Different Things Together
In human life many of us are drawn to two competing ideals: harmony and intensity, peace and adventure, order and chaos, unity and individuality, rest and zest.
The philosopher Paul Kuntz argues that Whitehead brings them together. Whitehead reminds us that harmony needs chaos and vagueness; that spontaneity is as important as predictability; that harmony is not always good and disharmony is not always bad; that intense experiences can be ever the more intense because they bring things together harmoniously; and that even as we might enjoy various kinds of harmony, we ought not rest in them too completely, because life includes novelty and incompatible perfections. For Whitehead, so Kuntz shows, Harmony is not stagnation. It is the living reality of differences held together, beautifully, for a time. Different feelings, different ideas, different people, different lives - together for a time.
We might also hope for a certain kind of ultimate harmony, a harmony of harmonies in which the differences are held together everlastingly, albeit in a way that includes zest and newness. This would be a metaphysical harmony or, as it were, theological harmony, because the harmony of harmonies is part of what we mean by God. Whitehead's philosophy invites us to recognize this harmony, too, as experienced in an intuitive sense in a peace that surpasses understanding. If we speak of God as Harmony, we best add that God, too, is in process and that in some small way, we participate in the divine beauty, not by absolutizing our own cherished forms of harmony, but by trusting that there is a Beauty beyond our own, which allows us not to rest too completely in the finite harmonies we enjoy.
- Jay McDaniel, 9/30/2022