Thursday, June 13, 2013

Kierkegaard on the practice of self-denial.

So...an ordinarily honest person who feels impelled to witness in one way or another for the truth against the untruth that prevails precisely because it is regarded as the truth. He is well aware that there is danger, but he is willing to expose himself to it.

And yet he perhaps has not quite understood himself. He is, however, entirely convinced of the truth of what he wants to point out; he is convinced to such a degree that he is involuntarily –ah, human heart!– constrained to believe that if only it is heard it must triumph, win people to its side.

So, then, he speaks out – but strangely enough he encounters opposition everywhere; he reaps ingratitude in every form, not only form those from whom he had expected it, but also from those for whose sake he had thought he ought to witness to the truth – just as, for example, Moses had his grief not only with the Egyptians but also with the Hebrews, for whose sake he had exposed himself to all the troubles and dangers. 

Now this person becomes uneasy; he is oppressed. So he has recourse, as usual, there where he is accustomed to seek help – to Governance. He lays out his distress–what will Governance reply? Kind and gentle as always, Governance replies: Is it not true that you wanted to practice self denial; can you deny that it worked out that way; right now the opportunity to practice it is indeed before you. 

Let us suppose, then, that he answers: Yes, that I understand; now I understand it. But, to be honest, I did not understand it quite that way when I decided to act and began. I feel as if the sea is getting too rough for me.

What will Governance probably reply? Kind and gently as always, never cruel, Governance says: Yes, yes, my little friend, when you have humbled yourself under this and learned humility from this little lesson, then we shall help you out of this again.

But something else could happen. As governance is explaining to the struggling one how it all hangs together, that precisely this is part of true self-denial, a transformation takes place in him. Like a child's surprise when it suddenly understands, like the blissful surprise of a girl in love when she suddenly understands that what she had interpreted as testifying against her being loved actually  testifies to it–so also is his surprise. He says, what I suffered or that which pained me was really that in this adversity I saw proof that everything had gone wrong for me. But now when you, kind Governance, explain it to me and explain yourself to me, I now wish only to remain out there in an understanding with you.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Dear outraged blogger...yes you in the mirror...


I agree almost entirely with your well written post. The issue of ____ is damning to say the least. However, the outlook is still skewed. The majority of Americans STILL do not care about the _____. Tweeters and bloggers seem perturbed but from the vast amount of people I speak to all I get is a shrug. Maybe followed by, "yea, I figured that was happening." 

When the Occupy movement said it was being targeted, Many American onlookers said, "You are rather full of yourselves to think that, no?" But when recently it was proven to be the case these same people said, "Well, you should have expected that, no?"

My belabored point? The issue is not knowledge. One more conversation, one more fact, one more story, one more detail that we, unlike you, are missing and just need to have in order to straighten out –– will not cure us. Won't even lead to a cure. Doubtful it could put us on a path that might eventually lead to a vista where we could then see the cure with binoculars.

I lack action. Action is understanding. Understanding without action is really not understanding at all. 
   A commitment to live a certain way that will definitely (inevitably!) bring suffering to me. If there is a way to become the despised ones, that is it. To live as one who serves one master come hell and high water. And come they will. Until I take responsibility for what I do, and I would assume millions of Christians do likewise (though my commitment is not conditioned by theirs), we shall all point and blame whatever our twitter feed tells us too. The whiplash never ends. By Monday a new scandal will be revealed. In between work, school, little league and HBO of course. That's not to say you failed to outline the problems. You do so quite well.

But the reset button is in your hand. A button looking exactly like yours, is in my hand. The reset will up end everything I ever wanted to be and I will cease to be anything of value to this world. But I will have the inward joy of serving only one master.

Will I press mine? Can I part with all I hold dear? No, I can't. I'm afraid. So I'm going to blame ________ instead. Yes, after a good blog and tweet and pithy comment, my soul will feel better and I can avoid the despair of pressing that reset button for another day. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Ordinary radical

Maybe taking up my cross is not a burden to find and then carry but more a renouncing of social status. But what narcissist I am –– will I give up my social status? 

Wether one is radical or one is ordinary or as Shane might say, ordinary radical...who really is ready to part with the status one has accumulated? To own that decision as only the one who is making it can own it? Thankfully my narcissism destroyed my former life leaving me with nothing to cling to. And yet I scour the internet looking to cling to something! Sure, I looked at everything but following Jesus with my actions, and still do.

And if I were to say give up Facebook, Twitter, blogs and then do X, that will just be legalism. But am I really surprised that so many teachers, so called, call others to act without really acting themselves? I mean how sincere can someone be if they tell me to renounce all and follow Christ if they have a mansion, titles and book deals? How sincere am I? Why bother with Jesus indeed! Or maybe that is the agreement. They will pretend so that I can pretend and we shall all argue about particulars. Always  discussing, haggling, brainstorming about the 'what' and never the 'how'. 

My knowledge is always evolving, ever growing yet I postpone actual obedience to whatever I claim to understand (even if but a little piece) into the future. "If I ever was called to renounce all, I would," says myself, the narcissist. Seemingly clueless to the alarms sounding from all corners to act and act immediately. Immediately? But what if I am wrong? What if the blogosphere lights up with ridicule and renounces me instead? O the horror!

And O that it would! For even that tiny suffering is too great for geniuses like me. O God, do with me according to your mercy! I am well aware that in every generation and also in mine there have lived people who have put forth the requirement to be christian in a more rigorous sense, but I have been unable to join them. No, for me it seemed truer to accept a more lenient form, a mitigation––rather then to admit that this is not really christianity. 

Infuse the sermon on the mount, indeed.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Receiving back what was resigned as lost

For Kierkegaard, the testing of Abraham accentuates this challenge, and Abraham provides inspiration precisely because he manages to hold together an apparently irreconcilable contradiction: he believes that the God who commands him to do what is most terrible and painful is also the God who loves him.

hiin Enkelte


hiin Enkelte he means more than we do by our words "that individual." The nearest English expression that approaches it is "that solitary individual." Kierkegaard means the individual as separated from the rest, the individual as he would be if he were solitary and alone, face to face with his destiny, with his vocation, with the Eternal, with God Himself who had singled him out. 

Indirect magic

"The job of the artist is no more than to tell the truth, but at a slant"

Kester Brewin riffing on Emily Dickinson in his new book, After Magic.