be a kind of side effect of creative novelty. Thus, "it would be more true to say that movement, change, creativity, give birth to time" (ibid.).

As such, we don't need to say that God is "in time" per se; rather, divine time is simply an artifact of his ceaseless creativity. It does, however, mean that time "must exist" if the word "Creator" means what it says.

Then again, one of the features of creativity is its "timelessness." This can be understood in two senses: one subjective, the other objective.

Subjectively, there is the suspension of time that occurs when we are immersed in some creative activity. Objectively, the most exquisite examples of human creativity attain timelessness, i.e., are relevant for all human beings in all times and places.

If we apply this principle by way of analogy to God, it must mean that his creative activity is asymptotically close to timelessness, if that is the correct use of the word. Or, you could just deploy an orthoparadox and say that God's creativity is "timelessly temporal." Revelation, for example -- say, the Incarnation -- occurs "in time." And yet, it would be a quintessential example of timeless truth.

Thus, we need to think of Deep Truth in a more dynamic way, as a kind of serial unfolding. We've discussed this before -- how a higher dimensional truth will require time to disclose its fulness on a plane of lesser dimensions. Just picture a three-dimensional object passing through a two-dimensional plane, and imagine how it would be experienced by the 2D people. Events separated in time are actually just different parts of the higher dimensional object.

I believe this is how Tradition would be interpreted by traditionalists: not so much the accumulation or accretion of arbitrary truths at the human margin (although that also occurs, inevitably), but the temporal residue of creative engagement with the growing seed of revelation over the centuries.

We're just winging it here, so I'm pulling out the Catechism to see if I can get some metaphysical backup. This sounds about right: "Creation has its own goodness and proper perfection, but it did not spring forth complete from the hands of the Creator." Rather, "the universe was created 'in a state of journeying' toward an ultimate perfection yet to be attained, to which God has destined it."

Yes, that is exactly what I am saying: we are all on a creative journey, an adventure of consciousness into the true, good, and beautiful. Can we reach the end of the journey, i.e., perfection? Of course not. Not without divine assistance, anyway.

Which raises another important point we have discussed in the past, one hammered home in this boring book on the ontological structure of political Tyranny. The gist is similar to Voegelin's central idea that human beings necessarily live in the creative space between immanence and transcendence. For both Voegelin and Newell, tyranny occurs when the would-be tyrant collapses this space with salvific promises of heaven on earth, Obama and his Care being the latest ghastly examples.

Where Newell differs with Voegelin is in drawing a sharp distinction between ancient and modern forms of tyranny. No, I am not being pedantic. Stick with me. This is interesting, and illuminates some weird features of modern as well as postmodern tyrants such as Obama.

I'll try to dumb it down for all of us, including me. You could say that ancient tyrants were at least humanly recognizable, in that they were motivated by such hardy perennials as pleasure, lust, gluttony, envy, etc. But so many of these modern tyrants are almost like religious ascetics. Hitler, Lenin, Pol Pot, Robespierre, bin Ladin -- these were not party animals. So, what's their motivation?

Newell writes of a "change in the meaning of tyranny in modern politics from the tyrant's pursuit of pleasure to an impersonal, self-abnegating, and therefore seemingly 'idealistic' destruction of all premodern ties to family, class, and region in the name of a contentless vision of a unified community or state" -- kind of like nihilistic devotion to amorphous change led by a vacuous change agent.

Thus, "what is so frightening about modern terroristic rulers" is "their apparent imperviousness to ordinary greed and hedonistic pleasure in their rigorous dedication to a 'historical mission' of destruction and reconstruction" -- or, as Obama calls the disease, "fundamental transformation."

The aggression of such rulers "becomes a duty that cannot be 'compromised' by their own self-interest, or love of noble reputation..." Obama at 39%? Doesn't matter. The grim world-historical goal of socialized medicine cannot be compromised by reputation or self-interest.

For the ancients, "the tyrant is a monster of desire who plunders and ravishes his subjects." But the modern Machiavellian prince dispenses "terror in a disciplined and dispassionate manner." Before ruling the city, such a prince must first conquer his own human soul -- which is again why so many modern tyrants are not recognizably human.

Didn't mean to get sidetracked. Back to the point about tradition: "God is the sovereign master of his plan. But to carry it out he also makes use of his creatures' cooperation," which is "not a sign of weakness," but rather, goodness.

"For God grants his creatures not only their existence, but also the dignity of acting on their own, of being causes and principles for each other, and thus of cooperating in the accomplishment of his plan." God is "the first cause who operates in and through secondary causes."

The following passage goes to exactly what we said above about the dual nature of time: in its "state of journeying," we see in the world "the appearance of certain beings and the disappearance of others, the existence of the more perfect alongside the less perfect, both constructive and destructive forces of nature." Good times, bad times, until the end.

Berdyaev: "[T]he free creative act is accomplished outside the power of time, for there is no predetermination in it: it proceeds out of that depth of being which is not subject to time; it is a break-through from another order of being.... In essence it is the opposite of the worry which our fear of time produces. And if man's whole life could become one creative act, time would be no more." Or at least it would be a good start.

7 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

What, still no comments? It's like this place is being visited by slackers or something...

12/30/2013 01:13:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

The students have surpassed the slackmaster.

12/30/2013 02:49:00 PM  
Blogger ted said...

I always read but am often speechless. That's one way to look at it.

12/30/2013 05:52:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"Which raises another important point we have discussed in the past, one hammered home in this boring book on the ontological structure of political Tyranny."

Ah. Good to know. I was wondering about that one... I had it in the cart for awhile... but backed off.

BTW, I am enjoying this one,
"The Cave and the Light: Plato Versus Aristotle, and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization", thanks for the tip.

Too many of the 'Plato dueling Aristotle' books are little more than cardboard cutouts ("Dark Ages->Plato(dum-dum-dummmm)- Renaissance->Aristotle!!!!"), but this one seems to get the blending down pretty well.

I moved it up from audible only to a hardcover copy too and I'm up to the point of Rousseau entering stage left dum-dum-dummmm (hey, sometimes the cardboard fits just right).

12/30/2013 07:13:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

Man o Man, read the following excerpts from this fine post in the key of Lazarus.

"We've discussed this before -- how a higher dimensional truth will require time to disclose its fulness on a plane of lesser dimensions. Just picture a three-dimensional object passing through a two-dimensional plane, and imagine how it would be experienced by the 2D people. Events separated in time are actually just different parts of the higher dimensional object."

And

"[T]he free creative act is accomplished outside the power of time, for there is no predetermination in it: it proceeds out of that depth of being which is not subject to time; it is a break-through from another order of being.... In essence it is the opposite of the worry which our fear of time produces."

12/31/2013 05:38:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Yes, that idea of the slice of a higher dimension is always good food for thought. There's a blog that illustrates the concept even better, inside insides. It's done by an MRI tech - every time they have to calibrate the machines, they check functionality by scanning fruits and vegetables.

But anyway, going back for a moment to the discussion of free will vs. predestination, it seems to me that the "conflict" can only truly and properly be resolved on such a higher plane. Considering just the course of a single life, ultimately it can only be known in fullness as a totality. However, the totality is formed in the realm of time and space, one "slice" at a time, given shape just as much by the freedom and creativity of each moment as by the external or merely material circumstances which in-form those freedoms.

12/31/2013 06:44:00 AM  
Blogger ted said...

I finally came across a TED talk that actually nails it. I have always felt a sense of manipulation and hollowness to this format, but this speaker takes aim at it. And makes the point that innovation needs immunization (e.g. ordered liberty, creativity with constraints, part and the whole).

12/31/2013 07:11:00 AM  

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