My frustration with the image of the sprout as the visual exemplar of the new church is the implication that growth results from agonists or prodigals in isolation, that a single lonely seed is called to be the savior of its kind—or all will perish utterly. Of the millions of sprouts that push up from underground, all in this image are suddenly set apart and lonely. Yet they are the lucky ones whose growth attracts our admiration and our longing. In their ‘genius’ set-apartness, they quickly succumb to the gaze and demands of enlightenment salvation, and meet their glory in the championed “I” as in “SELF.” Such is the rise and fall of the cult of celebrity church.
But, as Rev. L. Carl Martin so perfectly and accidentally said, we need a ‘Teutonic Shift.’ The remedy is demotion for the “i” and for relationship to challenge the deification of “self.” No single seed grows alone. There must always be a neuro, eco, bio, divination system. In short, if WE are going to live and reach for a vital growing church, let us not mistake the forest for a tree.
We are digital
neo-nomads in a mobile world,
tribal contacts. I,
I am networked in.
My home village
swirls inside the netherspace.
It is cosmologic, a miracle.
I exist in the distance,
my arms outstretched,
—can you feel my fingertips,
do you read
my interconnectivity. My cellphone,
it stays within my reach, and yet,
I am out of touch.
Okay, so sometimes the straw gets to me and I need to let off a little ideological/philosophical steam. Well, here it is. Words, as I’ve said before, sometimes think too much of themselves. I am here to destabilize them! It is a good reminder that life doesn’t have to be so serious.
Below find a list of words I’ve encountered in my recent reading that begged for a little redefinition. :-) I will undoubtedly be adding to the list.
Alescence – the yeasty, beery smell that fills an entire room whenever a pair of dirty gym socks are removed from a plastic storage bag and placed into a hamper.
Axiological – the dilemma of a person possessed of an ax (while simultaneously dispossessed of their wits) who is contemplating barbarous action, in this case with said ax, to solve an immediate problem. Lizzy Borden, for example, engaged in an axiological dilemma just prior to murdering her parents.
Chaosmic – The state of deep physical satisfaction that results during and shortly after an episode of enthusiastic lovemaking performed in total darkness.
Discriminanda – The disappointed sigh emitted by a mega-fauna lover after they click on a link or links labeled ‘Cute Panda Pic!’ only to discover the cat-like mammal depicted in the photograph is not the Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) they had hoped to see, but is instead the Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens), a small, less-appealing, non-relative. (Also see Discriminandum.)
Discriminandum – 1. The carefully etched graffiti-like scrawl pre-printed onto commercial drumsets in an effort to appeal to young consumers. 2. a last ditch effort made by modern Rap music artists to rhyme with ‘memorandum.’ (Not to be confused with Discriminanda.)
Explananda – Splenda sweetened banana smoothie used primarily for purposes of exfoliation.
Indiscerpible – 1. The state of ‘Authoritarized Intactness’ that results from the use of a looping neck and chinstrap, often bejeweled, attached to the underside of a Crown, and used primarily by Kings, Queens, Despots, Potentates, Debutantes, and High School Prom Courts to secure the Crown of Office to their heads thereby protecting their entitlement from random or premeditated snatch-and-grab usurpage. The neck strap also protects against decapitation. 2. Defensive strategy whereby a Crown wearer tilts his/her head so that a strategically placed ‘Crown Jewel’ may reflect brightly enough to blind an attacker. This technique of using bright light emitted from the forehead was borrowed for use by coal miners as a defense against the darkness of mining tunnels as early as 1850.
Perichoresis – The paralysis (and occasional rash) that seizes an expectant father directly following this question from his expectant partner: “Which shade of Periwinkle should we paint the nursery?” Possibilities of periwinkle, usually a light bluish violet, might include ‘Light Periwinkle,’ ‘Soothing Sky Periwinkle,’ or ‘Periwinkle Meadow.’
Propaedeutic – of, or like, a larval or pupal phase platypus. Preferably one native to historically held German territories.
Representamen – White stick figures applied to the back of a minivan or SUV, usually depicting an, often, Christian family unit usually including pets. Generally connoted by non participants to be boastful of traditional family relationships and mainstream values but problematic in this regard as mainstream families no longer fit the stereotype. Alternate spelling: resentamen.
Self-Othering – Any of a series of maladies stemming from distractedness, overwork, senility, or mental illness. Symptoms include talking to oneself, in particular referring to oneself in the third person while engaging in self soothing or self denigration, delusions that tasks left undone one has already completed, forgetfulness concerning specific facts relating to personal identity, such as favorite foods, colors, and the placement of car keys, disruption of self-care, such as irregular bathing and inability to recall whether or not one has eaten lunch, and the sudden, traumatic shock upon seeing one’s reflection in a mirror.
Spatiotemporal – the condition that arises when one searches for a pair of spats, unworn since the 1950’s, that have inexplicably disappeared.
Telic – Chief Engineer on the Star Fleet Starship U.S.S. Kitty Hawk. Alternately, the deceased best friend of Nylis Zokrat, Sith Assassin.
Theologoumena – Intricate ballet and trial-by-ordeal performed on a rolling log by virgin prima ballerinas (in tutus and pink satin toe shoes), while keeping their chins parallel to the ground and their eyes fixed devoutly heavenwards.
Theomachy – Greek variation of the popular sushi maki roll, traditionally prepared with an Enuma Fish, which is dipped vigorously into an ‘empty space’ so that small particles, in particular the Higgs Boson, might adhere to it.
Thirdness – The bitter resentment experienced by a youngest sibling who, having failed to beat his older brothers to the dessert cart, must accept the smallest, least appealing portion of cake.
Trikonic – A ‘writerly,’ self-invested, and overly clever “twist” ending to an unproduced screenplay. The ‘trikonic’ or ‘trick’ ending is generally defended as both ‘ironic’ and ‘mind-blowing’ by its author.
See this image, Smell No Evil, in a larger size.
And, in honor of Harvard’s new slip of papyrus:
(Read the article and the story of Jesus’s wife, here )
For much of this last year I have been locked in front of a book, kindle, or laptop absorbed in the study of existence. And, though I have done my best to avoid them my whole life, I have lately had to deal with what the Germans had to say about it. And they had a lot to say. First the Greeks, then the Latins, though quickly to the Greeks again, and then the Germans, and now we are all trapped in the high-pitched whine of überology in all its various echoes and translations.
Sometimes I get very tired.
Sometimes I want to plug my ears and run away.
All the philosophy! All the minds are trying too hard to listen and learn and declare and delve and do. But maybe existence just wants to be. As in, maybe existence just wants to be left alone.
And yes, I think it is pretentious. It is pretentious for any of us to claim to ‘study’ something like existence, divine or otherwise. Let’s please recognize that many of those with the time and opportunity to delve into these things have been madmen—literally. No doubt their madness was a gift to enable them to achieve brilliance. But, when you and I became involved, when we became invested in following in the steps of madmen, it’s time to question our own sanity. And pretensions. And, frankly, I question both for myself frequently.
Two thirds of the way through his opus Summa Theologica, Thomas Aquinas had a mystical experience that caused him to put down his pen. He never finished it. Later he said, “Everything I have written is straw.”
The point is, it takes a lot of time…but does it matter? All the ologies and osophies and emiotics… Do they feed one hungry child? Do they comfort one elderly person on a cold day?
I speak to all of us, I think this pursuit must not be of a distant star or an academic prize but it must be a pathway to wellbeing. As a graduate student grasping (gasping) through the texts of Hegel, Kant, Peirce, and more, sometimes I just have to get some air. And, as I’m breathing, I have to wonder…what??!
This is what I do on a ‘straw’ day to clear my head when all the ‘ologies’ begin to feel a little too big for everyone’s britches. :-) Or a long walk is also good.
What are we doing? Are we trying to make our point in a hostile room? Or have we stumbled onto something wondrous! Can we maintain humility and use what we learn to build/nurture societies and communities of wellbeing? Some of us contribute the shingles for the church roof. Others bake the most delicious spice cakes. A brave few travel the world and record for the rest of us the chasm between what we wish were true about humanity, and what is actually true. Still others, like me at the moment, attempt to delve into the unknown depths of divinity and scoop out images and experiences of neighbor, lover, and God.
It’s hard to stay sane, but I’m determined to try it. As such, I have a little fun as I go. (See my post Words, words, humor me.) I like to let the air out of the tires of ‘big words’ for example, as well as poking fun at words that border on pretension even as they attempt to justify their existence in a plea for exactitude—ha! I say look out! Big words can aspire to too much power. After a while, they need to be aired out. We all do.
Consider this an airing out. Consider this blog the product of a ‘straw’ day, a day when, after weeks of reading tracts devoted to what was or was not part of a priori existence, I have to agree with Thomas Aquinas about it all being straw. I find his straw reference very interesting. Straw, after all isn’t that bad, it has some uses. It’s clean. It smells good and fresh. In the 12th century it was handy for thatch and stuffing mattresses. It made an appearance at childbirth. This is all good. Even better is that it is a commonman’s material, ready to hand to be turned into items of utility, like baskets and brooms, and even art.
A Belarusian Straw Bird, by Viktar Patsciuk, 2007. Wikipedia Commons.
The trouble is, straw was not exactly what Thomas Aquinas was aiming for. For all its nicer uses, straw is mainly used for soaking up messes. It is strewn liberally in places like horse stables to absorb excrement and clean up easily. It is used by the handful to scrape unknown substances from the bottoms of shoes. ‘Straw’ may be ‘clean’ and ‘natural’ in starting out…but maybe in the end it is only useful for absorbing the mess we make of it…
Yet I guess I am hooked. I am willing, at least for now, to trust to the stuff that can absorb the mess. I trust that this straw of everyday life is what really matters, regardless of what it aspires (pretentiously) to be.
I am a miller’s daughter spinning…spinning….spinning…
Where is Rumpelstilzchen when you need him?
Illustration of Rumpelstiltskin from Household Stories by the Brothers Grimm, translated by Lucy Crane, illustrated by Walter Crane, first published by Macmillan and Company in 1886. Available at Project Gutenberg. and Wikipedia Commons.