We are the bees of the invisible. Rilke
I believe that, rather than trying to pin down any particular ‘truth’, we should ask why we ask questions about the nature of reality and what will actually suffice as an answer. In a post-Darwinian world, what does a reductionist view of mind mean for the values the mind alone creates? From this notebook of reflections on being and knowing there emerges an outline of the principle of aesthetic sufficiency as the final criterion of mental judgment.
The soul is now lost from the science of matter and the science of mind. Yet it hovers around, as ethereal as it always has been, waiting to be reintegrated into our theories, not as a matter of fact but as a question of what non-material significance can be abstracted from our material being.
Extracts from the text
Our first affections are our only certainties. It does not occur to us, as infants and children, that the aura of meaningful existence that surrounds us is a mere relative dependency on the mother or the father that shields us and defends us from the wider perception of our metaphysical insecurity; or that the mother and the father in their turn may have no other resource for their own metaphysical comfort than the child’s reciprocated affection.
By tracing our sufficiencies and certainties to our earliest affections, we recognise that all the other constructions of meaning and the narrative threads of our meaningful or purposeful lives are not derived from any objective or absolute measure of their truth, of which we have no experience, but from the sufficiency of experience itself.
There can be no sufficiency of meaning that exists of itself independently of the sufficiency of its experience, that is, of its aesthetic sufficiency in experience.
We should give it up, this quest for a chimera of the imagination, the idea of truth and meaning, whose origin lies in our larger metaphysical insecurity, and seek answers where they truly lie, not laid out somewhere to await our discovery, but among our own inventions. Our questions, after all, are of our own invention, so why would their answers lie anywhere else but in our innate capacity to create them?
To walk out, to see the earth and sky, to follow the lane from here to some other place I can imagine, to observe the order in the universe imposed upon it in the act of understanding it, to know and not to be some other unknowing thing, to see and not to be unseeing, to be the heir of the world and not merely the floating debris of the inchoate matter of the world, to be the order of matter that knows itself and its order – this is my privilege, the privilege of being human. But what we know and how we know it are the aesthetic prerogatives of the individual, and to discover the sufficiency of life in the sufficiency of experience is the fulfilment of life. We cannot find the consolation for being and then ceasing to be in the indifference of the universe or among things we can never know. We cannot uncover an absolute of meaning. We can only create islands of integrity that are sufficient to themselves, build a house for ourselves by creating order out of disorder, and look for familiar roads until we recognise the one that takes us home. Like Kris Kelvin in the final image of Tarkovsky’s film ‘Solaris’, we each create a world modelled to our consciousness of it and our affections for it in a universe not only without meaning but without the possibility of meaning.