"If the only thing keeping a person decent is the expectation of divine reward then, brother, that person is a piece of s***. And I’d like to get as many of them out in the open as possible. You gotta get together and tell yourself stories that violate every law of the universe just to get through the goddamn day? What’s that say about your reality?"
-Rust Cohle, True Detective
Over the holidays I have discovered that my cable subscription includes HBO Canada. I've been catching up on my favourite, Game of Thrones, and discovered True Detective starring Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey. What a dark, compelling piece of writing; a perfect example of why I love American literature.
It's not so much the dark and compelling part that draws me in, but how the story-line is utilized to explore what it is to be human within the context of the human condition honestly.
McConaughey's character, Rust Cohle, is a hard-core pessimist/nihilist who riddles the whole miniseries with dark gems, his own takes on Nietzsche but not really. Or, more precisely, he is the organ in which Nietzschean genes are conceived and expressed but a creature not entirely Nietzsche but uniquely Cohle is birthed.
Nietzsche just doesn't have the constitution for it—his perspective is idealized in the notion of a 'superman', and, necessarily, speculative (ie, like Harper, Nietzsche games the system because he lacks the imagination, the capacity to be truthful)—whereas Cohle derives his perspective from the landscape he is written to witness and doesn't have the luxury to indulge in fantasy:
"The world needs bad men. We keep the other bad men from the door."
In this respect he is the archetypal Batman: he is not overwhelmed and defeated by the darkness (he does not deny darkness) but is driven by something deeper, something less certain, something like a conscious choice, something divine.
Over the last couple of weeks I've re-reading and contemplating the Mario Livio book, The Equation That Couldn't Be Solved (2005), not so much for its technical concepts but from what I've come to call the "moment of conception".
What I mean is, like Cohle's unique take on Nietzsche, I seem to be perceiving something beyond all the fancy language of mathematics (or, Nietzsche's pessimism, if you will), something approaching the metaphysical.
I've been contemplating the real line (ie, in maths, the 'real line' is defined as comprising all the numbers that organically manifest in the number line (including not only the rationals but also the irrational-, the algebraic-, and the transcendental- numbers, even unto the imaginary numbers). At the "moment of conception" of the number line, these numbers existed no matter the grief and pain that it took to discover and conceptualize them.
In each step that brought these different types of numbers into light moments of real crises mark their acceptance and reconciliation into the human mindscape. It is not only the Church, but—fundamentally—the orthodoxy and the very circumstances that resisted and conspired to deny their existence.
The history of mathematics is a microcosm of this eternal struggle, this peeling away of feeling and revelation of truth. These truths are all the more precious because of the blood and sacrifice that purchased them. Ignorance is not dark and evil because they are in its nature; darkness and distortedness are signals of an incompleteness of revelation, and therefore contingent upon their opposites. That ignorance is often marked by certainty and hubris that break and shatter under the weight of new knowledge is the truth of their utter contingency.
In this respect (this moment of conception), the opening lines of the Book of John are figuratively and literally true:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1: 1-5)
Psalm 19 says of God's glory, the works of His hands: "They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world."