Creation, Comparison, and Godhood

For Plato and the Pre-Socratics, there is a consistent notion that what constitutes Godhood is the act of creation. In the Timaeus, this is not only evident in the Demiurge’s injection of the forms into the “receptacle” but, too, in Timaeus’ explication of such a creation by injecting the abstract concepts he discusses into language. In the Symposium, the discourse of men is said to birth ideas in a similar way. For Homer, Virgil, and Ovid, the role of the poet is quiet similar and, indeed, the nomenclature of the practice derives from the Greek poein, the infinitive of “create” or “contrive.” For modern poets such as as Percy Shelly, TS Eliot (in his 4 Quartets) and Wallace Stevens (in his “Motive for Metaphor”) there is, again, a similar notion that the act of creation is godly, if not a participation in Godhood itself.

I’ve said before that life is a congealment. So too is the creative act. Linguistically, this is evident in words – words refer to a congealed abstraction, a “being.” Thus, poetry is none other than the image of our world constructed linguistically. For, when I say a thing a certain way, it is attention which I make you pay. And in doing so, so you’ll see, words with sounds form differently. The basic connection is differential dissection of fabulous labels of little discretion. Here is why the Platonic notion of words as magic was set in motion! In hearing two sounds which seem the same we ascribe to them meanings despite different names. The mind is roused and attention is paid, such is the business of the poetic game.

In the above, meter, rhyme, assonance, consonance, and metaphor all image or reflect reality in some way. All such poetic tools deal with basic metaphysical notions of difference and sameness (that is, connection via differential dissection). Different words with different referents are connected by virtue of their ordered relation to each other, a pattern of writing which, when taken as a whole, leads to implicit metaphysical implications, cognized or otherwise. For, sense-data is inextricably related to how the mind internalizes the essential nature or core qualities of what it deems a “being,” and sound is a piece of such data. When sounds are similar, the mind, of course, asserts a similar cause – when we hear the sound of a running liquid (splashes, a waterfall, rain) we know that some liquid is close to us. Similarly, when we hear two words of similar sound, they become associated in a similar causal fashion. Such sounds could be consonant or assonant, rhymed or timed. In any case, when one orchestrates his language in this way, he, quite clearly, I think, images the mental process whereby life is defined. For this reason, language as a sensory reality alters our senses’ connection to the rest of reality as such. For this reason, the creative act necessarily reflects or images that of a God, whether one exists or not. Creation, thus, stands as a microcosm of reality. It is a prism through which the infinitely abstract light of reality is split into the discretely determined spectrum of visible light, Roy G. Biv.

The metaphysically-oriented nature of metaphor cannot be understated, here. In my opinion, where rhyme and consonance manipulate sound, metaphor manipulates meaning. There is a unique intersection of metaphor and philosophy which I find curious and amazing yet which is not all too often discussed. Again, the distinction between mystical and scientific philosophy must be invoked, as it is the mystical which makes use of the metaphorical. Where a scientific explanation of the extraction of discrete entities from an abstract universal would do so with meticulous linguistic precision, the mystical takes what would have taken ages for the understanding to recognize and compresses it into a comparison which instantly rallies thought. This is why, I think, some of the greatest philosophical literature is necessarily mystical and why, again, the mystical transcends the scientific. Wisdom, in this way, stands as an intuitive knowledge which makes use of one’s capacity to grasp and relate the natures of things. Indeed, the more I consider it, the more I see that the most poignant expressions in language are metaphorical. All popular statements of intellection are, for instance, metaphors for tactile comprehension – “seeing” clearly, “grasping” a concept, “tasting” truth, “ringing” a bell. Comparisons of emotion to weather, of relationships to games, etc. all stand similarly.

Prose, then, is an image of our world constructed narratively. Where poetry is largely a metaphysical microcosm, prose is more physical. In narrative, ideas are not condensed and coagulated into words but, rather, into agents. The emphasis, herein, is upon the interaction of agents in the world as opposed to language which images the world. It is, in this way, just as anthropocentric, albeit in a different manner. Drawing too, in a very unique way, is an image of the world constructed, well, through an image! Here the abstractions of light and shadow are congealed into tonal difference, whether that be through the laying on of charcoal into a space to mimic shadow, or the mere drawing of a line to designate where an object begins and ends. There are no lines on the human face and yet, when I drew it as a child, I inevitably drew it as a set of lines, particularly at the nose and lips. Cartooning, then, is as poetry is to prose. To heighten metaphysical characteristics, tones and shapes are exaggerated along metaphorical lines, eyes made absurdly large to characterize cuteness, for instance. Purples might be placed on a tree to designate the depths of weather or to contrast it against a character. Animation, then, poeticizes the moving picture by making movement metaphorical.

I think one can, then, assert two sorts of creativity. On the one hand stands creativity which merely captures the world – realism. On the other stands creativity which captures how we feel in this world – expressionism or stylism. These categories are illusory and, really, blend seamlessly into each other. There is, however, a novel difference evident, for instance, in a photograph of a river and Monet’s “Lillies.” The expression evident in the latter’s medium augments its subject, both where subject is taken to mean what is visible in the art and that which the art is to point towards. Concerning the former understanding of subject, “Lillies” or to use another cliche expressionist painting, “Starry Night,” depicts not as the eyes normally see, but as the self feels before the subject being depicted. Medium, then, is an attempt to capture life in something outside of itself. It is, in this way, Godhood. A mere photograph can cause similar feelings, absolutely. But insofar as a photograph is a replication of reality without an added medium to convey emotion, it is deficient in its capacity to express. In this way, both what is seen and what is felt converge by virtue of the expressive medium just as what is seen and what is felt converge by virtue of reality itself when one experiences anything, especially the sublime.

The realistic can generally be extended to prose, photography, videography. The expressionistic or stylistic can, then, be extended to poetry, drawing or design, and animation. Between these two categories stands the performing arts which, depending on how they are laid out, can either be realistic or expressionistic (eg. Importance of Being Earnest on the more realistic side vs. Cats and Cirque de Soleil on the expressionistic side). These extensions are make-shift, of course, and they deny subtleties like functionality and utility, especially as evident in architecture, cookery, and clothing design. Here, alternate branches in this two-parted tree of creation must be grown at a later time, as the interaction of man with his creations in a distant and immediate manner (where utility generally allows for greater immediacy) is an entirely different matter. The above must be understood as extensions of distant appreciation of creation, creations which we do not necessarily engage with per se.

On the Emergence of Beings

All of life is a congealment, a hardening of things into things beyond themselves. Consider the case of a a set of twigs. When apart, they are nothing but themselves – flimsy pieces of wood. But, when arranged in a lattice structure and moved closer together, they bear a strength which is predicated not only on their being themselves but also their maintenance of a relationship between each other. In this way, the property of strength is an emergent one which becomes only through the coming together of others. The branches themselves can be understood as cells, whatever stiffness is itself evident in the wood itself an emergent byproduct of the relationship between the cells. So too can these cells be broken down into organelles, organelles perhaps decomposable to genetic material, themselves decomposable to atoms. Atoms, then, can be broken down ultimately into strings, Higgs bozons, or any number of other theoretical entities supposed to be the origin of being. Issues with the probabilistic nature of the quantum world notwithstanding, the notion of decomposition into another is a basic and obvious philosophical insight. Things are made of other things – obviously.

What is curious and amazing to me, however, is the notion of emergence – that some thing3 emerges out of thing1 in addition to some thing2, where thing1 and thing2 need not be physical entities. In the stick example, thing1s are sticks while thing2 is the arrangement of said sticks amongst each other. Thing3, then, is the lattice of sticks produced. What is even more interesting to me in this relationship, further, is not merely the emergence of the thing3 as entity, though this problem and the related problem of determining thing3’s identity is curious, but the properties apparent in thing3 as opposed to those apparent in thing1s. This, of course, begs the question as to what a property even is. This begs the antecedent question, what is a “thing?” To use Platonic terms, what is a “unity,” in Aristotelian terms, a “substance” or “essence,” for Aquinas, a “species” for Spinoza a “substantive” for Leibniz a “monad.” To use basic grammatical jargon, what is a “noun.” If you’ve gone to grade school, you know that’s a “person, place, or thing.” But what are these things? What is it to say a that a thing is a thing and not some other thing?

This is a problem in logic and computing which is partially dealt with via Godel’s incompleteness theorem, but which is alternately described elsewhere. At the risk of oversimplifying math I don’t understand and, consequently, misrepresenting the matter, I’m going to present what I understand to be an interpretation of the theorem. In brief terms, the consequences of the theorem allude to the fact that any system cannot be expressed on the whole in its own terms. For instance, to make meta-mathematical statements, one must make a meta-mathematical system with its own rules. Here we’ll note that there is a thing1 (the mathematical system) in addition to some thing2 (a meta-mathematical statement) which exists relative to thing1. The combination of thing1 and thing2 necessitates thing3 as an emergent reality as a consequence.

For the philosophy of mind and general epistemology, this issue, perhaps, gets at Wittgenstein’s dictum that one ought remain silent where they cannot speak as, here, I am trying to express propositionally an understanding of the core nature of terms and propositions. That is, I am trying to make what really ought to be categorized as meta-philosophical statements within a philosophical framework. Perhaps this is why Plato and Plotinus, two figures I’ve been reading a good deal of recently, ultimately have recourse to the mystical as the meta-philosophical. Perhaps, too, that is why Wittgenstein affirms the mystical as having a real place in the world of man. Perhaps, then, the meta-philosophical is the yogic and the experiential, the theurgic, gnostic, and the magical. Perhaps this is what Plato speaks of in the Symposium as the ascent to the Form of Beauty from particulars to generalities. Perhaps, too, this is what he means in the Phaedrus when he discusses the ascent of the soul in love. I see correlations here with the famous Lotus Sutra, the apophatic theology of Pseudo-Dionysius, the “Cloud of Unknowing,” Beatrice and Dante’s Rose, the dark illumination of Bonaventure, the “neti neti” of the Zen spiritualists, and the non-doing non-action of the Taoists.

The emergence of beings is, I think, the final mystery in the philosophically-minded individual’s pursuit of the truth. It is, unfortunately, as a consequence, something which must go beyond philosophical inquiry and into the realm of experience, a philosophic theme which stretches from Plato, to Boethius, to Marx. It is the fundamental problem of all philosophy, and it cannot be expressed philosophically. Metaphysically, it is the problem of how a thing is. Epistemologically, it is the problem of knowing that a thing is. Axiologically, it is the problem of deriving value from what is. Logically, it is defining and relating what is. All of this is not to be confused, however, with the childish pseudo-philosophical question of “why are we here?” or “why does that exist?”. No, we can hardly ask “why,” because all of these questions pose the prior question of what exactly is here at all.

The more I read, the more I see that all philosophy divides this question into two answers, both of which are true – e pluribus unum. All is one and many. Insofar as all is one, it must be experienced. Insofar as it is many, it can be known. The path of oneness and unity is the path of religion and mysticism a la the great philosophical traditions listed above. In contemplation, meditators from east to west hope to glimpse the radiant light of the divine Nous, to merge their Atman with Brahma, to taste the sweetness of the Sophia and her syzygy the Logos. This is the way of Parmenides, the way of Eternity. It is the way of Orpheus, that great enchanter of stones! The way of Homer, Hesiod, Pindar, Virgil and Horace who spoke of the birth of Gaia and her children, the heroes of old, the men of renown! It, too, is the way of that founder of metempsychosis, Pythagoras! The path of multiplicity, that is, the path of mortals in which there is no true trust, is that of aimless calculation, determination, and science. It is the path of Anxiety, of grasping at shadows, of quantum determinations which lead some to suppose that God plays dice with the universe.

Music and the Hardness of the Heart

When listening to music some moments ago, I found a discrepancy between myself and that which I was listening to. I cannot name, how or why or for what purpose, but the connection I felt to the music seems entirely different from that which I’d felt before. My typical listening consists of what I’d generally call “soft” music – delicate piano pieces, soft rock, jazz, acoustic folk, that sort of thing. When listening to these things in the past, I felt a certain concordance of my heart with the tones I’d heard, as though their melodic and polyphonic tonalities had captured a rainbow inside of me and made that emotional-visual reality of my thoughts and feeling aural. In this way, the sum of my senses was captured in the sound and I was caught in web of wonder whenever I’d listened to this music. This was heightened by the practice of playing the piano, which I’d taken up in response to this concordance – being that I felt so enamored by what I heard, I felt it desirable to produce this concordance of myself. That is, I wanted to play the piano to be an active participant in the concordance of my heart with the sound. There was something in this softness which was so subtle and astute, something which, for all intents and purposes, heightened the senses to it by virtue of the warmth and cradling capacity that it maintained.

However, as of now, for whatever reason, such concordance has diminished and I feel discord with the subtlety of sound. Where, prior, I would have taken great joy in listening to the smooth, jazz-laden melodies of Steely Dan, I’ve now just experienced a kind of internal hardness which has made me incapable of responding to their caress. Instead, what roused my senses was the brash, abrasive sound of Black Sabbath, the lead vocals of Ozzy Ozzbourne singing about feelings of one’s being distraught and questioning one’s self, such feelings complemented not only by the harshness of his vocals but the hardness of the backing guitar. I cannot name how, or why, or for what purpose, but there is something not only in that topic of his singing but the timbre with which he sang it which did not caress my softened soul, but brushed against it in a hardened fashion. It was and is, while I listen to the music, as though my heart is hardened, my thoughts congealed, my soul soured. In this hardness, it is only the rough texture of sound which brushes against it, the silk of softness caught on the spiked thorns inside of me. Where, before, subtly warranted a warm embrace, harsh abjection now warrants a tight and interlocking interlocution. As opposed to caress, there is now abrasion.

It is in discussing these thoughts that I now understand why so many men, my father included, turn to harsh music as a means to find consolation in their feelings. There is a disposition of the soul, or mind, or heart, or whatever one wants to call it, which calls him or her to certain sounds as though they were bows tied around the box of self. As soft music caught me in a web of wonder predicated on the disposition of my emotions, so now does harder music scrape against my skin and attach itself to my face like the formation of a scab after a bloody wound dries. Thus, I could not appreciate harder music in the past because my heart and mind were not attuned to its frequencies.

All of this begs me to this object of wonder – what is that causes the mental radio to change frequencies? What is it in the heart that alters the reception of other within the self? Why is it that, now, my heart turns and churns due to the beating of harsh drums while, before, it it turned to the resolution of subtle harmony? I cannot say. What I can say, though, is that in recent months I’ve found my thoughts more and more self-concerned, self-concentrated, anxious, and worried. Perhaps this is a consequence of “something” discrete and changeable, or perhaps I exist on a continuum of self which is constantly changing and cannot be pinned down. In this way, perhaps I am a participant in a self-transformation which all men undergo from the molten, caramelized sugar of youth to the delicate and brittle hard-candy of age. This is none other than hardening of the heart, and I don’t know what’s caused it or why I feel it. And yet, there it is. My thoughts do not concern others per se, but all insofar as they relate back to me. They are caught in an entanglement of theories and propositions, questions and assertions all of which must be, at some point, expressed.

My only recourse to such expression is either actively in this writing or passively in listening the abrasive sounds which somewhat scrape them away. That’s what I suppose I meant by abrasion, but did not assert clearly. The caress of the soft understands love directly and experiences it as it is. As the heart hardens, thorns and spikes and many other serrated things jut out as the self succumbs to social anxiety. These mental pressure points are means of self-security, propositions and arguments which isolate the self amidst its longing for certitude. When a kindred hardness is heard, there the spikes interlock and there, for a brief moment, is the heart reignited. In that ignition, the oil of word is burnt away, the spikes of proposition broken off. For a moment, the heart feels young again as it embraces another in love.

Disconsolation in the Forrest

We cannot avoid this pitfalls of our personal disconsolations. This is a lesson I’ve learned in recent weeks in response to numerous things. When I think about affairs between people, what I’ll call going forward in this post as “personal relations,” I’ve generally always had multiple matters in my mind during which time any relation played out. By this I mean that, as I’d seen two people interact before me, whether this was on the news, in a fictional tv show, in my family, or between friends, multiple things would be in my mind amidst actions and interactions I’d seen. I could go through and systematically detail every single thing I’d seen, but the foremost matters are these – between people, especially anxious types like myself, that which is seen and that which truly is are so often conflated that it’s damn near impossible to tell them apart.

What I mean by that is essentially this – while situations play out before us and life grabs from behind, groping our members in ways we don’t expect, we cannot help but brush up against the undergrowth. That is, we cannot help but be enwrapped and enrapt by all that is before us, life a dense, impenetrable forest which we can only see through in being through. Yet, when I am before that forest, it always seems that I push against the trees in an attempt take them into myself so as to find some kind of security from them. When around people I push against their hearts, saying things I don’t quite mean in ways I don’t quite intend in hopes achieving ends that I think will fall from my lips as opposed to theirs. But, if I would simply pass by those tress and let those hearts be, I’d find that security, solace, and truth were there in front of me without some pursuit towards them. Indeed I wouldn’t find them, for the if-then relationship would collapse. This metaphor, I think, is unclear. So, perhaps I ought to be poetically systemic.

We are travelers in this life, and there is no place for us. We are as we are, and that is all there is to know. Life is as it is, it will be as it will be, and that is all there is to be done. Traveling through, we find peaks and troughs, valleys and mountains, points of clarity and points of confusion. Amidst the peaks we find and seek clarity or, perhaps, it seeks us for, in the instant we see it, we’ve entered the valley of tears, mourning and weeping the loss of what was. We look back, then, on that clearing as a time of clarity, a moment when all was well and life was a many-loved thing. For there on that high place was found the preternaturally-ordained – the rays of light emanated out from eternity – happiness, joy, love. There we sat with our fellow travelers camping out, laughing, enjoying food and company as though it were nothing at all. Indeed, in those moments, we did not even know we were enjoying them.

But sometime, somewhere, somewhen, something shook our being and made us aware of all that was before us. Perhaps it was the moments when we’d packed up, ourselves fearful of what we saw before us – a deep ravine filled with green trees and creepy-crawly things. Lord, the sight of the thing alone was enough shake us to our core! Looking there, we don’t know what lies beyond and, in looking on, we fill in the black gaps of life with the even blacker gaps of thought. I’ve heard it said that life is stranger than fiction but, really, there is no fiction greater than life! Behind a tree might lie a snake, tempting us, tripping us, biting us in the back or, perhaps, telling us to bite of what knowledge it wraps around! Caress the tree so says the snake! Bite the apple, make sure its not fake! Have true knowledge, true certitude, look beyond the dense appearance of what lies before you!

Ah, but none of this can be known, and so, in that first onlooking, we try to think of fantastic things which might be, to conceive of snakes that may tempt us, of foxes that might bite us, of rats that may creep into our backpacks and steal from us! So we think, we worry, and we fear the entrance of all that is before us into the circularity of our thoughts, not knowing that, in fearing, we’ve already let it in. The snake has tempted us, the fox has bitten us, the rat has stolen our certitude. For, certitude is not a thing that can be thought – it can only be lived. “Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced” and, when we allow the sight of overgrowth to worry us as to what cannot be seen, only then do problems arise.

If we could say to ourselves that all that follows and all that befalls is merely what it is, without a good or bad ascription, then we’d find piece of mind in living within it all, never distinguishing clarity from confusion except in moments when it was truly needed, so as to find real recourse from pains we cannot otherwise escape. Instead of trying to peer beneath the surface and calculate the probability of a man’s stabbing us in the back, instead of seeking that tree of knowledge and damning ourselves when the first snake offers his oil for to fry that apple in, so as to make it all the fattier, there’d be no tree to find, no oil to buy, and no apple to eat. If we could step back from the immediacy of ravine and denseness, we’d have all consolation in the fact that it too shall pass. If we could keep our minds zoomed out of this life of ours, we’d find those and clearings and pastures blending into their forested counterparts until none could tell one from the other, and all would collapse into a singular planet on which we all pretend, a singular life in which all is well.

Reading is like life in this way – there are clearings and forests and, if the author were to cut down the path for his readers, the entire purpose of the work would be lost. For, reading is not a path, but a means to make the path clearer, so long as you’re the one that clears it. Perhaps “clear” isn’t the right word, given what I’ve said above. But then “clear” has both a passive and active sense, and I suppose I only mean it in the passive one – for even ambiguity can be clear, just as things are better said when they are left unsaid. All of that’s to say – the above is intentionally ambiguous and its on you to figure it out.

I know all this, and yet I cannot act it. I’m perhaps a man who needs his own medicine the most, as I’d say that I’m ill with the sickness of worry. And, though I could list all the things that worry me in all the ways that worry me, there’s no means for me to do so. It’s all become too much. What I will say is what follows. I was intimate with someone for the first time in my life two weeks ago and, I must say, the road of love is a rocky one, its forest denser than any I’ve ever traversed. It was in those moments with her that I most wanted the light of the clearings and, really, it was then that I’d thought that if I’d said such and such that rays might emanate out. I thought that my insecurity might be chained up with the right word or deed, that all the trees before me might be cut down. Of course, it wasn’t, and I hate myself for thinking in those moments that it would have “if I could have.”

Que sera sera, I guess.