Once or twice a week I go to the gym and walk on the treadmill for an hour or so, and I read, either The New Yorker or Touchstone magazine. Worlds apart in perspective and subject matter, those two periodicals, but both having some content of interest to me, treated in enough depth to keep my attention away from the tedious treading.
I always keep a ball-point pen next to my water bottle on the little shelf of the machine, so that even while I hang on with one hand as I hike, all out of breath, my other hand is free to stab at the page trying to make marks that will help me find my way back later. It’s always my intention to return when I am in a more contemplative mood, to the words or sentences that piqued my interest because they remind me of something else in my life and philosophy. I love how everything is connected to everything else, even when I don’t have time to figure out exactly how, or to articulate it in my own words.
In the last few years that sort of time and ability seem especially lacking, yet I keep on reading and underlining and thinking at only an introductory level about one article at a time. Then I stash that magazine in my basket by the computer and the next time I start in on a fresh one. This kind of behavior has been going on for a long time, so I have a great store of “material,” as we writers call it, with new resources constantly arriving.
I’m going to try to post more frequently and without much comment — without much real writing! — snippets from my readings, so that I don’t completely lose the benefit of the riches I’m enjoying every week. Maybe one or another of my readers will find a topic of interest now and then, but even if you don’t, copying some excerpts will give me more satisfaction than the usual procrastinations.
One article I read this month was from the September/October 2014 Issue of Touchstone, an introduction to metaphysics by Graeme Hunter titled “The Light of Everyman.” Hunter starts out by writing, “The hardest things to talk about are simple ones. My topic is the simplest thing of all: reality.”
He proceeds to explain how metaphysics is important because it “sees only the realities to which all people and all cultures have equal access,” and he also explores the question of how we can know that reality is intelligible to us. Some philosophers have concluded that in fact it is not intelligible, which leads them to nihilism; and some don’t want to go all the way there, and they end up making the whole issue more complicated than it has to be, even nonsensical.
Hunter proposes a solution to the question, which is the part that I wanted to share, as he explores the line from scripture that we know in English as, “In the beginning was the Word”:
“‘En arche en ho Logos’ are the first five words of John. No translation can do them justice. The word Logos is one of the most polysemous words in the Greek dictionary. Its meanings include ‘word,’ ‘speech,’ ‘argument,’ ‘theory,’ ‘account,’ ‘blueprint,’ the laying out of things and gathering them up. But underlying its many meanings is the simple idea we have just been talking about: the idea of intelligibility.”
“The intelligibility of things cannot be proven, as we have seen [earlier in the article]. And we have also seen that the natural sciences give us no right to assume it. But what if, as John proclaims, the intelligibility of things has been revealed, not just in the form of a divine pronouncement written in a holy book, but in the form of God made man, and dwelling among us, full of grace and truth? God as Intelligibility. The Maker who knows the world; the Knower who makes it; making and knowing as one thing; Maker and Knower taking human form.”
The Icon of Extreme Humility seems a good one to contemplate as we are talking about the Son of God who “humbled himself, taking the form of a man…”