Order

Order has been on my mind of late, in three ways.

I have been learning to order my writing. My natural disorderliness has over the years been increased by the habit of blogging. Every good comes with the possibility of a perversion (at least most goods. I do not intend, by saying ‘every good,’ to word a categorical syllogism), and the good of a blog which you intend as practice to write something every day is that you may cultivate a weakness. I have been helped along these lines—because I first solicited it, I may add—by N. R. Weiss. That is not to say that Mr. Weiss bears any blame for the disorder apparent on my blog, but that he deserves credit for helping me see what little I have seen and managed to communicate of order. He has been very helpful and willing. I have long distances still to measure, but can feel my progress. So much so, that yesterday when I attempted to proceed in my usually disorderly way I was sufficiently repugned to abort the attempt.

I also think that observation has led me to conclude that the country in which I now sojourn—Colombia—is characterized by nothing so much as disorder. Disorder at the political level, at the social level, in their transportation system (they don’t use maps, they have no culture of maps, when maps are provided they don’t get them, some of them refuse to use the more organized Transmilenio and I think it is because the ordering principle is not the baffling chaos of their more traditional mess). I meditate upon it when I see them crowding in front of the door through which half the population of Bogota can be expected to emerge in a few seconds. They come together, they strain, they trickle through simultaneously in both directions, I watch and wonder, storing up these things in my heart. Let me say I have learned a lot from the passive acceptance of the irrationality of human behavior, about not struggling against the inevitable from Colombians. But I don’t want to learn this to the degree that it is practiced on a daily basis in Bogota. And it seems to me that life is disordered because there is no organization within. You even see it in the churches (“I like churches with American pastors because they’re so much better organized,” one lady said. That needs to change). So I have been reflecting on how the solution is an ordering within each individual, and the problem of that.

In reading, Barfield has suggested to my consideration that there are two principles of organization: the external, which is mechanical and the internal, which is organic. He mentions this in an essay pointing out how scientific procedure and assumptions lead to our technological ability. We are concerned with appearances, with surfaces and objects and so our triumph is in the ordering from without which is that of the machine and useful for many things. There is much good in this, but there has been a neglect of the internal, and for him that means the spiritual (I sometimes think this is why Lewis called Anthroposophy a kind of Gnosticism, but if so, that would be careless of Lewis, so I am not inclined to entertain that idea very long). Barfield believes in a nisus, a struggling to be born and to emerge into consciousness of the internal ordering principle by which a plant develops, an embryo develops, etc. This is much of anthroposophy: the idea that the underlying order and meaning must be spiritual, pushing out into the world of our perceptions and which we should go seeking not only by examining objects, but investigating purposes, meanings, the spiritual significance of things. In short, it is a belief that science should take the inner parts of the world into account, not just the surfaces, the appearances, that it should proceed also as Goethe proceeded. But Barfield’s suggestion arranges those two kinds of order into an order which helps me understand them better.

A beginning, a middle and an end. That also is part of a proper order, and so a conclusion must somehow follow. An idea has been grasped to the point where it is having practical consequences. An observation is making its way into a theory with a practical warning and a practical problem. The last idea is the idea of the arrangement, one might say, of practical and ideal, a very crucial problem. It is a different stage in my life, to have practical problems in my mind.

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