This essay is necessarily sketchy and incomplete.Â I write it merely to give everyone a handle on the ideas involved for the Annual Meeting topic, so that you may prepare your deep thoughts, ammunition, references, and cantankerousness beforehand.
On the Retreat last month, we were sitting in the hot tub the first night and discussing the nature of God and how we understand him/her/them/it/us.Â I seized upon the metaphor of the katydid, i.e., the pretty little insect who sings and sings, but who has an extremely limited perception of the world around him.
But more than that, the katydid perceives the world around him in ways that we cannot. The main idea was that a) our perception of the universe is as limited as that of the katydidâ€™s; and b) no matter how much we think we understand of the universe, our perception can never be complete, because we will never have the perceptions of the katydid (or the cat, or the dog, etc.).
Fast forward to last week, as I finished reading Forgotten Truth, by Huston Smith. He makes some pretty outrageously recherchÃ© claims near the end, and in his epilogue he tries to sidle out of them by claiming that heâ€™s not really reactionary, heâ€™s getting back in touch with the original meaning of the word original.Â Nowadays, he says, due to our entrapment with scientism (with which argument I can agree), we focus on the â€œcompletely newâ€ definition of the word: â€œHeâ€™s so original!â€
But, he says, we should, in our relationship with the universe/God, we should remember what it really means: the source, as in Midsummer Nightâ€™s Dream, when Titania bitches to Oberon that the climate change disasters are due to their disagreements: â€œAnd this same progeny of evils comes / From our debate, from our dissension; / We are their parents and original.â€
So combine those two ideas: the Artist who creates without a full understanding of his Universe.Â Or you may go further if you wish.
Our second motif is of course from The Hitchhikerâ€™s Guide to the Galaxy.Â It seems that the Earth is merely a supercomputer constructed for the benefit of a race of pan-dimensional beings to answer the question to Life, the Universe, and Everything.Â [Actually, of course, itâ€™s seeking the question.Â We know that the answer is 42.]
In order to operate in our dimension, they insert themselves as mice.Â Again, from Huston Smith, humans are manifestations of the Eternal.Â He posits essentially a Great Chain of Being (although not hierarchically arranged as the Elizabethans had it), in which the Levels of Reality go from Terrestrial to Intermediate to Celestial to the Infinite.Â Likewise, he says, the Levels of Selfhood go from Body to Mind to Soul to Spirit.Â (He puts Infinite and Spirit in all caps; I shall refrain.)
So while we may be katydids, we are pandimensional katydids: merely the bottom end of a great slice of the Infinite.Â We are in fact part of the great Eternal that we yet cannot perceive.