Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Ordo Ultra Intellecto - Expansio Sine Termino

Lots of people my age have tattoos. I don't have anything against tattoos in particular, but I would almost never choose to get one myself. Why? I have some respect for the permanence of tattoos and the sanctity of the body. I would grieve the loss of my skin's pristine state all the more if it were given over to something I thought was unworthy or that I would tire of later in life.

What about a religious tattoo? Well, that is an earnest and hardy expression of devotion, I suppose. Yet just as I would not want to cheapen my body with an unworthy expression, I would not want to cheapen a sacred emblem with my unworthy body. What worse way to compound my sins, than to brandish the Virgin about my arm as I indulged in them?

What I designed above is something like a happy median. The cross in the center is actually an afterthought and by no means essential to the symbol's meaning. Like the film "Donnie Darko," the choice to remove overt religiosity does not rob the expression of its religious truth. It is simply a matter of the intended effect and the audience.

Of course, I have no serious intention of branding myself with the above at all. But it came to mind as a result of asking myself the question: what, if anything, would I ever allow to be permanently etched into my skin? There, you can see, is a fruitful question for thought.

I am fascinated by the Divine Proportion.

"[The Golden Ratio is a universal law] in which is contained the ground-principle of all formative striving for beauty and completeness in the realms of both nature and art, and which permeates, as a paramount spiritual ideal, all structures, forms and proportions, whether cosmic or individual, organic or inorganic, acoustic or optical; which finds its fullest realization, however, in the human form." - Adolf Zeising

Now, I have read and understand that Zeising and other authors have overstated the prevalence of the Golden Ratio. (Or have they? I need to confer with a friend of mine who has done some research in this area).

I love the Golden Ratio for three reasons. First, it remains mysterious after 2400 years. Second, it reveals something very much like intelligence in nature.

But third and most importantly, the Golden Ratio upsets dualism. The spiral destroys the Yin-Yang. Embodied within the Ratio is a basic fact arising from deep within nature and the fabric of our being: nature is not the result of the opposition of polar entities. Being is not divided into equal and opposite halves. The recursive folds of a shell reveal that underneath, and prior to the fact of opposition in nature is the fact of intricate, madly coincidental, interdependent movements. What is more, the forces of nature working together are neither equal nor subordinate. The Golden Ratio shows that ideological egalitarianism is contrary to nature, even while it bestows something like a democratic dignity to every particle of matter in its influence. The Ratio is 1.618~, not 1, not 2, not 1.5, not anything rationally divisible into equal halves. Beauty and life arise from the very fact of irreconcilable difference, irreducible otherness. Dualism can be reduced to monism, but the Ratio cannot be reduced to monism.

That is why I consider the shell here the perfect representation for the words, "Order Beyond Understanding." There is order, but it is order that eludes us, slips through our fingers, leaves us in awe even while it frustrates our disordered appetite to possess and control through science. It lends itself to our music but hides from our laboratories.

The true, good, and beautiful available to us in nature. point us (if we do not make idols out of them) toward that One who is the completion and the supercession of all of them. Order, yes, but order beyond finite understanding. Supra-order; trans-order, the Order that is Lord of both order and chaos, the Life that is Lord of both life and death.

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