The last thing that can be said of a lunatic is that his actions are causeless. If any human acts may loosely be called causeless, they are the minor acts of a healthy man; whistling as he walks; slashing the grass with a stick; kicking his heels or rubbing his hands. It is the happy man who does the useless things; the sick man is not strong enough to be idle. It is exactly such careless and causeless actions that the madman could never understand; for the madman (like the determinist) generally sees too much cause in everything. The madman would read a conspiratorial signifance into those empty activities. He would think that the lopping of the grass was an attack on private property. He would think that the kicking of the heels was a signal to an accomplice. If the madman could for an instant become careless, he would become sane. Every one who has had the misfortune to talk with people in the heart or on the edge of mental disorder, knows that their most sinister quality is a horrible clarity of detail; a connecting of one thing with another in a map more elaborate than a maze. if you argue with a madman, it is extremely probable that you will get the worst of it; for in many ways his mind moves all the quicker for not being delayed by the things that go with good judgment. He is not hampered by a sense of humour or by charity, or by the dumb certainties of experience. He is the more logical for losing certain sane affections. Indeed, the phrase for insanity is in this respect a misleading one. The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.
G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
Reading Orthodoxy, I was struck by this passage. It's one of the best descriptions of a particular kind of madness I've ever seen ... and one that is particularly appropriate to the Internet. I'm not sure the term is correct, but when I see the tendency (that is, someone who has created a tightly knit logical and factual maze that is nonetheless wrong) I describe their thinking as, "excessively abstract." That term is incorrect. Really what I mean is that some thinking is divorced from the reality of lived experience and the properties of a physical universe.* It is, as Dorothy Sayers might put it, a form of heresy in that it denies the incarnation not only of Christ, but the incarnation altogether. Some people may think it fun to question whether or not the physical universe is real (I did as a young man) but realistically, an ax handle to the kneecap (or the threat of it) is enough proof for most people. Other people think that there's far more room for interpretation than there really is. Gravity may be questioned and its properties studied, but you still better wear fall protection if you don't want to go splat.
* In fact, I think this phenonemon, that is, the madness of logic that can accompany pure mind, may be a crucial reason why the physical world is here. It may be that God got into a very long argument with someone, and finally said, "Okay, let me break down for you in terms of time and space, in a situation where you will experience things one at a time. In you go." Bodies may be necessary to "contain" thoughts, physical reality to demonstrate things that could otherwise not be verified, such as facts.
In pure mind everything is subject to interpretation, and thus reality can be made to conform to mind; in physical reality our minds must to a large extent conform to the world. The genius of orthodox Christianity, and its uniqueness, lies at this intersection, which is known as the cross. At the cross of Christ the spiritual and the physical intersect. We do not conform our minds to this world, but to the dual nature of the cross as a religious symbol (that is, the experience of pure mind) and a physical thing (that is, the pain and persecution experienced by all who seek to unhinge their minds from this world and follow Christ).
We thus pre-existed in something like pure mind, no doubt pre-existing in God's mind but without reality and without bodies, and we come into existence and into a physical reality in which we seem completely separate from God, and the only way back is through the cross, in which our minds (that is, souls) are redeemed, but our bodies aren't. Yet, we believe we will be re-incarnated, more specifically, resurrected from the dead and will live forever in bodies. We go from mind to body and then back to a redeemed mind and body. Both are somehow necessary.
I've lost the logic of this piece. I was trying to get at something I've been thinking about for a long time, and how it at least partially explains the necessity of creating a physical world. The problem of course is that I am presuming to guess God's reasons for creating the world. That is, well, presumptuous. But while I'm at it I might as well continue.
I used to wonder a lot about the meaning of life. For the life of me I can no longer wonder what the great mystery is. There are two paths ... one is philosophy. Let's skip that path because it's, well, too much for a blog entry. The other path to the answer is just to make an intuitive leap. That is, anyone who has ever loved knows that the meaning of life is intuitively obvious**. And while my "God's arguing with demons who insist that everything is open to interpretation requires the discipline of a physical reality" answer*** makes sense, I don't pretend it's entirely satisfying.
** Do I need to explain? The good things in life are better than nothing, and thus God was required by His nature to create something better than nothing*****. We don't question the meaning of life, we question the meaning of sin, sickness, evil and death in a world of wonders. That's a different question. I don't wonder why God created cocker spaniels. He did so because He can and because they are wonderful. But I wonder why they get sick, are treated cruelly, act self-destructively (cocker spaniels tend to run into traffic) and die.
*** Another answer to "why created the universe" which is also unsatisfying (except for a kind of madman's logic), is that our lives are necessary because we are the demons who rebelled against God, or alternatively, we are the angels who refused to choose sides in the war between God and Satan (the demonic being, not the hockey player****). Essentially we agreed to this life as a second chance to escape hell, which requires a complete memory wipe (though we would retain our nature from our previous state of being) with both God and the devil allowed to influence us. It explains temperament, the necessity of life, why sin, sickness, evil and death are necessary in this world, what the demons have against us, things of that nature. But it's still missing something ... and I don't believe it as fact.
In my worst and darkest moments, however, I hold to it and remind myself that it's possible that I asked for this life, was glad to accept the circumstances just as they are, with all the dysfunction, sickness, sin, evil and death ... and I may have even begged God for the chance to get into a universe where redemption was possible, that is, through Christ.
**** Miroslav Satan of the Buffalo Sabres. I won't speculate on the state of his soul. Or that his name seems to mean "slave of satan" at least in part. Spooky******.
***** What's Latin for "or something like that"?
****** Also disconcerting: He plays "right wing." Coincidence?