Philosophy

Does Rhythm have a Metaphysical Ground?

Quite a while back now someone asked me a really good question that I wonder about sometimes. It just occurred to me that this might be the sort of thing that is interesting to more people. The question is something like this: “Is there a more transcendent rhythm than the rhythm of creation that grounds it in some way? Is it tied to some metaphysical scheme?” Here’s where I stand on that question at this point:

I think it’s possible to say that the Judeo-Christian tradition supports the idea that rhythm is not only an essential part of the DNA of creation, perhaps even the most fundamental dimension, but that there is a greater transcendent rhythm in some sense. This is reflected in Genesis 1, which describes creation through several layers of rhythm. The clearest of these are the repetition of call-and-response in the “God said let there be…and there was…God saw that it was good” refrain and the Spirit hovering over the waters. What I think this tells us is that rhythm is a fundamental form in and through which God interacts with creation. This is the greater transcendent rhythm to which the rhythm of creation (represented in the oscillation between morning and evening, for example) connects.
But this is about as far as I am willing to go and in some ways it doesn’t tell us very much. I am not willing to identify a greater transcendent rhythm beyond the relationship between God and creation, to nail down a rhythm that is independent of creation to which the rhythm of creation then coheres or corresponds.
This means that, so far, I have not been willing to say that rhythm is part of some Trinitarian situation. Nor have I been willing to associate it with the transcendentals. The only metaphysical scheme that with which I have been willing to associate rhythm is the between-ness of God and creation (to borrow from William Desmond). My primary reason for this is epistemological. I just don’t think we can abstract ourselves from this situation to be able to attribute rhythm to God as a quality as such and have any idea what we mean. In fact, I do not think we can abstract ourselves from rhythm enough to even claim to know what it is independent of our experience of it. When we talk about rhythm we are always talking about ourselves and we should be upfront about this at all times. I realize this is true of a whole lot of things but it’s particularly true of rhythm in that one cannot know a rhythm from the outside because experience in time is crucial to its nature.
I cannot really even answer the metaphysical question of whether rhythm is an independent feature of created reality with which humans sync up or just a fundamental dimension of what it means to be human through which we engage the world or some combination of the two. Answering that question would require stepping outside my experience of rhythm, which is impossible. Even in the case of Genesis, the author may either be trying to indicate something fundamental about reality as such, irrespective of any human presence, or he might be indicating something fundamental about creation and its relation to God as we encounter it. I lean towards the latter because I just don’t see how anyone could make sense of creation or of rhythm independent of such encounter. What I can say is that rhythm is a fundamental dimension of the nature of encounter both within creation and between creation and God (which is never known independent of our particular intra-creaturely position). It is simply the intersection of these two movements, and nothing else, that are this more fundamental “metaphysical” rhythm. It is not grounded in anything more stable than this. So I suppose encounter or intersection or between-ness or relation is the only possibility for something that “grounds” rhythm.
Now, I can see that it might be possible to then extrapolate or project the rhythm of such encounter or relatedness into the intra-Trinitarian relatedness as well but I haven’t figured out a way to do that honestly. Either you believe in the difference between economic and immanent trinity, in which case how would I even get from the one to the other? How would I know what dimensions of the economic can be projected onto the immanent? Or you believe that the immanent Trinity simply is the economic Trinity, in which case we would never talk about an intra-Trinitarian rhythm independent of its relation to creation anyway, so there probably isn’t much point in asking the question about an intra-Trinitarian rhythm in any transcendent, grounding sense.
This is, in any case, where I find myself at the moment. In some ways, I’m not very satisfied with it. Sometimes I would like a more robust metaphysical scheme, to be able to tie it more directly to Beauty as a transcendental. But so far, I don’t think it’s a good idea. It feels like an over-reach. This is reinforced by (a) the problems generated by the attempts that I’ve seen to do so thus far and by (b) the fact that the work on rhythm on which I rely (specifically, Przywara), do not seem to me to go much farther than this either. This is not to say that I am not open to such associations in the future, but I also think that perhaps encounter is not as weak a “ground” as we’d like to think and we should be suspicious of our desire to want to move beyond it.

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