Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Ontological Difference Between Dusk and Dawn

Recently I came across the conceptual frame of "twilight". I'm not sure of its origins, but it sounds Nietzschean and existential of origin. It's an interesting and fascinating framework, in as much as it calls the explanatory power of any framework into question. "Twilight" is the dark haze of being-in-between, inhabiting being and non-being, living in the shadow of death. The framework is to call into question all positivistic notions of certainty. This of course is a sledgehammer against Enlightenment epistemology and pretensions to universalized understanding.

I like this framework for its iconoclastic function. It gives the lie to all kinds of deep bifurcations and claims to subjective appropriation. Instead of the light of reason, Humanity is stumbling in the darkness. Instead of the immortality of any particular Human feature (whether soul or spirit, or neo-Roman notions of glory, prestige, and memory), "twilight" emphasizes Human contingency, dependent upon a whole host of factors.

However, for the purposes of this framework, the concept of "twilight" is supposed to level the field of Human inquiry and bring it down to a basic, universal function of life. In other-words, "twilight" is supposed to reveal the fundamental question of death. The framework is to force the question to be dealt with realistically, forgoing idolatrous notions, and coming to terms with mortality. We all die, how can we live with that?

Again, I appreciate this emphasis. However, the notion of "twilight" carries with it the sagacity of the best Pagans: we live in the dusk. The twilight we inhabit is directed down into the grave. It's this fundamental notion that existential philosophy, in most forms, seeks to deal with. It's in this light that Camus would argue for the assertion of life through assertion, nothing less.

However, the Gospel tells another story. It's not in contradiction to a conceptual framework of "twilight", rather it questions the direction that twilight takes. In this, the resurrection of Christ marks a radical, ontological, departure for the state of Creation. We live not in the dusk, but the dawn.

What does this mean? Fundamentally, from Adam's Fall to Christ's enthronement, and from Pentecost to now, things are the same. That is, they appear the same. We still live in a cloud, where Human knowledge is mixed and confused, epistemologically without certainty. But the direction of Human destiny lay not in facing death as a slide into non-being, finally swallowed up in the embrace of shadow. Instead, death is something faced with courage of triumph. Christ has dealt the deathblow, and we confront the Beast as empowered to conquer this final enemy, awaiting the day of our Resurrection.

Yet, we should assert this reality with caution, humility, and wisdom. Why? Because the Gospel has been distorted into evil and malignant forms. Lest you assume I am merely an "anti-Modernist", condemning the Enlightenment as absurd and arrogant, it runs deeper than this. These anti-Gospels have articulated something more wretched: they've attempted to erase Death.

With roots in certain Platonic traditions, death is transformed into immortality and eternity. It is shrouded and eclipsed by linguistic constructions. For many professing Christians, Heaven is a word to mask death and deny it. The language of death is covered up in silly euphemisms of tranquility. Life in the body loses its beauty as death as its antithesis is collapsed into facile notions of paradise.

Notions of Paradise as a "suburb of the present life" or as Beatific Vision, a static suspension of becoming, provide different visions, but operate out of a shared notion of denial. In the first death is denied, in the second death is disguised. In the Christian vision, the grave is a horror that can only be transcended through God's death on the cross and resurrection. It is only the pouring of Divine Life into the abyss that gives men the ability to overcome, to learn how to face death, and conquer.

While some many deny, this world is radically different before Christ, and yet requires the same fortitude. But instead of sorrow, we can approach death, as the joined Body of Christ, with courage and hope. This provides an epistemology of hope, and forgoes both nihilism and the absurd pretensions of mankind. "Twilight" may be a fitting framework to appreciate socio-cultural life, but the rays of light poking through reveal a Human destiny beyond. Human contingency and finitude are not final, but open before the infinite transforming glory of Jesus Christ. In Him, the sick are healed, the shackled set free, and the dead raised. Amen.

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