Thursday, March 17, 2011
The Grand Metaphor
Is it possible to create a rational theological system? Would anyone even want to? What purpose would it serve?
Sometimes I wonder if the human mind needs some sort of Grand Metaphor for understanding the world -- not philosophy, which is a practical science, but rather a sort of Poetry of Existence, the contemplation of which makes simpler the nature of life.
Sometimes, I refer to a Grand Metaphor of my own. Let me share it. It's a sort of rational deism, and is open to anyone who observes existence.
What was at the beginning of the universe? There's no way to know. Perhaps the big bang is the beginning, perhaps we live in a daughter universe embedded in a vast cosmos of prior universes -- and perhaps our universe will give birth to children of its own. We have no way of knowing. But it stands to reason that somewhere in the distant reaches of time was the first entity. Some might call it God, but it is a mistake to anthropomorphize it. We cannot ascribe any mind to it, or any purpose to it. It didn't have a personality or a plan. We are most likely talking about an inanimate subatomic string -- the first thing that wove itself from nothing; the first entity that was and from which the rest follows. I'm not talking about a subjective consciousness at the root of existence, I'm talking about an objective Thing. Whatever the first thing was, it was.
I think of it as a creative particle.
Metaphorically, this particle, the first individual anything, is the prime mover of all that came after. Think of the burst of creation that followed. The story of the universe is the story of a creative individual -- coming into existence, and blazing forth in glory and unending invention. The invention is not willed -- like I said, there's no way to assume a plan to it --but as a metaphor for contemplation I find it satisfying to think that the universe owes its magnificence to the first thing that Was: the Fountainhead, if you will. The first entity with identity, the first that expressed causality.
Why bother with all this mumbo-jumbo? After all, that first thing was at the very least billions of years ago -- it isn't around to look at and it doesn't pass down laws of morality.
But doesn't it?
Ethics flows from the nature of existence. If the good is to exist as the kind of thing you are, to preserve ones self and live by production -- isn't that the very likeness of the God I'm speaking of?
And evil -- if evil is to pursue death, and if the death of the individual comes when it is subsumed into some collective mass -- isn't that the very image of the universe as well? Isn't the life of the universe one of outward motion, of endless particularization? And doesn't destruction for the universe consist of a falling in -- a black hole in which every existent is collectivized into a common death?
To live as one with the universe is to live in its image -- as a creative individual entity expanding through its life -- creating, producing, existing and, through motion, staying aloft against the pull of inertia and conformity -- defying the gravity of the mass and the cold death of uniformity.
That is a metaphor I find deeply satisfying, and one which even gives me some small comfort when I think of the end of my life. Even the universe will end, someday, when it exhausts its creative potential and draws itself into quietude.
How nice to know that it and I are in this together.