Thoughts From World 3

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A fool can offer words, a creator can offer worlds

An academic can show you a world, a dreamer invites you into it

Consumers of knowledge are everywhere, generators of knowledge are the rarity

Anyone can summarize the great thoughts of others, yet not simply anyone can have great thoughts

An English teacher can beat a word into submission, a wordsmith can heal its wounds

A protector of doctrine can outline a concept, a lover of the world asks the concept why

A Truth can be hard/concrete or it can be Truth

The beginning of truth is the end of knowledge

Prose can show you the road, only poetry can create it

History can give you a story, the future must give you a home

You can audition for the world or you can make the world watch your audition

God can be your cage or God can be gateway

If God is love than love is our ultimate concern

The letterbox is the world, what do we drop into it

We can use our imagination or we can die thinking we see

Why be busy learning the story of others when you can write the story yourself

Meaning can be learned…might it be better created

Pain cannot be written, it can only be felt

Silence has a voice heard in its speechlessness

Vision is not what you see it’s what happens when you close your eyes

Love is unspeakable; it is the language of her stare

It is not happiness to write, it is sadness to quiet it

Longfellow turned to words, why must you then turn to Law

Thoreau found himself in the woods, after he was lost

Poe saw beauty yet we confuse it with madness

Freud thought the unthinkable and we remain thoughtless

Lacan dared write the real and we confused it with his words

Jesus is the son of freedom and we have preached a gospel of sadness

Faith is never certain and certainty cannot be faith

If you fear nothing than for what do you live

 

 

 

 

 

God is a Dumb Idea

zappas quote

It is fashionable nowadays to hate on Christianity and theology.

Any idiot with a keyboard thinks themselves a philosopher because they can debate an evangelical who’s extent of biblical, philosophical and theological nuances is the dictum “the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.”

SMDH.

It’s not that Christianity, or the vehicle of its transmission, theology, is above reproach. It certainly should be reproached, but not in the remedially cultural way as such is found on all sorts of social media and in popularly published books by the world’s favorite anti-religionists. Just because Dawkins says something doesn’t make it gospel, and just because a person believes in God doesn’t make them a victim of a logical fallacy. Oh how many “scientists” and lovers of empiricism would make David Hume, Isaac Newton and Galileo, roll in their collective graves over their trashy arguments and shallow thinking.

As if contrarianism is the new sign of intelligence.

If you’re gonna bash idols people, you better know what you’re picking up.

So what’s the beef? What seems to be the objection to doing Christianity, to doing theology, to…*hold your breath…gonna say the “g” word* to do careful thinking while simultaneously employing the term “GOD.” God is the problem, right?

To some, God is the Illusion or Delusion. Of all the problems religion has, God is the biggest…so let’s just chalk God up to the big nothing, dismiss why this word is operative, and claim superiority because we are not naïve.

In other words, the problem that seems to plague theology is a problem of metaphysics and God is about as metaphysical as it gets.

But is this warranted? Should we, SHOULD YOU?, dismiss it simply on the grounds of our, YOUR, presumed ideas of God and metaphysics?

The objection that theology, and Christianity, offers a rank metaphysic is true. To a degree this is true, but only to a degree is this true, but only as this question, the metaphysical one- continues to look for the answer to the primordial question of “what is.” Metaphysics is often speech about the ridiculous, using conceptions that border on laughable, using certainty that doesn’t exist…but such does not have to constitute all metaphysical speech…or speech that is concerned with the question of “what is.”

The pre-Socratic and Socratic traditions gave different answers than Christian theology to the question of “what is” yet it seems they do not experience the same sort of denigration as any form of metaphysical reflections encountered today, especially a metaphysic grounded in the conviction that there is a transcendent otherness that is at work in the creativity of the universe. Randoms acts of good matched by equally random acts of violence that creates newness in its wake.

Thales doesn’t seem to take near the flak that Christian theology takes. His questionable hypothesis regarding water as the standard constituent element of the question of “what is” is apparently redeemed because he is also the beginning of modern philosophy with his dismissal of mythology as a the first reasonable assumption one must make before beginning philosophical inquiry. After Thales, nearly all philosophers had succumbed to his critique of mythology and had to account for substance, flow and flux, apart from mythology.

Yet Thales is a man that would not make an “A” in any standard philosophy class today writing a term paper defending water as the ultimate metaphysical reference point. For a postmodern protestor, water cannot be the ultimate element for all elements are equally acceptable because they refuse ultimacy.

The real kicker is this, however: The pre-Socratic philosophers provide insights into the role of logic and modes of correlation between reality and experience, and also the ineffable transcendent character of the world that cannot be reduced to a metaphysical naturalism as is so easily done today by those who claim to be the empirical rationalists that believe and apply the scientific method (as if there is a singular thing known as such).

The very idea of science being hegemonically valued over theology as if to critique theology via realism is failing to understand its founding conceptualities. It is like critiquing Aquinas’ biology with 21st century knowledge. It simply cannot be done nor is it fair to the logical coherency of Aquinas’ positions nearly 800 years ago. It cannot be a fair critique because it does not critique the coherence of his logic and the ideas as they stand within their own intellectual current and context. It is simply too easy to critique a wholly other idea with a definition that is utterly foreign to the concept itself.

So yes, theology is a metaphysic but as such this does not imply a particular metaphysic, nor does it preclude other forms of knowledge whereby “what is” may be ascertained and neither does it imply that thinking this way will make poor thinkers, for indeed, academic theology is so broad in the fields of the humanities that one would be hard pressed to find another discipline that requires so much of our intellectual efforts to be done responsibly.
Theology is not the simple act of quoting scripture or rottenly defending dogma with an appeal to an invisible authority. Theology is not the act of asking inelegant questions that have preordained answers.

To the contrary, theology is the act of asking “what is”, “what is truth,” and then foraging the markers of humanity that have asked this very question.

Good theology will not stop at the bible nor will it bashfully start there. It will press into what a priori ideas have already been received and integrated into our schematics that make reading the bible possible at all. Why do we even receive the bible and how do we read it? It will engage thinkers that few dare to handle, Nietzsche, Cicero, Eckhart, and Bertrand Russell to name a few. ..Marked opponents to theo-logic. It will also engage more congenial thinkers such as Augustine, Wesley and even Jesus, in an attempt to bring in the nihilistic and the mystical into divine cooperation as historical revelations of what it is we seem to be thinking when we think the idea of God.

But all this cannot be said without being spoken and written…without theology acting semiotically.

Theology is a semiotic, a construction. And as such it is never given, foundational, or fundamental. It is always conditional. It is always a statement that expands the historical, lyrical, philological, architectural, genealogical, philosophical and literary condition of its timefulness. Theology is never simply revelation; it is foremost imaginative creation.

Theology does not in totalitarian fashion claim to epistemically finalize our speech or ideas…on the contrary, and following the arguments of Rowan Williams, proper theological speech simply opens up the possibility for more text, more life, more acts, more speaking.

So it may be en vogue and a cultural marker of intelligence to announce open hostility to theology and its objects, but to this I would say, those that object do not understand the object of their objection. Neither do they understand the origin of true philosophy they seek to invoke when lumping all of metaphysics, theology, philosophy, genealogy, and Christianity, etc., into the same odorless vapor.

Because Theology is not saying everything; it is saying many things, and it is not the positing of a supreme metaphysic that is outmoded by scientific empiricism, not a revealing of an ontological thing we call God that is physically somewhere out there.

What theology says is that the place from which the primordial question even comes is from a place that transcends us, surpasses our humanistic love affair with ourselves and that that place of reflection is best captured in theo-logic around the symbol of God; this is why you should study theology.

Theology does not ask you to believe and think of God filled with God, it asks you to think the symbol of God creatively. Theology is the renaissance of ideas around the ultimate question of substance, flux and change and we just happen to call the regulative principle of its discourse God.

God might be a dumb idea, but its the best word we have to try to captivate the reality that we are all dumb anyhow…we just refuse to believe it.

Drinking Coke with Lacan: the quest for THE can

soulmate can

The Coca-Cola company’s recent advertising campaign is nothing short of brilliant. Drink not just any coke, but drink the one made for you, your friends, even your soulmate. Brilliant. Nothing brings the world together like the combination of aluminum, acidic water, and high fructose corn syrup.

In one fell swoop, they have conjured up an attachment to American Corporatism, our own sense of subjectivity, and religion in a singular summer campaign that is as original and as appealing as the primordial stories of the Genesis narrative…stories that we continue to tell ourselves because we are still looking for ourselves.

An attachment to American Corporatism in that this campaign has tapped into the younger generation’ s preference for personalized products that make them feel unique, special and appeals to their sense of self. The brilliance: making us think we had something to do with the design and target of this product. The reality: we’re just having our selves sold to us in the name of our personal preference. The genius continues as nearly everyone from young adulthood to seniorhood can join and not feel excluded. How many advertising campaigns can accomplish this?

An attachment to our subjectivity in that is asks us to pursue the product made just for us. It appeals to a product with which we are familiar, but now wholly unfamiliar because now this familiar taste is labeled with our distinct form of being toward one another, our true identity marker, our name. Find the can that was made for you, then, find your friends can and you are inextricably linked in your bond of sugary, watery, goodness. Its shiny outward appearance doesn’t hurt either.

An attachment to religion because this is the real exploitation going on here. What is life but a quest for ourselves? For Meaning? For finding something that we can tangibly taste and finally find fulfillment within?
We walk into the convenient store, see ourselves pulled toward the façade of the glass covered forest of soft drinks that vie for our attention, even as the colors and wrappers distract us, and we stick our hand in the cooler, foraging around the forest until we find ourselves, our can, the one that will satisfy our thirst. And like religion, we grab the one we want, the one that helps us find ourselves, we drink, and then find we are still thirsty. Looks like we better go back for more because our thirst is never fully satisfied. Coke, the drink that satisfies without quenching. Religion, where we look to satisfy our thirst and locate ourselves in the ocean of creation. Only this coke campaign is so much cooler than religion because Coca-Cola is tapping into this unconscious reality we carry with us, rather than boringly preach it from pulpits.

But what is it that holds all these strings together? Wherein might we combine the corporate, the subject and religion into a coherent understanding that binds them all and makes this campaign so effective?

And make no mistake, it has been effective. We have yet to see the 3rd quarter results of the campaign here in America and Britain, but we know in Australia when the campaign was rolled out (2011) the sale of coke products increased among young adults by 7%, garnered 18.3 million media impressions and injected an 870% increase in Cokes Facebook following. Correspondingly, #shareacoke has been used more than 29,000 times on Twitter and early statistics for the global impact show that sales of Coke are up 6.8% to date.

This is an impressive campaign. So what holds it together?

While many media outlets want to continue to see this phenomenon as a pure marketing gimmick, appealing to the needs of a younger generation of consumers, this fails to consider that a huge spike in impressions, sales, and usage of the product cannot be created by single use/purchase history of consumers. People are not just looking for their Coke once. We are looking for it over and over again, looking for our friends, even looking for the elusive BFF or Soulmate designation that in a single can taps into our inner desire to find happiness and finally suppress our existential angst. What makes this campaign work is something that goes to the core of human constitution; it’s not as simple as “consumers like X so let’s make X.”

It works because at an unconscious level humans are continually looking to fill what Lacan calls the Lack in their own constitution, their own being, the gap created as soon as we are speaking beings born into the symbolic order. The Bible calls this “fallenness,” but perhaps Heidegger’s notion of “thrown” and Tillich’s idea of “Fall” is closer to Lacan’s idea of Lack than the of rottenness of our humanity bequeathed to us from St. Augustine.

The can is something we seek, but the reality is that the real object behind the object that is the can, let’s give Lacan some play and call the can the “O Object” (as he would), is never found. It remains hidden, out of our grasping, yet constitutional of our sense of “we’re missing something” in our life that continues to push us deeper into the field of objects we think can satisfy us yet always keep us thirsty…you know, kinda how you feel after you drink a can of coke and are thirstier than ever.

lacan-object-a

This O Object is central to the constitutionality of us all as subjects. In other words, the Can of coke is always already ontologically linked to who we are and how we create meaning, even as meaning is always still sought. The only thing that changes is the “o,” the object that symbolizes our desire for more than we have, and thus, is representative of the lack. The lack always remains with us, even though the object can change.

Today it is a can of Coke with your name. Tomorrow it may be the ring you give your lover, the car of your “dreams,” the child you’ve always wanted or even the Sports team into which you have poured all your energy. These are just “o” objects, remnants of the eternal symptom of our humanity to want more, be more, and find absolute truth in our lived experience…yet the lack remains. We need a bigger ring, a newer car, a child of a different sex, and one Super Bowl simply begets the desire of another. Nothing fills this lack, not even the living water of Jesus that requires us to return weekly in order to be served perpetually.

But where does this “o” object come from? The O represents the loss we have in our lives, and it’s not the “god shaped hole” if that is what you are thinking.

Constitutional of humanity is an originary loss. Christian theology talks about this loss as the fall from grace, the irreparable damage done by our pre-diluvian ancestors that marks the lack of God in all of us that has now been filled with a “sin” nature. What Lacan is getting at is a little more exact, observable and more empirically linked to our human relationships. It’s not the story we tell to ourselves to explain ourselves (via Genesis); it is rather the story we have lived.

At first the loss is between child and mother, child and father, as these relationships begin to stretch and sever one another at various points of a child’s development. We have all seen this, as a child moves away from fusion that the child desires to separation. Distance that is the goal of parenting and it begins to be sharpened as we speak and take in the field of objects now available to us in place of the relationship we had with our parents. Loss marks our entrance into the symbolic order of language, custom and construction of the world. Thus, life is marked by this attempt to again find wholeness and oneness that is now taken away from us in that originary unified oceanic experience that brought us into existence and nurtured our lives. Life is marked by trying to bridge that gap, between separation and unity, incomplete and complete, that creates us as subjective entities and a sense wholeness that is now only known because of the lack between ourselves and fulfillment.

Following this line of logic, Alexandre Leupin describes the possibility of “o” objects, objects of desire that fill the lack that cannot be filled, when he states, “Inasmuch as all objects of desire will later be substituted for these primary metonymies (voice, gaze, breast [of mother]) the o object is the cause of desire. Given the infinite number of objects human desire aspires to, o may be almost anything.”

The O object is not real. It is encased in the symbolic order of reality as representation of what we want and are missing in the world; it is masked as a egotistic projection. Thus, the object is both that which is external to us and also created by us as a projection of what sort of desire can actually satisfy us and give us ourselves back to ourselves. As such, these objects are inherently narcissistic. If there is one thing we can say about this Coke campaign, it is certainly that narcissim is central to its success. The objects that attempt to placate our desire, however, are always already partial objects. They can never fully fill the task that creates them. They can never satisfy desire. Or in the words of Lacan, the object is so lacking to fill our lack that it is the alienation of desire itself, pushing it further from its fulfillment. “The object is failure.” You can find your can, but you never really find you can. It’s your name, but not really. It acts to fill a need, yet it exacerbates it.

Desire is the symptom of our larger problem, of a larger truth for which we continually quest. This does not mean that truth can never be found or that the quest for truth always ends in the repetitive cycle of desire. What it does mean, however, is that truth is hidden, its clues given in the object as symptomatic expression of our lack, a lack that makes us human…and even filling the God shaped hole with Jesus won’t keep us from being drawn to cans of coke with our existential names on them.

So what makes us want the “can” with our name…the can that is better than all others and whose contents are more satisfying than any coke before them? It is that these Coke cans, who name us even as we name ourselves through them, are representative of the infinite symptom of what we all lack and are also always seeking. It is the idea that we pursue because this idea both consciously, and unconsciously, helps us construct our sense of selves and give us purpose to navigate the world, at a level of both honesty and dishonesty.

And there is nothing that does this better than finding the can for which we have been looking, only to find that we are still thirsty.

And this is the brilliance of the Coca- Cola Company. It has sold us something old, with something older, and tapped into the need we have to look for it over and over again.

*Statistics for this blog may be found at the Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/media-network/media-network-blog/2013/jul/24/share-coke-teach-brands
*Text used as reference Alexandre Leupin, Lacan Today, (Other Press: New York, 2004), 4-8.

Why in the Hell does Hell Matter? Moltmann helps us think the bad place

hell

Christianity is a religion of hope, unless of course your hope is in hell, in which case hell is your hope as the binary opposite of its cohort heaven. Hell is necessary because heaven is; one is not intelligible without the other.

But what is that really animates this our idea of hell and why do we hold onto it so tightly, a refined idea of the “afterlife” or “punishment” handed down to us via the logic of ancient peoples who lived in a 3 tiered universe?
Hell is currently such a flippant idea for so many. Millions believe in it, yet they do not live as if it’s a pending reality. But this is the incredible thing about belief: We can believe and that belief makes it real, even if the idea of the belief makes no material difference in our daily lives. Or perhaps, our actions discloses our true belief and we should learn what in the hell we believe in at all, as our mind says one thing and our hands say another.

Because lets be real. If people, millions of Christians, really believed in an “eternal” torment known as hell and they really really really wanted their loved ones to avoid it, how could we not quit our jobs and make a full time effort of warning others? If this was a firm belief, one of which we were thoroughly convinced, then surely we could not continue to meander through the distractions of modern society with all those going to hell without rushing toward them in great fear and trembling at the destruction and eternal pain that awaits all those that do not make the right choice of belief!

Seems to me, if Hell were a reality, then we would have no time to spare or energy to waste but in convincing everyone we can of this horrible horrible place.

Fact is, we don’t. 

We shake hands and nod at one another at church. We believe what the “bible says” (whatever that means) and we carry on, as if hell is this distant land that will never matter in the here and now.

So what animates our obsession with hell and our fantastic ideas of it? Why do we NEED this logic, a logic of separation, punishment, a peculiar idea of the character of God? Why in the hell is hell so important and is our logic of it illogical at best?

For many ancient peoples, Hell was a means of talking about destruction, particularly to the fiery elements that would eventually destroy creation.  The early church picked up on this wonderful usage of fire and used fire to burn heretics, returning the elements of the body very literally into the elements of the earth.  This process purging creation and punishing the victim simultaneously.  Hell, at its end, contained the idea of final separation from God, a reality that was somehow conscious to those without a consciousness at that point.

Yet, all the ideas of hell that we seem to possess and the flippant way in which we praise or ponder over this opposite of where none of us are headed, are really only possible because of our historical amnesia. We talk about hell like children and pissed off preachers because we have never lived it, so we have to contrive it to be what we “think” it to be and somehow buttress those ideas with our religious language and quotes of Jesus. But for people that actually live hell, like Christians in Mosul, Iraq, they have no need to invent wide eyed galleries of fire, men and women screaming in torment as they suffer burns from the bodies they don’t have and ponder endlessly how they did not make the right “choice.”

These Christians live hell; they have no need to imagine it.

As Moltmann suggests in his brief discourse on hell, there is no denying the reality of hell. Hell is understood as a total annihilation. In ancient times, fire was the ultimate annihilator from which nothing returned; in modern times, we have found hells in gas ovens in Europe, Christians in Rwanda having their children chopped up and tossed into rivers and Christians in Chile being tortured under the regime of Pinochet in the 70’s.

 Hell is…but it is so conveniently full of hope for many of us who believe in its opposite, for no hope in hell means no heaven to gain.

We hear sermons on hell and we are so calloused against all the hells on this earth because of our misunderstanding of some greater hell that even those experiencing hell today should consider as greater than being decapitated, their wives raped and their houses burned.

That’s a hell of a way to make the point that we care nothing about what hell really is, only what we want it to be during our benign bible studies.

For People who are awaiting the Hell of a tribulation period in the Book of Revelation, they have never known hell, seen it, and have no business talking about tribulation. Just because it hasn’t happened to us doesn’t mean we can confiscate this idea and doctor it up with the fanciful opposite of the Roman Road to salvation. Give me a break people…what the hell are we doing? This is Gospel?

At its end, Hell is illogical. It makes no sense because at its bottom, as Moltmann tells us, hell is not the logical end of the end; it is the logical end of human free will.

The logic is as follows. God who is love, preserves our human free will as a loving act. God has also, via love, went to the furthest ends to save humanity (from ourselves presumably) and give us the choice to save ourselves from destruction via Jesus the Christ. Even though God wants all people to be saved, there is a chance that our free will can reject God. Thus, the loving thing for God to do is to offer rescue, continue to maintain our free will to choose God, or we choose our own destruction in the place we have never seen but seem to know so much about.

Yet Moltmann presses us. He asks, “Does God’s love preserve our free will or does it free our enslaved will, which has become un-free through the power of sin? Does God free men and women, or does he seek the men and women who have become lost?”

For people who believe in an uber depraved nature of humanity, it is surprising we have so positive a view of free will, as if our depraved selves know a good “decision” when we see one, especially a decision of eternal consequences.

For Moltmann this logic of hell crumbles under two pressing points, which also open up a more biblical and theologically responsible way of considering the origination of the idea and necessity of hell.

First, for Moltmann, this logic of hell is inhumane and illogical. Inhumane because there are too many universal contingencies that seem to remove free will from the equation of folks being able to save themselves with their “choice.” Think handicapped people, jungle tribes, babies who die early (yes I know evangelicals have domesticated these answers with the mysterious “age of accountability” but the church historically took it seriously, making sure to baptize people who clearly could not make a choice like dying folks, physically impaired folks and babies). Also think God’s “chosen people” who are unable to choose Christ yet are bearers of the promise of God. How is this problem solved without tumbling into supercessionism?

The logic is illogical because as Moltmann points out, “there are not many people who can enjoy free will where their eternal fate in heaven or hell is concerned.” In others words, it’s not really a choice. It’s the choiceless choice that we mask as a choice to feel good about the choice we made and excuse all the sinners to be damned for their bad choice.

Really, those of who live by a logic of hell suspend two ideals in balance that are contradictory.

We want to hold in the balance God’s power, providence, love and desire to save us because we are depraved and cannot save ourselves. By grace we are saved through faith. Yet we hold to the idea that we are not really deprived as badly as we would like because we can really make a good decision concerning our salvation, so there is an element that is not “corrupt” known as a our will, that can affect our reason to supersede our deprivation. Thus we are doomed to God’s provision, but God’s provision is held hostage to our unfallen will and the ability we have to enact it. How strange for a people that believe in sin and the total otherness that is the reality of God.

Or in Moltmann’s questioning it sounds like this, “How firm must our own decision of faith be if it is to preserve us from total non-being? Anyone who faces men and women with the choice of heaven and hell, does not merely expect too much of them. It leaves them in uncertainty because we cannot base the assurance of our own salvation on the shaky ground of our own decisions. If we think about these questions, we have to come to the conclusion that in the end not many will be with God in heaven…or is the presupposition of the logic of hell an illusion- the presupposition that it all depends on human free will?”

In other words, how resolute must our decision be if it is so monumental that it carries with it such metaphysical implications? Is there any human anywhere with that kind of resoluteness? And if not, then the idea of salvation is not necessarily negated but is it thoroughly rested in the idea of God and God’s salvific purposes which are too heavy for the weight of human will but perfectly comfortable in the relation of God in Christ that negates free will in a later descent into hell, a descent that does not ask our will to participate in it and a descent that properly orders our idea of hell.

Second, the logic of hell is incredibly atheistic accordingly to Moltmann. For in this idea and transaction of hell, the human is her own Lord or God because only in using that will is God’s power enacted, making God subject to the depraved nature of a human will. God has no power here. God is impotent; here God is merely the genie in the lamp that is powerless unless we rub its side and tell him our wills desires. “If I decide for heaven, God must put me there; If I decide for hell, then God will put me there.”

God, who is providential and almighty, is bound to our decisions, impotent in the face of the human mind. We create our own reality or we make our own hell, all through a singular cognitive process. As Moltmann writes, “Humans do not just dispose over their lives here; they decide on their eternal destinies as well…after God created us free as we are, he leaves us to our own decisions. Carried to this ultimate conclusion, the logic of hell is secular humanism, as Feuerbach, Marx, and Nietzsche already perceived a long time ago.”

But all of this was not the originary nature of the idea of hell. Neither must we be content to live with a full blown humanism nor an illogical idea of faith that believes contradictions and calls them biblical.

Christian ideas of hell are intimately linked to the separation of reality from God, but not as we would like. Hell is important because Christ descended into it; it is not important because of our bastardization of the concept in modern times. Hell has no need to fill it with our ideas of it, for hell is. It is not there, or far; it is here and near. We can marshall all the metaphysical arguments we want against hell and the pagan ideas that germinated alongside Christianity, and we may be correct in our arguments, yet reality tells hell is still felt by many today. It is experienced. It is real. It is the place into which Christ goes.

Hell needs Christ, and Christ needs hell, not because Christ needs a destination for our bad choices, but because Christ passes over the gulf of fire and annihilation to dwell with us there as long as necessary, emerging victorious.

Moltmann accentuates this activity when he writes, “it is pointless to deny hell. It is a possibility that is constantly around us and within us. In this situation, the gospel about Christ’s descent into hell is particularly relevant: Christ suffered the inescapable remoteness from God and the God-forsakeness that knows no way out, so that he could bring God to the God-forsaken. He comes to seek that which is lost.”

Christ, therefore, brought hope where there was none. Christ came to the place where all hope has been abandoned and made it hopeful, providing a means of overcoming its isolation.

Hell is not some place in the netherworld where bad people go when they die and it defies reason to think that God needs binary rewards to give to his good kids while he tosses his bad kids out to pasture. For those of us who have kids, we understand how dangerous it would be to allow them to make choices of such import and consequence. Hell matters because Christ experienced it and brought hope into it, destroying its finality, ensuring that is it no longer the final word that so many Christians wish it to be.

God’s graceful act toward the world is not dependent on the efficacious acts of our choosing. In a world of rampant consumerism, surely the banality of choice can make sense to us. No, God’s universal grace is not grounded in hell, or heaven, or the grounding of both of those in humanism (even if it’s a humanism affirmed by your local preacher).

God’s grace is grounded in the cross that eclipses hell, rather than firmly establish its possibility.

While I mourn that so many of us want the final last words of God to be those of condemnation and judgment, feeling that our right choice should be rewarded (think older son in the prodigal narrative here), scripture tells us a different story. In the Bible, judgment is not the final word. Hell is not the final abode of the world. The earth does not burn and turn to a cosmic bowling ball being hurled by God across the Milky Way.

No, the final word is not Hell and God doesn’t need your choice to make it happen.

Get over yourself.

The final word is, “Behold I make all things new”…and from this the Bible exempts no one.

*Source for the Moltmann material for this blog is: “The Logic of Hell” in God Will Be All in All, ed. Richard Bauckham (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2001), 43-47.

Sex is Divine: Zizek, Jayadeva and the radicality of Incarnation

Jayadeva

When the falsely innocent Christlike figure of pure suffering and sacrifice for oursake tells us: “I want nothing from you!” fails miserably – we should not forget that these are the exact words used by the Priest to designate the court in Kafka’s Trial: “The court wants nothing from you.”  When the falsely innocent Christlike figure of pure suffering and sacrifice for our sake tells us: “I don’t want anything from you!,” we can be sure that this statement conceals a qualification “…except your very soul.”  When somebody insists that he wants nothing that we have, it simply means that he has his eye on what we are, on the very core of our being.

 

Wondrous dwarf, when you cheat demon Bali with side steps

Water falls from your lotus toenails to purify creatures.

You take form as a Dwarf, Krishna.

Triumph, Hari, Lord of the World.

 

The incarnation is the perverse core of Christianity and the perverse core of the perverted god’s that desire the absolution of a person for the sake of their own divine egos.  The incarnation has historically been the doctrine of the divine overtaking the human form in the person of Jesus and using this medium to exact divine revenge and quench the thirst for the apparent ontological masochistic necessity that the God of the Bible seems to display.  What sort of God is this that takes over our way of being, the form of our human flesh, and uses it to appease his own ineptitude of not securing a tree in the Garden that would not be violated?  Could we not have saved our flesh had this God not created this obvious temptation?  This is what a pervert does and this is the practice of perversion.  The pervert sacrifices the innocence of another person in order to gain something from them, typically sexually.

Sex and violence have always been partners.  How useful is a doctrine of the incarnation if it is continually used to reinforce a theology of perversion and furthermore place the object that it sacrifices, humanity, into
the debt of the God that asks for the sacrifice?

This is the string that is attached.  Christ has died, and in this required death, we are in debt, even though God does not need our currency.  If this is the case, than why require the currency of flesh?  Sigmund Freud was right, we do owe death a debt.  Only the debt we owe, as so finely articulated by Zizek above, is the debt of our being, our flesh, because the Christ figure has given us his being, his flesh.  There must be an alternative way.  The divine has always been playing games that have not limited their play to the fertile crescent.  Jayadeva also plays similar games of violation and psychologically twisted debtful obligation.

I will argue below that by reading the incarnation through the work of Zizek and Jayadeva, one is left with the incarnation as a sexual ethic that is embodied between two people.

Zizek argues for the end of the incarnation as a transcendent referent and for a more embodied discourse that takes on the Pauline insistence of ethical living.  Jayadeva makes very clear that the incarnation is the articulation encounter one has had with the Big Other (read God) that typically occurs under the auspices of a sexual encounter.  While the encounter that Jayadeva describes is thoroughgoing sexual, one needs to penetrate beneath the sexuality to the core that pushes the encounter to occur in the first place.  This is known as the drive or Freud’s Trieb, even though this methodology may be a trifle anachronistic (we all read from somewhere).

The trieb is not only the locale that cannot be localized, it is also the thing deep within oneself that longs for the fulfillment and rest that can only occur, according to Jayadeva, in the encounter with Hari.  When the trieb is left empty, it is sorrowful and lacking.  It is the mourning Rada.  The body demonstrates outward signs of mourning, until the Divine, or Hari, once again comes home from wandering and offers a temporary place of rest.  Then the ankle bracelets may resume their ringing, though briefly.

Jayadeva unmistakably articulates the necessity of sexuality for human being/becoming in relation to the divine, particularly as that experience that is best known as jouissance, or painfully pleasurable arrival…or what most Christians call heaven.  Thus, the incarnation is a sexual ethic that is to be lived between people, between two subjects that might not know one another exist.  This is evident in the amount of failed relationships that occur, not because love and sexuality is not present, but because an incarnated sexual ethic is not embodied.  If Jayadeva were writing/righting today, perhaps he would suggest that the only Big Other (read Lacanian sense of Other that is not oneself i.e., structure of language, trauma, or the feminine) that is left is the other of the person.

For Zizek, questions of divine culpability go to the heart of the Christian God.[3]  For this reason, Zizek argues for a radically different approach to a doctrine of the incarnation than may be found in Athanasius’ De Incarnatione.  Zizek spots the perverse core of Christianity, and in so doing the pervert Christianity historically calls God, and calls for the forging of a new direction not located in transcendence.  For Zizek, the incarnation is not a statement about the importance of transcendence, but a statement about the importance of the body, the immanent reality of living people caught in living structures of truth seeking and fulfillment.  God needs the world and drains transcendence in the process.  Jesus, known as the Christ, is the desublimation of the transcendent God of Judaism.  Judaism could never bring God to where it was/is, thus it negated any sort of anthropomorphic identity to the Supreme Creator.  Zizek argues that this negation of anthromorphic concepts, however, necessarily places Judaism on the road to making God man, on the road to Christianity.

Zizek describes it thus,

“it is the Jewish religion which remains an “abstract/immediate” negation of anthropomorphism, and as such, attached to, determined by it in its very negation, whereas it is only Christianity that effectively “sublates” paganism.  The Christian stance is here: instead of prohibiting the image of God, why not, precisely, allow it, and thus render him as JUST ANOTHER HUMAN BEING, as a miserable man indiscernible from other humans with regard to his intrinsic properties?”

For Zizek, what occurs in the incarnation is not the propitiation of sins in the form of a human being or the restoration of the divine image that was lost at the fall, but the handing over of the world to humans.

When Christianity asserts that the divine THING has come in/as Jesus of Nazareth, the THING that is beyond, known as God, is shown to be absent because Jesus is present.  Zizek interprets Jesus as a figure within the symbolic order or the drive/thing/law schemata, wherein the drive toward rest is always directed toward the thing that is supposed to give rest, i.e., God, but such rest is always prohibited from fully resting because of the prohibitions from the Law separate a person from the THING or destination.  Jesus, however, traverses the Law and makes the divine present and therein ends transcendence.  He makes the destination of the drive apprehensible, thus offering a place of rest and an end to the excess of sin that is produced in seeking the relationship with the divine via attempts at becoming divine.

This means that the event of the Christ is not an event that brings one into relationship with the BIG OTHER God.  Christ does not do our work for us and pay our debt through his divine threshold of pain.  Rather, the incarnation, the coming of God to humanity, the shrinking of transcendence, is the event that gives us the chance to be free from our excessive quests for the unattainable THING, God, for in Jesus, says Christianity, God is with us.

Yet, Zizek writes, “Christ is not the contingent material embodiment of the superasensible God: his “divine” dimension is reduced to the aura of pure Schein.”

The Incarnation, therefore, is a statement about the end of transcendence into immanent transcendence in the Christ figure, Jesus.  Jesus as the incarnation is not the living apprehension of an ontological other, but the dismissal of that Other and the freeing of humanity from its haunting and obsessive quests toward something else.  In turn, Zizek argues, this freedom from the excess of looking for the THING that is present in Jesus allows a person to love and act ethically.

What is most important in the incarnation, therefore, is the possibility to embody agape and to act in loving ways toward the opposite sex, abolishing all sexual barriers.  The power of the incarnation to release one from metaphysical whims produces a reality wherein there is no Jew, nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female.  No wonder the “Christ was a traumatic scandal.”

Zizek offers readers an alternative reading of the incarnation.  In so doing, he offers readers a different kind of incarnation resulting in the adaptation of an ethic of agape that destabilizes dominant worldviews and begins a constructive theology.  The incarnation is the event that makes true ethical behavior possible because God is (us) with us.  Jayadeva will finalize this embodiment for us.

While Zizek and Jayadeva could be juxtaposed,  together they provide a coherent synthesis and ground upon which incarnation can be expanded to the embodiment of a sexual ethic.

This essay began with the quote, “You take form as a Dwarf, Krishna.”

Krishna, like Jesus, is an embodiment of something.  Both are individuals that come from elsewhere.  Both are individuals that interact with humans and seek to satisfy the excess of the human quest for the place from which Krishna and Jesus come.  Krishna is the coming of the THING.  Unlike much of Christian tradition that places a Law between the THING and the person, Jayadeva is the wall effacer.  There are no restrictions in Jayadeva that could prohibit the person from experiencing the THING of God, except God’s wandering ways and lustful lies.  Jayadeva wants to make St. Teresa’s “coming” a reality, but in so doing one realizes that one cannot really “come” because Hari is never always there, he is always already never there when he is there.

 

When Hari and Rada are together, their experience is beatific and mystical, yet, it is one that does not last.  It leaves both Rada, and Hari (even erstwhile he is promiscuous) wanting for more.  If they had found fulfillment in one another, then the trieb of Hari would be of no consequence.  One cannot help but notice as the poem moves that Hari must be dreaming of others, which he does in fact pursue, “The wondrous mystery of Krishna’s sexual play in Brindaban forest IS Jayadeva’s song.  Let its celebration spread Krishna’s favors.  At the end, however, Krishna exclaims, “Glance at me and end my passion’s despair.”

The poem may be read as the story of unquenchable desire that simply exhausts the ability of the other to end passion whatsoever, particularly the passion of the god’s.  Who/what, after all, can quench a divine libido?

Therefore, one is left with an incarnation of Jayadeva as linguistic explanation after the encounter one has with God or one can argue that the incarnation is the ethic that is not expressed in Jayadeva, thus reading against the texts sexual obtuseness, while at the same time reading with it.  If the incarnation allows for a real ethic, as proclaimed by Zizek, this ethic must look different than is described in Jayadeva, particularly in that Zizek challenges Jayadeva’s insistence on questing after the suppression of passion by attaining the THING, Krishna, God, one’s rest!

If Jesus as incarnation is the power to free one from the excess of trauma, than what does this say about being free from the traumatic effects of the relationships the gods have with people, particularly Rhada?

Reading Zizek alongside of Jayadeva indicts the Gitogavinda for its sexual hierarchy, yet it does locate the place of heaven and incarnation as being between two peoples in sexual encounter.  The sexual encounter is brief and simply complex, but the insistence on its placement in the development of Krishna as a God, and Rhada as the subject receiving the impalement, testifies to the inability to fully describe a REAL sexual encounter, one that is ethically responsible and fulfilling for both parties regardless of the passions that are quenched.  The dialectic is that the moment initiates more moments in hopes of finding the real one.  Rhada and Krisha fall together, they fall apart and then back together again, but they never arrive.  Zizek, however, suggests that this arrival is already here making the journey null and void.

 

 

 

 

 

The Hapless Nihil

hapless nihil

Those moments when you want to write, but feel lost in the sea of your own non ideas…As if every ounce of inspiration has been siphoned from your soul leaving you with nothing but a hollow spirit with clanging walls and cold diameters. And this is the nothing that is everything…the nothing that so stigmatizes your soul that it becomes what is…while the space that was once filled with vibrancy and lumination has become the cavern of respite and indifference…the nothing that weighs everything and the nothing that is absolutely the heaviest thing…that can lodge itself in the consciousness of a human being. How can we shake this cold hard absence? How can we embrace rigor mortise before it makes all resurrection impossible?

It’s easy to stare across the wasteland of intention and see nothing but parched land and tumble weeds. Intention is just that, an unrealized act, an unrealized event…the realization that the realized is pure potential without any form or content other than its own absence. How strange it is to feel this space and emptiness in one’s self. To see passersby occupy this same space, to try to lead them through it, to try to make a friend, only to be dismissed as something you are not.

…and the earth simply becomes more parched…unflinchingly absorbing tears as soon as they plummet to the earth in quiet despair. To be in this place and have absolutely no power, yet it is your place. This is Hell. To scream so loudly that no one hears you. To lift the weight of the world with your soul only to find your soul is simply the custodian of the burden. It’s going nowhere.

How, with your head cocked and fingers longing to be free to touch and feel again, how long does one sit in this squalid silence? To want to stand up and move. To want to be in relation with another anything. But feel pressed down by the force of a gravity you did not create nor can you negotiate. To feel absolutely helpless. To remain silent because you can do nothing else.

A cascade of ideas is not enough to pierce this earth and pry back its cracked ground…and force water into the crevices. A cascade of will…this nothing scoffs at. A cascade of desire sits at the fray of this nothing that is more chaotic than all the things created…and desire just sits…lonesome, knowing her other half is most likely never returning. There will be no homecoming.

The nihil is. When all else seems to fail and the great questions of our day are asked…meaning will simply be reduced to a reduction ad absurdum…laughing at us through its slanted eyes and cursing those of us who long for more than a world that is hapless before darkness. It is so difficult to live a new creation when the old one has been remade without our permission.

When Writing is Impossible

Derrida quote

Words, like statuesque monuments of brick and mortar foreclosed by economic eras past, struggle in vain to rise out of the rubble of their origins…stretching to the surface to breath, like Pauline prayers of souls that can only speak with moans.

Recently, I have found that it is difficult to write, difficult to even produce this sentence or write in ways that synergistically combine my passion and intellect with words that can convey more than themselves.  When it’s difficult to write, maybe writing about why it is difficult to write is the right place to start writing.

So I write why it is impossible to write, hoping I may actually write in my non-writing.

There are moments when the subject and object of our writing makes speaking of itself impossible…when the act of writing simply fails to comprise its subject.  To reference theological discourse, these are moments when we speak of silence and tranquility as we stare into the eternal gaze of the numinous object of our incredible urge to speak.  Our words fall short.  We write to transcend our place, seeking to be carried off by words, but words are simply the substitution for something far more mysterious and real that lies underneath them.

At moments like this, when we realize the disconnect between what we write, and what we write about, and that writing about it is an infinite impossibility that will only produce words that continue to mangle our imaginations even as it gets us close enough to never see it…at moments like this we write, we speak, but we know our writing will never get it right.

We write as a response to the infinite; not in an attempt to encase it.

Yet, this is what makes writing impossible as an act.  Writing feels impossible at moments, at seasons, because it is our attempt to span the chasm of the genesis of our internal echoes into paradigms of symbolic exchange that might somehow bring meaning from the abyss of our deepest subjectivity.  And this is impossible.  It feels impossible because it is.  Nothing can be written only because the only thing we can write is nothing. This is why theological, philosophical, lyrical, and narratival imagination is necessary for the writer.  Without imagination the subject and object of writing is betrayed by prose that falls empty and shoddy, derelict of any contoured image that might make writing worth writing at all.  Writing comprehends itself as the inability to satisfy the imagination with traces of its content, even as it leaves its true meaning behind, lost in the relation of its symbols.  The only way to suppress writings urge to speak nothing is to imaginatively portray the place from where it comes…to look back on itself via a linguistic inversion and see from where it was thrown.

But this conundrum of writing is inherent in the task.  The theory and nature of language is one that refuses its purpose, and thereby, becomes its purpose.

Martin Heidegger in his On The Way To Language delicately describes the balancing act of language and its inability to speak.  He writes, “There is some evidence that the essential nature of language flatly refuses to express itself in words – in the language, that is, in which we make statements about language.  If language everywhere withholds its nature in this sense, then such withholding is in the very nature of language.  Thus, language not only holds back when we speak it in the accustomed ways, but this its holding back is determined by the fact that language holds back its own origin and so denies its being…”

What Heidegger is so accurately portraying and defining is that language itself always holds itself back by its very nature.  It can never contain the whole of its occasion, of its purpose.  Writing occurs at the intersection of origin and community, an originary act to create community and speak within the boundaries of language games yet also knowing that the game is that what we speak will never be spoken because our own medium of speaking, language, is never capable of speaking past its own medium; its very nature does not allow it to say what it means to say.  It is only capable of being a trace of an expression that seeks to be said but as soon as the expression, idea or passion is seen via words or heard via language it loses itself as it enters the symbolic order in which language and words make sense.

To draw illusion to Lacan, one could say that language, writing it, speaking it, is not real; yet language is because the real exists.

And this is not to be nihilistic about language; rather it’s just a simply discussion about the very nature of language itself.

Writing language further confounds the writer because the real of its subject matter, whether it be God, beauty, meaning, truth, passion, story, etc., is always ahead of the medium in which it is communicated.  Just because writing is never occurring as an act of definition that actually says what it means to say, does not mean that what precedes writing is not real or truthful; it doesn’t mean that which gives language and writing occasion doesn’t exist.

But our speaking, our writing, the incessant drive to communicate something that swells within us and claws at our insides peering outside our pores into a world it thinks longs to receive it, always follows what we are saying.  The said is not what is trying to be said but it is all that can be said.  It is always removed from it as said.  Not only does language (& its medium of speaking or writing) itself refuse encapsulation to speak itself, but it is most clearly the incarnation of following language.  The said never catches up to language because language cannot “overtake” what it is attempting to take into itself via its speaking.  To do so would mean to remain in silence because silence would be the only thing that puts us close to saying anything without removing ourselves from it.

So writing doesn’t just seem impossible at times, but it is impossible, the most ludicrous act in which humanity engages.  Our prose fails us.  Our sentences languish.  We rewrite and re-edit.  We try to say it just right knowing that can never happen.  All that can happen is a vacillation around the kernel of the originary moment from which writing comes, a place so deep within the speaking and writing subject that access to its recesses is to plumb depths that are too real to even exist.

The revelation of the revelatory nature of language leaves us hapless.  No wonder speaking is so difficult.  No wonder meaning is so elusive.  No wonder that intense moment inside of us never satisfactorily emerges into a meaningful expression.  The very nature of language, of the things we attempt to speak about, not to mention the hearing and reading part of our language, is to disrupt and betray itself…to exist in wistful repetition hoping that saying it repetitively will take it from there to here.

This reality is what manifests itself when writing is impossible.  This is what happens when one simply can’t write.  This is what is happening when your hands and your mind do not make the agreement that is necessary to produce something worth reading or worth saying.  We are coming up against the very nature of language and we are not able to transgress it and extract our demands from it.

These are the moments when you stare at your screen…screaming in silence words you want to commit to the page, but when you go to write you are trapped in your own ideas of saying nothing because you have everything to say, which means, of course, that nothing is what you have wanted to say all along.  And at the end of the day we will have said nothing as we must say it again and again, hoping that speaking it often enough will affirm its illusory nature.

Writing mocks us because we are bound to language, even as we think we have tamed it with our crafty literary techniques.

This is what is happening when writing becomes impossible.  In dialectical fashion, it is this existential angst rolled up in our inability to write, or speak, which is also a manifestation of writing itself, communication turning in on itself an becoming incommunicable writing that communicates everything it cannot say by saying it.  We stand in the face of our unspeaking, of writing chasing language and language that cannot be harnessed that says more than we can ever say by wishing we could say it.  This negation of language that is language is the speaking of truth even as it must first speak a lie…since lies are all that can be spoken via words that never speak truthfully.

As we stare blankly at screens, our minds racing and anger building at the sights of fingers that cannot move to the rhythm of meaning or hands that cannot write otherwise than themselves, we experience first-hand the impossible possibility of language, of speaking or writing it.  Thus, we should not lose heart when we remain speechless.  The very need to use speech at all will render us all speechless at various intervals.  The Gospel of language is this: Language produces its own speechlessness.

So when is writing impossible?  Always.

It’s not that writing ever becomes impossible; it’s that writing is impossible…always already impossible even in the most lucid prose…and it’s in the moments of profound difficulty wherein that impossibility is simply made more acute.

In the Beginning was the Word.

Be Free in Christ, Ditch the Rules

Joy of living

“One thing, and only one thing, is necessary for Christian life, righteousness, and freedom. That one thing is the most holy Word of God, the gospel of Christ.” –Luther

And Jesus said to the masses, “Come to me all ye who are weary and heavy laden…and be introduced to my list of rules.” (Matthew 11.28)

This is the Gospel in modern day America or at least in the conservative South.

Long have we left behind a love for the Word of God, and its many revelatory moments, and shortly have we embraced a Gospel of “do this” and “do that” if you want to be Christian.

Tragically, we may have never even heard the word of God because we have been too busy hearing our own words as the Word of God.

It’s funny actually…thinking we are reading words that tell us God’s Word and only seeing ourselves.  Silly humans who think they believe in Jesus when they really just believe in themselves.

As a kid I grew up in a very conservative bible believing Church.  I was weaned on sermons of the Premillenial Return of Jesus, a church full of backsliding Christians, and mandatory monthly salvation experiences because the sanctification we failed to fully receive last month didn’t quite stick.

The hermeneutic that was employed was largely a very literal reading of the Bible.

The dictum, “the bible says, I believe it, that settles it” would have fit in well.

Far be it from many of them that the bible only says what it says because they were reading it from a particular historical and ideological bend.  I digress.

Even in this setting, it was never blatantly stated, “Come and receive Jesus into your heart and then receive his rules to make sure he stays in your heart.”

This wasn’t spoken, but this was the assumption.

People were not “saved” to freedom.  They were actually “saved” from the bondage of themselves to the bondage of Christ, which ironically often turned into bondage to themselves.

Far be it from all those preachers that St. Augustine had one day said, “Love God and do what you please.”

The Gospel was a call for bondage disguised in a call for freedom.  Only after accepting this Gospel was one plagued with the burden of performing it.  It was sustained by our actions, as if our actions maintained its legitimacy in our lives.

We were invited to altars to be “saved” and we were invoked to “let Jesus into our heart” and after that prayer was prayed we were then introduced to a Christ whose yoke was not easy, whose burden did not give rest and whose eyes were constantly judging our every move.

Where exactly had the goodnews gone?

Was the goodnews, the Gospel, the eventual hope in heaven?  Cause we all knew the bad news, the bad news that by accepting Christ’s salvation we just accepted his rules and became subject to his chastisement and the chastisement of those who “love” him.

The Gospel could inversely be titled, “Get Saved, Get Rules” or to paraphrase a famous hymn, “All things are ready come to the rules…”  Nevermind the feast that only includes Welch’s grape juice.

At least Jesus has been working on a rule book since the Ascension and is preparing that place for us.

At this point, Slavoj Zizek is right.  When Christ asks us for nothing he is really asking us for our everything…he is not asking us to be free…he is asking us to be a slave without real freedom, not even freedom in Christ.  Freedom in Christ functions as a smoke screen to take away the liberty of salvation.

How in the world has the Gospel been reduced to this…to a simple list of rules and held hostage by a faith more dependent on our faithfulness to a fabricated ethic than the faithfulness of Christ?

Why have we preferred the list of Paul’s rules for his robust theology of justification, love, redemption incarnation and resurrection?   Shouldn’t we attempt to understand these ideas so we might better understand any ethical guidance since theological affirmations preceded ethical guidance?

Why have we looked to reinvigorate Leviticus when Jesus brought the end of this world, it’s norms and it’s structures, to a consummation in his resurrection?

Rather than understanding the message of Leviticus via what it is saying, we have emphasized what it is says and foregone its formative function to make a people…a people that Jesus seemed to think could still be created absent a rigid formal adherence to its mandates.

Why have we preferred a flat boring prescriptional Bible that we can easily manipulate and contain in our actions over a living scripture that seeks to challenge us at every turn and renarrate the world into something that looks like the end of the world known as Jesus lifted up for us?

We have turned the bible into a rule book.  It is now, unofficially, a historical rule book, nothing more nothing less.  It flatly tells us what we have to DO in order to BE Christian and STAY Christian.  Case closed.  This is its job. 

It is just the dictionary to heaven for the uber pious without any analogical, tropological or allegorical application!  (Historical methods of reading scripture in the early church that are not rational/ethical/literal in nature)

Is it little wonder people, young people, aren’t interested in the Gospel?  We have given them a bunch of rules rather than engendered a passion for the story of Jesus.

We have given them a bible that has less nuance than Dr. Seuss and a witness that demonstrates we care more about waging culture wars for Jesus rather than creating the culture of Kingdom.

Who wants such a Bible and such a faith?  To whom does it appeal?

It’s boring.  It’s easy.  It’s about as deep as a 2nd grade education…and after a person is “saved” this 2nd grade knowledge is supposed to pacify us with its lists until we enter the pearly gates at some indefinite period of time in the near future.

Thanks but no thanks.

There’s nothing of any depth here…just listen online, and at work, to all the shallow people that seem to follow Jesus and how they read the Bible.  It will make you sick to see and hear what the Gospel has been turned into.

There is a lot of news close to this premature Gospel but there is no goodnews to be found.

I can hear it now…but ParanormalChrist…Jesus fulfilled the Law, he didn’t abolish it.  We have to have rules!!  How do we know who wins in the end if we don’t have rules?

As if Christianity is a game of Monopoly.

religion-sets-rules-jesus-sets-you-free

Did Jesus come to invalidate the Law?

In Matthew 5 he seems to suggest no, but his no is a yes via his interpretation of the Law.  Jesus only says no so he in fact can reform the law into something more than it is.  This is one of the tricks of Matthews Gospel!

Jesus broke all kinds of Law!

He ate with sinners: tax collectors, women of ill repute and fisherman.  He extended forgiveness under his own authority.  He walked longer than a Sabbaths day walk and plucked wheat on the Sabbath.  He kept women close by.  He walked through cemeteries.  We don’t once see him ceremonially washing himself before ANY act of ministry.  He outright contradicted Moses with his famous, “you have heard is said BUT I say…” statements.  Etc., Etc., I digress.

Jesus’ relationship with the Law is a bit different than we like to think.

How have we let something as awesome and ineffable as the Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ be turned into a dry list of rules?  How have we limited something as limitless as scripture???

Why have we reduced our faith to an ethical norm, one that historically is probably only as old as the Puritans, you know, those folks who occupied New England 400 years ago and made Jesus the Christ culpable in a few historical curiosities?

Why have we not taken Paul serious when he says that in Christ all things are lawful?

In Corinthians, Paul states that when he is with Jews he will not eat meat sacrificed to idols but when he is with Greeks he encourages the divine barbeque.

What’s going on here?  Is Paul being Petra’s “Chameleon” changing with his surroundings?  Is Paul being a New Testament hypocrite, coming under the Book of Revelation’s warning to “luke warm Christians” or is Paul being fully free in Christ and living out his faith as one not bound by the law?

Perhaps Paul believes the Gospel transcends petty ethical norms that have nothing to do with believing Jesus is somehow incarnate God and humanities great hope.

There is no one more qualified than Paul to say that our theology, our faith, our kerygma, is larger than our religious understanding.  Here is a man that lived and breathed the law, by heart, hid it in his heart!  And yet after seeing Jesus Christ…the resurrected Jesus became his agenda, not his obedience to Leviticus, Deuteronomy or any cultural standard grounded in human norms.

Yet we have not taken Paul’s advice.  We have not followed Jesus or read the Gospels careful enough.

We have confused the Gospel with its “rules” and many, many, many of the “rules” we invoke have no firm grounding biblically or theologically.  They are the products of Puritan holdovers and of fundamentalist interpretation of scripture of the past 125 years, making for one deadly combination that seeks to zap the life right out of the Gospel and dematerialize a very material redemption alive in Jesus.

Being Christian now means…follow these rules:

Read this book.  Pray this often.  Don’t do this.  Don’t do that.

If others don’t like it, well, they are going to hell anyway.  I’m going to get fat and happy with my 2nd grade faith and the list of rules given to me by the teacher.

I like Paul’s rules, not his theology.  I didn’t even know he had theology.

I like Jesus’ ministry, but not his take on Moses.

I like the teachings of the church, but only when those teachings take the appearance of actions that momma and them always told me.

And on and on and on.

For those of you who don’t follow Jesus because the Gospel is presented like this.  I don’t blame you.  I wouldn’t either.

It saddens me that we have traded in a robust faith and a deepening understanding of God in Christ as revealed through the powerful pages of the Bible for a faith that has been reduced to Aristotle…a faith that is just a list to do.

The Sermon on the Mount has become The Nichomachean Ethics.

Jesus is no longer the eschatological prophet of God…Jesus and his followers are just supreme ethicists with Gnostic aspirations…but this helps them sleep at night and helps them control their eternal “destiny,” which is why Jesus came in the first place (insert sarcasm here).

Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill would be proud.

Too bad it’s their Gospel we are proclaiming and not that of Jesus.

It’s a shame really.  The world could really use a good word right about now.

Shiny New Humans: A Story & Theology of Personhood

old man window

The walls to the lunchroom were tattered and torn.  It gave the feel of a war zone; it was.  Just not the kind most people imagine.

Floor tiles along the corridor were chipped and worn.  The smell of paint filled the air, as if chemical warfare was present and I would stumble into a trench at any moment.  The lights above us gave off the dull buzz of a light trying to pierce more than its fair share of fog.  Dull plastic covers acting as a shield for the fluorescent sun lined the hall above our heads.

The corridor was empty, but lined along its pathway were holes blown into the walls.  Some people would call these rooms; they resembled caves.

Doors open; you’re invited.  Curtains pulled; please rescind this open invitation.

Lies posted on the back of the taverns: “get well soon” and “thinking of you” and “we miss you.”

Lies. There is only one way to leave this place. 

The lie of optimism extended to someone to pacify our guilt as the cave we have built for them will hide their faces from the light of our day.  Visitors are rare; people don’t like visiting the front lines where death and our life finally stare at one another through the barbed wire of uncertainty.

The sign said “excuse our construction.”  I couldn’t help but wonder if any real construction was present in this facility.  The walls could be repaired, the caves could be covered but those living here found themselves at the end of the earth’s garbage heap, discarded to the demilitarized zone of a world only populated by its prisoners and occasioned by those we pay to clean up the bodies.

I came to a break in the path; it led to the place that is somewhere, but when you arrive you have really arrived nowhere. 

I stared out at the lunch room, loud murmurings and crooked faces decorating the landscape.  A sea of white hair, wrinkled garments and arthritic hands betrayed my senses; I sensed more than I wished.  Disheveled masses of flesh… persons, at least I think they were persons, were being attended to in the wasteland of rectangular boundaries.  There was snow outside, 3 inches on the hand rails of the sidewalks; it was colder inside.

I’ve never been frostbitten until I saw the eyes of these no longer shiny new humans.

Someone was humming; She couldn’t hold her fork as it’s blunt clanking against her bowl rang across the room over, and over, and over, again.  Another was wearing a bib that stretched to his waist as he coughed up the food he was attempting to eat.  Saturated in spit, the fellow of no more than 40 smiled, coughed, gagged.  He was wearing a Stetson but this was no commercial.

Another lady, sitting in her chair with supports to keep her upright, could not perform the simple task of drinking her milk.  She was attended to by a few of our mercenaries who took turns.  The milk would hit her lips, run across the side of her face and then down her chin.  She would utter unintelligible profanities, perhaps cursing her plight, cursing that her mind and her body were no longer harmonious; cursing that she could no better drink milk than she could make her mouth utter what her mind contained.

Then I saw him.  The patriarch of the family.

We tapped his shoulder.  He was turned around by a hired hand.  He stared up at us, piercing us with his crystal blue eyes.  I thought I saw his childhood when his eyes met mine.  I saw life.  Recognition.  It’s that kind of look that says “I know you” but “I have no idea why you are so familiar.”  It is fidelity and betrayal in one glance.

Then there was that grip.  No one has a grip like him.  We stooped low to hug and embrace him, shaking his hand with my right hand and pulling him as close as possible with my left.  He knew the motions.

But his hands could still grip like a man 30 years younger.  He had the kind of hands that swallows yours when you shook it, the kind of grip that lets you know this man is more than the shell of his body.  I looked at his hands as he shook mine, his fingers still firm and resolved, and his veins still protruding with intense rage.  I’d seen these hands my entire life, felt them as a kid who wrestled against them and admired them as they incarnated the mountains they once occupied.

Muscle memory.

His body lay trapped in his godforsaken chair, his legs symbolic stubs of atrophy that have finally immobilized him.  From this chair to his bed and from his bed to this chair: his daily journey.

We sat down next to him, pulling chairs up alongside the table where we would share a meal.

Is eating at the same table the same thing as sharing?  We shared space cause words were not present.

We were brought coffee, I got the “good stuff” as apparently everyone else got the “bad stuff,” you know, coffee without the stimulant that makes it worth drinking.  Grandpa had hot chocolate.  Of course he did.  He’s always had a sweet tooth.  He drank two cups.  We helped him stir his cocoa and watched as he balanced the petite white mug from the table to his lips, his hands shaking the entire time.

The image of his once powerful hands now unable to balance an elevated crevice encapsulated with glass.  A feather had never been so heavy.

He didn’t waste time.  He drank his cocoa quickly and then they brought “food.”  They even brought me some.  I ate it out of courtesy and thankfulness.  Grandpa’s food was mush.  He has no teeth now so all his food must be puréed.  He began eating; we watched. 

He fell asleep.

He woke up. 

We tried speaking with him.  He couldn’t speak more than a few words, single sentences, the utterances of a man suffering from the PTSD of losing your wife, losing your home, losing your bearings and, finally, losing your shininess.

One of us left the lunch table to use the restroom.  Grandpa had been asleep a few minutes.  The bowl of portage that was some form of pureed beef stew, now found itself as a thumb rest for his massive hand.  Here lays a human, one that was once so strong and now whose hands had forgotten their place.  He woke up, I held his hand in mind, wiped it clean.  The man who would once refuse the help of anyone, especially when it comes to personal space, now has no choice.  His hand was held there, lofted above the table, as now the one that had served so many people must now suffer the service of others.

When he awoke one of us had returned.  He was startled.

We hadn’t been there.

He stared blankly surprised by our presence.  It was Groundhog Day only it happened in a matter of minutes.  I asked him if he had received any calls from family members.  I named them.  His reply, “They might have.  I don’t know.”

It was not a confident declaration.  It was the timid, exhausted, voice of a man that had resigned himself to his station, trapped in a body that can no longer do what his mind desired and a mind that no longer remembered the desires of its heart.

Then I felt a presence behind me.  A woman in a wheelchair bumped me.  I turned and looked, she is missing her leg from the kneecap down on her right leg.  She says “I’m just playing.  I’m not doing anything wrong.”  She continued…making her way around me and she said again, “I’m just playing.”

She knew where she was.  She was lost.

I stared at her and as our eyes met I wondered what she saw when she saw me.  I saw her.  I saw them.  I told her “it was fine”…but she was promptly exiled away from me and told to “wait” until lunch was over before going to her cave.  She couldn’t find her way alone.  She wouldn’t know how…she could no longer follow the path of her shinyness.

We tarried a little while longer.  We watched him finish his food.  We watched as those around him struggled to eat, struggled to talk, struggled to exist.  What would take many of us a matter of minutes had stretched into an entire hour of eating.  The finished menu you ask?  2 glasses of cocoa, a muffin that crumbled into a thousand pieces when you peeled it off the paper, and 1 bowl of pureed beef stew.

An hour later it was over.

We said goodbye.  We bent down as when we arrived.  We hugged him.  He kissed our cheeks as he has for years.  It was still grandpa…yet there is something also pulling him away that we can’t stop.  Here is the body of my grandpa…his body is here, it is still him, but inside he is fighting the war no one else can see…it’s a war we know is happening because now he’s at the place where we put all the humans that no longer shine.

Theology of person

As I recount this narrative, the sounds, sights and smells of visiting my grandfather in his extended care facility on New Year’s Day, a care that is necessary due to medical complications and logistical circumstances that are too much to overcome, it occurred to me that such places are where we put the humans we no longer want.  As a society, these places are not even human recycling centers; they are just drop offs.

There is nothing flashy in this insight.

But it struck me anew because at one time all of the people by whom we were surrounded were once shiny new humans.  As I sat and observed these folks that could no longer “function” in society, the people that required care due to some medical condition beyond their control, it struck me that these same lives that are now in the process of being forgotten were at one time the occasion of smiles, swooning admiration and the pride of their parents.  At one time, these people who now defecate on themselves can hardly stay awake during a meal, whose minds are being riddled with dementia and whose limbs are no more of a hindrance than a help…these people were once celebrated.  They were new at one time.  They were shiny and lustrous.

They were shiny new humans.

That’s hard to imagine isn’t it?

It’s hard to imagine that the lives of those that might now trouble a weak stomach by their very appearance, at one time, were the apple of someone’s eye.  At one time they were held up in a church, dedicated, or baptized.  At one time, their mother held them to her breast and kissed their heads; they were the prize after 9 months of laborious carrying and birthing.   At one time they ran on playgrounds, made their parents proud in a spelling bee.  At one time they sat on their fathers lap, heard bed time stories and were nestled in the sheets of a home filled with the warmth and love of parents.  At one time, they were new and shiny.

At one time, they were human; they were desirable.

They are no longer so.

In places like this they reside, proverbial warzones, with all the usual characters waiting to take their lives and harden the siege upon their bodies.

When there is no one left to call our name, our name is lost in its unspokenness.  Or is it?

A simple visit to an extended care facility can become the catalyst for some profound anthropological questions.

What makes us human?  When we have removed the person from the community of which they are apart, either the community that is public, private or ecclesial, from where does their humanity come?  Are we known as human because of some biological trait or does our humanity come from having our name known and spoken?  Is this final act of separation, one that may or may not be justifiable, our attempt to dehumanize these masses of flesh so that eventually, stripped of all personhood, we can rid ourselves of their uselessness?

If our humanity is such only because of others, what becomes of those who have lost all the others?  The question gets even thicker, and more dialectical, in its irony as we consider what it is that constitutes the human being.

Unlike Kant would suggest, our worlds are not given to us via experience alone.  It is our lone ability to apperceive that gives us our personhood and makes us an agent.  It is indeed our apperception that fits into transcendental (above the person) categories through which we can arrange and make sense of the world, but that world is never absent the one that taught us to speak and welcomed us into it.

We are all members of an originary community.

There is no premature material that we arrange to gain our individuality.  Individuality, in the strict Kantian sense of perception that sifts and arranges data, is impossible because such arrangement is the result of our public consciousness via experience with others in the world they gave to us.  As theologian Robert Jenson notes, “The world that I receive and unify in my experience is always already the world interpreted in the discourse of a community, first the community of the trinity, then the human communities I thereupon inhabit.”

Sorry I just showed my theological hand…yet I think a Lacanian hand regarding language is also not too far afield for any agnostic readers.

From a theological perspective the community via which “raw” data is assimilated is a given to us, but only a given via a grace that is God’s triune community in the history of the world, thus making ourselves part of the divine community.  Our first, and foremost, marker as a person is not, therefore, our biology; it is our relationality.  First, as conversation partners with the divine history and secondarily with one another as creatures of grace within that history.

It’s a history we did not choose nor assimilate as individuals, but was given to us.  It’s a history in which our humanity is located as such.

The very people that gave us the world and taught us to speak by holding us in their hands are now being displaced from the world through the very ones that were once recipients of a world they did not create but were given through them.

In a very strict sense, then, the humanity of God is a prerequisite for the humanity of these persons who are now ostracized in the ghettos of the medical community.  As their humanity is found in God, there humanity is also restored and maintained via the life, death and resurrection of the God that became human and restored the dark places where the world attempts to place the dead.  Their humanity is found in this Passion because this Passion is what calls us by name as we stand outside the tomb feeling its emptiness.

While our identity is very much linked to the humans through which we relate, and our negation of life is very much attempted by the world when we reach a certain age wherein we are thanked for our words but dismissed for our bother, our identity is never totally dependent on what us humans cease to pronounce.

To a degree, a proper sense of theological anthropology is predicated on the other, but in another profound way our identity is never lost simply because we are tossed to the margins of the world and put in places wherein our human needs can no longer be a bother for other humans.  This is because our identity is never presumed because we are named by another creature, but because we are named by the one that makes creatures a community!  My identification, the identification of my grandfather, the man that could not eat without coughing up his food or the lady that could not stop her mouth from uttering profanities even while milk seeped over her chin…all of our identities are first found in the human community that is unified in the story of God in Christ, and this story presents us with our identity even when the names and faces of some of God’s human creatures are forgotten.

It is not the case that our identity is primarily spiritual and therefore personnel; it is the case that the identity of our community of humans in the story of God’s relationality with the world (via others) is what first and foremost grants us an identity that can never be taken away even as parts of humanity (who largely have forgotten the triune God) cease to utter our names.

The masses of flesh and bone, of unintelligible words and grotesquely fashioned faces, of people who spit on the floor and others who find their hands covered in beef stew puree…these are all persons whose names are forever spoken in God even as Christ will one day resurrect this miserable life.

Because we are named in God, and God is present in the resurrected presence of Christ via the power of the Holy Spirit, our names are never unspoken and our personhood is found in God and his human community wherever it is incarnated; this universal story that continues to call out our names.  And it is this story that we never leave, even as those around us choose to slowly write us out of the story we gave to them.

So when people forget to call him dad, or grandpa, and his peers have long forgotten French…there is always Christ who calls him son, a son amongst sons and daughters.

In God, our names and identities find rest.

Why You should Love Antiquarian Books

old book image
A prerequisite to loving old books is, of course, an enjoyment for reading. One can appreciate old books, collect old books, and admire the architecture of their spines and ornate cover designs without reading. But this is to love the value of the books or their aesthetic appeal. This is not the same as loving old books. It is not to get caught in the life of the old book itself, to look upon this simple object with words and covers and feel something more than an object of value.

I have discovered that I am book addict. I like books. I buy them. But there is something about an old text, an antique text, that has a whole other appeal to me than the latest modern novel or the latest academic musings.

As I hold an old book I realize a few things.

First, the life of the author rushes through my mind.

I imagine a person that prior to modern distractions poured their shade and energy into this text. Someone who by a dimly lit light, or perhaps even a candle, pen in hand, quarreling with their imaginations how to speak what cannot be spoken. How this pre-post-modern person toiled with their ultimate concern and endowed their characters or their topic with the same passion that occasioned this act of creation at the beginning. Books are pieces of people with dreams, hopes and aspirations. The text is the collision of the author and their context…the latter of which is usually lost on us and the former of which we think to be mechanical.

An example is a recent antique book I bought by Mary Johnston. Her two volume civil war historical fiction, “The Long Roll,” & “Ceasing Fire,” (ca. 1911 & 1912) are fictional attempts to honor and boldly imagine the Confederate struggle from within a Confederate sympathy a generation after the conflict.  Long before the genre of war fiction took hold, Mary Johnston was trailblazing a new way of writing fiction inside history, a bold attempt to give historical figures an additional life.

But what makes Mary so alluring to me as I hold her books is that she was the daughter of Confederate General Joseph Johnston, the last General to make a stand against Sherman in Resaca, Ga, May 1864. Here is the child of a man that made history and was part of the deepest and darkest conflict in our nation. Here is a woman born in the South during Reconstruction, her life animated by the stories her father told her, feelings that have not yet healed from the conflict. Here is a woman that probably still shared the lost dreams, lost hopes, and lost loves of a lost cause. When I hold her book I wonder what was she thinking, why choose this scene, what she felt as she recounted these memories and stories and did she cry as she began to blend history with fiction. Was her book the process of writing her dream and justifying her affections? Were these books exploding inside her or were the words like removing the sword from Kings Arthurs stone?

The thing about old books is that they are written by old people, people now dead but who were once living…people like us. So when I see an old book, I think about the author and I ask, “what was this life that thought writing these words were worth the time, energy and sacrifice?” “What passion is here that I cannot see yet I need to feel?”

Second, I like old books because I don’t imagine we know more than their authors.

One of the most efficient lies of the Enlightenment is that of progress.

The general public thinking they have progressed past the opinions and ideas contained in these old dusty pages. Whole worldviews and animations have been lost because we are so confident that our perspective on history is the correct one. We rarely consult antique books for anything more than mantle decorations when within them one might find that our ideas are not nearly so novel. We think their opinions or stories to be irrelevant on history and we formulate our historical, fictional, scientific, or whatever opinion, absent the people who actually lived and wrote about it as it was happening.

We forget the wise words of Ecclesiastes, “there is nothing new under the sun.”

And this generality extends to fiction as well.

As any great author will tell you, fiction is always contextual, erected from a world of events that make the fiction pertinent. To read fiction as if it is created in a vacuum is to misread it and to think we generate thoughts blindly.

As George Orwell explains in his little monograph Why I Write, “Above all it is your civilization, it is you. However much you hate it or laugh at it, you will never be happy away from it for any length of time…Good or evil, it is yours, you belong to it, and this side of the grave you will never get away from the marks it has given you.”

The context of this passage is the influence of Wells’ Englishness on his work and its interaction with the world. But his point is noted: our writing is always a writing of civilization and generally the really well written fiction is always about imaginatively encountering a non-fictive problem with characters and words that are able to take the heat of criticism and enter places the author would never be able to venture.

Writings is always time-full.

Thus, time would fail us to imagine all the idiots that have commented on Evolution and never actually read Darwin or considered his context!

Time would fail us to recount all the idiot politicians that have never read a stitch of political theory such as Rousseau, Locke or Hobbes, let alone actually read American founding Fathers that read them such as Jefferson and Franklin

Time would fail to note how much anti-southern sentiment has been forged apart from reading any Southern literature from the 1840s-1880’s!

Time would fail to recount all the people that love to invoke Shakespeare because it makes them sound smart yet they have never thought deeply about any play he wrote!

And herein lays the problem: our opinions are often baseless because they are without history, fictive, non-fictive or otherwise. We have our opinions and they are informed by nothing but ourselves…as if our ideas born when they are necessarily implies they are forward progress.

But we should not be relegated to ahistorical opinions because we have old books that allow us to position ourselves historically. Old books contain sentiments against, and within which, we are able to position ourselves and participate with those that have lived and died. We are able to partake of their wisdom, read the words of lives less busy but far more passionate, and imagine a world in which entertainment, education and imagination blend together in indistinguishable ways.

Thirdly, I imagine all the people that have held the book I now I hold.

As I sit among dusty books, many of which as old as my great grandparents x5, I imagine all the hands that have sat on porches or in libraries and held this very book. I imagine why they would bother. What had the hands experienced before or after reading this that would make this book worth their time?

On a daily basis many of us are removed from the dead, they are still and alone in their graves on the outcroppings of hills we have long forgotten. Yet when I hold a book published in 1870 I am instantly in connection with someone that is no longer with us.

My hands are turning the same pages. I am holding the same covers…I am perhaps even placing my fingers in the same places on the same pages as someone who is now deceased but has come to this book for a reason, a reason that might not be dissimilar to mine. I read this old text, write and talk about it with my friends. Perhaps those who owned this book long before me did the same.

Old books are symbols of dead people, writers from which they originated and owners who can no longer hold them because they are no longer physically present.

It is this piece of people and the invisible mark they leave behind that enthralls me, captures me and churns my mind. In an eerie way I feel as if the people I will never know I now instantly know because I have shared history with them…we have shared this book. And long after I am dead someone will share this book with me even if they do not realize it.

Fourth, the smell of old books is the smell of paper that has lived.

There is nothing like walking into a room filled with books, the smell of time bursting through your senses. To stare up at the stacks of time that are lost, yet found, preserved yet forgotten, is as close as we get to an incarnate representation of human creativity. Ancient civilizations have built monuments and stones that are still reminders of their creativity, but these are now giving way to weather and time.

But words…words cannot be destroyed.

They can be torn from their sentences but they cannot be lost. They will always find their way back home no matter how much fire is heaped on the pages that contain them. Roman arches may have fallen and Greek Temples may be decimated, but the words of Parmenides, Anaxagoras, Plato and Marcus Aurelius still live.

Taking an old book into your hands, opening it up and shuffling its pages produces that distinctly old book smell…the smell of time, of aged paper, of ideas inviting you to pause and consider that the smell can take you somewhere.

Old books have lived.

They have been carried through heartbreak. They have been secured in backpacks during wartime. They have been the relief of troubled souls wandering the four corners of the earth. They have been expressions of joy and inspiration for their readers. They have slid around on the floor board of old carriages or sat in the window sills of widows who have lost their loves. They have been hid under old saloon counters waiting to be read by bartenders at the end of the night. They have even been carried by prostitutes and read after a long nights work, feeding the imaginative and intellectual need of a woman or man that had been trapped in this dark industry, the participants of which are now all dead.

Books have lived.

They have been carried by people into countless places, read for a plethora of reasons and now they are still here, speaking to us, as we hold them in the same way as history has always held them since their inception from the press.

So, I confess again, I love old books.

As I hold an old book, I hold poetry that can never be held. I hear dreams that were once only seen. I sympathize with the author and envision them standing beside me. I weep for their loss, share in their joys and continue to toil over the problems their book addresses…and I wonder how many eyes have seen these words in these very pages…stared at them like me…and wonder how much of their soul soaked up these words.

The warmth of hands that held these books long before I was here is still present…and I wonder if hands in the future will feel the warmth of my own imprint on these very books.