Sinking into Chaos

The world no longer appears as an ideal place in which what happens or what is rational must happen. It does not guarantee on all the victory of the forces of good, of an ideal natural and moral order. On the contrary, the general tendency of the universe is to entropy and chaos.

time We swim upstream against a great torrent of disorganization that tends to reduce everything in balance and uniformity, to the thermal death described by the second law of thermodynamics. What Maxwell, Boltzmann and Gibbs understand through thermal death in physics has a correspondent in the Kirkegaard’s ethics, who showed that we live in a chaotic moral universe.

In this chaotic universe, our primary duty is to introduce arbitrary order and system enclaves. These enclaves won’t remain here indefinitely after we established them, just like the Red Queen from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass book. In the country led by Red Queen the earth turns so fast that just running at the same speed in the opposite direction you can stand still.

We cannot stay where we are unless we run as fast as we can. We are not fighting for a definitive victory in an undefined future. The greatest possible victory is to be, to continue to be and to have been.

No defeat can deprive us of the success of having existed at some point in time in a universe we are indifferent to. This attitude doesn’t mean defeatism, but rather the sense of tragedy that dominates the world, a world where necessity is represented by the inevitable disappearance of differentiation.

from Norbert Wiener, I Am a Mathematician

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Eternal Recommencing

In religion as in magic periodicity means, above all, the endless use of a mythical time brought again to the present day. All rituals have the property of happening now, at this moment. The time that saw the event, repeated or commented on by some ritual, is made present, “represented”, if we can say so, no matter how old in time it is imagined.

clepsidra The sufferings of Crist, his death and resurrection are not just commemorated during the religious service in the Holy Week, but they are actually happening, then, in front of the eyes of believers.

And a true Christian must feel contemporary with those transhistorical events because, repeating themselves, theophane time becomes present to him.

The beliefs in a cyclical time, in an eternal return, in dsstroying the Universe and humanity as the preface of a new Universe and a new  “regenerated” humanity, all these beliefs attest, fist of all, the faith and hope of a periodic regeneration of time elapsed, of history.

In fact, that cycle is a Big Year, to resume a very familiar term in Greek-Oriental terminology. The Big Year began with a Creation and ended with Chaos, that is, by a complete merger of all elements. What interests us here, above all, is the hope in a total regeneration of time, obvious hope in all myths and doctrines involving cosmic cycles.

We meet in man at all levels the same desire to suppress the profane time and to live in sacred time. Moreover, we are in front of a desire and an expectation to regenerate time in its totality, that is, to be able to live “humanely”, “historicaly” in eternity by transfiguring time in the eternal moment.

This nostalgia of eternity is similar to paradise nostalgia. The desire to live permanently and spontaneously in a sacred space corresponds to the desire to live forever in eternity, due to the repetition of the archetypal gestures.

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The repetition of the archetypes highlights the paradoxical desire to achieve an ideal form (archetypal) in the very state of human existence, to find us in time without enduring the burden, that is, without suffering its irreversibility.

Such a desire cannot be interpreted as a “spiritualist” one, because the terrestrial existence with everything that it implies would be devalued to the benefit of the spirituality detached from the world. On the contrary, what we could call the nostalgia of eternity proves that man aspires to a concrete and believes that getting this paradise is possible here on the earth and now, at the present moment.

In this sense archaic myths and rituals about sacred space and time can be considered nostalgic memories of a terrestrial paradise and of some kind of  “experimental” eternity that man thinks he can get.

from Mircea Eliade, Tratat de istoria religiilor

 

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