Absurdity pt. III

He has made everything beautiful in its time, but he has set eternity in the heart.

The basic characteristic human experience involves drawing corruptible and changeable things into an unchangeable existence.  One can’t look at birds or feel slippery things without generating things that do not share the changeability of birds or slippery things. We find nothing odd in seeing something bark and then spontaneously getting a hold of a reality that existed even before the barking thing. This either is experience, or is inseparable from it.

Human experience consists in a certain infinite separation between the world we know and the world as known. The former is flux, change, and imperfect existence. What is the world if one takes away memory? How could something even change? Apart from memory, all that remains is a certain failure to endure or exist. Even to call it a blur would give it too much reality. This does not mean that memory falsifies the world, for then it would not be a principle or source of experience.

A properly human experience is made possible because of the infinite separation between the world outside of us and the world within us. The separation is infinite because the experience consists in a spontaneous ability to leap beyond the given finitude of the thing known, even though the thing known cannot exist outside of this finitude. The vantage point from which we understand the finite does not share in finitude of the thing understood.

There is a radical disproportion between the thing known and the thing as known. This disproportion is fitting to us so far as we are to know as we do. There is, however, the threat of revolt in this knowledge, especially as we make it a source of action. The threat is self forgetfulness- the forgetting that our experience of the world is made possible only by our separation from it. At the lowest and most vivid level of self-forgetfulness, we falsely infuse certain things we know with the sort of infinity that is proper to our own knowing. A the same time, the changeable character of the things remains, and so we are left with a contradictory world. This is an essentially absurd life, characterized by an ironic or absurd existence.

1 Comment

  1. Gagdad Bob said,

    November 22, 2008 at 11:19 am

    Yes, there is no common measure between the intellect and what it may know. To argue otherwise is absurd. For example, that we may know natural selection proves that it could never have produced the knower. We could never know God in the same way we may know of natural selection, for in that case, the relation is truly reversed: God contains us.


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