With the cautionary words of the last post in place, we proceed to creation – all things seen and unseen – and the analogy from a story.
Now, the thing we must keep in mind is that when God creates the Universe, he does it out of an overflow of love, and not for his own need or want. Rather, if it can be imagined, he creates for the good of that Creation, for the sake of those sentient beings who will inhabit it (and for other things besides – is it not better for a tree to exist, rather than not to exist?).
This differs from the typical purpose of storytelling: A story is told for an audience. So, here, we must imagine that our author is telling her story for the sake of her characters, and if it were not for their sake, she would not tell it.
And that, at least, is a cursory look at what it means to be all-loving.
Returning to the point, we have an author who wills to create characters and give them life. Now, just how could she do this?
It will help to draw a distinction, in this world she is creating, between the abstract realm and the physical realm. That is, she can begin to create a character who is charming and impetuous without having to decide whether the character is tall or short, fat or slim. Then the question is, how will we know this character is charming and impetuous?
Can a person be charming without speaking? Without having a body? Even if a person can be charming without speaking and without having a body (as some would describe God), can a person be those things without a medium through which to convey them?
That is, we experience God’s charm through some coincidence, or by the impression of natural beauty, or else by a sense of peace at an unexpected time. If you existed only as a mind, without a Universe, how would you convey charm?
That an author chooses a medium analogous to our own is not important (and more than analogous – in imitation of our own), so much as that it is also a medium. She can’t tell the story without some analogue to our physical realm. The characters need a “place” in which to dwell, with “matter” they can manipulate for their (abstract) purposes, and “time” in which to carry out their (abstract) plans and desires.
Moreover, they need a realm within which they can relate to each other. These relationships are often the chief focus of drama (apart from “man v. nature” stories) and the means by which they find and communicate (abstract) meaning.
There is no relationship, therefore, between you and your significant other, apart from the physical world. But the purpose of your relationship – love, hopefully – is abstract, transcending the physical means you have chosen to convey it.
(I pause now as I am positively inundated with possible lines of thought. It is like standing on the South Pole and deciding to move north – you can choose from countless angles which way you want to go).
The physical realm – this very moment – gives me a means by which I can communicate with you, and perhaps all activity in the physical world is communication of one kind or another. Habits and drives pose an interesting challenge here, but this is not the direction we want…
And so our author, at any rate, creates a world for her characters. Typically, this world will imitate our own, but it often attempts a departure of one kind or another – whether in geography, cumulative history and culture, or some other significant way. As I said before, the only important thing is that it IS a medium, or else her characters could not relate.
Imagine it this way – she creates a character who is impetuous and charming, and another who is shy and harsh. Now, without creating a world – remember, no bodies, so no speech, no vision, nothing physical – how shall they interact?
One might even ask at what point they will achieve personhood – surely the quality of being charming is not equivalent to personhood. What must be added? (Yet another question for another day)
Perhaps, with so many directions to take, there was something hidden in our point of departure – that is, the earlier thought, that “There is no relationship, therefore, between you and your significant other, apart from the physical world. But the purpose of your relationship – love, hopefully – is abstract, transcending the physical means you have chosen to convey it.”
The author, in choosing to imitate the real world, takes many things for granted, and this is just one way we can see how any human author is inferior to God. Nevertheless, the author takes on – or challenges – the (abstract) significance of things in the physical world. For the author, those physical things in the story really do mean something (abstract). In more mundane stories, a gun means essentially the same thing it means in our world; but a talisman is something our world finds mundane, while the story finds it magical.
In the next post we’ll develop this a bit further, and attempt to bring together the abstract and the physical.