Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Omega Point

May 15, 2010

Don DeLillo’s recent novel called Point Omega (Scribner, 2010) has sent me back to the work of Teilhard de Chardin, a French Jesuit and biologist who died in New York City in the 1950s. I was introduced to his work when I was a teenager by an Anglican priest who taught biology along with theology. De Chardin developed a theory of the evolution of people, consciousness and matter which he saw as moving towards a kind of perfect relation that he called the ‘omega point’. It is over simplifying things to say that he thought of the omega point as God but he used language like ‘supreme consciousness’ as the goal and direction of the evolution of all life.

DeLillo’s short novel takes hold of the omega point idea almost making it a place within the universe (implied by the name ‘Point Omega’). The question that I was left with early on and again after reading the novel is whether there is really any place for ethics in a universe that is moving inexorably toward its end or purpose. Should we care that a character goes missing in the desert or is that just part and parcel of life working itself out. The novel almost suggests that the process is a kind of Hegelian movement of thesis-antithesis –synthesis. A man involved in the architecture of the first gulf war escapes (in a sense) to a desert which itself becomes a place of violence (perhaps) as he more or less wastes away. It is not even clear that love is a real part of ultimate consciousness in DeLillo’s vision of ultimate consciousness.

This kind of phenomenology seems to have more in common with certain kinds of Buddhist teaching than with the story of Jesus. I enjoyed the book in many ways but am still wondering what to make of it. Has anyone else read it and could you comment?

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