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Archive for February 6th, 2007

If the Other exists outside of human existence, exterior to existential time, then it is reasonable to ask if the Other has influence upon existential time. The simple answer is yes, but only as the Other is remembered or recalled or invested in being by human beings through complex metaphorical and allegorical narratives that rest, like the Other, wholly in historical or non-responsive time. That human beings living in the limbo between two infinities have a need to recall those infinities without existential reference fills page after page with stories that attempt to explain one’s relationship with the Other, one’s reliance upon the Other if you will. But, because one cannot know the Other in any direct way, the stories fail, are often contradictory, and leave many more questions open than are ever answered.

There is not a more complex response to the question of the Other. The act of trying to remember is a response-able undertaking that is doomed from the start to fail. Human beings are story-telling creatures. According to Jerome Bruner, we tell stories to explain that which is not normative. We do not need stories to explain the norms of cultural intercourse. Stories serve the express purpose of helping us to remember that for which there is no response—that which exists outside of existential time. Within the human experience of existential time there is no need to explain the unknown, rather there is a pressing need to discover and overcome barriers to knowledge. Yet, because there is a missing piece, the infinite Other, human beings require a way to engage with that Other in a way that helps explain the why of existence.

What does it mean to remember, recall, or invest in being? Let’s take the case of one who dies. If one dies there is a presumption that one has, in fact, lived at some time or another. If there are human beings still around that remember or recall the life of the one who has died then it can be fairly said that one remembers or recalls the life of the one that died. In remembering or recalling by the living that remain after, the life of the one who has died exerts an influence on the lives of the living in ways that are at once indirect and without response-ability. Because the influence is brought about by the act of the living of constructing being remembered, the act of remembering or recalling is only present in the existential time of the living. But there is not, nor can there be, any form of response on the part of the one who died. This memory is only a construction by the living of the dead. If the dead remembered or recalled was someone with relative fame, then the remembering often becomes iconized by written history or biography. This iconization brings with it many interpretative problems that address issues of correspondence to reality. Depending on the level of notariety, the remembering or recalling of a famous person may extend to the ends of time. On the other hand, if the dead person is not famous, the length of memory is reduced to those individuals that have had direct contact with or indirect contact through those with direct contact with the one who died. For example, I have direct contact with my grandparents but only indirect contact with my great grandparents. A third level of memory is one without any direct link to the person recalled and is accomplished through stories that have been passed down through families. A final level of memory occurs when one is able to trace a family tree to as far back as one can go, however, the further from the present and the first two levels of contact the smaller the influence felt.

Investing in being is a form or remembering or recalling, however, unlike the first two, investing in being does not relate directly to any human being that ever lived. More generally, investing and entity in being is a fictive construction created in such a way as to have a meaningful influence on living human beings. Often, investing in being takes the form of religious narratives in which human beings invest in the supernatural the personification of a godhead that impacts the daily life of man. Not based on anything that has lived, the godhead performs the same function as the remembered human being; without response-ability it impacts upon human actions so as to heighten awareness of exestential response-ability of the one living.

It is clearly no accident that, as Joseph Campbell argued, storied themes flow through all of cultural narrative. Every cultural group has a sacred text that references the creation of the world as well as stories of birth, death, and resurrection. These narratives serve to acquaint one with the infinite in ways that satisfy curiosity without actual empirical knowledge. Stripped of their particulars, the stories are remarkably similar one to the other. This is no accident, claims Campbell. The explanatory stories require leaps of faith that transport one back to the time before birth or forward to the time after death by providing a glimpse of the world outside of the closed universe.

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