By Kai Tao
“Surely you could’ve spoken in greater depth with your other sister. She was always the clever one. I doubt I could keep up with you at this point, or that you’d be all that stimulated by our conversations.”
Heh, you know when I went to university they all called me the clever one—but you two think of me differently, you know me better than anyone—I want so desperately to talk to someone who knows me truly.
“Well shall we talk of your work in philosophy, mathematics?”
No, that’s frivolous talk for us, the talk they expect from me; I mean to tell you about me… who I am.
I am a religious man, even though I have never been to church, even though I do not believe in heaven or hell, even though I am a base and sensual wretch, still I am in my heart the type to be religious. But the mystics, they disquiet me in their infinite alienation.
By the mystics I mean that brand of ascetic belief that maintains that the truth is ineffable, alien to the world—not of the earth but a higher world of knowledge—that the only worthwhile thing is that which cannot be said or expressed and exists outside of the world, and so they renounce the world: its pleasures and pains, for their higher world. They do this with a type of love, but I do not believe it’s a true, passionate love but a passive one.
“And do you believe these theologians correct.”
I am conflicted. I know in my heart they must be wrong, at least in some way—I know this because I know also, by faith, that all have the capacity, no, the necessity, of salvation—and so I know, because if they are correct I am doomed, that they must not know the full truth.
I would not simply be doomed either but unable as it were, to bring myself to acquiesce to their world—that world which would then be a dreary, trivial thing.
It’s not that I don’t believe in the kingdom—on the contrary, the kingdom is the most beautiful thing of all: that a man, a beast, a worm, might be god; how wonderful! How inconceivably wonderful. But I don’t believe in an insular, trivial, obvious place where man abandons his love, his active love, in favor of a passive, deathlike love.
And I likewise cannot agree in their method of achieving this trivial kingdom: a permanent, deathlike renunciation of “false life.” And how is one saved? Is it as the Lutherins claim: by faith alone? Or good works, or both—the intersection of the two, the logical product—or one or more of them—the logical sum. I know salvation must be pure, it cannot depend on manifold variables. It cannot be one or the other for the logical sum is iffy even as mathematical operators go.
No! There must be one truth, one metric upon which all is judged.
And yet this is the most painful of all—for here I agree with the mystics. And though he perhaps claimed otherwise I believe the greatest philosopher: the mystic Wittgenstein, believed this also, and believed this metri to be the identity or equivalence operator: “=”, which, though meaningless and ungrammatical by his own admission still supported the whole of his collapsible logic, (collapsible in the manner of the elimination of all superfluous notions of restating and inference such that “x + y = 7” may as well mean the same as “7” if one cannot use an equal sign).
But still here I fall into turmoil, for while I know all is one and I have a burning heart that is only satisfied by active love, not resignation, faith, not belief.
And I hate the or operator,””because it is almost inconceivable to me, it is like a venn diagram: which is the truth possibilities of labeled circles “p” and “q,” and an x within it marks how the world is, and if that x is in the intersection (as in the logical product) we say that we have a new proposition described by the previous ones: “both are true”. But the or operator doesn’t say where to place the x beyond that it is in one of the circles, and so the whole formed proposition may as well be both expressed by what we already know of “p” and “q”: simply that one of them is the case, which could be expressed by either circle alone. The or operator cannot lead to contradiction either as “p-p,” (something, “p,” and also not that thing, “-p”) can with the logical product, and perhaps I crave contradiction as well as vacuous truth: tautology.
Tell me now, am I Ivan Karamazov? Who though he accepts the truth and sanctity of God in his heart cannot therein accept the world along with him, the world that he gave. Am I his “grand inquisitor who loves God, is faithful, but on that account renounces him to save the world separately?
“No, you are not Ivan, you are Alyosha.”
You say what my proud, base heart wants, but if I am the inquisitor I think instead I should be Kierkegaard, who believed so mightily in contradiction that he might actually have moved a mountain. Who justified horrific acts, who might be called a monster. But a monster inundated with love. And we are always either monsters or hypocrites sister. I am and am not the mystic; even in Tolstoy’s gospel Christ gathered knives so his teaching might not be in vain, even when the kingdom that is your minds eye that watches the world from outside—or more accurately, from an infinitesimal point— contains all contradictions one might hope for still one loves the world, and life. Maybe I will be a destroyer or a maybe a creator sister, but I love you and I will make miracles.