Wednesday 28th September 2022

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The God Of Somehow

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The first and last thing of life is our mortality. From our first breath out of our mother’s womb, through our last, we live with the abiding background noise of our extinction: that an hour from now, we possibly shall have ceased to be, departing life into the black hole of death, from whose gravity no one escapes. “Praise be to Thee my Lord for our Sister Bodily Death, from whom no living man can flee” [St. Francis’ Canticle of the Sun]. Every minute is the death of the preceding minute; the death of who we were an hour ago, incorporated into who we are in the ever-present “now.”
Addressing mankind’s continual grappling with the eternal struggle between life and death, anthropologists might say that we have “evolved” the coping mechanism of an imaginary “god” in order to live at all with the awareness of our someday mortal end.
Materialists, if true to their professed beliefs, must speak only in terms of illusory free will, and in terms of ascribing all human activity to the faceless collisions of particles most likely to propagate into further generations of self-propagating particles — that “we” are no more than the inevitable byproduct of forces and fields and particles — whatever those are — which are our origin and our end: For them, “It is what it is” is the operating principle of reality; there is no agency, no free will; all is illusion and predetermined, ultimately determined at the Big Bang, or whatever “caused” the Big Bang, if there was a cause at all. And that all of reality is in fact predetermined, no more than math.
The Mathesis Universalis, the god of Math as “explanation” of all, said René Descartes. Who also said, wrongly, “I think, therefore I am”; erroneously presupposing that there is an “I” to be thinking; and when in fact, the reverse is true: “I AM,” therefore “i” think, as I have explicated in a previous essay.
To contend, as some materialists do — paradoxically in repudiation of the reductionist view that all is math and that there is no “I” — that “somehow” free will is conjured out of the ether of the universe — is to abandon (arguably, hypocritically) “it is what it is” for the idea that “we” are in fact more than the mathematic sum total of our subatomic parts, though for unknown, ultimately mysterious reasons. That the subject “I,” conjured from dead particles, am synergistically more than an integrated function of the calculus of Newton, and the Mathesis Universalis of Descartes.

A Mystery To Existence

Such a view, then, perforce argues for the “god” called “somehow” — somehow we have free will, somehow life has meaning based upon our choices; somehow we might survive the death of the body, to live on in the “ether” of a kind of Buddhist cosmic consciousness; somehow “quantum mechanics” — somehow, somehow, somehow.
And although pure atheist-materialists might argue for the “someday” pseudo-explanation — that someday we will know the math behind our illusory life choices — nonetheless, atheists in fact live out the concrete decisions of life from day to day — “this day,” “today,” not “someday” — as though free will is real, conjured from dead particles and force fields. And thus do they defend their secular humanist views about what “everyone knows is right and wrong” — “somehow” also always in accord with their own private “carefully reasoned” conclusions (of course!).
I argue that such a view — atheistic secular humanism — is inconsistent with the simultaneous rejection of the possibility of God. For to accept the “god” of “somehow” is to accept that there is mystery to existence that lies beyond our capacity to dissect, and ever shall be so; that the seemingly inexplicable synergy of the collisions of particles and force fields constituting what we perceive to be reality shall ever-always remain mysterious, beyond the reach of the empiric method.
And yet although atheists accept the “somehow” of their supposedly empiric belief systems as being of mysterious origin yet nonetheless valid, they simultaneously reject a priori the possibility of a deity precisely because it (or he or she) lies beyond the realm of empiricism.
They purport to live out their lives based upon the empiric method, accepting their own decisions in life as rational (the Temple of Reason of the French Revolutionaries) while admitting of the impossibility of ever explicating the precise mechanisms by which supposedly insensate particles and force fields “somehow” synergize into the coherent agency in which they experience themselves as valid “actors” with true agency, with true free will.
How, exactly, do material particles and force fields transform into “us”? Into the “we” of the actions of our daily lives? There is only the answer “somehow,” or at least that “someday” we will be able to lay out the “somehow” — yet nonetheless in the meantime living as though free agency exists and that they are exercising theirs properly and well, without of course any gold standard (for example, God’s revealed truths) by which to judge such a matter.
Therefore, it is entirely fitting and just that it is precisely according to their own standards, denying even the possibility of the existence of God, that these people will face Judgment at the End of All Things. For to appropriate unto oneself the validity of free will is to take upon one’s own shoulders the ultimate responsibility at Judgment for the consequences of one’s life’s choices.
Conversely, if atheists are true to their beliefs — that all of reality is predetermined — no more than math — then they nullify the very premise upon which they live out the concrete though illusory pseudo-decisions of everyday life. This way of living as though our decisions are in fact our own while simultaneously contending that all is predetermined by collisions of force fields and particles brings, ultimately, incoherence to these persons’ very identity — they end life in a heap of dissonance, and babble, and therefore, in a terminal, eternal insanity of self-contradiction that constitutes “Hell,” wherein one is incapable, forever, of beholding the Deity, who is in Himself all-coherent, all-beautiful.
As an aside, I would add: Quantum physicists work on the “mysteries” of the sub-sub-atomic worlds-within-worlds that they label as “particles.” Who’s to say that there aren’t vast universes within physicists’ ever-smaller particles? Why shouldn’t there be universes within universes?
The very premises upon which particle research is based fail to address this larger matter — no doubt for fear of the answer; for then they would have to admit of the intrinsic incomprehensibility of reality itself; and their whole way of living their lives — as though the empiric method is itself the golden fleece, or Prometheus’ fire, or the fruit of which Adam and Eve partook — would dissolve into a nihilistic heap. The presumption and the pretense upon which they base their whole lives — that humanity is its own “god,” and will someday, somehow, comprehend all of reality — would flare up and incinerate their whole way of being.
As an additional aside, for that matter, what has the illusion of time to do with anything? In the mind of God, all is an eternal now, is it not? Physicists have spoken lately even of the possibility of natural law allowing current actions to have effects in the past that are antecedent to their cause. They have validated the notion in the empiric realm that there might well be, from their perspective, effects of our actions even upon the past, radiating outward from our lives like the ripples of water generated when a rock is tossed into a quiet lake.
Time itself in such a view becomes malleable, adding quicksand beneath one more pillar upon which the empiric method has staked its claim of the possibility of the comprehensibility of reality. Once again, “mystery” no longer is anathema even in this most paradoxical supposedly valid hypothesis — the scientific literature does not shy from using the word “mystery” in concluding paragraphs of reports announcing the need for further research efforts to solve the as-yet unsolved mysteries suggested by these reports.
And yet, ironically, most of these same scientists who do not shy from using the word “mystery” in their peer-reviewed reports, would be the first to shudder at the prospect that there even could be a “God” who is ultimately so mysterious as to defy human explanation. They start with the conclusion that “god can’t exist,” and work backwards via the empiric method to the conclusion that “god can’t be proven empirically.” A rather self-serving way of life, one might say: Their “faith” is in “reason,” and in empiricism, denying a priori the possibility of Revelation as addressing matters that are not, and never can be, subjected to the empiric method.
Physicists also pay fealty, though undoubtedly inadvertently so, to the notion that intentionality determines outcome. And therefore, somewhat ironically, to the unspoken supposition that there exists a “someone” who can “intend” anything.
The fealty here touches however glancingly upon the very Catholic view that our thoughts, words, and deeds help to determine the identity and eternal fate not only of those around us upon whom we act directly but also as well those of people whose lives never directly cross our own, and most supremely upon ourselves and our own eternal destiny.
Again: God is outside of time; it is time that is the stage upon which we live out our lives, full of sound and fury, signifying literally everything. (Macbeth, as portrayed by Shakespeare, was wrong, of course.)
Indeed, quantum physicists have gone so far as to hypothesize that our conscious minds “create” the reality that we perceive though a process called quantum collapse, in which an infinity of quantum states are collapsed into the unitary, coherent single macro-reality that we live our day-to-day lives in.

It’s A Wonderful Life

And yet, ironically, can there be a more Catholic way of thinking — that our thoughts and words and deeds determine, by the grace of God, our own eternal destinies; and that, given the inherent relational-ness of the Trinitarian Tripersonal God in whose image we were created, then, also, therefore, truly no sin is private; and that, conversely, no virtuous action dissipates upon the wind, with no beneficent effect even upon the hardest ground?
That we, in our free-willed intentionality, help to determine the spiritual destiny not only of ourselves, and those whom we have known directly, but also, as well, of those of people living and as-yet unborn, whom we have never known? We indeed “co-create” with God, in whose image and likeness we are made as free agents, the heavenly, eternal destiny of millions, if not billions. The “six degrees of separation” of our lives is likely mostly true on the natural plane, and undoubtedly in the realm of the spiritual as well.
“Each life touches so many others,” as the angel Clarence tells George Bailey in one of my favorite movies, It’s a Wonderful Life. Indeed, “All Lives Matter!” — including those of the unborn whom modern society so carelessly discards.
And so, every thought and word and deed (borrowing from the Confiteor) of our lives in time — determined by our free will, the gift of the spark of the Holy Spirit of God, the Dynamic of God whose characteristic is that of a free relationship, subject to improvement or to deterioration — participates in the eternal divine will’s prayer that no one will be lost, as Jesus Himself prayed. “Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa” — gives eternal significance to our every thought and word and deed: Ours is a noble calling, not a burden; a joyful participation in the divine essence that we were granted at Baptism by the free gift of our Creator.
“My burden is light,” says the Savior of mankind; because it is one born of joy, that we are granted the privilege of participating in Jesus’ own once-for-all work of redemption. And, indeed, is the only thing to give joy amidst the inevitable suffering of this fallen vale of tears.
And just as Descartes got things exactly backwards with his “I think, therefore I am,” physicists who posit the mysterious synergistic magical springing to life of true free agency from the morass of dead particles which physicists strain at, physicists keep discovering more and more particles, and particles within particles, and may well discover whole universes one day inside the tiniest particles — and therefore, like Descartes, also have things precisely backwards: For it is only the a priori grant of the spark of divine agency to us by the One who simply “IS-as-ACT,” that even allows the “us” of “us” — that “we” are not simply a material construct springing spontaneously to life from the dead matter of insensate forces and particles.
We possess authorship of our ultimate destinies only in subsidiarity to the agency granted to us by the Agent of All, the Eternal Acting Being. And ours isn’t an illusory agency arising from particles and force fields, which are dead. Rather, it is the Alive One Who is Himself Eternal Act, the Author of all that is, Who grants to us a participation in His own inner life, made in His image as free agents.
So that, then, we are left with the idea that mystery of “somehow” is not simply waiting “someday” for the empiric method to dissect; but is in fact inherent to reality itself, ever-beyond our current or future capacity to comprehend; and therefore central to who we are — that is, that we are inherently limited in our being, though eternal; and therefore that we humans are not, to the disappointment of materialists, a sort of “god-in-becoming.” Either “we” are intrinsically mysterious and indestructible and inextinguishable; or “we” is a false construct and free will is illusory. We are mysterious: “to be”; or if there is no mystery: “not to be.”
Life necessitates the former: to live without any sense of the mystery at the heart of existence, of our very selves, is to self-contradict into the incoherence of Babel, the self-deification of humanity, in which we become gods to self, lost in self, wherein we shift the focus of being away from the mystery of “The Other,” and towards the enthronement of the Imperial Autonomous Self (hat tip to George Weigel for this term) as the center of our lives, much to our eternal sorrow.

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