Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Howdy doodlings

There’s no fool like an old fool, but youth has the market on being an asshole.

The experience of suffering, mine and others, has never catapulted me into a crisis of faith. The experience of church, however, has been a perennial threat.

Did you hear about the brilliant quantum physicist who was as thick as two short plancks? Yeah, I know, I can see your eyes rolling at such a bohring pun.

No one can both crack me up and piss me off like my wife. Except, of course, God.

My vote for Theologian of the Year goes to – Lila Ames (in Marilynne Robinson’s novel Lila). Here is Lila on prayer:
  • “She thought, What would I pray for, if I thought there was any point in it? Well, I guess the first thing would have to be that there was some kind of point in it” (pp. 61-62).
  • “And then she thought, Praying looks just like grief. Like shame. Like regret” (p. 95).
  • “She meant to ask him sometime how praying is different from worrying” (p. 234).
  • “She said, ‘The best things that happen I’d never have thought to pray for. In a million years. The worst things just come like the weather. You do what you can’” (p. 237).
Some reviewers of Lila have observed that it is a novel without plot. Yes, and so what? As Henry James observed, character is plot.

“The United States of America”: “Well, I spose they had to call it something,” as Doll says (in Lila). Still, it is a cumbersome and colourless name. “Graceland” would have been lovely. “Raceland” more accurate.

What to say to the Religious Right? “Get your fat asses out of my White House” – President Josiah Bartlet’s words in the pilot of The West Wing – still sounds pretty good to me.

L. P. Hartley famously wrote (in The Go-Between, 1953): “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” Hell, here in the teenies, the 1950s is a foreign country, and back beyond the 50s, how would we know, temporal xenophobics that we are, enlightened ones patronising or sneering at the olden days of darkness? So a rewrite of Hartley’s aphorism: “The present is a fatuous country; we do things ignorantly here.”

Beware the sentimental politician: his expressions of concern are the cunning performance of a cynical complacency.

The thing I love about Calvinists is the way that they can be so earnest and solemn, and make such ridiculously sweeping statements, about predestination and hell. And Catholics – the way they can be either so devout (as only Catholics can be “devout”) about the sacred or, on the other hand, so insouciant, even irreverent.

On Israel’s “right to exist” –
absolutely, we all should insist;
but for “right of return” –
Palestinians yearn –
we must cry, protest de profundis.

So you believe in the Virgin Birth. So what? And you believe in the Resurrection. Again, so what? The question is: who was the virgin who gave birth, and who was the man who was raised?  And the answer is: Mary, who sang the Magnificat (Luke 1:46ff.), and Jesus, who preached the Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:20ff.). In the former, Mary says: God “has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away.” And in the latter, Jesus says: “Blessed are you who are poor … Blessed are you who are hungry …. But woe to you who are rich … Woe to you who are full.” That woman and that man who said these things – they were the ones who, respectively, gave birth and were raised. Only now do the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection become interesting.

plagiarism: from the Latin plagiarius – plunderer, kidnapper – because words are vulnerable, defenceless; they can be attacked, captured, and abused; their power is their weakness. Like the Word.

Faith expresses itself in the action of love (James 2:17, Galatians 5:6) – nothing extraordinary, mind, let alone heroic, but simply common human decency (from the Latin decere, what is fitting)

People don’t believe in anthropogenic climate change in the same way they don’t believe in senescence. Then the nickel-and-diming starts: on the one hand, arthritis, vision and hearing impairment, memory-loss; on the other hand, extreme weather events. Still, denial persists. Then, before you know it, you’re fucked.

In the UK, with the General Election in May, the main political parties have begun jockeying for position. In addition to Samuel Johnson’s indistinguishable louse and flea – Tories and Labour – there is the bedbug of the Liberal Democrats and the vile tick of UKIP (Britain’s Tea Party light). You might call the Greens, the only party with a moral narrative, a ladybird; otherwise, the wise will vote for an exterminator.

US hegemony over the UK is demonstrated less by the lopsided “special relationship” than by a little American invention which monopolises the market in Britain: the tea bag, which accounts for 96% of all UK tea sales.

Why did God give us bellybuttons (apart, of course, as a salt-holder for eating celery in bed)? To remind us that life is a knot we can never untie.

Here’s an example of contextualisation. Calvin famously described human beings as 5-foot worms: we were both shorter and more appealing in the 16th century. Today he might say that human beings are 6-footish hammerhead sharks: more dangerous than worms, more cranially descriptive – and now facing extinction.

You can tell a lot about a person from what they desire, but I think you can tell even more about them from what they fear.

Contemplative prayer: eavesdropping on the conversation between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

For private devotions, one must retire to a special room and close the door. Especially for confession, lest you stink up the whole house.

Sometimes you have to shout to be heard, but what you shout is inevitably a distortion of what you would otherwise simply say.

Oh dear. It looks, folks, like we’re going to have to add an 8th “I-am” saying to John’s Jesus: Je suis Charlie.

1 Comment:

Jason Goroncy said...

Kim, thank you for your latest round of doodles.

Your proposal of Lila as 'Theologian of the Year' reminded me of the importance of theological co-travellers (reading Thurneysen again this morning helped with that). Among these, for Lila, were Doll, the boy at the shack, and, of course, Ames' sweater, charged as it was with all the vulnerability of grace stolen and free. And, of course, the gentle Revd Ames himself, whose insights on divine providence and the fragmentary nature of human existence – that 'Life on earth is difficult and grave, and marvelous', parts which neither 'add up' nor 'even belong in the same calculation' – pay the price of the book ten times over.

O to be a five-foot worm!

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