Category Archives: Jean-Luc Marion

Dylan the icon: a concluding footnote to the idolatry of genius

You never turned around to see the frowns

On the jugglers and the clowns when they all did tricks for you

You never understood that it ain’t no good

You shouldn’t let other people get your kicks for you

You used to be so amused

At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used

Go to him now, he calls you, you can’t refuse

When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose

You’re invisible now, you’ve got no secrets to conceal

A few years ago at the Winnipeg Folk Festival I was struck when three of my favourite performers on three separate occasions remarked that the only reason they were on the road making music was because of Dylan and the impact he had made on them. To me this announced the clear influence Dylan continues to command in much of the music making world. Even more striking, however, was the fact that those three performers were quite different from each other (different nationalities, genders, and of course musical genres and styles) and none sounded particularly Dylanesque. This impressed me: in an almost singular way it seemed that Dylan inspired musicians and at the same time inspired them to become distinct artists themselves rather than imitators. Continue reading Dylan the icon: a concluding footnote to the idolatry of genius

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The difference between boredom and anxiety

On a more personal note than my current series on Marion, one of the reasons I’ve so enjoyed reading God Without Being is that there is so much material for someone who, like me, is in a more or less constant state of existential crisis. Along these lines, I like the distinction Marion makes between boredom and anxiety. In brief, existential anxiety is chronically worried over the source of beings. What is good? Am I living well or squandering my existence? Is this relationship “real” or founded on fantasy? In contrast, for the bored person beings are there and well-founded and actions may even be clear enough, but who really cares? Boredom is the indifference to the genuine difference that exists all around us.

Between these two, anxiety is something to attend to at least, even if it’s terrifying and debilitating, for “the claim [of…] Being silently utters. Boredom, on the contrary, can hear nothing here, not even the Nothingness/Nothing.” Marion identifies anxiety as the source of Dasein, as that which seeks to found itself on the nothing. In contrast, boredom “displaces man…outside of his status as Dasein.” This because the bored person is not being here and there: he or she is nowhere in particular, nowhere that matters.

So, now you know the difference.

Considering Marion’s Gift: Receptivity, Dependence, and Enjoyment vs Possession in the Prodigal Son

[Find part I of this series here.]

Few would quarrel with Jean-Luc Marion’s claim that the parable of the prodigal son speaks to themes of ownership and possession. It may be more contentious to claim, as Marion does, that this parable promotes the virtue of ongoing dependence and use and strikes against an ethic of self-funding and ownership. And it may sound simply foreign to contend that the prodigal son teaches us how to relate to and encounter truth and the good: as a reception of excessive grace in an ongoing posture of praise and dependence. And yet, I find Marion’s exposition of this parable one of the most compelling presentation of God Without Being’s recurring themes of receptivity, dependence, and enjoyment/use vs possession. Continue reading Considering Marion’s Gift: Receptivity, Dependence, and Enjoyment vs Possession in the Prodigal Son

Considering Marion’s Gift: Prefatory Remarks

For the past year and a half or so, few books have held me as captive as Jean-Luc Marion’s God Without Being. The volume of posts on this blog working with this text is probably an indication of this. Some of my captivation lies in the fact that I am interested in the ways the church can and should claim, name, and confess its central loyalty to Jesus. This is a tricky task. It is not easy to avoid claiming instead the various idols that close us off from Jesus speaking in unexpected places and hold our attention on the voices of false gods. Into such thinking, Marion’s rigorous and evocative efforts to allow for the worship of a God that comes to us as the gift of cruciform love, outside of the logics of Being, speaks with a great deal of potentiality. In this series of posts I want to consider the ways that Marion may be helpful for thinking about the church’s confession of faith and the political formations that might happen with confession of faith. My next post will consider themes of receptivity, dependence, enjoyment, and use vs possession, after which I will consider some of the paternalistic and conservative undertones and implications in these themes. First I will conclude this post with some remarks about Marion’s critique of idolatry and the stakes that I believe are present in his presentation. Continue reading Considering Marion’s Gift: Prefatory Remarks

The Idolatry of Genius, part 2

If what we tend to call genius is idolatry, can there be any authentic creation? If, as I suggested in my previous post, our geniuses are better thought of as workers, again and again making an effort at an incomplete expression while enmeshed in a world of influences and indebtedness, is there only ever context? Geniuses are those who break with convention, define a new era, and pull free from the world’s determining strings. They are where we can find what is new; they are the innovators, visionaries, and pioneers. At their most profound geniuses are those whose creations create, sustain, and define a world, rather than the world defining them. If we say that this image of genius is an idol, a perfect image held in front of us that thwarts good work, can we still claim a genuine and generative power in art? In this post, I hope to begin to indicate a way forward with Jean-Luc Marion’s descriptions of the icon. Continue reading The Idolatry of Genius, part 2

Yoder on faithful living and Marion on faithful seeing

Similarities between the theology of John Howard Yoder and Jean-Luc Marion may not be immediately evident. At the same time, I suspect that Marion’s work will become more helpful to my own theological work if I can tease out some of these similarities and put them into conversation with each other. One such similarity I think I’ve found is their shared conviction to act as if the world is God’s and is loved by God. Yoder often voices this conviction in terms of faithful living and Marion in the terms of faithful seeing. However, for both true sight and living well are so closely joined that they are almost the same thing. This is what I am trying to point towards with my quotations from Marion and Yoder below.

Before getting to those passages, I’d like to clarify one aspect of ‘true sight.’ Often true sight is a euphemism “for a beautiful vision to impose from above by authority,” to use Yoder’s words in just one of the many passages where he critiques such methodology. For both Yoder and Marion, an emphasis on seeing does not start with a large vision, but with the particular and with letting particular people, places and things speak with their own truth and beauty. Marion’s term “saturated phenomena,” speaks to this and to the excessive profundity of the world when we see that it participates in love before being. If it isn’t explicit I hope that this aspect of sight is at least implicit in the following passages.

“We are not called to love our enemies in order to make them our friends. We are called to act out love for them because at the cross it has been effectively proclaimed that from all eternity they were our brothers and sisters. We are not called to make the bread of the world available to the hungry; we are called to restore the true awareness that it was always theirs. We are not called to topple the tyrants, so that it might become true  that the proud fall and the haughty are destroyed. It is already true; we are called only to let that truth govern our own choice of whether to be, in our turn, tyrants claiming to be benefactors.” – Yoder, For the Nations

“The same distance designates the same world as vain or as ‘beautiful and good,’ according to whether the gaze perceives the distance through one pole or the other: from the world as vain or as ‘beautiful and good,’ according to whether the gaze perceives the distance through one pole or the other from the world, on the fringe that opens it to the excess of a distance, the totality appears to be struck by vanity; from the inaccessible point of view of God, at the extremes of distance, the same world can receive the blessing that characterizes it in its just dignity….

For another gaze – the gaze of God – boredom no longer arises; the gaze that can love strikes no longer with vanity, but prompts ‘goodness.’… [V]anity arises from a gaze that exceeds Being/being without yet acceding to charity, a gaze that discovers the world as being beyond Being/being without seeing it loved – by God…. Vanity comes from the boredom of man, not from the boredom of God; for God loves, and from the gaze of charity comes the ‘goodness’ of the gazed at….

That which is, if it does not receive love, is as if it were not, while that which is not, if love polarizes it, is as if it were: the indifference to determination according to ontological difference reappears as the responsibility of love…. To give the world which is, empty of love, for that which is not but belongs to the domain of love – there is nothing more reasonable and even advantageous.” – Marion, God Without Being

The Idolatry of Genius, part one

We’ve had some discussion recently on genius and the possibility for authentic art. Most recently, Lisa (using Woolf) called the term “genius” into question, suggesting that it does not adequately account for the extent to which those reckoned “great artists” are in debt to those who came before (teachers, colleagues, mentors) and to the social conditions that made possible their position as an artist. In this way, genius functions as a sort of privileged male illusion that allows the most indebted to consider themselves self-sufficient and authentically creative because of their self-sufficiency. I agree with Lisa’s critique and would like to push it further. I want to use Jean-Luc Marion’s analysis of the idol to suggest that much of what we consider the marks of “genius” indicates idolatry and illusion. Nevertheless, I would still like to claim that not all art is absolutely determined by a stifling immanence; in other words, that there is more to art than its context. To do this, in part two, I will draw on Marion’s understanding of the icon. Continue reading The Idolatry of Genius, part one

“Disciplined Inattentiveness”

In the introduction to his commentary on Hebrews, D. Stephen Long calls the reader to a disciplined inattentiveness while reading the book of Hebrews. The point is that the modern reader, living in a flattened and gridded world, cannot enter into the book of Hebrews unless she or he also enters into its “odd” world of depth, messiness, and wild spiritual entities. To quote Long more fully:

Bultmann intended…to show the need to demythologize the Bible, rid it of its enchantments, and make it palatable to life on the grid. Hebrews challenges this intent by asking us which is the ‘real’ world. Is it the flat metaphysics of the grid, or is it the illusion that requires a disciplined act of inattentiveness to see it as real? – Long, 13 (my emphasis)

Continue reading “Disciplined Inattentiveness”