The functional aspects of reality, especially the functional aspects of living reality, are the first attempt we are using to describe ordinary, physical transcendence. What is transcendence? Many definitions may come to mind, the one we want to offer is freedom from lower aspects of self. We identify strongly with ourself and aspects of ourself. Those are mine, we say. Those are my eyes, my legs, my heart, my skin, my attitudes, my belongings, my wife.
Transcendence for us externally is very easy to understand. Our wife fulfills a function, if the functionality diminishes, say through death, we don’t marry our wife again — she is dead — but rather we find another woman to fulfill those functions. If our car breaks down, we find a replacement part or parts that fulfill the same functions as before. We do not need to buy the identical parts from the same manufacturer, we find something that will do. Sometimes we have to “make do” and find an object that can perform a similar function, for instance glue where a screw use to be or a screw to hold together what the glue used to do. The important concept is not screw or glue but the holding together. Many different physical things may be able to perform the same function.
A wife is generally chosen for functional attributes. Her ability to rear children, her attractiveness, or her good health. Perhaps we need a servile woman or a powerful woman to stand by our side. Perhaps we need a flexible woman to join us mountain climbing or a supportive woman as we climb our ladder of success at the corporation.
Thus the instance of an object is replaced with the idea of the instance of a class. We are not looking for object A, we are looking for a member of class A. We are looking not for a particular woman, in this analogy, but rather for a particular type of wife. Now, of course, we do not want to take an overly clinical view and to propose that some man goes, “I shall go find me a wife with the following properties.” The reality is, however, that may be exactly what happens in practice, as a blond mountain climber, occasional pot smoker, meets and marries a blond mountain climber, occasional pot smoker. Opposites do attract, but it is the similarities of function that endure.
A function is the “doing” aspect of being. What does a wife do? That is her functions. What does a heart do? That is its function. Replace the heart, replace its function. Replace a wife, replace her function.
Application of this to ourself brings us to a low level of transcendence. We are attached to our arm, in most cases, and our arms are attached to us. But during a mishap of a terrible sort that attachment can be broken, and we shudder at the loss of a limb. While tragic and a crisis, in our modern world the tragedy is not nearly so debilitating. Our arms perform functions and those functions can be performed by artificial arms, which are constantly improving. The aesthetics of the arm can be replaced by the aesthetics of a modern high-tech claw. While not similar, both can be aesthetic. The opening and closing of the fingers, to perform a grip or to hold something, can be functionally replaced by a claw, even if the functionality of the latter is still somewhat limited. One can imagine in some future advanced technological society, that every cell, every organ, every tissue and every system could be replaced by a robotic analog that could perform the similar function. We will put off the concept of consciousness and conscious connection to that functionality, but, for now we can imagine replacing a body atom by atom with atoms that perform the same function but might be otherwise dissimilar. Transplantation of functional assemblies into a body is a major goal of human medicine: artificial limbs, kidneys (transplanted kidneys), livers, hearts, lungs. Indeed, many medicines themselves provide the molecules that are no longer being produced by a dysfunctional organ. One can take thyroid, pancreatic or sex hormones to replace a malfunctioning thyroid, pancreas or sex organ.
Transcendence in this case is understood to be the functioning of the one is independent of any particular member of a class, as long as a member of the class performs a function. Same at societal levels. Advertisers do not advertise “Looking for Mr Smith” who may happen to be an accountant. Instead they advertise “Look for an accountant” who may happen to be Mr Smith. If hired and Mr Smith is unable to perform the functions of his job, he will be trained, if necessary, by the company, but, if the functionality of his job continues to not be performed, Mr Smith will be given the fateful pink slip, and another accountant will be hired. “Failure to perform” is a frequent reason for termination. A sickly employee may be terminated for “not being at work enough to perform his functions”. While somewhat cold and heartless it may seem, for the heart of a company to keep beating, its various business functions must be performed. The CEO must execute the duties of their office, it makes no difference what those particular duties are or who the particular instance of the CEO is. The company is looking for performance, which may include the personal, unique attributes of the personality performing, but in all likelihood is not dependent upon them.
Transcendence is therefore when an organism has a functional view of itself. My feet walk, my feet perform a function. Bicycles, cars, wheelchairs, artificial prosthesis, crutches, helicopters, and so on may all take the place of non-performing feet. Overcoming our difficulties usually means finding an alternative means of achieving a function with non-functional subsystems.
Thus Larz’s channel is a function of Larz. Transcending could involve any form of creating the material: typing, dictation, signing, or some other formation of the language. It is the channel, not the fingers, that are of interest. In the same way it may be the insulin, not the pancreas, testosterone and not the testis, or sperm (and not the testis) and so on. We begin to identify with our functions, not with our particular state of matter. We identify as a person who is able to go from one place to another, we identify with our mobility, as opposed to identifying with our particular feet.
This becomes a challenge over the years. We start out microscopically small. By the time we enter into the world we are on the order of ten pounds, by the time we leave it, on the order of one hundred pounds, an order of magnitude larger. During the intervening years our teeth may fall out (thank you for dentures) our hair may fall out and turn gray, our skin may sag and wrinkle, our joints stiffen up. Who is the “I” left after all these changes. Is there an “I” that transcends the body?
To one degree the answer can be found in the transcendence of functionality. We become our functions. We identify as a pianist perhaps, but then as our fingers stiffen, as a musician. We realize that it is an expression of our joy of music that matters, and if our fingers can’t, then perhaps our vocal chords can, and if our ability to directly produce music fails, then maybe we can express that joy of music as a composer or as a music director. Maybe, at a minimum, we are only able to find a timely and heartfelt selection of music to play on our stereo system, but still to some degree we are able to produce music, however limited our functions have become.
Larz is still struggling with his channel these days. No worries there. We have all the time in the universe to speak.