Being, Consciousness, Bliss (2013)
Monday, May 12, 2014
David Bentley Hart: "The limitless beauty of being"
I may be something of a superstitious romantic myself, but it seems to me that one's meditations on the world's contingency should end more or less where they begin: in that moment of wonder, of sheer existential surprise .... It can be a fairly taxing spiritual labor, admittedly - it is, in the end, a contemplative art - but one should strive as far as possible to let all complexities of argument fall away as often as one can, and to make a simple return to that original apprehension of the gratuity of all things. From that vantage, one already knows which arguments about reality are relevant or coherent and which are not, whether or not one has the conceptual vocabulary to express what one knows. In that moment of remote immediacy to things - of intimate strangeness - there may be some element of unreflective innocence, even something childlike; but any philosophy that is not ultimately responsible before what is revealed in that moment is merely childish. That sudden instant of existential surprise is, as I have said, one of wakefulness, of attentiveness to reality as such, rather than to the impulses of the ego or of desire or of ambition; and it opens up upon the limitless beauty of being, which is to say, upon the beauty of being seen as a gift that comes from beyond all possible beings. This wakefulness, can, moreover, become habitual, a kind of sustained awareness of the surfeit of being over the beings it sustains, though this may be truly possible only for saints. For anyone who experiences only fleeting intimations of that kind of vision, however, those shining instants are reminders that the mystery of being as such occurs within every encounter with the things of the world; one knows the extraordinary within the ordinary, the supernatural within the natural. The highest vocation of reason and of the will is to seek to know the ultimate source of that mystery. Above all, one should wish to know whether our consciousness of that mystery directs us toward a reality that is, in its turn, conscious of us.