Tuesday, November 13, 2007

We live in a phenomenal world...

Yeah we do. Yeah we do.

I've been developing the language and the thought about this, ably assisted by the Barkeep and Sugarbutt (my shoulder angel and atheist, respectively), and it's time to take another stab at a theology of the phenomenal.

We live in a physical world. If you fail existentialism and accept some of the more obvious assumptions that we can make about living on earth (everyone else exists, everything we can experience with the senses is, to a greater or lesser extent, real, etc.), then you've got a nice duality of choices about the rest. Deity or not? Created or cosmic accident? Spiritual, inexplicable, mysterious, or methodical, predictable, Newtonian? Chaos and determinism on both sides of the crater, lava below, survival above.

But on either side of that question, and in every flavor of the middle, the world is standing there, staring you in the face, trying to get your attention. Every time I try to come up with an example of this, it sounds so banal, but think for a minute about trees. What? Why on God's/chaos'/Darwin's blue earth should there be life at all? Why should some of it grow tall, and somewhat hard? Leaves, bark, what's that all about? Burn it or build a bungalow, wood is bizarre.

And it's all like that! Bugs, electricity, humans (especially humans), we're all wired to simultaneously accept all this stuff that's in our faces on a daily basis, because it's always been there, but it's weird! It's weird just by being there, and whether it was adapted to fit us, or we to fit it, we live in a world to which we're ideally suited. The phenomena of our material universe, of which we are admittedly one of the strangest instances of the class, cry out to be acknowledged. This is smelling the roses on speed - take a moment and wonder that there are roses at all!

This is just a part of a larger idea - I'm still working on the unifying theme, but trust me when I say that levelling the accusation at the universe that it should be other than it is isn't helpful - the universe we have is a wonder, full of tragedy, triumph, and beauty. And it will be so, whatever the fate of mankind may be.

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