Thursday, December 18, 2014

Analog and the Analogia Entis

My friend Jonathan Rundman, in a song about receiving a mix-tape in the mail, sings:

vinyl is so warm, digital is clean 
but tapes are something different 
you know what i mean 
i thank the lord above for things that never fail 
blessed by blank cassettes and the u.s. mail

He's right. Tapes have that steady, analog, continuous sound without the pop or sputter of vinyl. On a record, the sound is stored by the continuous texture of the surface. On a tape, the sound is store by the continuous fluctuation of the field strength of the magnetic recording. 

Both are continuous, analog. There is no crisp translation to numbers. Digital has many strengths, but it does detach in order to deepen. In analog, there always remains the rub of the vinyl, or the waver of the field.

My continuing love of analog was revived today when I sat in 3rd grade and watched the Peanuts Christmas special. I'm old enough to remember watching film strips in elementary, before there were VCRs (or at least before they were in common use in classrooms, and the battle raged between beta and VHS). 

Today, any movie is quickly sent digitally from the teacher's laptop, to the ceiling projector, to the screen. Which is great, and really far better than the cumbersome effects of film strip complications. Nevertheless, there is a loss of texture. There is an introduction of strange discontinuity.

All of which has me thinking about a class loci in Christian theology, the analogia entis.

Analogia entis is the theological concept that there exists something that analogically corresponds to the creator (of everything) that makes contemplation of the nature of that creator possible. In other words, the very being of creation offers an analogy by which one can contemplate the being of God.

Karl Barth famously rejected the analogia entis early in his theological work, only to sneak it back in later in the Church Dogmatics. It makes me wonder, given how existential Barth was in his early outlook, whether his point of view was somewhat digital. Was his rejection of the analogia entis influenced by thinking of it as a kind of math, rather than a texture or field?

I mean, if God beyond being is only approachable by distance, by complete translation from what is into that beyond is-ness, then of course any analogy of being deserves a "no" from Barth. A digitalia entis requires a completely other theological approach (and ought to be considered). But it cannot be, which was Barth's point. God is wholly other.

But if the analogy is analog, if the sound is translated to texture or field, if God as music is printed in the world, recorded by the field strength of what is known, this gives a completely different texture to the relationship between God and world.

It corresponds in intriguing ways to the mysteries of quantum mechanics, to be precise.

I don't know if these meditations are inspired by nostalgia, curiosity at the simple connection between analog and analogia, or mis-guided inquiry into things unrelated. No matter what, I don't mind, because I like the idea that the world might be an LP, and God Bob Dylan.

Of course that is also an analogy. But it is a textured one. No matter how far you play it through, there is a continuity. 

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