Lesson 26- Negentropy and the Impossible Dream
In my last program, I was expanding on our analysis of the Second Law of Thermodynamics which is also known as the Law of Entropy. As way of review let me repeat that this law says that the universe is winding down from level of higher order to levels of lower order and eventually it will return to the darkness and chaos which existed at the beginning. We see this law at work whenever a house or lawn is left unattended for a long period of time. The house will start to deteriorate and the lawn will become a jungle. Therefore, anything that leads towards chaos could be said to be an entropic force because it is following the Law of Entropy.
However, there are some things that violate this Law of Entropy because they seem to be swimming against the current because they are moving up towards higher levels of organization. Life and civilization are both examples of this because both are moving against the entropic current of the universe by going from the simple to more complex order. Therefore, we could say that they belong to the negentropic forces of the universe. Obviously, this means that the negentropic forces are struggling against the current and therefore need to input a lot of energy just to prevent themselves from being swept down the stream by the entropic current and, to advance further up the stream, they would have to exert even greater energy. Since the philosophical definition for "death" is disintegration and for life it is "integration, we could also say that "entropy", which causes things to disintegrate, is just another name for death and "negentropy", which causes things to integrate towards higher levels of existence, is just another name for life. Since God is Love and Love is the integrative force in the universe, the God is pro-integration or pro-life. It is He who supplies the energy that permit two separate things to unite into a higher and more complex unity. His archenemy, the devil, is the leader of the forces of Darkness and chaos who, by inspiring "entropic" behavior, leads us towards disintegration and death. It is interesting to note here that the astronomers tell us that there exists in outer space "Black Holes" which cant even be seen, except through their effect on other things. According to these scientists, these "Black Holes" swallow energy and that is why they cant be seen. If you were to shine a light on them, they, instead of reflecting the light, would swallow it. Anything that even comes near one would be pulled apart and disintegrate down to the subatomic level. If death is disintegration, then "Black Holes" represent the forces of death on the cosmic level.
What has all this to do with Jesus? Well, I raised the question in my last program whether there was some cosmic message in the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus. He said that He had come so that we might have life, and have it fully. He said that He was the Light of the World and that no follower of His would ever walk in Darkness. He said that He had come to show us the way to eternal salvation and to save us from the Kingdom of Darkness and sin. And then, at the crowning point of His life, after saying that "unless a seed falls to the ground and dies, it will never develop into the plant", He struggles up a hill, is crucified, dies, is buried and then, to everyones surprise, He rises to a higher level of existence. Then, He tells us that if we want the fullness of life we must pick up our crosses and follow Him.
There are so many philosophical implications connected to this that I cant grasp them all at one time. However, one thing is certain, what He did involved a struggle upwards and led to a higher form of life and, thus, was one of the greatest example of an negentropic act that the world has ever seen. He did exactly what He said the seed had to do to move to the next highest level of becoming a plant. And by doing so, He suggested that death and birth are the same thing because one has to die to the old to move on to the new. After this, we were able to say, "Oh death, where is Thy sting?" for, as Jesus had shown us, it was simply a doorway to the next higher plane. That is, if we were part of the negentropic forces which He led. If, instead, we are part of the entropic forces of the natural world, then death was a falling back into the abyss of Gehenna and chaos where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
The ancient Jews had said that there were two dimensions to every human being: the outer person or flesh which ate bread and the inner person or spirit that ate Wisdom, which was the Bread of Eternal Life. And they considered that the most foolish thing that one could do was to spend ones life feeding the flesh which was going to die and disintegrate while starving the spirit that was destined to live forever. That is why Jesus said, "I am the Bread of Life and unless you eat My flesh and drink My blood, you will not have life within you." He was simply declaring what the Catholic Church teaches that He is the Incarnate Wisdom of God.
When one looks at these events from this perspective, then it becomes clear that Jesus, through His Passion, Death, and Resurrection was acting out the basic law of the universe concerning life. He truly was showing us how our negentropic acts led to the fullness of eternal life. Now let me turn to another implication connected to this drama.
As I ended my last program, I was commenting that there were two ways of looking at life and reality. We can view life either as a circle or a line. How one looks at it has a great deal of meaning for how we will live his life. However, before I go deeper into the implications of these two views of life, I think that I ought to summarize some of my previous points so that we can maintain the continuity between what was said before and what we are about to say now.
First, the word "sin", as used in the New Testament of the Bible comes from a word used by Greek archers and it means to "miss the target." Since, based on what we have said before, God has started a negentropic process that is moving towards the "fullness of life", then every time we "hit the target" we move negentropically towards higher levels of order and life and every time we "miss the target" or sin we must move entropically towards disintegration and death.
Next, the target for our behavior is the rational purpose or Will of God for our activity. Thus, we "miss the target" or "sin" whenever we "miss the rational target" for human behavior. For example, the rational target for food is nutrition not taste and for sex it is reproduction, not pleasure.
Next, the Ancient Greek philosophers defined virtue as "right use" and vice as "wrong use" by which they meant that a thing was good or bad according to how well it served the purpose for which it was created. Thus, a good knife cuts and a good eye sees. We could also say that virtue is negentropic, while vice is entropic because when we use things properly it adds to the total order of the universe and when we use them improperly it adds to the chaos.
Next, St. Thomas Aquinas observed that nearly everything has more than one purpose, thus creating a problem in applying the principle that "a thing is good or bad according to how well it served the rational purpose for which it was created. What are we to do when it has more than one purpose? The solution to this dilemma is to distinguish between the "primary purpose" which come from the creator of the object and "secondary purposes" which can come either from the creator or the user of the object. Thus, the "primary purpose" of a Swiss Army knife is to be a knife since that was the major purpose that its maker had in mind. All the other purposes, which were also created by the maker of the knife, are called "secondary purposes." However, in addition to these, the user of the knife might invent his own "secondary purposes", such as using it to hammer a nail or tack.
Next, the solution to the problem of evaluating the proper use of objects that contain both "primary and secondary purposes", according to St. Thomas, is to follow the principle that "secondary purposes are alright so long as they either help, or at least dont interfere, with the primary purpose. Thus, the creator of the Swiss Army knife had to constantly weigh the effect that the secondary purposes of the knife would have on his primary purpose. At the point that they began to interfere with the primary purpose of it being a knife, that was when they became wrong.
Next, if there is no God and the universe is accidental in nature, then there is no creator for any of our natural functions and therefore no rational meaning or purposes. And, if there are no rational purpose, then there are no right way or wrong way to perform any of them and thus, since there is no "target to miss" there is no such thing as "sin." This is the position of Secular Humanist and the philosophy of Existentialism. The first group says "There is no god to save Mankind; Mankind must save itself" and the second group says, "the universe is accidental and absurd and therefore every human beings is free to make his/her own meaning and purpose. Therefore, "it's different strokes for different folks!" and "Who's to say what's right or wrong." In other words, there are no primary purposes in the universe. All purposes come from the users and are secondary. According to this premise, good sex is not reproduction. Rather, it is anything that "turns you on."
Next, if there is a rational God who created the universe with a rational intent, then to violate His intent or Will is to "miss the rational target" or "sin." As the Creator, His will is the primary purpose for which things were created and any secondary purpose connected to it either has to help or at least not interfere with His primary purpose. Any time the user or creature invents its own secondary purpose, it to must be evaluated according to whether "it helps or at least doesnt interfere with the primary purpose" of the Creator. According to this premise, the logical objective purpose for food is nutrition and for sex it would be reproduction. Taste and pleasure, being secondary purposes, would be alright so long as they either helped to lead us to the primary purpose or, at least, didnt interfere with it. Therefore, it would be alright to enjoy tasty food as long as it also nourished the body, whereas gluttony would be a sin because it pursued taste to the detriment of the health of the body. Likewise, pleasure in sex would be alright so long as it took place in a context that supported the reproduction, care, and rearing of children, while pleasure from sex in any other context which undermined this primary purpose would be wrong. Fornication, adultery, homosexuality, child molestation, bestiality, necrophilia, and any other type of sexual expression which sought the pleasure outside of a reproductive context would be wrong. According to this view "there are right strokes and wrong strokes" and the Creator of the universe, who made these primary rational purpose is the one to say what is the right and wrong use of His creation. And because we have logical minds, we are capable of discovering His primary purposes. Artificial birth control would be wrong because it sought to take the pleasure of the act during the fertility period while using means to block conception. Natural birth control would not be wrong because it seeks to take the pleasure of the act only during periods when fertility was not present and abstaining from it during periods of fertility.
Next, since there is a relationship between rational understanding and "sin", the only creatures who are morally capable of sinning are those who have the ability to understand the rational or primary purposes of things. All other creatures, who do not possess the "Knowledge of Good and Evil", although they are capable of "missing the target", can not be held morally responsible for it. Thus, only rational beings, who are capable of being motivated by logic and reason, are moral, all other creatures, who are motivated by pleasure and instincts, are amoral.
Next, human beings, because the logical left lobe of their brain reflects upon an intuitive right lobe, are rational moral beings who, because they possess the Knowledge of Good and Evil, are morally responsible for their behavior. Animals, which lack a logical left lobe to their brains, are amoral beings because they have no way of understanding the logical, primary purposes of natural mechanisms. They are driven by pleasure and instincts to do the right thing without any understanding of why it is the right thing. Thus, logic, which is found in the left hemisphere of most of our brains and upon which reason is based, is what separates us from the rest of the creatures in the natural world.
Next, if, according to the Old Testament, God is a rational spirit lacking a body and we are made in His image and likeness, then it must be our rational mind that makes us in His image and likeness." Animals, since they are not rational beings, must not be made in His image and likeness.
Next, if we are rational beings because we have a logical left lobe that reflects on an intuitive right lobe, then it logically follows that any rational being, including God, must have a logical left lobe that reflects on an intuitive right lobe. It also logically follows that it is the lack of the logical left lobe which prevents animals from being rational beings and to the extent that we fail to use our logic, we behave like animals.
Next, if, according to the New Testament, God, the Super-rational Creator of the universe, is a paradoxical being who is a Trinity in which there exists three persons in one being, then it logically follows that we, who are made in His image and likeness, might also be three persons in one being. Since, experiments involving the splitting of the right and left hemisphere of living human beings has revealed that the left and right lobe of our brains are two different persons who look at reality from two different points of view, and that our frontal lobe is the seat of judgment which blends the two point of views into one decision, then not only is it possible that we are a Trinity but it is very probable.
Next, if this is true, then the different lobes of our brain must correspond to different persons in the Trinity. The right lobe of our brain which is a nonverbal, intuitive, creative, artistic genius would correspond to God the Father, the Creator. The left lobe which is a verbal, logical, talented craftsman would correspond to God the Son, His Logos or Word. And the frontal lobe which seems to be a blend of the other two, would be God the Holy Spirit which the Nicene Creed says "proceeds from the Father and the Son.
Next, It would also appear that all creative acts, including our own, would involve the interaction of the three of them. Our artistic right lobe would dream of "what to do" and the logical left lobe would decide "how to do it" and the mutual agreement and love between the "dreamer" and the "craftsmen" would produce a "creative spirit" known as enthusiasm which would provide the energy to "do it". The fact that the word "enthusiasm" comes from two Greek words, "en theos", which means "God in us" seems to support this view.
Next, if, as St. John, speaking of Jesus in the beginning of His gospel, says that: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and Word was God and everything was created by the Word..." and we then learn that in the original Greek word is spelled "LOGOS", from which we get the English word "LOGIC", it then becomes clearer that Jesus, the Word of God, is the left lobe of God's rational brain.
Next, if as St. John says in the same passage that this Logos that created the universe was "the Light that was found in every man", it then becomes clear that the left lobe of our brains, which is where logic is located, is the Jesus within all of us. It is the source of logic, morality, government, law, justice, language, technology, science and all those things which we associate with civilization. It is this brain, which because it knows logical primary purpose, knows the true Will of the Creator and informs us that we are "missing the target" or sinning when we violate this will. It is the brain that warns us that we will logically "reap whatever we sow" and that the logical premises that we apply to other will be applied to us.
Next, when St. John further says that this "Word or Logic became flesh and dwelt amongst us," he is indicating the basic Christian belief that God the Father, sent His Son- His Logic or Wisdom - into the world to show the human race the way to the "fullness of life" and the Kingdom of God.
Next, since the two lobes of our brain are SHOW and TELL, with the nonverbal right brain which doesn't understand language having to be shown, while the verbal left lobe, which does understand language being capable of be told, it seems logical to conclude that Jesus came into the world to lead the right lobe out of the Kingdom of Darkness by showing it the way to the Kingdom of Light. This is further indicated by the fact that He spoke in parables which, because they use stories and symbols, appeal more to the right lobe rather than the left lobe which prefers literal language.
Next, Helen Keller, who failed to develop any language skills for seven years due to an illness that left her blind and deaf, describes her years without language as a time of Mental Darkness in which she had no conscious awareness of God, nature, morality, herself, or death. She said she was like an "unconscious clod of earth" locked in a subjective world in which she was unable to make any connection with the outside objective world. When the left lobe of her brain became functional when she learned the meaning of words, she described it as coming out of the Kingdom of Darkness into the Kingdom of Light and compared it to entering heaven. Her testimony indicates that without the left lobe, we would experience life as animals do.
Next, the Old Testament word for hell is Gehenna and it means "empty thought." We now know that without language we would all live in an unconscious world of "no-thingness." For example, there was a time that we had no elbows, or wrist, or knuckles. All we knew was that we had an arm. Even though these things existed we had no conscious awareness of them until we separated them from the other part of our arm by bringing them into conscious thought by naming them. If, like animals, we had no language, then there would be no way that we could consciously think of any object in our surroundings. Since it appears that language and conscious thought are linked, then without language we would all live in the unconscious, animalistic world of "empty thought" described by Helen Keller. It therefore logically follows, that we are all born in Gehenna, the hell of the Old Testament, and that it is our left brain, which contains the "Logos within us", that leads us, as it led Helen Keller, out of this Kingdom of Mental Darkness into the Kingdom of Mental Light.
Next, if we are born in Gehenna, the Kingdom of Mental Darkness, then hell is not a place that we are going to after death. Its a state of being which from the moment of our birth we are trying to get out of. Thus, the role of Jesus, the Logos within us, is one of salvation, not condemnation. Therefore, as the Scriptures says, Jesus, the Logos that became flesh, came to save us from our sins, not to condemn us into hell. We were already in Darkness and that is why He, the Logos and Wisdom of God, could say "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life and I have come to set you free. No follower of mine will walk in darkness."
Next, as the Word made flesh who said that He had come to show us the way to eternal life, His final act was to struggle up a hill carrying a heavy cross on His shoulders, there to die, only to rise again to a higher state. His advice to us was that if we wanted life, and wanted it fully, then we should also pick up our cross and follow Him. The significance of this has puzzled us for centuries because we didnt see how carrying crosses could lead us to eternal life. At first we thought that it meant that we should torture our flesh and thus some of the early Christians wore hair shirts and tortured their bodies in other ways. However, little by little, we are beginning to sense that His example is more about struggle than it is about suffering. The Cross has become a symbol for the problems and difficulties of life which we all must face. We dont have to invent them or go looking for them, they will find us. Life is full of challenges which, we are beginning to understand, pull out of us qualities and strengths which we never knew we had. As Frederick Douglas, the ex-slave and abolitionist once said, "Without struggle there is no progress." The Cross has become a symbol for personal growth which results when we sacrifice ourselves out of love for others.
Because of it we in the Western World have adopted a view of life that is based on the idea that through constant effort and reform, each generation can improve the lot of Mankind and move us one step closer to the Kingdom of God. The Spanish author Cervantes in his famous work, "Don Quixote", describes an old foolish knight who sets out with his squire to rid the world of evil. Cervantes meant for Quixote to be a Christ figure who struggles to change the world from "what it is" to "what it ought to be." Later, it was turned into a Broadway play and a movie entitled "The Man of LaMancha." In one scene, Quixote tells his listeners why he refuses to accept the world "as it is." He says: "Life as it is. Ive live for over forty years and Ive seen life as it is. Pain... Misery.... Cruelty beyond belief. Ive heard all the voices of Gods noblest creatures. Moans from bundles of filth in the streets. Ive been a soldier and a slave. Ive seen my comrades fall in battle or die more slowly under the lash in Africa. Ive held them at the last moment. These were men who saw life as it is. But they died despairing. No glory... no bray of last words. But in their eyes, filled with confusion, questioning Why? I do not think they were asking why they were dying but why they had ever lived. When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies. Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams, this may be madness. To seek treasure where there is only trash. Too much sanity may be madness. And maddest of all to see life as it is and not as it should be... I am I Don Quixote, the Lord of LaMancha. Destroyer of evil am I. I will march to the sound of the trumpets of glory. Forever to conquer or die."
As I said, Cervantes meant for Quixote to be a Christ figure who is willing to struggle to save the world from evil. Like Christ, he is considered a fool by His peers and like Christ he proclaims a world that is yet to come. In the same play, Quixote sings a song which expresses his willingness to sacrifice himself for the world. It is one of the best examples of the negentropic view of Western Man due to the influence of Jesus on our culture. Here it is: "To Dream the Impossible Dream" whose words express the vision of the gospel in musical terms. The over riding theme of the song is the concept of the need to struggle to overcome the evil in the world by sacrificing oneself in the building of a better world. Just listen to the lyric:
To dream the impossible dream; to fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow; to run where the brave dare not go.
To right the unrightable wrong; to love pure and chaste from afar.
To try when your arms are too weary to reach the unreachable star.
This is my quest to follow that star no matter how hopeless no matter how far.
To fight for the right without question or pause.
To be willing to march into hell for a heaven cause.
And I know if I only be true to this glorious quest
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm when Im laid to my rest.
And the world will be better for this that one man scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage to reach the unreachable star.
Well did you hear it? Were you able to hear the message of Jesus and the Gospel in it? Cervantes meant for Quixote to be a Christ figure and, as the words of the song indicate, the message is not suffering for the sake of suffering but rather struggle which involves suffering. Therefore, we no longer look for way to torture our bodies. Rather, we look for ways to overcome difficulties and problems. "Take up your cross and follow Me" no longer means, "put on your hair shirt and mortify your flesh." It now means "put your shoulder to the wheel and make an effort to push the Human Race closer to the coming of the Kingdom of God by overcoming the evil and injustices in the world." We are beginning to understand, that all the daily struggles which we face as human beings are part of the grand effort to reach our full potentials as human beings. As St. Ireaneas said, "The glory of God is Man fully alive."
Well, I see that my time is up. Heres Dom.