The circular, “synthetic;’ and pleromatic grandeur of the Hegelian infinite and the chaotic, univocal, and unharmonizable flux of the postmodern infinite are equally dreary; but the Christian infinite, free of the mechanical hypotaxis of the one and the boring boisterousness of the other, yields a profuse and irreducible parataxis, a boundless flood of beauties, beyond synthesis, but utterly open to analogy, complexity, variations, and refrains.The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth by David Bentley Hart.
Within such an infinite, the Spirit’s power to redeem discordant lines is one not of higher resolution but of reorientation, a restoration of each line’s scope of harmonic openness to every other line.
It is the promise of Christian faith that, eschatologically, the music of all creation will be restored not as a totality in which all the discords of evil necessarily participated, but as an accomplished harmony from which all such discords, along with their false profundities, have been exorcised by way of innumerable “tonal” (or pneumatological) reconciliations. This is the sense in which theology should continue to speak of the world in terms of a harmonia mundi, a musica mundana, or the song of creation.
…Let me stipulate that creation can never be understood, in Christian thought, simply as a text that conceals a more fundamental set of abstract meanings, to which all its particularities can be reduced; when I use the word “theme” here, I mean it in its strictly musical sense, to indicate a phrase or motif, a point of departure, which is neither more true nor less complex than the series of variations to which it gives rise. The “theme” of creation is the gift of the whole, committed to limitless possibilities, open to immeasurable ranges of divergence and convergence, consonance and dissonance (which always allows for the possibility of discord), and unpredictable modulations that at once restore and restate that theme.
The crisis of love does not derive from too many others so much as from the erosion of the Other. This erosion is occurring in all spheres of life; its corollary is the mounting narcissification of the Self. In fact, the vanishing of the Other is a dramatic process—even though, fatefully enough, it largely escapes notice. Eros concerns the Other in the strong sense, namely, what cannot be encompassed by the regime of the ego. Therefore, in the inferno of the same, which contemporary society is increasingly becoming, erotic experience does not exist.Byung-Chul Han in The Agony of Eros.
By the Metropolitan John Zizioulas (shortened version of a lecture given at the European Orthodox Congress given in October, 1993 that was reprinted here):
Theology and Church life involve a certain conception of the human being: personhood. This term, sanctified through its use in connection with the very being of God and of Christ, is rich in its implications.
The Person is otherness in communion and communion in otherness. The Person is an identity that emerges through relationship (schesis, in the terminology of the Fathers); it is an “I” that can exist only as long as it relates to a “Thou” which affirms its existence and its otherness. If we isolate the “I” from the “Thou,” we lose not only its otherness but also its very being; it simply cannot be without the other. This is what distinguishes the person from the individual.
The Orthodox understanding of the Holy Trinity is the only way to arrive at this concept of Personhood: the Father cannot be conceived for a moment without the Son and the Spirit, and the same applies to the other two Persons in their relation with the Father and with each other. At the same time each of these Persons is so unique that their hypostatic or personal properties are totally incommunicable from one Person to the Other.
Personhood is inconceivable without freedom; it is the freedom of being other. I hesitate to say “different” instead of “other” because “different” can be understood in the sense of qualities (clever, beautiful, holy, etc.), which is not what the person is about. In God all such qualities are common to the each three Persons. Person implies not simply the freedom to have different qualities but mainly the freedom simply to be yourself. This means that a person is not subject to norms and stereotypes and cannot be classified in any way; its uniqueness is absolute. This means that only a person is free in the true sense.
And yet one person is no person; freedom is not freedom from the other but freedom for the other. Freedom becomes identical with love. God is love because He is Trinity. We can love only if we are persons, allowing the other to be truly other and yet be in communion with us. If we love the other not in spite of his or her being different but because they are different from us, or rather other than ourselves, we live in freedom as love and in love as freedom.
The other is a condition of our freedom. Freedom is not from but for something other than ourselves. This makes the person ecstatic, going outside and beyond the boundaries of the self. But this ecstasis is not to be understood as a movement towards the unknown and the infinite; it is a movement of affirmation of the other.
This drive of personhood towards the affirmation of the other is so strong that is not limited to the “other” that already exists but wants to affirm an “other” which is totally free grace of the person. Just as God created the world as free grace, so the person wants to create its own “other.” This is what happens with art: the artist creating a totally other identity as an act of freedom and communion. Living in the Church in communion with the other means, therefore, creating a culture. The Orthodox Church has always been culturally creative.
Finally, we must consider the ecological problem. The threat to God’s creation is due to a crisis between the human being and the otherness of the rest of creation. Man does not respect the otherness of what is not human; he tends to absorb it into himself.
This is the cause of the ecological problem. In a desperate attempt to correct this, Man may easily fall into the pagan alternative: to absorb Man into nature. We have to be very careful. Out of its tradition, Orthodoxy is called to offer the right Christian answer to the problem. Nature is the “other” that Man is called to bring into communion with himself, affirming it as “very good” through personal creativity.
This is what happens in the Eucharist where the natural elements of bread and wine are so affirmed that they acquire personal qualities — the Body and Blood of Christ — in the event of the communion of the Holy Spirit. Similarly, in a para-eucharistic way, all forms of true culture and art are ways of treating nature as otherness in communion, and these are the only healthy antidotes to the ecological illness.