Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Gold


There's been a lot of death as a prerequisite to the embodied form that you take. It’s taken all that trial and error to produce something, like you, that can interact with the complexity of the world well enough to last the relatively paltry 80 or so years that you can last.


This may be wrong, but I think, at least, it’s a useful hypothesis: I think the idea of God the Father is something like the birth of the idea that there has to be an internal structure, out of which consciousness itself rises, that gives form to things.

If that's the case—and perhaps it’s not—it’s certainly a reflection of the kind of factual truth that I’ve been describing. I also mentioned that I see the idea of both the Holy Spirit, and most specifically of Christ, in the form of the word, as the active consciousness that that structure produces and uses, not only to formulate the world—because we formulate the world, at least the world that we experience—but also to change and modify that world.


There’s absolutely no doubt that we do that.


We do that partly with our bodies, which are optimally evolved to do that, and that is why we have hands, unlike dolphins, that have very large brains, like us, but can't really change the world.

We’re adapted and evolved to change the world. Our speech is really an extension of our ability to use our hands. The speech systems that we use are a very well-developed motor skill and, generally speaking, your dominant linguistic hemisphere is the same as your dominant hand.


People talk with their hands—like me, as you may have noticed—and we use sign language. There’s a tight relationship between the use of the hand and the use of language. That’s partly because language is a productive force, and the hand is part of what changes the world. All those things are tied together in a very, very complex way with this a priori structure, and also with the embodied structure.

I also think that's part of the reason why classical Christianity put such an emphasis not only on the divinity of the spirit, but also on the divinity of the body, which is a harder thing to grapple with. It’s easier for people to think—if you think in religious terms, at all—that you have some sort of transcendent spirit that is somehow detached from the body, and that it might have some life after death. But Christianity, in particular, really insists on the divinity of the body.


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One of the things that’s cool about that is that the creativity curve for men is almost exactly the same. It ramps up when testosterone kicks in and then it starts to flatten out around 27. The curves match very, very closely, so that’s quite cool. It’s the creativity element of it that I'm particularly interested in, because creativity is, in many ways, an attribute of youth. I mean, if you look at that sentence, and you stripped it of its religious context, what you would say is that the older people use the younger people to generate creative ideas and renew the world. It’s like, yea, that’s what happens. We also have no idea how many of the things that we discovered or invented as human beings were stumbled across by children and adolescents. They’re much more exploratory, less constrained by their extant knowledge structures, and they’re less conservative. That seems just right to me—right in an extraordinarily important way. It also means that, if you’re an actual father, part of what you should be doing is encouraging your son. That is clearly the role. To encourage is to say, well, go out there, confront the chaos of the unknown and the chaos that underlies everything. Grapple with it, because you can do it. You’re as big as the chaos itself, and do something useful as a consequence. Make your life better and make everyone else’s life better. You can do it. Man, that’s the right thing to tell young men. Talking to young women is more complicated, because they have more, let’s say, issues to deal with. Their lives are more complicated in some ways, but that’s definitely the right thing to be telling your son.

One of the things that I’ve really noticed recently, especially in the last 7 or 8 months, is that most of my audience has been young men. I’ve talked a lot to them about both truth and responsibility, and I think those are the two things that underlie this capacity. There seems, to me, to be a tremendous hunger for that idea. It’s not the same idea as rights. It’s a very different idea. It’s the counterpart to rights. Life is hard, chaotic, and difficult. It’s definitely a challenge. You can either shrink from that—and no bloody wonder, because it’s gonna kill you, and it’s no joke—or you can forthrightly confront it and try to do something about it. Well, what's better? And then you say to the person, look, you can do it. That's what a human being is like. If you just stood up and got yourself together, you’d find out by trying that you can, in fact, do that. I do think that’s a great, core religious message. I think that’s deeply embedded in this sort of idea.

All right, so this is what I’ve been telling you. This is something like how knowledge itself is generated: There's the unknown as such, and that's really what you don’t know anything about. Generally, when encounter that, you don't encounter it with thought. You encounter it with a startled expression. That’s the first representation of the absolutely unknown. It’s something that's beyond your comprehension. It’s terrifying, and because it’s beyond your comprehension, you cannot perceive or understand it, but you still have to deal with it. The way you deal with it is that you freeze. That’s what a basilisk does to, say, the kids in Harry Potter. They take a look at it, and they freeze. That’s the terrible snake of chaos that lives underneath everything. You see it, and that thing freezes you, because you’re a prey animal. But, at the same time, it makes you curious. That’s the first level of contact with the absolutely unknown: the emotional combination of freezing and curiosity.

That’s reflective, I think, in the dragon stories. The dragon is the terrible thing that lives underground that hordes gold or virgins—very strange behavior for a reptile, as we pointed out before. But the idea is that it’s a symbolic representation of the predatory quality of the unknown, combined with the capacity of the unknown to generate nothing but novel information. You can see that as very characteristic of human beings, because we are prey animals, but we are also unbelievable exploratory, and we’re pretty damn good predators. We occupy this weird cognitive niche. One of the things we’ve learned is that, if we forthrightly confront the unknown—terrifying as it is—there’s a massive prize to be gained, continually. That seems to be as true as anything is.

We know that one of the metaphors that underlies God’s extraction of habitable order out of chaos at the beginning of time is an archaic idea. God confronted something like the leviathan, and that’s one of the words for this serpent-like chaos creature that's often used in the Old Testament. There’s this idea—that I think probably came from the Mesopotamians—that God, either in the Son-like aspect or in the Father-like aspect, is the thing that confronts this terrible beast—the chaotic unknown—and cuts it into pieces, and then, sometimes, gives the body parts to the populace to feed them. You can see a hunting metaphor there as well, but it’s deeper than that.

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