Monday, December 19, 2011

First miracle/ First sin

"If the light is,
It is because God said, 'Let there be light'" - Dante Gabriel Rossetti, "At Sunrise"

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned that light is the first miracle, so my constant reader will not be surprised that my title refers to that. In fact, I don't care if my readers are pagans, Zoroastrians, or Raelians, (a church whose founder names himself after "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" and recruits via "go topless day" is something North America deserves), the Hebrew account of Genesis is an amazing organization. I personally do not view it as a scientific or historical organization, or at least not as we routinely use those words, but that is because the Hebrews were quite capable of writing science, quite willing and able of writing history, and they had these genres already (the question goes to 10th and 6th centuries, extant texts, and internal indications of generic conventions that would mark a structural history). They simply didn't need Genesis to be either of them in our sense. (As I said, this is a personal view and not one I want to push. It has nothing to do with the foolhardy "evolution" spat, either.)

It should be apparent by now that I'm attracted to mysticism, but mysticism is something like Greenland: you know that it's there, and some people love it, but it's really hard to convince anyone else to visit. The creation story in Genesis is logical, emphatic, and also reflecting some pretty deep mystical realities. In other words, what may be true in physical science and what is certainly true in perception, affect, and interpersonal communication are sometimes at odds, and, when that happens, it is better to know the latter than to insist on the former. People who insist on mathematical and physics-based realities when the hot confusion of the world throws dung at them tend to end up in a wooden shack in Montana. (That the Unibomber was a mathematician has more than some logic to it.) (Don't take this from me, by all means. Ask Sartre (both of those links were interesting) and read that nasty little Camus's tale of shooting innocent Arab men.)

In the case of the first miracle, though, we're in luck, because physicists shouldn't have too much of a fit if I say that light is a miracle. I am probably wrong (and we live in a probabilistic universe), but my understanding is that there is light and dark. The paradigm of "on/off" still applies. Light either is or is not, and it does not allow for "0.5 of light" or "potential light." There isn't a calculation with "0.2 photon applied to 2.4 roetgens."

June, 1998
We have to retreat, when we want light, to "let it be." We either have light, or we cry out for it. We either have relief from light in a time of true dark, or we suffer for the overload. Either way, light itself is too basic to be understood in any component part. All we may do is accept it as a whole and find attributes to it, like color, wavelength, and diffusion, but it is either there or not.

I said, above, that Genesis goes in emphatic order, and you probably thought that I meant it went from least to most important. In a sense, it did -- a moral sense -- but in another sense it is organized from most powerfully complex to least. Light out of the continuum of darkness, the land from the continuum of sea, the starry sky heavens from the terrestrial, then grasses before angiosperms, division of terrestrial time into its familiar seasons, days, nights, etc., fish and birds (and God told them to multiply that day, and by the next day they have populated the seas and skies and earth, which is kind of a clue that the readers of the story originally would not have thought of 24 hours), then we get cattle and insects, and then man in God's image. This order reflects the systems that require greatest interdependence, in many cases, to those that rely upon the prior. Man is the last and least in some sense -- the island creation, sitting atop the mass on the throne of the garden. (Genesis 2, you know, tells a different story.)

The order presented in the two accounts is harmonized. It is essential. In this creation, there is a dynamic order at work rather than a rigid one. Like light, like respiration, there is an order of wax and wane, growth and sustenance that needs no rule in order to reflect a very real rule.

As for the first sin, we all know what it was. It was the desire to understand, to create, to "be as gods, knowing good from evil" (Gen. 3:11). It wasn't any apple. the disobedience is in the acting on a desire to take on the responsibility God had of knowing what lies on the other side of creation. Inside the paradiso, mankind is part of creation, united with it in being innocent -- unable to create and murder, unable to create goodness because unaware of evil. The enemy offers them the chance to be creators, to take on the responsibility, to wear God's shoes, to find out about what one creates from and what parenting keeps at bay.

So we have an elaborate doctrine of original sin. (If you're dusty on why babies are damned, etc., then read that: it's the Roman Catholic doctrine summed up pretty well. This is not my view, but it's the view that all the other churches in the west are reacting against.)

There are a lot of things to say about the first sin. All I want to focus on, though, is the fact that we can't handle the truth.

Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality. -- T.S. Eliot, "Burnt Norton"

We cannot handle very much, indeed, of that sort of reality, because we remain inside of the created universe, the physical universe, and if we ask questions about its nature, about the state of "not/is," we are asking ourselves to take on a perspective beyond that state. We cannot question God without being like unto gods, and we cannot be like unto gods so long as we are ourselves. We are imperfect. We do not know, any longer. We do not hear the song, rise and fall with the divine breath, see the light behind light.

Our fellows read Paul's epistles and fixate on the change of "nature" from "sin nature" to a heavenly one and miss entirely the fact that we still see as through a glass, darkly. We're still small vessels with cracks in them. Paul's epistles are like,
"...that wonderful piece de Interpretatione which has the faculty of teaching its readers to find out a meaning in everything but itself, like commentators on the Revelations who proceed prophets without understanding a syllable of the text.”  – Jonathan Swift, Tale of a Tub, Section II

In every thing that we do, we repeat our first sin. We now can create, but broken things. Our hands, hearts, and minds are incomplete, broken, and so we have the urge we asked for, the knowledge of both the chaos and the order, but we only make ourselves over and over again.

We strive for Eden and make dictatorships, because our orders never manage dynamism. Worse, we amplify ourselves in our creations. We magnify our desires with our assemblies, exaggerate our loneliness in our social networks, and testify loudly about the brittleness of our attainment when we claim to have found solutions.

I fear this has become a rant. I did not start out that way. I, too, will never overcome flaw.

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