Monday, 26 May 2008
Form and Reflection
I set out, some weeks ago to read the French philosopher Levinas. I got sidetracked because, a couple of pages into the book, somebody mentioned in passing that they had seen a video called Monte Grande and that I might be interested in it. I got the video. I watched it. It was a documentary on the Chilean cognitive scientist Francisco Varela. I bought one of Varela's books and began to read it. Levinas went back onto the shelf for the time being.
As those who have been reading this blog know, Varela is a Buddhist, and this dimension of his thought raised questions for me, who has struggled with the interface of Buddhism and Christianity for many years now. There are enough Buddhists in my family to stock a reasonable sized monastery, although I haven't spoken to any of them on the subject of faith much at all in the past year or two. At the very time I was reading the Buddhist bits of Varela, however, most of them made contact, for the good reason that I was sick and they were concerned. With the renewed contact, my brother sent me emails which I have posted on here. It all smelled a bit of what Jung called synchronicity and the rest of us call coincidence.
Just when I got through Varela's Buddhist chapters, Clemency's brother Jonathan phoned me, again, because I was sick and he wanted to wish me well. In the midst of a long conversation he mentioned that he was writing for this website. He asked if I would look it over and give my opinion, in the course of doing which, I came across some interesting articles on the subject of evolution. They were so interesting in fact, that I put Varela on the shelf beside Levinas, printed off the stories and read 'em. Fascinating stuff.
They were all about how Darwinism (that is the theory that natural selection acting on random mutations is the main force behind evolution) is not a sufficient explanation to completely account for the process of speciation. They shared some insights from the rapidly developing science of genetics and speculated on what mechanisms might be responsible for the development of species.
I finished the articles. I took up Varela again, and opened the book at where I had left off. The very next chapter was about evolution, and how Darwinism was not a sufficient explanation for speciation, and how some insights from the rapidly developing science of genetics might help us find the mechanisms that were responsible for the development of species. Good afternoon Mr. Jung. What are you smirking about?
I find these sorts of synchronicities deeply reassuring. They tell me that the universe is ordered and that unexpected patterns of interrelatedness make themselves known in the great and trivial details of our lives. The geneticists, evolutionary biologists and philosophers who will meet in Altenberg in July to rethink evolution and potentially alter the entire direction of Western science, are looking for such patterns in the mechanisms of evolution. And me? I can't wait to finish Varela and get on with Meister Eckhart, because Eckhart speaks of just this phenomenon: of Being finding expression in form. I've got maybe an hour and a half to go on Varela, but, until I can finish one tricky book and get on with another, I know this:
My bone scan is clear and the great mind who ordered the universe has plans for me. And even better, as he has shown in his dallying amongst us, he loves me, he loves me, he loves me.
All things shall be well, and all things shall be well and all manner of things shall be very well.