Sunday, February 24, 2013

Inspiration an' Eternity

Last week, Aunty mused about how Early Man, cave dwelling Homo Sapiens, all seemed to "know" that thar's an infinite  realm beyond what he could touch.  A simple reflection on Cave Dwellers' art and funeral rituals prompts big questions--How did Homo Sapien even git the idea of eternity in his haid?  All life struggles to survive--worms to wooly mammoths--but all die.  Rocks and sand doan die, but all that wuz animated died. Only Man has the idea that some form of his being will survive death.  Can we think the concept of eternity sprang from some observable phenomenon?

 Thas' not a viable supposition. Ain't the idea of eternity a most  unique concept?  One marvels that a primitive could nurture such a complex hypothesis.  Nothin' in the earthly cycle of life--birth, growth, death, decay--suggests anything remotely akin to eternity.  Why did Early Man not resign himself to this observable cycle of life?

"How could it be possible that we were only natural creatures, but that nature was felt to be insufficient for our needs? Either nature must be in some (old-fashioned) sense evil, or we have misconstrued our needs." (Adam Phillips, Darwin's Worms).

How did hope and expectation of an after-life germinate  in the mind the Primitive Man?  What gave rise to religion in the first place?  Why din't Cro-Magnon jes' stick to science, that is, the observable reality?

Because man was inspired to "know" eternity. Inspire--the literal meaning from the root is  "to breathe life into"  Pneuma, breath, Spirit.   "Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being." (Genesis 2:7) (yes, Aunty is fine wif' idea that this is poetic language, though I ain't bothered by an actual Heavenly Breath)

During this Lenten season I thought it might be fun to share some  of the readin' I'se doin' on the near truce thas' bein' formed a'tween science an' faith.

As science soars into outer regions of the "known"--a star hopping seeker who fantasizes about riding light saber highways into unknown galaxies--- to uncover relic radiation (leftover from the Big Bang)*, or, quantum this an' that, the billion pathways of Man's own mind is the inner frontier.

Y'all know that we still doan know exactly how a thought is thunk?  Why does this thought occur from that stimulus? Is it all jes' chemical?  How did a primitive Sapien git the idea of a wheel in action?

If two people look at the same ONE item in an otherwise stripped room, they have different thoughts, but we ain't sure why. The association each makes when viewing the same stimulus ain't identical, an' leads to different thoughts. On account of that quirky truth, it is possible fer many new ideas (in many brains) to suggest new lines of inquiry that arise from one short, it can be said that the possibilities are infinite, not limited to some uniformity of response. Two Nobel scientists examine the same data, but may arrive at two very diverse inspirations for a future exploration of the edge of the world we know.

I am reminded of the quip about why God created so many kinds of butterflies when one wuz enough to pollinate plants. Why? Because He wuz havin' such a delightful time creating the beauties!  For the sheer joy of it, thas' why--not because it wuz needful, but JOYful.  Or, because He could, thas' why--He could make a world whar' beauty fer the sake of beauty wuz reason (if you must have a reason) enough.

In like manner, it seems, He endowed Man wif' innumerable neurons, synapses, an' all manner of inner possibilities whar' no two inspirations need be the same--fer the sheer joy of our individuality. Some will paint, or sing, or invent, or dance, or write, or hypothesize,  or explore. However, the mechanics of inspiration is still unknown, otherwise the Lefties woulda inspired us all  right now into their  planned Noosphere.

Man jes' HAS to know--his curiosity becomes passion,  an' next thang ya' know, Hubble constructs the mighty spyin' eye on the cosmos--because? Because somethin' is out thar'.  Because we'uns feel called, pulled, beyond this known into the unknown.

 But, passion?  A scientist  declares himself "passionate" about disproving  any human need for the transcendent.(S.Jonathan Singer, The Splendid Feast of Reason)  Really? Passion suggests purpose and meaning, not a dispassionate scientific methodology  of inquiry open to the  discoverable truth.

 It's a dance, a glorious dance of discovery, not because it is needful, but because "it's there."  An' we know it is there, unlike the lesser primates, we know it is there, but we doan know What is there. Man has a sense of awe, of sheer wonder, for the universe that is there, a marvel we din't make by our ownselves or dream up but in which we's free to frolic...or, seek the source of this unfathomable mystery.

Molecular biologist Robert Pollack (The Faith of Biology and the Biology of Faith):  Irrationality does not necessarily contradict rationality, it lies beyond it. "The unknown is not thew edge of everything. The unknown itself is wholly bounded blurring into intrinsically inaccessible and immeasurable  unknowability... Science itself depends on the periodic emergence of the unknowable for its own progress."  Hence, scientific insight--we might say inspiration-- is not strictly scientific: "Scientific insight is not a phenomenon subject to prior scientific analysis."


Mystery is at the heart of the religious impulse--the first Cave Dwellers understood that. But this impulse to know the mystery ain't a religious escape from reality, but, seeing the vastness of reality, religious impulse is a movement toward the ultimate reality.

Non-scientific Seekers abound, but ineffectively for the most part. Book racks have dozens of versions  of  Chicken Soup for the Soul where more nourishment is had in The Cloud of Unknowing.  Folks is spiritually hungry, even Material Girl(s), an' they seek a connection to their spiritual inner-self  by  burnin' aromatherapy candles around the hot tub. This ritual is supposed to aid the seeker in communin' wif' the cosmos, to find a connection to the Ultimate Connection.

Seems to Aunty that in direct proportion to the rise of a Nietzschean "God is dead" sentiment, man, though existentially sated, is starvin' for God.  An' his passionate exploration of the cosmos is a plaintive wail, "Oh God, where are You?"

*Images of the Cosmic Microwave Background are set for unveiling at a conference scheduled for Paris on March 21st, 2013--in case any of y'all is curious. Or jes' want a decent croissant.

1 comment:

fishy said...

You seem to be having a right busy brain this Lent. Nice of you to share with the rest of us. Unlike you, I am not a scholar, least of all on Faith, so I am hesitant to comment.

I will share these few thoughts:

1) I have never understood the friction between the Big Bang Believers and the Christians. To me they go together just fine. If God said, " Let there be light!" then what better way to create that light than with a big bang? For that matter, if God did not create light with a big bang how do you suppose He did light up something as vast as the universe?

2) I can get along just fine with the idea of God creating all types of butterflies for the sheer joy of creating beauty. I am one who believes a butterfly has a job beyond that of pollinating flowers.
I believe beauty's duty is to inspire. In effect to pollinate our minds and hearts with the knowing of God and with the enlarging of this knowing through love, art, music.

3) On the "they are not sated they are starved" notion I am reminded of this.
" God. My God. Why have you abandoned me?"

It is not God who turns away, who abandons. It is always man asking that question who has turned away.

Blessings on your week Aunty.