23 November 2014

More on Being vs. Knowing

We've been talking about participation for a while now, and we've seen how the world, like animation, is like a giant machine where everything works together. Something that is a reality in science is also a reality in art and math, and the more connections we make, the better idea we have of how the real world works. Speaking of math, if you remember graphing rational functions in high-school, you already know what the observer effect is. No matter what value you punch in, x and y will never cross the asymptotes. They just get closer and closer to infinity. No matter how big your number is, you're never going to cross that line, the same way that no matter how accurate your thermometer is, you're never going to know the actual temperature of the water. The Observer Effect is present everywhere you go, science just happened to give it a name.

But lets go for another analogy. When you break a bone, you go to the doctor.  But in order to see inside, they have to take an X-ray, and those radioactive waves can literally tear up your flesh. The doctors do their best to cover you up and protect you from the radioactivity, but no matter how careful they are, they're going to do a little bit of damage to you.

But what would you do if your soul was broken?  Where would you go to? Often times we go to stories and poetry. To extend this analogy, poets are surgeons and words are their instruments. Every time you speak you are operating, tearing the flesh of reality.  Of course, we look to the great reality surgeons and trust them not to tear our fragile world to bits in the operation of explanation, because they have gone through special training and use clean, precise words that do as little damage as possible. But no matter how careful they are, there is no getting around the fact that they are cutting a living thing, opening up the soul so they can get inside and learn to understand the human being better. And there will be blood. Everything comes with a price.

It's not a pleasant process, and that's why many writers and artists go insane or kill themselves or are just downright bitter.  Take it from me, they're not just being jerks (at least most of the time). Anyone who's worked on a creative project is familiar with that twist in their stomach when they sit down with a pen and paper. After all, what if you cut some jugular vein and they whole thing bleeds to death? Did not Hemingway say that writing was merely bleeding on paper? Reality is simply not the same after you've blogged about it.

Another reason why artists can be unpleasant company is because they see the rest of the world walking around like the observer effect doesn't exist. The truth is, people miss out on a lot of life because they are too busy recording it.  Whenever there's a wedding or a baby or a trophy, all the cameras are out. This is an important phase in so-and-so's life, they say, and we have to capture the memory. 

The ironic thing is that captured memories aren't memories at all. Have you ever wondered why nobody remembers being born? When you're a baby, you don't think about existing, you just exist. That's because infancy is pure life--and life isn't about knowing, it's about being. Life is movement, and the moment it ceases to move, it ceases to be life. It's funny that we use the phrase "capturing memories" and don't realize that is exactly what we are doing. Whenever you write something down, or draw a picture, or take a video, you're capturing those memories in a bottle. We try to hold them still, but it won't be long before it slips right out of our hands, leaving behind only a skeleton.

C.S. Lewis wrote that this world is only a shadow of the real world in Heaven, like a photograph. Look at it this way. Let's say the leaves you see on a tree are only a photograph of real leaves that you'll see in Heaven. When you pick one and press it between the pages of a book, you're not preserving a real leaf, you're preserving the shadow of a leaf. Eventually that shadow-leaf will die and what you have left is a relic, a representation of something that once was.  If you think about it, you're not making a photograph but a photograph of a photograph, a memory of a memory. And now you see how easily observing a thing can change it: every agent of observation brings you farther and farther away from the real world. You're already changing reality just by reading these words on a screen.

You may get the impression from all this that I think that creating memories of any kind is bad. If I said that, I'd be a liar, because I do it every day. In fact, in the old testament, God commanded His people to create memories, instructing them to build altars and make sacrifices to constantly remind them what He had done for them and what He was going to do.  The Great Physician was operating on the souls of his people, and it was almost always painful.  Also, take note that animal sacrifices were bloody. Did I mention there would be blood?

But it had to be done, it always has to be done, because we're fallen creatures and we've managed to forget all about what's going on down there in the soul, and the only way we can find out is by opening ourselves up and looking. The real problem with memories came when people began dismissing the idea that God even existed, which left them with the vague feeling that they were forgetting something, but they weren't quite sure what. As a result, they made it a point to start remembering everything, and the result were social networks, reality TV shows, video blogging, or anything that enables them to remember life while it's happening.  If you think about it, almost all technology that comes out nowadays (phones, internet, television) are devices that supposedly enable you to "be" and "know" at the same time, which, as you know, is totally impossible.

It's also interesting that when we get old, we start losing our memory. We try to remember, try to blow the embers of a life that is slipping away and whispering "set me free, set me free".  Perhaps God is doing us a little favor when He takes away our memory, preparing us for the day we become truly alive. For those who do not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.

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