Friday, October 06, 2006

The Sixth Sense

In his extensive exploration of theological aesthetics Hans Urs von Balthasar (yes it is the most awesome name a theologian could have) attempts to outline an understanding of spiritual perception. In one section of this investigation he quotes Romano Guardini who writes that,

The purely material thing does not exist; the body is from the outset determined spiritually. And this spiritual element is not subsequently added to the sensory datum, for instance by the work of the intellect; it is grasped by the eye at once, even if indeterminately and imperfectly at first . . . Seeing is an encounter with reality.

There are many things that could be commented on here however I wish to focus on the first line. "The purely material thing does not exist." What I am curious about is whether all reality shares equally in its participation in the spiritual or whether there are aspects of reality that are more "poor in spirit"? I ask this because I wonder why it is so difficult to work at a factory. What I keep coming to is that a fully industrialized factory is determined primarily (if not exclusively) on the manipulation of material elements.

i.e.
- what is the most efficient means of transferring pots of flowers into transport containers?
- what is the most efficient configuration of transport containers which will both maximize quantity of shipments while maintaining a bare minimum of quality?
- how can growing time be minimized?
- what is the minimum human input required to run the packing line smoothly?

The factory is based on the efficient movement of materials. If "the purely material thing does not exist" then how am I to spiritually perceive my factory setting? Even the roses I see everyday are subordinated to material movement. I rarely find them beautiful. Do we play a role in how life participates in the spiritual?

I think I will leave it there for now, but I would love some feedback and I will try to explore this further in the future. Most people have difficulty finding fulfillment in their job. I think there is something here worth exploring in response to that.

2 comments:

August said...

I would again suggest reading some Chinese literature, in particular, The I Ching, or Book of Changes in English, the Wilhem & Baynes translation, if you are looking for some comtemplations of those who have found the most beautiful moments in the seemingly mundane.

Hope you had a good Thanksgiving, too.

And perhaps, there are those who are meant to only behold the curve of the rose and cry over the sureness of its petals, and then there are those who are meant to write the theories on which humans could build their most productive factories. Though I don't really know anything.

hineini said...

I've spent some time thinking of this too and so I figured maybe I could offer my two cents. Actually, its probably Levinas' two cents. Anyway, I've thought that it has something to do with efforts being made to create an environment with no "face". Now I don't think this is ever possible, the face is always there of course, always already there but a factory setting seems to make efforts to sever or disconnect this awareness. Just a quick thought but I appreciated the question asked how you did. I also liked August's point and have consistently wished I was one who could see the transcendent in the mundane but all I can do is shrug, cause its not me.