Monday, November 14, 2011

broken open

Four times a day—on rising, at noon, late afternoon, and before going to bed—Agnes and Father Damien became that one person who addressed the unknown. The priest stopped what he was doing, cast himself down, made himself transparent, broke himself open. That is, prayed.

Louise Erdrich, The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse. Harper Collins, 2001. 182.

to live in a broken world

People say they do not want to give way on important moral issues, but far too often they don't want to give way on the ego's need to be  right, superior, and in control. This mimics that "original sin," described as a "desire to be like God" and daring to eat the apple of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It's the human unwillingness to live in a broken world. In the illusion of an unbroken world, we do not have to rely upon grace, mercy and forgiveness, we do not need to be "saved."

Richard Rohr, Hope Against Darkness: The Transforming Vision of Saint Francis in an Age of Anxiety. Cincinnati, St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2001. 35.

Friday, August 27, 2010

self-selecting outsiders

Part of the attraction of fundamentalist discourse, and this fundamentalism can be Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Marxist, or secularist, is the way it allows partially self-selecting 'outsiders' from mainstream culture (and we are all such partially self-selecting 'outsiders' now) to see themselves as secret 'insiders' with a direct line in to What's Really Going On.

James Alison. Broken Hearts and New Creations. New York: Continuum, 2010. 38.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

being forgiven

Imagine what it is like to be approached by your forgiving victim. It is actually very difficult indeed to spend time thinking about our being approached by our forgiving victim! What is it like to actually undergo being forgiven? We tend to try to resolve this by saying, 'Oh, it's not being forgiven that matters. It's forgiving: I must forgive!' So we work ourselves up into a moral stupor, straining ourselves to 'forgive the bastard!' This then becomes very, very complicated. But in fact the Christian understanding is quite the reverse: it's because we are undergoing being forgiven that we can forgive; and we need to forgive in order to continue undergoing being forgiven. But remember: it's because we are approached by our victim, that we start to be undone. Or in Paul's language: 'even though you were dead in your sins he has made you alive together in Christ.' Someone was approaching you even when you didn't realize there was a problem, so that you begin to discover, 'Oh! So that's what I've been involved in.'

James Alison. Undergoing God: Dispatches from the Scene of a Break-in. New York: Continuum, 2006. 64-65.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

peripheral existence

Sacred centres produce margins, and the margin is a dangerous place to be, and much effort must be expended not to be among the losers, whether in terms of finance, health, reputation or whatever.  However, the extraordinarily powerful, benevolent, non-sacred, non-centre, which is Christ building the new Temple, is able to make it a pleasure to dwell with spaciousness among the weak and those of little account, because there is, after all, 'world enough and time'. So peripheral existence enables liking being among those who do not have anywhere to go, because they are neither competition, nor sign of scarcity, not threat of love, nor object of compassion, but sign of gift and shared story. There is all the spaciousness of eternal life with which to begin to build a story of the sort that has no end.

James Alison. On Being Liked. New York: Herder & Herder, 2003. 74.

Monday, October 26, 2009

conscious, consenting, responsible

When Jesus speaks of having life more abundantly, this, I think, is the life He means: a life that is not reducible by division, category, or degree, but is one thing, heavenly and earthly, spiritual and material, divided only insofar as it is embodied in distinct creatures. He is talking about a finite world that is infinitely holy, a world of time that is filled with life that is eternal. His offer of more abundant life, then, is not an invitation to declare ourselves as certified "Christians," but rather to become conscious, consenting, and responsible participants in the one great life, a fulfillment hardly institutional at all.
Wendell Berry, "The Burden of the Gospels" in Blessed Are the Peacemakers; Christ's Teachings about Love, Compassion & Forgiveness. Shoemaker & Hoard, 2005. 66-67

Saturday, September 12, 2009

gifts keep giving

A commodity is truly "used up" when it is sold because nothing about the exchange assures its return. The visiting sea captain may pay handsomely for a Kula necklace, but because the sale removes it from the circle, it wastes it, no matter the price. Gifts that remain gifts can support an affluence of satisfaction, even without numerical abundance. The mythology of the rich in the overproducing nations that the poor are in on some secret about satisfaction—black "soul," gypsy duende, the noble savage, the simple farmer, the virile gamekeeper—obscures the harshness of modern capitalist poverty, but it does have a basis, for people who live in voluntary poverty or who are not capital-intensive do have more ready access to erotic forms of exchange that are neither exhausting nor exhaustible and whose use assures their plenty.
Lewis Hyde. The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World. New York: Vintage, 2007. 29