We Who May Yet Be

And now, the shorter, more poetic, and (I think) more important cousin to my earlier essay:

The Earth That Was (We Who Were)
Mountains, forests, deserts, and seas, full of beauty and life. They are stark as reality but good as truth. There is freedom to explore, to go one way or another, to drink from this or that stream, to sleep now or later, to eat from the fruit of this tree or to be satisfied with the berries from that bush. Whether I go or stay, I rest in the comfort that there was no better choice than the one I just made. I trust myself as a creature amidst creation, I trust myself to be aimed correctly, to never fail to be appropriately situated for the appropriate function towards the appropriate result at the appropriate time. Right and wrong may exist, but if so, they exist as a land beyond the mountains at the farthest reach of my eagle’s sight. Success and failure may exist, but if so, they exist as an imperceptible cloud bank miles off the shores of the sea, held at bay by the unshakeable high pressure of the perfection of the land. At any rate, they are not worth considering. What matters is what is at hand, and what is at hand is pure goodness and joy. How beautiful and fine the brush of God, painting not End but Beginning, not Command but Possibility!

The Earth That Is (We Who Are)
The universe is a plane, infinite in front and below, but infinitesimal in width. It is a sheet of paper on edge, the cuts of which go deeper than any blade. The abstract has become the real, and the real has been flattened, coerced to serve a harsh and cold master. Life is walking the razor, the thin tightrope of Righteousness which is so ephemeral. To either side the void howls with a commanding rage, black maws agape and hungry. The line is safe but not sure. In fact, it is so thin the very molecules of my feet are sundered, falling into either abyss. I am slit, riven, sinking into the two-dimensional compression, and grasp at the gossamer strand. Oh, but it is made of sharply glistening diamonds and I am not! My hands turn to ribbons of flayed skin. How beautiful and cruel the spinneret of God, casting lines of hope that kill!

The Earth That Will Be (We Who May Yet Be)
The storm has come over the mountains, and has met the storm from over the sea. The land is ravaged, and not many survive. A great volcano was thrust up, and cast ash and unquenchable fire over the ruined beauty. The land is again ravaged, and now even fewer survive. I leave my shelter and weep over the destruction we have wrought. Where now the beauty? Where now the life? I stand on the plains of desolation and the sun pierces the ash in the sky. I am blinded; I have not seen the sun in a very long time. It illuminates the sludge in front of me. Look here! But it is a whisper of green, gently unfolding, a baby in the arms of mother sun. I remember the Hell where we have been, and Hope suddenly coalesces into Truth. My rebirth blasts Righteousness–diamantine no longer–into so many glass shards. With joy, I stretch my hand toward the naked and shy plant, and I sing. It responds with a movement more melodic than any lyric, dancing, unfolding new leaves, shaking brazenly in the sheen of a summer sun, an island of new in a sea of old. In a moment the buds, and before their fragrance has departed: fruit! Round, full, and inviting. I see that it is, without any doubt, good. I call to my brethren, to we who have outlasted both Ignorance and Knowledge, and with crucified wills we know what must be done. Come, Oak and Owl! Come, Pterodactyl and Tiger! How beautiful and loving the inexorable regeneration of God, crushing death itself with its power! Amen.

Epistemology, Innocence, and the Spiritual Development of Humanity (An Essay)

As we go through life, we gain different kinds of knowledge. Sometimes this knowledge affects only a small part of our understanding of reality. When someone tells me that she ate pizza last night, such knowledge, ceteris paribus, does not effect any significant changes in my worldview. Some knowledge, the “knowing-how” kind of knowledge (what I call “skill”) is likewise worldview-ambivalent, in that after gaining such knowledge, our interpretation of events (our perception of their “meaning”) remains basically the same, except perhaps in a specific area. For example, learning how to use a computer program might allow me to understand the purpose behind actions of other people using the same program, but that knowledge does not affect the fundamental ways in which I perceive reality.

On the other hand, there are certain kinds of knowledge, both knowledge-that and knowledge-how (both factual knowledge and skill), that do fundamentally affect how we understand reality. As an example in the first category, take the knowledge that the earth is round. Our thought relationship to such objects as the sun, the moon, and the stars is completely different than that of people a thousand years ago, even though neither the sun, the moon, nor the stars have changed much. Examples in the second category can be found as well (which is what I will mainly be talking about).

So far, I have said nothing surprising. It could all have been stated more succinctly: “Some facts/skills are more important than others.” No doubt anyone would agree. Now I want to make an additional claim: some forms of knowledge are of a sort that, upon gaining, are entrenched so deeply in our mental frameworks that we cannot even coherently imagine seeing the universe in the same way as we did prior to gaining the knowledge. Here is where the skill examples come in. It is easy to imagine, on one hand, a flat earth, even while retaining the knowledge of its roundness. I can form a coherent picture of such an earth in my head. Now take a certain kind of skill–being able to speak and understand English with the facility of a native speaker. Though I know it’s a completely coherent possibility that I see a well-formed English sentence while not understanding it, I can’t actually imagine seeing a well-formed English sentence and not understanding it. Any time I imagine a well-formed English sentence, and look at the words, I cannot help but understand it. That is just what it is to be a competent reader/listener of English!

Continue reading “Epistemology, Innocence, and the Spiritual Development of Humanity (An Essay)”