Ultimately, I think, there is only one great Pattern, and only God can see it fully. We creatures are only given the ability to see distinct parts of it, or, in rare moments of insight, to have an instant in which we see the whole but as through a glass darkly, and can never seem to recall exactly what it was that we saw. Pink Floyd, in the song Comfortably Numb,
put it brilliantly:When I was a child, I caught a fleeting glimpse
Out of the corner of my eye
I turned to look but it was gone
I cannot put my finger on it now
The child is grown, and the dream is gone
The Pattern is simply too grand to wrap our little minds around. Besides, in a lifetime we have opportunities to encounter only a tiny fraction of the clues needed to point us to anything like an integration of the complete Pattern. And so we speak of many patterns: the flavor of a dish, the body of the doctrines of our faith, traffic patterns, fish habitats, and so on. And that's fine, that's consistent with our creatureliness.
Ultimately, all of our integrations are partial with respect to The Pattern, but it is possible to speak of patterns in a restricted sense, with respect to a particular person, idea, event, and so on. But most of the time even those integrations are partial, incomplete, not a fully orbed view of that part of the pattern. This produces the sense of a broken up or spotty pattern, or perhaps of a fuzzy view of it.
It seems to me that problems with integration arise when make mistakes with respect to clues. Often, we overlook important clues. That results in incomplete integrations, or partial integrations. For example, we might fail to notice that the cars in front of us have slowed down, and end up having to slam on our brakes; the overall pattern of the road and traffic was being integrated by our brains more-or-less correctly - we weren't driving completely the wrong direction, and our speed would have been safe at that place under most circumstances - but a crucial piece of information was missing or misinterpreted. That's what auto insurance is for. And seat belts.
We also make mistakes with respect to the integration process itself. Under the pressure of various desires and motivations, or simply through inexperience, we may attempt to force clues together that don't belong to the same part of the pattern, or to force them together in awkward and, um, unfitting(?) ways, producing a warped view of the pattern. For example, when faced with a flooded road, we might be so determined to get home that we ignore the perenial plea of rescue workers not to drive into it, and end up being washed downstream. We think we remember where the roadbed is, and we think we know that the current couldn't be strong enough to carry away our heavy car. We want to believe that it's safe to cross. But every year, numerous people are wrong. Their view of the pattern was warped enough to cause them severe loss or death.
So, here we are, all walking (and driving!) around with warped, fuzzy eyes, seeing a set of disconnected, warped, fuzzy patterns. This, I think is what Picasso, Dali, and Duchamp were trying to show us. We've all got our own little private modern art show going all the time. I don't think that condition was new to the 20th century. What was new was giving in to it, trying to ignore the transcendent, and pretending to believe that what we perceive is all there is. Again, Pink Floyd sums it up memorably, from Dark Side of the Moon:All you touch, and all you see
Are all your life will ever be
And thus, at last, everything under the sun was in tune - but the sun was eclipsed by the moon. But that's a matter of art philosophy, not epistimology. There can be no epistimology during a total eclipse. So let's shed a little light on the subject, and get to what the title of this post forboded.
With that background, I was thinking about the rightness of being predisposed to accept some ideas and reject others because of having integrated a certain set of clues toward what looks like a fairly coherent pattern (ch 19, The Power of the Pattern). Even that is not a straightforward, black-and-white situation. It admits to degrees. That is, we are not limited to either fully accepting an idea because it fits an integrated pattern, or fully rejecting it because it doesn't fit. We can be, and often are, somewhere in between, and in motion toward one or the other.
With respect to fundamental beliefs, most of us spend most of our time being reasonably confident about the pattern(s) to which we have integrated to date. Ordinarilly, we don't worry about whether the floor of our house is really level, whether our foot will touch down when we expect it to, and whether it will hold our weight. We just walk, confident in our embodied sense of our environment.
But there are many things with respect to which we waver, oscillating between alternate or even opposing ways to integrate the clues, either unsure how the clues integrate or unsure which of two (or more) appealing but incompatible potential integrations is truer to the Pattern. Or sometimes, it's the pattern which appears to be wavering, shifting, not altogether coherent; sometimes that's because we're trying to force some things to fit that don't belong, and sometimes due to simply having too few clues in view (whew!), too few pieces of the puzzle fit together yet.
For example, for a few years, I was convinced of four of the five legendary and controversial "points of Calvinism." But I was hung up on that middle one, the dreaded L of "Limited Atonement." Over a period of years, I went from being strongly opposed to it, to having this gnawing feeling that it was true but not wanting it to be, to feeling ambivalent about it, to warily thinking it might be true, to thinking it probably was true but still not accepting it and teaching it. Then one day, reading R.C. Sproul's book Chosen By God,
the lightbulb came brightly on. The pieces fit. "Oh, no! I'm a Calvinist!" I said with that tone little kids use when they say "brussel sprouts."
There are some parts of the Pattern that we close our own eyes to, patterns we refuse to acknowlege. Our bentness is ever blinding us to parts of the Pattern that would make clear to us our creatureliness, limits, and bentness, and thus our need to repent and submit. This can keep us in a state of flux between one or more seemingly possible integrations, even when we know (or strongly suspect) which one is truer. For example, none of us wants to see how prideful and idolatrous we really are. We are saturated in the clues to the pattern of our wretchedness. They are found in most of our words and deeds. But to see it would make us too poor in spirit, it would cause us to mourn too deeply, to fall flat on our faces before God and cry for mercy, to become meek, and love our enemies, and all that other stuff that is way yonder too much for our flesh to bear. So we willingly turn a blind eye.
Now, Christians are people who are being conformed to the holy, incorruptible image of Christ, while still living in the fallen world. While our inner person has been given new life, we contend daily with what the apostle Paul called "the body of this death" (Romans 7). We are in the process of being straightened out, but we still suffer the dreadfully frustrating effects of the bentness we all inherited from our mutual longfather, Adam. Consequently, while we have the influence of the indwelling Holy Spirit to help us integrate toward the truth, we also must constantly fight the influences of the flesh, the world, and the devil pushing us to warp our integrations in fleshly, worldly, and demonic ways.
Apply that to the subject of church music. All church music facilitators know that one of the effects (not the primary purpose) of having a bunch of music before the sermon is that it helps restore the congregation to a state of mind in which we are more ready and willing to receive the Word. In LTK terms, the music provides a set of clues compatible with and complimentary to those of scripture (ideally), helping to predispose us to a scriptural (that is, True) integration. It occurred to me the other day that church music ought to sort of shepherd our minds toward a spiritual integration rather than a worldly or fleshly one.
I gasped at that thought. Shepherd! The shepherd as a model for the authoritative guide. A Polanyian meditation on Ps 23, anyone?
That, in turn, got me thinking about the beauty and wonder of metaphors like "shepherd." It struck me that the Polanyian epistemic model accounts for the power of metaphors and similes, poetry and stories, to communicate truth -- more powerful than exhaustive lucidity by a fair piece. The same cannot be said for the traditional Western model.