The Auto-Pygmalion and the New Trinity
There are times when life just isn’t fair, where something like the death of a child unbalances all our expectations, and makes us wonder about the justice of a world where such could happen without pity or reason. Sometimes the blindness of justice speaks not to the fairness of a particular outcome, but to the fact that there is no outcome at all. Guilt is not determined in cases where guilt clearly exists, and victims are left without answers or closure.
This is one of the reasons why faith exists. That there is a more just outcome, even in another world, speaks to the need for a reason imposed on suffering, justice that we consider to be part of a trinity of emotion circling around a disembodied Father of righteousness. With the coming of the New Testament, that expectation of justice was weakened with the embodied expression of love, where believing in that embodiment could bypass justice, where sins could be forgiven even at the last by a love so indiscriminate that it might as well be blind also. Justice and love: the rocks on which the church was built, and all that was needed to access these two foundations was faith. The Holy Ghost, then, was in us, and the only body that we could see, or need to see, was ours. Faith was to be absorbed into the body, carved into the marrow, a bone-deep realisation that would transcend both flesh and reason and reconcile the Trinity to itself as the basis of the ethical world.
But what happens when faith is no longer possible? How can the trinity survive if one of the foundations is gone, and the embodiment of the principles underlying a theist universe no longer exists? For the father cannot be touched, and even if the son existed his body is lost to us, and faith cannot transubstantiate it into bread or bone to be a touchstone for those to whom faith is lost.
We need the experience of the body, for the body we inhabit has limits that cannot be transcended by our understanding of mortality. For the faithless, the question of love and justice cannot be connected with our own bodies within the understanding of the old trinity. When reason tells us that survival of faith after bodily dissolution does not exist, then the question of justice becomes one of disembodiment, where outcomes are neither certain nor fair, and the disconnection between the individual body and the untouchable body of justice is complete.
Can reason breach this gap; provide a bridge over the broken foundations of the old understanding? What does it mean for our understanding of the underpinnings of the universe if it cannot? Must we live in a world where our knowledge of love and justice is believed illusion, a cultural construct where the quiet voice within us that perceives injustice is a ghost of a past culture, given embodiment in us? If so, what happens in the days to come when that ghost is silenced?
If the choice is between an old trinity that cannot be believed in, and the wreckage of that trinity held together by a changing ghost, can we not form a new trinity? A new trinity for the faithless, where love and justice have their places, but are bolstered rather than underpinned by a third pillar, one which stands as our minds and our bones amidst both culture and reason.
For we live in the Body of rather than the Age of Reason, we who live in an age where both love and justice are blind. One cannot be just without compassion, and love is facile where there is no knowledge. To stake a claim to one or the other, to carve it into our flesh and bones as the rock we would have others stand upon when that flesh is gone is to become blind ourselves, to set up false idols in the place of Enlightenment.
If there is a trinity, it encompasses more than love and justice. Perhaps the true Holy Ghost is mortality, the knowledge that blindness is imperfection – and that imperfection fails.
If love is for the young, the open-eyed wonder of their rightful place in a welcoming world, then justice is for the middle-aged, the scale fallen from their eyes and into their hands. The old are meant for mortality, in whose darkness the true blindness of the remaining trinity is illuminated – before reason itself dies bodily, and the Age is over.
But when the order is reversed, and mortality stands over the young, for a moment it stands for and before us all – and the knowledge that there is no perfect love, no perfect justice, gives the clarity of perfect vision for one perfect moment. It tells us that this life is all that we have; and what our reason makes it, what rock our blindness chooses to stand upon, is the meaning we choose to carve into our bones for when our flesh is gone.
See more posts by Eva at her blog.