Category Archives: Reading

Proust on cars

Proust’s In Search of Lost Time is a work of self through memory. The search is conducted through memory with the aid and hindrance of phenomena and habit, but done for the authentically expressing self. Or at least so I read it from my vantage point, a few hundred pages into The Captive.

One of the more interesting moves Proust makes in this great search of recollection is that time is not neutral: the wager of the search is that time can be lost and regained. In the course of his search the author comes face to face with the different natures of time, and how each of these differently impacts our self, world, and memory.

Part of the reason for this is that Proust is figuring out how to be an authentic self in a world in which time (and our entire being) has been so uprooted from the natural and tradition-based rhythms in the world around us. In a similar vein as Heidegger, Proust observes that modern technology confronts our world in “the character of a setting-upon, in the sense of a challenging forth.” And because this setting upon “expedites in that it unlocks and exposes…driving on to the maximum yield at the minimum expense,” our time and the world’s time changes, taking on different modes depending on which techniques of revealing and bringing forth are at work. Continue reading Proust on cars

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Merleau-Ponty on method

One of the interesting things about reading the working notes from The Invisible and the Invisible is that the reader gets to look inside the philosopher’s head; to see Merleau-Ponty trying to figure out his ideas, holding forth with himself, questioning his own approach, and testing out his own ideas. This is particularly the case with Merleau-Ponty for at least two reasons.

First, it seems that Merleau-Ponty thought on paper, working out his ideas with his pen. As Claude Lefort notes in his editorial introduction “The author was in the habit of jotting down ideas on paper, ordinarily without concerning himself with style nor even obliging himself to compose complete sentences. These notes, which sometimes contain but a few lines and sometimes extend over several pages, constitute drafts for developments that figure in the first part of the work or would have figured in its continuation.”

Second, Merleau-Ponty is a philosopher of work in progress, of the unfinished nature of work. When we close the question of being we lose being. It is rather, in our continued strivings for truthful expressions that we catch glimpses of truth. We often will complete works, and well we should, and we should also hope that they speak truthfully, that they are successful. But our work is never finished; at most it is passed down to those who follow. All this is to say that there is a certain sense in which Merleau-Ponty’s working notes showcase his work at its most truthful. The form of a finished book, with a concluding argument that wraps of the questions asked, cannot distort the fact that here is someone striving for truth and whose truthfulness is found to great degree in such authentic strivings.

This is perhaps no more the case than when Merleau-Ponty comes to questions of method: how will he present this book? There are numerous proposed outlines and various notes questioning where best to put different ideas. Here’s a gem that Merleau-Ponty jotted down in January 1959:

“Indicate from the start of the analysis of Nature that there is circularity: what we say here will be taken up again at the level of the logic (2nd volume). No matter. One does have to begin.”

Harry Huebner on being the the church in the world

I have now finished Harry Huebner’s Echoes of the Word. I enjoyed going through it in a relatively short time frame, and I hope readers appreciated the glances I provided into this reading.

Before I post a final quotation I’d like to draw attention to the two chapters I most enjoyed. What sets these essays apart for me is their tremendous practical wisdom combined with rich theological insight. That is, not only did these essays provoke my thinking, but I have high hopes that they will help me to become a better person – this without being trite or reductionist. Continue reading Harry Huebner on being the the church in the world

Jesus and the church’s call to embodied holiness

The issue for Jesus was both individual sinfulness as well as the people’s allegiance to a cultural dynamic of power, corruption, and piety. Especially serious was his charge that the religious leaders rather than calling the people to repentance were undergirding this way of life with religious rituals which abstracted the love of God. The Pharisees identified godliness with keeping themselves clean from the world around them. Jesus profoundly disagreed with this. The issue between Jesus and them was a hermeneutical one: how to interpret what God was doing. When Jesus said to them: ‘Woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God!’ (Luke 11:42a), he was not criticising their religion, he was criticising its abstraction. To be God’s people required incarnate compassion. You simply cannot be God’s and lack love for justice. Compassion is of the essence of God – witness the Prodigal Son story – hence if you are centred in God it defines your essence as well – witness the Good Samaritan story. Prophetic faithfulness, as Jesus interprets it, demands the unity of piety and politics. Continue reading Jesus and the church’s call to embodied holiness

On individualism and the church

Conservatives, including many evangelicals, tend to think of the church as a group of like-minded individuals gathered to re-enforce their individual piety (spirituality). Liberals…have, on the basis of maximising individual freedom, managed to associate religion so tightly with feelings that they have effectively reduced the church to an ethical society in which people are encouraged to make each other, and even those outside their walls, feel good. –  Echoes of the Word, 230

Traditionally Protestant Christians have understood themselves as a priesthood of believers. We need to be careful how we understand this notion. It does not mean that we are priests unto ourselves and therefore do not need each other; or that therefore our pastor cannot be our authority. This is a modern perversion, emanating from the quest for autonomous self-understanding characteristic of our age. Rather it means that we are all priests in relation to each other  we are all called to sacrifice ourselves for each other. This does not release us from or boundedness to God and each other; it binds us to both in our quest to learn what it means to be God’s children. – Echoes of the Word, 238

Compassion and presence: the church’s calling

The same central point is made: the justice of the biblical prophetic imagination is grounded in compassion. And nowhere is this seen more clearly than in the story of the cross and resurrection. The cross is the very embrace of the dialectical tension between justice and compassion.

Compassion is a radical critique of the imperial imagination because it announces that the hurt of the people, even of one’s enemies, will not be disregarded but will be taken seriously. To do otherwise is to make pain normative, injustice permissible, and evil god. Empires live in callous disregard to the human pain which they require to sustain themselves. God and God’s people live in compassionate empathy with the broken ones. God and God’s people offer hope to the hopeless. Continue reading Compassion and presence: the church’s calling

“On Being Stuck with Our Parents”

This excerpt is the first few paragraphs from the essay “On Being Stuck with Our Parents: Learning to Die in Christ.”

The title’s suggestion that we are stuck with our parents may offend some readers. We do not like to think of ourselves as being stuck with each other, not even those we love. Why? Perhaps because our culture teaches us that the only things worth having are those we freely choose; we are taught to believe that our will and our freedom are basic to our being. But our parents and our children are precisely the people we do not first of all choose. Continue reading “On Being Stuck with Our Parents”

The cross and Christian hope for peace and justice

We need to remind ourselves that what we as Christians may legitimately hope for is not first of all a transformed super-human existence, but a way of living with our flawed existence. That is why being a disciple is not only living in the resurrection; it is first of all taking up the cross. – Echoes of the Word, 154 Continue reading The cross and Christian hope for peace and justice

An Epistemology of Peace

Incompleteness is not a temporary human state while we engage in figuring out how to do theology and ethics; incompleteness is the human condition. That is why it does not matter where we begin or what language we use, provided we do not exclude other languages, but it does matter whom we listen to and whether we are able to learn to walk the word…. Continue reading An Epistemology of Peace

On Church Discipline

Eariler I suggested that we today are ill at ease with church discipline. I now want to claim that this is as it should be. However, we ought to make sure that our discomfort is for the right reasons. It is not sufficient to object to church discipline on the grounds that we do not like others telling us what to do and think. Being told how to live is something Christians should be used to – after all, we are precisely the kind of people who are trying to think and do what another (Jesus) has already thought and done. And herein lies what ought to be the real source of our discomfort with church discipline: Jesus. I suspect that if Jesus were living his radical life in our churches today he may well be excommunicated. At least he would be asked to tone it down, We may well send two or three people to talk to him about his extremism. ‘Sell what you have and give it to the poor.’ ‘Love your enemy.’ ‘Be servants of one another.’ ‘You hypocrites,’ said to religious leaders. Our response would be, ‘Come on, Jesus, give us a break! You are far too critical. Lighten up and be positive. This is no way to foster church growth.’ Continue reading On Church Discipline