Murmurs and Antagonisms

Orthodoxy via Heresy

Category: Searching

A Waste of Life

I’ve been listening to a lot of grunge/female fronted bands who do a genre of noise rock. I’ve managed in the past two days to devote somewhere near five hours of time listening to music that probably annoys people on the whole. Partly because it’s the best music for me to study to and partly because the genre piqued my interest. What’s this got to do with anything?

Well, a lot. Or a little, at least. As I write this I’m listening to a song called American Society by L7 and thinking about why the hell I study what I do at my school. These thoughts have been going through my mind the past few weeks spurred by the re-prioritization my school is undergoing, a process that I will see throughout my time at Calvin. And whether or not one thinks its good or bad it’s caused me some anxiety about why am I majoring in German and Philosophy.


Weirdly this song by L7 has been helping me make sense of this whole situation. I think my answer to the question, “What do you plan to do with a philosophy degree,” will no longer be: No idea. Rather, my new answer will: I’m trying to not drown in American society. I’m trying to find ways to come to terms with the fact that “…there is no escape from the world, no transitivity, no transcendent something.” There’s no escape from capital and the influence it exerts on my education, on the world we inhabit. There’s no escape from this and instead of trying to just play along and be drowned and be a “twentieth century [or 21st] casualty” I’ll just try to make life.

What would being a casualty look like? Just numbingly going along with the flow. But note, this isn’t resistance, this isn’t a delusional attempt to change anything. In fact, I think philosophy in many ways is fundamentally useless towards productive action or world-changing, especially geared towards a transitivity. Instead, this is me making life within what is, tyring to find ways to exist without becoming a casualty or drowning within this society.

So, why do I study what I do? Because it’s the only way I know how to make sense of the lived-life I am. Maybe it is a waste of my life (thank you Tapji for this post by the way) but in one sense it’s only a waste if life is something that can be achieved. And if that life is the typical weird American dream I’m not sure why me trying to avoid that drowning would be a waste of my life?

And maybe it is a waste but it’s a waste of an excess, an inability to live with the present conditions.

Study to make life-becomings possible, I suppose.

Notes on Being Radical

We all want to be radical and many people my age (college aged millennials) claim the label. Something seems odd, though. It seems so oddly difficult to claim to be radical since no one really is. Not truly. We’re all inconsistent failures. Ironically, the most consistently radical are those conservative, right wingers who follow out their horrid beliefs to the logical end. Or the anarchists in Greece who bomb far right group meeting places and start fist fights. We all want to be radical. I want to be radical.

Somewhere along the line it seems we lost any sense of what it means to be radical. We say we’re radical but then when pressed we back down. Somehow being radical means holding fully formed and fleshed out beliefs about the world and the problem with the world we’ve been given. And I guess I’m not sure how to be radical. What follows are some brief thoughts on how to be radical, to do violence to the system and world we’ve been given, to imagine new ways in the break.

Maybe radical means standing in solidarity with black persons. Maybe it means shutting up and turning off the desire for “all of the facts” and actually trying to be there. Being radical in this case doesn’t seem too radical at all. But maybe that’s the point. Go to a protest. Protests the murders of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott. Stand against Darren Wilson, Mike Slager and the murderers. As a white person I’m starting to think maybe I need to shut the hell up and just be there. I need to relearn and unlearn my history and my past and the current climate. I need to make the last first and be silent and listen and mourn with those who mourn. Maybe demonstrate that black lives do matter in a tangible way by centering those lives.

Maybe being radical is suffering with queer kids. Maybe it’s shutting your damn bible and listening to stories. Learn to step into the shoes of others.

Maybe being radical is actually going to protests, writing, expressing, and educating oneself about the issues that are important to do today.

I don’t know. These are just thoughts. I’m really struggling with these things lately, trying to know how to proceed and being too pragmatic for my own good.

 

Comments welcomed.

On Being a Bad Writer

I like to think I have some level of skill when it comes to writing when, in all likelihood, that thought is no more than some sort of delusional desire. Everyone thinks they write well. Or, at least, wants to hear that they write well. For myself, I finally accepted the fact that when I do write it is often an incoherent mess.

Related: I have moments where I write well but most times I write at a level close to mediocrity.

I dream of publication in a high and mighty magazine at some point in the future. But, for now at least, I maintain a blog with a lame background and full of my less than disciplined thoughts on sundry topics. And I write at a mediocre level. That’s okay, though. Mostly it’s okay because I want to get better. The problem of bettering oneself when it comes to writing is finding out what one wants to write about.

Best advice: write about what interests you. Worst advice: write about what you know.

One exercises the mind, the other limits exploration. The idea of finding a niche limits the wannabe writer more than any arbitrary rules of language can. I have no niche. Sure, this blog is filled with truncated thoughts on philosophy and theology, filled with endless poems in which I try to be the next e.e. cummings, filled to the brim with half thought out words. Always present is the demand that I find a niche, a topic, a theme, a genre, to dedicate my time to. I find this ever present demand to be the cause of weariness and too much thought. Think too much on what to write and I never write, always happens without fail. So, for now, I accept that maybe I need to simply sit down and use words to describe what’s happening within my world, as mundane and boring as that may be. And I sure as hell need to start to live within the world and not sit in but separate for the sake of art. Not that my writing is anything close to artistic.

I’m a mediocre writer. So are you, most likely. Embrace it.

 

Meaningless Triviality

Such is the way of Christendom. Take up our crosses and follow Jesus as we take on ourselves the mental anguish associated with apologetic work or arduous debate with other believers. We’ve reversed the importance of mental acuity and the importance of obedience. I come from a homeschooling background and within this sphere/sub-culture there exists potential for great feats within the public realm of discourse (namely, the meaningless circus known as politics or media culture) mostly because homeschooled kids have a ton of mental agility and think well. It’s drilled into us in some of the more popular curriculum and in our obsession with things like TeenPact and debate clubs. I come from this background and am slowly learning, albeit very slowly, the impotence of these discourses on eschatology and whether or not paedobaptism is biblical or not.

  Now, I admit. I enjoy a good discussion. And the bible is to be dealt with in community and some of these debates and arguments are fun. But where in the bible do we find a debate on the most inane of topics? Nowhere. Yes, St. Paul (primarily), in his letters calls out fools and people who would do damage to the Church but then goes on to teach those churches how to live in this world. Jesus doesn’t give two rips if you’re a Calvinist, Pelagian or not. In fact, while doctrinal orthodoxy (which is too often a phrase for “fortress theology”) is important (doctrine does motivate and move when presented right), the importance of praxis is being undermined. Sure, Reformed folk of the theonomic stripe argue for the “Regulative Principle of Worship” which basically is a how to guide for worship from the bible, but most times the bible doesn’t care for specific on how you embody the way of Jesus. In fact, the bible is more concerned that you actually do embody the Way and learn. 
  Look. All this is coming from the mouth of a guy whose probably going to major in philosophy in college. I love arguing, discussing, and debating trivial things. But it’s becoming apparent to me that unless those seemingly trivial ideas can become practiced then I am basically blowing steam into an area of nada. If it cannot be practiced it is, almost always, an meaningless waste of time.  

On Faith

Faith, being that which names an Object and thus obliterates it in the name of following, is that thing which no one can seem to speak clearly about. Mostly since faith eludes naming, at least true faith eludes naming. As Critchley argues in Very Little…Almost Nothing (paraphrased), “Adam was the first serial killer.” Why? Because he named things. Faith does this all the while being unnameable itself.

I claim faith is unnameable (undefinable) because in any attempt to define it becomes simplified and therefore, most times, meaningless. Faith kills that which it has as an Object since it tries to grasp and name that Object. But at the same time faith is oddly needed.

Maybe the beauty of Christianity is that it requires a faith which, in naming as its Object the person of Jesus, can kill God because God has already died. In so doing, then, we find life.

Dirt:Rib

I thought, today, about how the world revolves around beauty and truth.

At least, I want it to revolve around those two spheres. It would be nice if the world revolved around those two and sin and evil and ugliness were not so prevalent. Sadly, or not so sadly in my mind, the picture of truth, beauty, evil, ugliness, is one much more haunted by intimacy than we would like it to be. Like a spiral of color where one ends the other begins and often times one can only guess at the end or beginning. 
If we’re honest this picture of reality – a potpourri of conflict – is based in the primordial reality of the bible. In the opening chapters of the creation account we find God molding out of dirt and rib humanity. Dirt and rib which is intimately linked to God by being made in his image. And then a chapter later we find man breaking down, the dirt and rib cracking, and the image of God becoming marred. 
But it is still there, haunting our every move, mixing in the sin and beauty into one rough cut whole. 

And as the story of the bible continues on towards its culmination in the Incarnation of the Word there are numerous stories of this complex interaction between the ugliness of sin and the beauty of God’s children. David, the man after God’s own heart, commits murder and adultery and causes people of his nation to be killed at God’s behest. Rahab, the prostitute, redeemed by faith and action (and oddly seemed to have faith while still a prostitute). Solomon, given wisdom, commits idolatry via marriage. 
The point is, the stories we tell often do not fit the stories of the bible. The language we use does not fit the language we find in scripture. 

Point is, horrible sinners can be decent people. Saints, good people we admire, screw up horribly, commit atrocities and horrors unspeakable. We are grace filled creatures with sin leaking in the cracks, made by dirt but breaking, created via life yet death creeps ever closer at every step. We are not only walking contradictions, we are walking dead. 
We are not sinner or saint. We are decent killers and indecent saints. 

Being God Equals Loneliness

How horrid it must be to be God, to be alone, to be utterly alone. God, who is the ultimate “something” there is (admittedly, that idea might be a linguistic creation) is in a state of ultimate loneliness. There are no others like God. 

(Yes, I know, we have the Trinity in Christianity. Yes, it is three persons in one (which, is again, important but often practically meaningless language) and all three are equally God and individual, yeah, I’m not going into the discussion of Trinity, suffice it to say: useful but at time impractical because of the language used.) 
But God, as unified whole, the most complete whole, is alone. God is the only one like, similar to, in any way comparable to, God. It seems God needed a mission – unless of course the idea that God has himself to entertain and find joy in is true then I am wrong – to provide himself something to do, to be less lonely. Maybe that’s why humanity exists. 
We exist to glorify God and our glorification of him lets him know he is wanted (because everyone wants to be wanted). God created us to teach himself he is wanted. Maybe the courage of Nietzsche is letting God know he is unwanted. Maybe the courage of Christians is recognizing in Jesus that God doesn’t want himself but rather wants us. 

Grace

I read in the bible of a being that, with “truth and grace”, came into our world. What exactly does it mean that Jesus came in “truth and grace”? What exactly is grace? The sphere of Christendom I have grown up in has defined grace as “unmerited favor” or another odd, but no less abstract definition. But Jesus came in “truth and grace” or, rather, “truth and grace came through Jesus.” Either way, somehow I think I’ve missed the point. Grace is not some abstract concept. It might explain why the other more liturgical denominations speak of “means of grace.” 


Means of grace: word and sacrament: visible, tangible. 


Jesus brought grace into this world via Incarnation. Incarnation: real, visible, malleable, tangible, felt, and not off in the world of concepts alone. A conceptual understanding of grace demands nothing of us, has no long lasting effect. Grace is not for one time, one conversion. 


Rather, it is for all time, always reforming, always converting, and always being felt. And if it is not tangible and real it seems meaningless and lacking. 

Grace is…real and maybe it’s too real for our own comfort and maybe that’s why we put grace in the world of ideas because if it’s a reality found in the physical world, then it demands something of us. In fact, it is all around us. 

The Filling Full

Incarnation affirms humanity and redeems the material world and our bodies. And deems them sacred.
The cross sets the pendulum back in place between man and his God. No longer do we idolize man nor can we idolize God.
Resurrection defeats death by affirming life. And by affirmation negates any claim that has us floating off into the stratosphere.
Ascension drags the material world into the presence of the God who is spirit. This fills all the previous events full, affirming the immanence of God because the material is now before and embraced by him.

On Exchange

Previously I began to address the radical nature of law vs. gospel within the scriptural context. But, did not set out any nuance (mainly because I am not fond of nuance-ing everything). This post is an attempt at that.

If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood—and indeed the law given to the people<span class="crossreference" style="background-color: white; font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(L)”> established that priesthood—why was there still need for another priest to come,<span class="crossreference" style="background-color: white; font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(M)”> one in the order of Melchizedek,<span class="crossreference" style="background-color: white; font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(N)”> not in the order of Aaron?

Not only did death come via the Law but perfection could not be attained through it. The Law was created to pass away. 

For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also.

The priesthood is no longer with Aaron and his heirs but is now with Melchizedek and his heir. And with this heir there comes a change in the Law. But saying the Law has changed seems okay. It’s kosher within Christian circles to say the nature of the Law changed but isn’t set aside. Yet, the bible leaves us no room for the comfortable. 

The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless…

The Law was created to pass because it is weak and useless. The goal was perfection and the Law was useless in achieving this goal. Ergo, it has to pass. 

and a better hope<span class="crossreference" style="background-color: white; font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(U)”> is introduced, by which we draw near to God.

This hope is one of an indestructible life. Again, the tension of death vs. life. Death in and by the Law and life in and by Christ. 

Through whom we live and move and have our being.