Tuesday, May 11, 2004

A Quote

This one is for Pat:

What does the becoming-man of God in the figure of Christ, His descent from eternity to the temporal realm of our reality, mean for God Himself? What if that which appears to ous, finite mortals, as God's descent toward us, is, from the standpoint of God Himself, an ascent. What if, as Schelling implied, eternity is less than temporality? What if eternity is a sterile, impotent, lifeless domain of pure potentialities, which, in order fully to actualize itself, has to pass through temporal existence? What if God's descent to man, far from being an act of grace toward humanity, is the only way for God to gain full actuality, and to liberate Himself from the suffocating constraints of Eternity? What if God actualizes Himself only through human recognition?

We have to get rid of the old Platonic topos of love as Eros that gradually elevates itself from love for a particular individual, through love for the beauty of a human body in general and the love of the beautiful form as such, to love for the supreme Good beyond all forms: true love is precisely the opposite move of forsaking the promise of Eternity itself for an imperfect individual. (This lure of eternity can take many forms, from postmortal fame to fulfilling one's social role.) What if the gesture of choosing temporal existence, of giving up eternal existence for the sake of love -- from Christ to Siegmund in Act II of Wagner's Die Walkure, who prefers to remain a common mortal if his beloved Sieglinde cannot follow him to Valhalla, the eternal dwelling-place of dead heroes -- is the highest ethical act of them all? The shattered Brunnhilde comments on this refusal: "So little do you value everlasting bliss? Is she everything to you, this poor woman who, tired and sorrowful, lies limp in your lap? Do you think nothing less glorious?" Ernst Bloch was right to observe that what is lacking German history are more gestures like Siegmund's.

We usally claim that time is the ultimate prison ("no one can jump outside his/her time"), and that the whole of philosophy and religion circulates around one aim: to break out of this prison-house of time into eternity. What, however, if, as Schelling implies, eternity is the ultimate prison, a suffocating closure, and it is only the fall into time that introduces Opening into human experience?