Metaphysical Laughter

plato-head-shot

 Through microscopes and telescopes we are able to catch a glimpse of a greater world of immensities and complexities than could ever have been imagined. And yet what we observe through such means is nothing compared to what actually is - a richness, a moreness, beyond all calculating!

 What actually is - the boundlessness of reality itself - is something more than can ever be contained and explained in merely physical or material terms.

 Plato’s insight is that “reality isn’t contained by the physical, material world, but outside of it, in the world of ideas.” 

 He’s saying that a greater dimension, a transcendent realm - the world of ideas - accounts for reality and gives it meaning. 

 Reality, according to Plato, is therefore to be understood as existing in relation to a transcendent dimension - “the world of ideas.” 

 It does not exist by itself. It cannot therefore define itself sufficiently by itself, but is rooted in and dependent upon a higher level of being - “the world of ideas.”

 The world itself then is the expression of ideas from a spiritual realm. In particular, the world is an idea, an expression, of the mind of God. 

 Which means that you and I, too, are not our own reference points. We are not on our own. We are not sufficient unto ourselves. We are defined rather by an Absolute or Ultimate reference point from beyond ourselves - from another dimension.

 It follows then that in order to find true identity, a relationship with the Divine Absolute is required. Without that, as the Moody Blues once sang: “We are lost in a lost world."  

 And yet, paradoxically and truly, that which is outside of us as an absolute and ultimate reference point is, at one and the same time, nearer to us than we are to ourselves.  

 That Absolute reference point, the Divine Logos - the meaning of it all - is, in other words, both transcendent and imminent. Or put another way - the Divine Logos, or ultimate reference point of meaning, is both absolutely far and absolutely near. 

 Now when this incomparable idea of the Logos is presented - as is the case with any great idea - one may expect strong reactions! 

 At stake is whether reality is thought to be grounded in a transcendent realm of meaning, or is somehow to be regarded as something less than that.

 Is reality an expression of the Logos and therefore saturated with meaning, or is it purposeless? Is reality intelligible or absurd? Is reality a something more, or a something less - moreness or lessness?

 A modern reaction to the idea of Logos - of a universe saturated with Logos (meaning) - is to be found in the writings of Samuel Beckett - in particular, in his play, Waiting for Godot.

 In the play, we behold the sight of Vladimir and Estragon, who are passively waiting for something extraordinary to happen. They are waiting for godot, who they hope will save them. 

 Beckett's message is plain that the two men are foolish to wait for godot, just as it is similarly foolish for any of us to wait for God.

 For to be sure, from Beckett’s cynical perspective, godot will be a no show.  

 Which is the dispiriting point in all of Beckett’s writings. In Becket there is no hope of meaning. (It is not from Becket that you will hear about the discovery of the purpose filled life.)

 Rather, despairingly, Beckett’s grim message is that man is a non-knower. For there is no Logos to know. No meaning to be found. There is no bigger picture, grander scheme, or greater perspective.

 Beckett’s philosophy is therefore not about the moreness of reality, but its lessness. He reduces reality to meaninglessness and nihilism. 

 There is then in Beckett no higher spiritual perspective, but only what science had revealed by the middle of the twentieth century - that we are living in a “cold, empty, dark world.”

 And so, Waiting for Godot is a play about nothing

 In the play’s first act, nothing happens. In the second, it’s more of the same - nothing happens again.

 Nothing happens twice. 

 Now in response to the play, philosopher, Professor Peter Kreeft, says that among his students there are three typical reactions.

 For one group of students the play is "stupid and silly.” These are the ones, says Kreeft, "who can’t even raise the question of Logos or Logolessness, of whether there is meaning or not." The question does not concern them. These are the indifferent students, who with an uncomprehending shrug of the shoulders, ignore such serious questions. These do not discern what is at stake. They do not care.      

 A second group find the play "profoundly disturbing.” These are the students who are already, says Kreeft, “close to nihilism,” that is, to meaninglessness and who, given time, will find that their skepticism will end to nihilism. They dislike the play because it hits too close to home. It shows them, says, Kreeft, "how unhappy they are.” (Peter Kreeft, The Platonic Tradition, Understanding Plato’s Impact Through the Ages - The Modern Scholar, chapter 14.)

 The third reaction is laughter, which comes, says Kreeft, from the Platonists,  whose experience is of a light filled reality beyond the cave. 

 In the light of which it becomes laughable to insist that this world is all there is. 

 The laughter rings out from those who see through it to a greater glory. As Malcolm Muggeridge once wrote: “Animistic savages prostrating themselves before a painted stone have always seemed to me to be nearer the truth than a Bertrand Russell.” 

 Think of “pigs”, he says, "in a crowded sty, jostling and shoving to bury their snouts in the trough; until one of them momentarily lifts his snout upwards in the air, and in so doing expressing the hope of all enlightenment to come; breaking off from his guzzling to point with his lifted snout to where the angels and archangels gather round God's throne.”

 The pig who stops guzzling and points his snout heavenwards knows more than the modern cynic.  

 As anyone does who sees through the world to its heart. Muggeridge continues: "I’ve always had the feeling, from my earliest memories, that somehow, somewhere, there was another dimension of reality. 

 I feel as though all my life I’ve been looking for an alternative scene; for the face beneath the wax,

  the light beyond the arc lights,

    time beyond the ticking of the clocks,

      a vista beyond the furthermost reach of mortal eyes even when magnified to thousands of light years,

        - for a destiny beyond history." (Malcolm Muggeridge, A Twentieth Century Testimony)

 And therefore my ability to laugh increases to the degree that I intuit and live in that fullness of reality beyond the cave.

 As Kierkegaard exclaimed: “Humor is the joy which has overcome the world.” (Peter L Berger, Redeeming Laughter, p. 199)

 Where Joy Shall Reign, by Escape by Night