A LOVE SUPREME

I am now blogging at a new blog: erdman31.com

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Sunday, April 05, 2009

Freedom and community

"...I think the majority of musicians are interested in truth....There is never any end. There are always new sounds to imagine; new feelings to get at. And always, there is the need to keep purifying these feelings and sounds so that we can really see what we've discovered in its pure state. So that we can see more and more clearly what we are. In that way, we can give to those who listen the essence, the best of what we are. But to do that at each stage, we have to keep on cleaning the mirror...." - John Coltrane

One of the current topics of discussion here at Theos Project is freedom. As heirs to the Enlightenment and various popular versions of existentialism, we tend to think of freedom as the brute freedom of the individual: “I can do whatever-the-hell I want.” In the political sense, modern ideas of freedom emphasize emancipation--to be
free to self-govern, emancipation is tied to individual liberty. In the moral realm, modern freedom means autonomy--the ability to freely choose as a responsible moral being. Implicit in this free moral choice is that one makes their own ethical decisions. Contrary to popular belief, moral relativism is something of a uniquely modern idea, it was on the scene long before the so-called postmodern era. Kant's moral imperative ("act only according to that maxim that you would at the same time will that it would become a moral law") attempted to bring together our individual moral autonomy and some sense of moral law, but moral autonomy was still at the core of Kant's ethics.

However, on the heels of modernity, we still have inherited a prejudice to conceive of freedom as autonomy or emancipation. Even in this "post" modern era, we still have this rather modern sense of freedom.

The result of this belief is that we have a ridiculously difficult time bringing together a robust idea of personal/individual freedom together with a strong sense of community and interdependence. This develops within us a spiritual split between freedom and community. For example, freedom is what I want and community is what the others want. If the desires line up, then the two can co-exist; but if I desire one thing and the others desire another, then we feel the tension.

But is it possible to conceive of freedom and community in terms that avoid the dichotomy, that avoid pitting individual and community against each other?

This is our discussion question for the day. It is quite probable, I believe, that this is a question with many different answers.

A good start to the discussion, I think, is to recognize from the beginning that all things are interconnected in a way that is much deeper than many of us realize.

Philosophical Interlude......A few hundred years ago, Rene Descartes believed he could sit around in a room by himself and strip away all of his inherited "prejudices" and get at some foundational truths. Philosophers who followed suit worked under the assumption that we pursue truth in our minds--that we are basically brains/minds who sort through the data of experience to find truth. A few hundred years after Descartes, philosophers like Martin Heidegger and Ludwig Wittgenstein suggested that the reverse is true: as human beings we are first and foremost embedded in a given context. That is, our context is not something to strip away in order to find truth; in fact, truth is always only possible within context. This is not merely the tabula rasa, or "black slate" idea--that we our minds are a blank slate onto which our experiences are inscribed and then our rational capacity sorts it all out. For John Locke, we are still self-determining, autonomous beings because our rational capacities allow us to organize the experiences written on our tabula rasa. Even though Locke recognized a greater role for experience, he remained convinced that the rational capacity within the mind was foundational, in some sense, for determining our self-hood. This rational capacity allowed us to get at the truth and to then make free decisions. However, "freedom" remained an activity of the self, and as such the tension remained between self and others, the individual and the community.

For Heidegger/Wittgenstein and many other philosophers since, there is something more basic, more primordial, than mind and reason. To be human is to be contextual, in a more holistic way. Every sense of who I am is in relation to other people around me, my social context, and even the physical nature of the world I inhabit. Hence, there is not "pure truth" that transcends our contextual-ness. There is no "self" of the mind. There is no I without a relation to my context.

There are many ways to make the same point: we cannot exist without others--the others are a part of me and I am a part of the others. Interdependence is a matter of survival and brute autonomy, complete independence, and pure emancipation is an illusion. (For a well-written perspective on this see Tamie's Freedom in Light of Interdependence post.)

Freedom and interconnectedness, by way of illustration

So, what does it look like to actually hold together freedom and community? What does it look like to think in new ways about freedom? Does our nature as contextual beings prove that "freedom" is just an illusion? Are there ways to think about freedom that take into account our radical interconnectedness and interdependence?

Rather than describe how freedom and interconnectedness might relate to each other, perhaps it is most illuminating to show it in action. And for this, I turn to John Coltrane.


Permalink: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x59u3_john-coltrane-my-favorite-things-19_music

In the Coltrane Quartet, each musician is attempting to express his own unique gifts and individuality. We might say that each person is pursuing personal creativity and individual freedom. And yet at the same time, the context for freedom and creativity occurs within the group. All personal creativity must reference the whole sound. As such, there is no such thing as autonomous creativity, and yet at the same time there is not sense of conformity, no rule of law that confines an individual to perform a certain way. Each musician free, but the exercise of freedom occurs in response to the sound that the group produces.

To be present………Notice that the deep presence of each musician results in different forms of emotion--serenity and calm, intensity to the point of pain, and sometimes just joy. Each musician expresses his freedom in his own way, yet all are interconnected. Sometimes the group plays together, while at other times individuals solo while the rest of the group just listens and learns. Each musician is “saying something” about themselves and also expressing themselves as a group. They are present to the moment and bring their whole selves.

To believe……What if we said that each member of the ensemble is a "believer": that is, they believe in the truth and potentiality of the group. They believe in the whole and they believe in themselves as creative and free individuals. Each believer is committed to producing something true. Thus, the commitment of each believer is critical, because each believer makes a critical difference to the sound of the whole. The ensemble can only be truthful and creative in the whole if each believer believes in their own creativity. Each musician in the Coltrane ensemble has dedicated hours of solitary practice, not to "master" the instrument or to learn a part, but to learn to listen to the instrument and to understand their own sound, to cultivate the truth of their art.

To listen……..Each believer is not only listening to their own voice and expressing their own freedom, but they also realize that their personal freedom is the result of an ensemble that is free. As such, each believer sets the others free, and they seek to cultivate and open up a space for free play. To do this, they must listen attentively to the sounds of the others. Even more, they must listen to the sound that the group creates as a collective whole. There must be freedom to create, to develop a uniqueness of sound, as an individual and as a collective. Without uniqueness of sound, there is no ensemble.

To develop a symbiotic relationship…….I can NOT be a believer who contributes to the ensemble, unless I am free and truthful. Conversely, I can NOT be free to play, unless I have other members of the ensemble. (I can play, but I am limited.) As such, there is risk: we are talking in a very real (and life-threatening) way of the possibility of failing to discover and cultivate extreme potentiality. If a group of musicians is playing a written score, then each musician learns the part and fills in a role. This is perhaps an illustration of organized religion or law-based spirituality: one only fits into the group if one is willing to play a particular designated part. But this is not the case for Coltrane. The melody only provides a starting point for improvisation. As such, the sound is unique, but this unique creativity is dependent on interdependence. The relationship is symbiotic, the success of each is dependent on the others.

To engage new potentiality…...When the musicians play as a collective whole, they must reference each other, and if the commitment of each musician is to creativity and freedom, the results are non predictable. Each references the others. And as such, there are new possibilities that open up to each individual. Playing without the others is certainly a context for freedom, but the possibilities are limited….limited, and actually can be a bit boring. When the ensemble plays, each musician—each believer—can encounter new sounds and engage new possibilities.

This is the point, I think, at which we begin to see how freedom and interdependence might relate in a way that actually cultivates and grows itself. Each musician or believer must be free and truthful with themselves, but this freedom is only made possible because other believers are equally committed to freedom. As such, interdependence is no longer a barrier to freedom, it can actually become the basis and foundation for a freedom that cannot be known by the autonomous individual. A musician playing on his own has freedom, but this freedom is limited. When the ensemble begins to play, new possibilities open up.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, when the collective whole of the ensemble is committed to creativity, the end result is unexpected. No one can predict, in advance, what will be created when individual creativity expresses itself in the collective of the ensemble.

In relation to the quest for truth or spiritual freedom, I suggest that no one can know in advance what will be created when individual freedom expresses itself in the collective freedom of the life of the community. Like the ensemble, they just have to start playing. Each believer expresses herself in relation to the whole, using the community as the starting point for freedom of expression. Interdependence becomes the possibility for reaching truth and potentiality that would remain impossible to those who construe freedom as individual autonomy.

It is impossible to quantify "how" it happens or to predict in advance what will be.....for Coltrane, his music was always deeply spiritual...spiritual, joyful, troubled, complex, dark, loving, simple, and beautiful. The pursuit of truth was ongoing. Creativity and freedom was found within community and interdependence, not in spite of it.

It is rare that we truly push ourselves to be both truthful and free, rare that we open up these spaces where the collective of believers—those who seek to be open and truthful—can express something.

The world needs more jazz ensembles. The faithful who play together with the faithless. The atheist, the theist, and the a/theist. All together as believers. Believers in truth and freedom, creativity and righteousness.

61 comments:

Like a Mustard Seed said...

man, almost too much interesting stuff to respond to, but I'll go ahead and try...

as God has been teaching us, the picture that has emerged has been one where we definitely experience freedom in ways that we never have before, but also an interplay with others that was previously unknown as well. at this stage though, I don't know if it's like a jazz ensemble, or an "orchestration" (i.e. religion), but something altogether different. As we embrace the call of God on our lives to be the unique people He's created us to be, we begin to play, and explore life from our own backgrounds, God brings us into contact with others, and weaves the "music" together, only, I think the majority of the time, we don't ever really get to hear the full beauty of the "song" that is being played...

Perhaps it could be said that it is an orchestration, but one where the conductor is God, and not any man, and so none of us need to be, or even can be, aware of the what the full piece will sound like. We play on, hearing snippets of the overall masterpiece, but never anything in it's entirety. Only the Creator of the universe has a copy of the sheetmusic...

For us, this is ultimately the reason behind what you alluded to in this statement: "A good start to the discussion, I think, is to recognize from the beginning that all things are interconnected in a way that is much deeper than many of us realize. "

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

- Daniel

john doyle said...

I like your post very much, Erdman. Working with others often feels like a compromise, where you have to set aside part of your own agenda and preferences in order to get along or to achieve some common objective. When the others actually call on you to express your own passions and expertise, and when you call on these things from others, then you've moved beyond compromise into synergy.

"Each musician in the Coltrane ensemble has dedicated hours of solitary practice, not to "master" the instrument or to learn a part, but to learn to listen to the instrument and to understand their own sound, to cultivate the truth of their art."

I agree with the second part, this sense of cultivating one's own unique style, but jazz musicians also do practice in order to master the instrument, don't you think? Most great jazz musicians have virtuosic technique underlying their own sound. Mastery of the tenor sax is more or less a constant regardless of what style of music one plays. So extending the metaphor, the individual brings a personal commitment to attaining virtue that's close to universal. Even if you don't play really fast arpeggios "according the law," your ability to do so makes your collaborative synergies more likely to succeed.

Some early thoughts anyway.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Thanks, John.

I agree with you that skill with the instrument is necessary. More specifically, without skill a jazz musician is limited in how she can respond to the others.

What I was saying is that I don't think a musician like Coltrane believed in "mastering" an instrument. I take this from the quote that I placed at the beginning of the post:

"...I think the majority of musicians are interested in truth....There is never any end. There are always new sounds to imagine; new feelings to get at. And always, there is the need to keep purifying these feelings and sounds so that we can really see what we've discovered in its pure state. So that we can see more and more clearly what we are. In that way, we can give to those who listen the essence, the best of what we are. But to do that at each stage, we have to keep on cleaning the mirror...."

For someone like Coltrane, it seems as though there was something more to playing a sax, something that was ongoing. He calls it truth. Whatever it is, it is not tied to skill. However, I agree with you that without skill, Coltrane cannot get at the truth. Miles Davis seemed to take a similar approach. He said there was no such thing as a mistake. He seemed to look at the flaws as a part of the art; that is, if he was pushing himself as an artist, then he would probably make mistakes. The point for Miles seems to have been that he was tapping into something deeper than being technically flawless.

So, how does one define a "truthful" performance? Technical perfection? Or something a bit less tangible? I think it's a good question. I tend to favor the latter.

Jason Hesiak said...

Hey Erdmanian I enjoyed the post. I was "in" when I started reading the opening quote, got about half way through, and knew who said it without having actually heard it before (I knew through a deep sense of connectedness :)

That said....

A whole post about interdependence and nothing about the care of God or caring for each other? Only stuff about creative possibilities (when humans don't even create anything, which is part of our interdependence).........

And speaking of the care and love of God...what is a "beliver", anyway? I mean, are you attempting to redefine or reclassify the word? Or are you simply placing the word in the context of this post, and letting that give meaning to the word? And if there is some attempt at a redefinition (and I suspect there is, considering the presence of the words in this post like "radical" and such), then why? The care and love of God isn't a good or powerful enough basis for classifying the term "believer"?

I mean...is the "radical" in the interconnectedness or in the "endless creative possibilities"? And if its the second one, then it sounds like what makes it "radical" is that its not human. That its pushing the bounds a big part of what makes us human rather than divine.

And speaking of boundaries and open frontiers, "relativism" has roots that go back long before modernity.

Also speaking of open frontiers, why are we trying to avoid the dichotomy between an interconnected community and the autonomously "free" independent self? Is there not something that exists - not in a VOID - that interconnects us and guides us into various inter-connections?

john doyle said...

Regarding technique and truth, extended into the moral/ethical realm... Let's say that not stealing is a universal moral value, and that learning to keep your hands off other people's stuff is a moral skill or technique. Mastering this technique would be useful for living freely in a creative community even if -- maybe especially if -- the moral truth of the moment requires you to steal something.

Jason Hesiak said...

Also - interesting notes on technique. I, though, don't see a whole lot of a problem with reconciling technical mastery and free play. Example - and this is a common conversation amongst classical musicians - the very same musical "SCRIPT" can sound COMPLETELY DIFFERENT if and/or when different and all very technically skilled musicians interpret it differently. The whole work can take on a whole different (kind of emotional/spiritual) tone and sense of time. Part of the mastery, in fact, is the ability to give the whole work a coherent interpretation!

The "problem" with technical mastery comes in when you assume that there IS only ONE way to play the dern piece, and the the whole point of the "SCRIPT" is the "DICTATE" that you play the "PIECE" that ONE way! At that point, however, the SCRIPT and the PIECE are one in the same, and yet neither even exist!!! So, in my estimation, then, there is on problem reconciling technical mastery and free play.

I think, too, btw, Erdmanian, that this gets at our differences in attitude toward "organized religion". I have no problems with a "script." You seem to indicate in this post (This is perhaps an illustration of organized relation or law-based spirituality) that the kind of "script" that goes along with "organized religion" inherently stifles free play. As per the above, I don't really see the problem. At least not in that sense. I still think often, though, of the whole thing that Doylomania brought up, where the Law and the flesh and go together just as well as the flesh and lawlessness (meaning that it made an impression on me).

:)

Jason Hesiak said...

"Regarding technique and truth, extended into the moral/ethical realm..."

OOHH INTERESTING!

OR...like...the script (that I read) says "Love the Lord your God with all your...and Love your neighbor as yourself." My church in LA...we shared a building with a church with an old pastor guy who was once a rich drug user and seller and now runs a recovery center for alcohol and drugs. He's known as a bit of a hard ass, lol. Lets say someone breaks one of the non-"scriptural" rules that goes along with being member of that fellowship of folks healing from drugs and/or alohol (which happens often). As the hard-ass, he says they gotta go. Then his wife goes and gives them a hug. Eventually the person who was booted realized that it was ALL in love (like two different "techniques" of love :) and eventually returns to the center willing to follow the dang rules, which have developed over time by experience to help the folks heal (kinda like the writings in, like, say, the Talmud :)

Jonathan Erdman said...

Jason,

I thought of your illustration while writing this post: that classical musicians can have very different "interpretations" of the same score.

This also goes at what Daniel (Like a Mustard Seed) said: God is the conductor of the orchestra.

I still favor the Coltrane analogy as a better representation of freedom and interconnectedness. Rather than picture God as a conductor, I like to think that God is the Spirit (of truth/creativity/etc.) that moves through all of the musicians, or that is even called into being by the collective pursuit of truth.

Is there a score to follow? Hhhhmmmmm.....I don't know. Some folks seem to prefer the score. If they can still find freedom and creativity within the score, then all the more power to them. I find that I feel disconnected from myself when I am dependent on the score, rather than listening to the others around me and responding to them. That's my main point: that we can be simultaneously in tune with the others and with our deep creative/truth sense. So, that's why I prefer the Coltrane analogy.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Re: the term "believer"

Yes, Jason, first and foremost, I was speaking of a "believer" in this post as someone who has some sense of belief in what the group is doing--that the group can try to get at truth, beauty, creativity, etc. Anyone who is cultivating a skill to play and seeks to be present with the ensemble.

But more generally, I also want to define a "believer" as more than just the traditional sense of "Christian." For example, I think there are non-Christian believers who line up with the Gospel vision much more closely than many Christians that I have met. That's why in this blog I am so cynical of Christianity. So much of it seems to miss the heart and soul of the Gospel.

So, I call a believer is one who lives out the vision of the Gospel and/or Jesus. I call a believer someone who is living out truth and searching for more truth. This is more than a cognitive thing, which is where so much of the hangup is in the last two thousand years of the church: we emphasize creeds and doctrinal beliefs. This also leads in to my criticism of institutionalizing Christianity: institutions tend to rely on creeds or some sort of measurement to determine who is in and who is out. But the vision of the Gospel, as I see it, is to bring all creation together as one:

"Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation." (2 Corinthians 5)

john doyle said...

[Erdman commented while I was writing this, so there's some duplication.]

Jason, you ask whether the term "believer" is being redefined and why. Here's how Erdman defines it in his post: "each member of the ensemble is a "believer": that is, they believe in the truth and potentiality of the group." I might qualify according to that definition, depending on whether I'd subscribe to the group's understanding of its potential and its truth. If the group's truth requires a conscious belief that God is the one who's moving synergistically through the group to approach potential and truth, then I wouldn't qualify. Is it more important to assert the doctrine and/or to assert the existence of this invisible Being, or to ally oneself with this Being's agenda as expressed through the "jazz combo"?

Jonathan Erdman said...

"believer" cont....

And this is also why I criticize the commercialization of "Christianity": it tends to cheapen faith by mass producing ideas and products rather than the faith being a shared fellowship emphasizing freedom, struggle, growth, and creativity.

Jason Hesiak said...

good conversation...gotta work for a while...should probably do that lol

Jason Hesiak said...

God isn’t the conductor, God wrote the script!! “Author and finisher…” Which, I think, goes with what you were saying: I still favor the Coltrane analogy as a better representation of freedom and interconnectedness. Rather than picture God as a conductor, I like to think that God is the Spirit (of truth/creativity/etc.) that moves through all of the musicians, or that is even called into being by the collective pursuit of truth. I would hesitate to refer to God as the conductor. That gets way too complicated to try and sort out.

But anyway…musicians call God into being? That sounds a big backwards, to say that least. Possibly even…voodoo. Anyway, like I was saying before…humans are humans, not gods. I mentioned that before with the “creative possibilities” thing. Humans have to actually do stuff.

Is there a score to follow? Hhhhmmmmm.....I don't know.

Why do all of our conversations head back to Plato and Aristotle? I mean…what do you mean…”Is there a score to follow?” I mean…that’s why they’re called SCRIPTURES! But the script everyone actually follows isn’t really the one that’s written down. The one written down is just the one that’s in written form, no? Or…what are you saying? Are you saying that it doesn’t “exist” because the one written down isn’t the one people follow? Or are you saying that a score that musicians follow has nothing to do with what a “script” is, like, the “scriptures” or the script of a play? Or are you saying that, since the “real” one that people follow isn’t the one that’s written down, that it doesn’t “exist” because it doesn’t exist “in the world” (other than that Bible thing that we have)?

ORRR…do you mean that the Bible or the “real” script isn’t meant or able to be “followed” in the way that an orchestra “follows” the conductor? Because if that’s what you mean, then I would wholeheartedly agree, and in fact that’s why I wouldn’t refer to God as a “conductor.” But just because modern orchestration, operation (a mechanical term), or “direction” aren’t good models or analogies for the relation between God’s script and human action doesn’t mean that THERE IS NO SCRIPT!...???

Some folks seem to prefer the score. If they can still find freedom and creativity within the score, then all the more power to them.

Again, I refer to the above question as to what on earth you’re talking about with the whole script thing. There’s plenty of freedom if the analogy isn’t a modern one. And there is even freedom in the analogy of modern classical music, as exemplified by the previous interpretation example. We aren’t free because we don’t get to ourselves WRITE the script? That would be the ultimate modern attitude (tabula rasa, like you said). I think this part of what you said, though, is pretty inseparable from what you said after that, so see below…

I find that I feel disconnected from myself when I am dependent on the score, rather than listening to the others around me and responding to them. That's my main point: that we can be simultaneously in tune with the others and with our deep creative/truth sense. So, that's why I prefer the Coltrane analogy.

I don't see what you mean outside of the Coltrane analogy. I don't see how that's possible without becoming gods ("endless creative possibilities", but what of actions?).

Especially the part about feeling disconnected from myself when I rely on the score. Again, my confusion here goes back to my question of what you MEAN BY “the score”. If by “the score” you are simply talking about that written down bible thing on your night stand, then I can totally see what you mean. You’re sitting in the coffee shop or wherever trying to listen to your friend and make something out of it (connection, conversation, friendship, music, whatever) and you have to stop and think of that verse that’s sitting over there on your night stand and isn’t there with you in the coffees shop or wherever. But…I mean hence my question. THAT’S NOT THE SCRIPT. The “real” script, as far as I understand it, IS with you in the coffee shop. And not just because you’ve memorized some scriptures, either (although that would help). But simply because God (the author) made you and is there in the dern coffee shop or wherever.

And if the script is always with us no matter what, then I don’t see how listening to others and becoming in tune with the world around you implies or necessitates scrapping the script. On the contrary, I would think that coming to be IN TUNE with the world around us would put is IN TUNE WITH the “score”!!! How ONE EARTH would that NOT be the case? I am completely baffled and have NO IDEA what you are talking about, lol. I mean…I have a sense of what you are talking about in terms of connecting, and in terms of God’s not being a conductor, but after that I’m lost, lol.

I mean, to me, an interweaving of freedom and interdependence are already written into the script, and revealed in both baptism and the Cross! So why say; “Lets figure out a way to properly relate freedom and interdependence”, and then on the heels of that say, “Lets scrap the script,” when the script is already about the interweaving of freedom and interdependence? I don’t get it.

I mean to me, Coltrane is still following the script. In fact, I like him BECAUSE he is attempting to align himself, and more successfully than most, with the script. I’ve read him saying that he only writes or plays or whatever what is revealed to him (btw I read this on a page of a book on Coltrane that had a picture in it of a page of a score he had written, so its not all purely improv out of thin air, btw…Coltrane ain’t God). I almost cried when I read that, because I could identify so strongly with it.

And besides – I don’t see why it really matters if we like the Coltrane or “conductor” analogy better unless we are musicians. Unless we are deciding whether to make jazz or classical music…or unless we are making music, period…then how does the analogy fit to the question of whether or not, as humans who act in the world, we should follow the script? Both conductors and Coltrane follow a script. They both follow “the real script”. Conductors are obviously following a script. And, as noted from my experience of looking at that photo or whatever in that book (and from other stuff I’ve heard about jazz music, despite my very limited knowledge of jazz), even Coltrane is following an actual written down “script”. So on all levels I don’t understand what you are talking about, lol.

In other words, what are you actually saying? Are you saying that we shouldn’t interpret the Bible so literally? Are you saying that organized church goers tend to be much more Law than Spirit driven? I could see how both would connect to the difference between a more modern analogy of orchestration, direction or operation as compared to a more “bottom up” analogy like jazz, but…I just don’t see what you’re saying.

Are you saying that most church goers are a bunch of monkeys, in which case we need to be more…conscious…aware…”in tune with…”? Are you saying that church goers are a bunch of tools for the machine of the big institution, obviously that’s bad lets try something else (…rather than the faith being a shared fellowship emphasizing freedom, struggle, growth, and creativity.
)? I could see how either of those would or could relate to a script analogy that compares jazz to orchestration, too, but I’m not connecting. AND I don’t think that you have to scrap the script, whatever you mean by that, to take any of those positive steps! And I know that when you refer to scrapping the script you don’t mean downgrading the importance of scripture, because you’ve said as much yourself! So all in all I’m confused, as usual, lol.

Maybe…and I get the sense that this may be the case…maybe you are saying…”lets find a different model.” Like a different mental model for how the script relates to our actions. Is that what you are saying? Because that model definitely affects…uuhh…the world, lol. And not just what people do or don’t do, but it effects, like, the tone of the world. The feel of it. You can hear the gears turning when something moves based on a mechanical model of the relation between script and action. But in a more ancient model, you can hear the human VOICE! :) But in either case, there is still a script! The only difference is what is heard by your ears, and seen by your eyes, and the overall organization of the elements, mostly all the same (or at least similar), on the stage!

But that doesn’t sound to me like a theological or ecclesiological issue. Again, it sounds like an issue for a musician. Or someone on theater. BUT, if you are using the analogy to talk about how we do church (or don’t do church, lol), then what, in a measurable way, are you saying we should do?

So, I call a believer is one who lives out the vision of the Gospel and/or Jesus. I call a believer someone who is living out truth and searching for more truth. This is more than a cognitive thing, which is where so much of the hangup is in the last two thousand years of the church: we emphasize creeds and doctrinal beliefs. This also leads in to my criticism of institutionalizing Christianity: institutions tend to rely on creeds or some sort of measurement to determine who is in and who is out. But the vision of the Gospel, as I see it, is to bring all creation together as one:

Well yeah but the vision of the Gospel, it seems to me, is that the love of God, and specifically the loving ACTS of God through JESUS, bring all creation together. To say that its what humans do that brings all creation together, to me, sounds like a cheapening of the love – and sacrifice – of God. I mean you referred to the “ministry of reconciliation,” but the reconciliation is THROUGH the blood of Jesus!! And not THROUGH “humans who act good like Jesus.” In fact scripture seems to show that God often ACTS in spite of or in the face of humans who seem fairly bent on not acting like Jesus.

So I believe in what I was doing at “expression Mondays” (that there was goodness, connectivity, “creativity” (art and artists is what I mean by that there) and truth), and I even believe Jesus was there and working. But that doesn’t mean that Expression Mondays was continuing the work that Christ started of reconciling the world to God. That doesn’t mean that anyone there was thankful for Jesus’ loving act that reconciled him or her to God. Or however else you want to say it. I mean, sure we can take the term “believer” and make it abstract and common to everyone, but then how should we describe someone who “believes” in what Jesus did and can do for them?

I mean…if I could sum up your post prior to our conversation…you said…
“Lets try and re-concieve of a relation between freedom and interconnectivity or interdependence that doesn’t rely on the modern attitude and thus split the two into irreconcilable lovers longing for each others presence.” Then in the end of the post, the action that seems to come out of that is, “Lets manifest this new freedom and interconnectivity in ‘WAY X’” You described “way X” in the post, and it lead to this very conversation about believers.

Part of my basic point has been that a BASIC (like, basis) interweaving of freedom and interconnectivity is ALREADY written into the “script”, which you say we should scrap. I don’t know what you even mean by scrapping the script, I don’t know what you mean by the script, and I don’t understand why we would scrap the script to write another play to achieve a goal that is already a key part of the script we scrapped!? Lol that would sound funny if you say it a few times fast. And part of all that Jesus rantin’ in the couple of paragraphs above is my saying that by scrapping and rewriting the script and redoing the play we seem to be doing away with the very basis of our QUESTion. We seem to be aiming some baby food at our mouth and then throwing it over our head. We seem to be reading a book by William Faulkner and then telling someone about this really cool book we are reading by Mark Twain. We seem to be skateboarders trying to build an extension onto a ramp and then removing the original. Lol.

And then on top of that, the idea of scrapping the script and trying to re-write the script or re-enact the play itself seems like a very modern thing to do! And it was the modern thing to do that got us started on the conversation (IN your very post itself) of what NOT to do! So then we are trying to put baby food in our mouths using an ancient spoon, starting the teaching lesson on baby feeding by saying that modern spoons don’t work, and then at the last minute using a modern spoon to throw the baby food over our heads. Lol. Or we are reading an ancient book by Heraclitus and saying its really cool and man we gotta try this because these books everyone are reading by Bertrand Russel really suck, and then handing someone a book written by Kirkegaard with a forward by yourself in which you talk about how modern writers like Bertrand Russel suck (and where the postscript is written by someone who hasn’t read the book yet, because we’re not sure exactly what we’re doing cuz we haven’t done it yet, lol).

Doylomannia –

Is it more important to assert the doctrine and/or to assert the existence of this invisible Being, or to ally oneself with this Being's agenda as expressed through the "jazz combo"?

Well like I was saying above, I would say that there is some common ground simply in the movements in our souls of the ensemble, but…like…when you see a drawing that your child did when she was a kid, you smile and immediately think lovingly of your little child who did it! Except in my case, I smile because I AM the child. How do I separate that joy from what I perceive to be its source, and why would I want to!? The scriptures do seem to indicate that one does enter new ground when one “believes” (“acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh”).

Jonathan Erdman said...

Jason,

Have you become a hyper-Calvinist???

Where to begin.....where to begin.....

Jason: But anyway…musicians call God into being? That sounds a big backwards, to say that least. Possibly even…voodoo.

The main difference between my position and certain strands of Voodoo thought is that I don't believe that one should go through certain rituals, perform ceremonies, or spells in order to attempt to earn divine favor.

However, I do believe we can bring God into being, in some sense.

Consider the following:

Jeremiah 29:13 (New International Version) You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Deuteronomy 4:29 (New International Version) But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Matthew 7:7-8 (New International Version) Ask, Seek, Knock Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. (Cf. Luke 11:9-11, which adds "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?"

Hence, it seems to me appropriate to see "God" as one who is moving within and among us when we are most receptive to her.

But there is also Acts 17:26 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'

So, even though God is that which we seek after, she is also that which is already among us, no??? All-pervasive. The God who we can never fully grasp and yet can never escape. As such, the Psalmist can cry out, "Where can I go to be with God?" And also suggest that "you have searched me and known me.....If I go to the heavens you are there, if I go down to the depths, you are there."

Jason: Anyway, like I was saying before…humans are humans, not gods. I mentioned that before with the “creative possibilities” thing. Humans have to actually do stuff.

And yet we are gods, in some sense....we are divine......Jason, don't you believe in the imago dei, the image of God within us? Doesn't the Christ even restore that image?

Consider 2 Peter 1:3 "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires."

Also, consider the theology of Theosis (this from the wikipedia article of the same name):

In Christian theology, particularly in Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy and Eastern Catholic theology, theosis (written also: theiosis, theopoiesis, theōsis; Greek: Θέωσις, meaning divinization, or deification, or making divine) is the process of tranformation of a believer, when the believer puts into practise (called praxis) the spiritual teachings of Jesus Christ and His gospel. Theosis has three stages: purification, illumination and finally deification. By means of purification a person comes to illumination called theoria and then sainthood. Sainthood is the participation of the person in the life of God. According to this doctrine, the holy life of God, given in Jesus Christ to the believer through the Holy Spirit, is expressed through the three stages of theosis, beginning in the struggles of this life, which increases in the experience of the believer through the knowledge of God, and is later consummated in the resurrection of the believer, when the power of sin and death, having been fully overcome by the atonement of Jesus, will lose hold over the believer forever. [1] This conception of salvation is historical and foundational for Christian understanding in both the East and the West. The concept of "theosis" is also a part of general Catholic theology where it is called "deification" yet less emphasised than in the Orthodox tradition.

Finally, I read the Apostle Paul in Romans as saying that the "righteousness of God" is not merely legal/forensic justification but an actual participation in the divine nature.

Jason Hesiak said...

You're crazy, lol. I'll get back to you. Working on something for a presentation.

And I obviously need to learn to be more concise, in general but especially with you. Because I was hoping to stay more on point mainly on the freedom/community and "script" stuff. Are you good at dodge ball? Lol.

jhesiak said...

Ok...so...

First of all...what about the freedom/community/script stuff? Why - based on this abstract question of the relation between personal freedom and communal interdependence (problematic with modernity) - do you seem to be proposing a whole new community, with that abstract quest, rather than the work of the (particular) Holy Spirit, as its BASIS? And what do you mean by "script"? And what did you mean by "scrapping the script" Is there a score to follow? Hhhhmmmmm.....I don't know. Some folks seem to prefer the score. If they can still find freedom and creativity within the score, then all the more power to them. I find that I feel disconnected from myself when I am dependent on the score? And why persue a whole new community, and scrap the script, when the original problem, the orignial reason for both persuing a new community and scrapping the script, is written into the original script?

Hah. Concice - achieved! :)

Now...

Have you become a hyper-Calvinist???

Why do you ask? Because I say folks "follow the script" even if they don't know they are following the script? I don't know. I'm just sayin' - if its the script that God wrote, then its the script that the world..."follows". That's why God is God.

The main difference between my position and certain strands of Voodoo thought is that I don't believe that one should go through certain rituals, perform ceremonies, or spells in order to attempt to earn divine favor.

Uuhh...why do you seem to be ignoring the whole JESUS thing!? I mean...that's the "MAIN" difference? The "MAIN" difference isn't...the difference between WHO ACTUALLY DOES something when a Voodoo priest casts a spell as compared to when...well, JESUS...does...whatever (especially the act of salvation, Cross and Resurrection)? Is Jesus Lord or not? "Who ya gonna call?" Jesus, Voodoo priest, ghostbusters, or...YOURSELF?

Also, I don’t think Voodoo priests perform ceremonies, spells or rituals “to gain divine favor.” I don’t think that conception or phrasing of it would even make sense in the voodoo world view. Again, precisely because, for them, the God that I know isn’t God. Again, precisely because – they are!

However, I do believe we can bring God into being, in some sense...Hence, it seems to me appropriate to see "God" as one who is moving within and among us when we are most receptive to her...I like to think that God is the Spirit (of truth/creativity/etc.) that moves through all of the musicians, or that is even called into being by the collective pursuit of truth....God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'

Before I comment on this, I would like to include in my commentary what you had to say later about Theosis and such:

And yet we are gods, in some sense....we are divine......Jason, don't you believe in the imago dei, the image of God within us? Doesn't the Christ even restore that image?...Consider 2 Peter 1:4Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature"...Also, consider the theology of Theosis (this from the wikipedia article of the same name)...meaning divinization, or deification, or making divine) is the process of tranformation of a believer, when the believer puts into practise (called praxis) the spiritual teachings of Jesus Christ and His gospel. Theosis has three stages: purification, illumination and finally deification...According to this doctrine, the holy life of God, given in Jesus Christ to the believer through the Holy Spirit, is expressed through the three stages of theosis, beginning in the struggles of this life, which increases in the experience of the believer through the knowledge of God, and is later consummated in the resurrection of the believer, when the power of sin and death, having been fully overcome by the atonement of Jesus, will lose hold over the believer forever. This conception of salvation is historical and foundational for Christian understanding in both the East and the West. The concept of "theosis" is also a part of general Catholic theology where it is called "deification" yet less emphasised...Finally, I read the Apostle Paul in Romans as saying that the "righteousness of God" is not merely legal/forensic justification but an actual participation in the divine nature.

Well wow isn't this complicated, lol.

First of all - "theosis", when understood in the "historical and foundational" context "for Christian understanding in both the East and the West", is BASED 'MAINLY' (PRIMEarily) on the ACT of God in Jesus' death on the Cross and subsequent resurrection. It's not BASED ON the saint's playing of the drums in sync with another saint's vocals and guitar riff. In voodoo, what appears in the world as a result of the religious act is BASED on the spiritual power of the priest. The action of the voodoo priest, if he were to take the place of the hypothetical christian saint musician guy, is BASED ON...well...the musician (or priest) himself! Not (the saving act of) Jesus (on the Cross) as Lord, whom the voodoo priest has (not) claimed to be "the Christ" "in the flesh".

Secondly, if we "bring God into being", as you said we "in some sense" do, then we are not "his offspring" (as you quoted from Acts 17: 27), but he is ours! That's, as I said, backwards. We would not participate in his divinity, but he in ours. We would not find him by being receptive to him, but we would make him "come into being" by bearing him, as one of our "offspring"! Again, backwards. And if he is our offspring, then, obviously, we would "call him into being", but as Acts says, WE are HIS offspring. HE would "live and move and have his being" IN US. But we "live and move and have our being IN HIM.

As you've noted, the Spirit of God is "in us", and even "moves in us," but in the context of a conversation about "bearing", "calling into being" and origins, its God who is the origin of US, and not the other way around. Its God's act that saves, and not our playing of our drums and guitars and clarinets and whathaveyou. Yes I DO believe that God's Spirit "moves" "in and through" those things, but that doesn't make those things, or the musicians who do them, the PARENTS of God. God is Abba, I am child. Not the other way around.

And the reason this is important boils down to a question of the coming of the kingdom of God. I ain't king and I don't bring it. Well, I do bring it, precisely because the Spirit of God is at work in and through me, but I ain't the king.

Lastly, yes I do believe in the imageo Dei. And that Jesus “the Christ” restores it. But, along with the basic point I’ve been harping on, we have “the IMAGE OF God.” That is different from saying that we ARE GOD. God drew the image, and we have it. We didn’t draw our own divine image. That’s precisely WHY we aren’t the God.

Jeremiah 29:13 (New International Version) You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Deuteronomy 4:29 (New International Version) But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Matthew 7:7-8 (New International Version) Ask, Seek, Knock Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.


First of all, notice that its GOD who opens the door! Not us. We see him, and he opens, because he's the one with that power. Not us. That's why our "deification" is "BASED ON" GOD'S ACT.

Secondly, "seeking" or "persuing" God is very much not the same as "calling God into being." In fact, we seek God precisely because it is God who calls us into being.

Lastly, I don’t think that any of this can be understood without an understanding of the relations between the ancient relation between what does and does not appear and the modern relation between what does and does not appear. In the ancient world, what appears draws us into what does not (like an icon). What appears is the starting point. In modern times, what does not appear is the starting point, but it draws us into nowhere (I think therefore I am takes us to Neverneverland, which obviously no one has ever seen). Which is why modern icons look like nothing, and are not moving to us at all.

I happen to think that you are dancing around this conundrum. Your post starts with a conceptual problem which takes us to an indefinite non-place that no one has ever seen and that apparently no one ever will. And you say you prefer a musical model that is more like a more moving icon, instead of the more modern ones that look like they’re stuck in a fixed point in space because they were told to stay there by a conductor. That’s why I noted that it seems like you are using a modern spoon to throw baby food over our heads while teaching us to feed, lol.

Example – Focoult’s Discipline and Punishment starts with simply a story of something that happened. He takes us to a very particular place and time. From there he does a lot of exploring. Focoult isn’t exactly known as a modern, lol. Your post starts with a conceptual problem. Very modern :)

jhesiak said...

First of all, notice that its GOD who opens the door! Not us. We see him, and he opens, because he's the one with that power. Not us. That's why our "deification" is "BASED ON" GOD'S ACT.

correction**First of all, notice that its GOD who opens the door! Not us. We seeK him, and he opens, because he's the one with that power. Not us. That's why our "deification" is "BASED ON" GOD'S ACT.**

jhesiak said...

Oh and I forgot to mention. Along with my strand of thought at the end of my last comment about modernity (Lastly, I don’t think that any of this can be understood without an understanding of the relations between the ancient relation between what does and does not appear and the modern relation between what does and does not appear...)...I think that what you are referring to as "calling into being" or "bringing into being" is actually to make appear in the world.

jhesiak said...
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jhesiak said...

from Heidegger's Building, Dwelling, Thinking

(I just posted this quote, but I included too much info, some of which wasn't so relevant or necessary)

The Greek for "to bring forth or to produce" is tikto. The word techne, technique, belongs to the-verb's root tec. To the Greeks techne means neither art nor handicraft but rather: to make something appear, within what is present, as this or that, in this way or that way. The Greeks conceive of techne, producing, in terms of letting appear. Techne thus conceived has been concealed in the tectonics of architecture since ancient times.

I think you say something similar about music. In fact earlier in that same piece is a good discussion on space and interval.

john doyle said...

Jason, while I subscribe to none of what I take to be your non-negotiables related to Christianity, I can picture jamming with you in a jazz ensemble, or even playing off the sheet music together in an orchestra. I really, truly don't think there's a God or that Christ rose from the dead. But let's imagine you're right and I'm wrong and there is a God and that Christ rose from the dead. Let's also say that Christ's work is objectively efficacious; i.e., he really did atone, redeem, bring on the new creation, etc. Now which is more important: this objective truth, or whether someone believes its truth? I would think that the former position makes God's actions more important, whereas the latter puts the emphasis on human actions. Paul says that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither free nor slave, neither rich nor poor, etc. Why not neither believer nor unbeliever?

Even if I believed I don't understand why it's important to assert that humans don't create or that God has written a score or that he knows how it's all going to turn out. Jazz really is possible musically, it's not just a theory. Why isn't freedom in the spirit possible, where through Christ people are now dead to the Law = the score? Even that new hero of enlightened evangelical Tom Wright says that, in this post-testament age, we're living in an unscripted fifth act.

Jason Hesiak said...

Jason, while I subscribe to none of what I take to be your non-negotiables related to Christianity, I can picture jamming with you in a jazz ensemble, or even playing off the sheet music together in an orchestra.

I can picture the same! That's why I said there is common ground. AND that I think the Spirit is moving in and through such things.

But let's imagine you're right and I'm wrong and there is a God and that Christ rose from the dead. Let's also say that Christ's work is objectively efficacious; i.e., he really did atone, redeem, bring on the new creation, etc. Now which is more important: this objective truth, or whether someone believes its truth? I would think that the former position makes God's actions more important, whereas the latter puts the emphasis on human actions.

First of all, me and the terms "former" and "latter" still don't get along, lol. I never know what anyone is talking about when they refernce that way. But lemme try and figure out. I think by "former" position, you referred to the objective truth of God's work being efficacious, which would put more emphasis on God's actions. By "latter" you were referring to our belief in God's, existence, action and the efficaciousness of the whole shibang. Uuhh...I think I'm right there. Assuming I'm right - yeah, I guess you could say that. But, honestly, I haven't really thought about it that way. In fact, when I consider the actual effects of God's act(s) on the world and on my life, its hard to separate the two out like that. When I act like I believe in God's act, then that's when God's act takes effect in my life. That's largely what belief is, as The Erdmanian has been suggesting, I think.

Paul says that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither free nor slave, neither rich nor poor, etc. Why not neither believer nor unbeliever?

Because if you're not a believer, then you're not "in Christ"! Lol. Well, at least not the same Christ as me. And if Jesus ain't alive, then he ain't "the Christ." So, yeah, if you're not a believer, then you're not "in Christ." I mean, if you don't believe, then you don't even WANT to be "in Christ," so what you are you complaining about? Lol.

And to be more serious for a moment, I think what there is to complain about, as the Erdmanian has noted, is the whole "in" and "out" thing (not like the Burger joint in CA, lol). My take on that is that there IS NO "in and out" when it comes to God's love. But belief in Jesus sets us on new ground. In Jesus we live in a new world, in a new territory. As your man Tom Wright has noted. And its on that ground that the church stands. Its a big plot of land; anyone can fit on it. But if you don't believe in Jesus as the Christ in the flesh, then...I mean...that's what puts you on that ground (in conjunction with the love that is available to everyone and thus presents to you in teh first place the choice to stand here or there or however you wanna put it)!

Even if I believed I don't understand why it's important to assert that humans don't create or that God has written a score or that he knows how it's all going to turn out.

First - its important to me to assert that God creates and not humans because that's a BIG "part" of what makes God God and humans human. Its a question of ORDER. Quite important to me as an architect. In my mind its quite similar to "keeping straight" that its God who holds everything together, not us. If we put us in the position of either holders-togetehr or creators (similar positions, but not the same), then things are completely out of order. And not just a little out of order, like, "Hey, everything's in place, we just gotta get this last piece to the puzzle." No, that first and - "most important" doesn't do it justice - piece is out of place, and the whole thing is a complete mess. Its Christ who is "at the head" (of THE CHURCH, in that particular verse, which is what's in question in this conversation). Not the pastor, and especially not ME (which is, I think, also part of the Erdmanian's complaint with the institutional church - but I think that, too, is actually more of a issue of having to get straight the distinction between modern/ and ancient, rather than some new problem in the church that never existed before).

Secondly - I haven't been harping on or asserting that God "knows how its all going to turn out." I don't like to get into that, because it gets into some bit theological debate that I don't give two hoots about (maybe I do give one hoot, though, lol). Is that why the Erdmanian asked me if I've become a hyper-Calvanist?

And I think its important to assert that God has "written a score" because, well, he has. Although what exactly the Erdmanian takes that to mean is what I was asking above! (and haven't gotten an answer yet :)

Jazz really is possible musically, it's not just a theory. Why isn't freedom in the spirit possible, where through Christ people are now dead to the Law = the score?

In my mind the Law doesn't equate with the score or the script. As one major example, the story of Babylon is written into the "score." And no one can tell me that there aren't a gazillion interactions between humans in today's world that don't play that script out. And that story, too, has as its central issue the question who is God and who is man, a question of order.

We commonly think of the "Torah" AS "the Law," but the meaning of it isn't that simple in Hebrew. In fact when you look at the nuances of the term in Hebrew, I see a strong correlation between "Torah" ("Law") and, well, uuhh, the human "heart" - the imageo Dei, if you will. The Torah, on numerous occasions in the scriptures spoken aloud to all Isreal, is like an arrow shot at the core of our being, by the One who breathed us forth.

I mean, its the love of God that's a central theme of the script! And the very FIRST (that order thing again) story OF the script is the story of the Spirit's moving and bringing forth all of creation! So to make the Spirit and the "Law" (while equating the Law with the script) into irreconcilable opposites (thus saying that there is no more script, since we are "dead to the Law") makes no sense to me, and misses what is to me the most "basic" (as in basis) meaning of "script" (which is I think related to "Law", which is different, too, from just some rules that we lay down).

Now, IN THE CONTEXT OF a conversation about the church's common contemporary problem with legalism (which is nothing new), "the Law" (or living by the Law) IS in "opposition to" "the Spirit" (or living by the Spirit). But the problem is that that's not the church's or the world's only problem. And as I noted above, the only meaning of the term "Law" isn't the one that lends itself to opposition to "the Spirt".

IN THE CONTEXT the question of cosmic order, of simply and basically how things come to be, and also of how things come to appear in the world, "the Law" (I'm not referring to the particular one that's written down and sitting on my night stand, and in this case I think the "Law" is more related to what I mean by "script") IS NOT in OPPOSITION to the Spirit!

Which context is bigger? To me it seems obvious that the context of the question of cosmic order is a generality under which the question of the context of the question of contemporary legalism (or any legalism) is a particular. Which is why it seems to me a wierd thing to have to start a whole new community with a whole new basis because of some contemporary aggrevation that isn't even a new problem and is actually a problem that is itself written into "the script"! God has always used screwed up people and screwed up situations to do His work.

Even that new hero of enlightened evangelical Tom Wright says that, in this post-testament age, we're living in an unscripted fifth act.

I would like to see where he says that, and I would like to explore what he means. I think in that case he's more referring to the "script" that is sitting on my night stand. In otehr words, I think he means that none of us folk have actually read it or know what's going to happen. Its the Spirit who is in charge (and, uumm, not us :)

Jason Hesiak said...
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Jonathan Erdman said...

This idea of being "in Christ" is interesting and very relevant to the discussion, Jason.

Clearly Paul has in mind a vision for "new creation" that is only for those "in Christ." And he seems to link being "in Christ" with some sort of conscious belief in Christ. (Doyle, would you agree?)

My question is this: why?

Why is conscious belief in Christ necessary? And is it possible that those who do not believe in Christ might still be "in Christ" simply because their vision for the "new creation" is the same as Paul: faith expressing itself through love in order to reconcile all things.

Maybe this is a point in which I would differ a bit from Paul's theology. That is, I think that there are those who are ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5) but do not specifically recognize the Christ-event as an actual, historical event with real ontological ramifications. I do recognize the reality of the Christ-event, but I think that it would be just like Christ (i.e., in line with the life of Jesus as rendered by the four Gospels) to work toward reconciliation with those who are not on the "Christian team." I think regeneration is also possible. Basically, at this point my brand of Christianity recognizes that there are those who are "in Christ," even if they do not know or believe it.

Jason Hesiak said...

Jazz really is possible musically, it's not just a theory. Why isn't freedom in the spirit possible, where through Christ people are now dead to the Law = the score?

Oh and I forgot to comment. First of all (and firstly in this case simply to get it out of the way), even this Jazz piece that the Erdmanian provided here HAS A SCORE. You can here in it the GUIDING tune of "these are a few of my favorite things". Just like the infamous "a love supreme". AND, in fact, its another good example (along with the Babylon thing) of a "script" (or "Law") that is not in opposition to "the Spirit" (of the piece). But instead its a guide that gives ORDER to the piece so that the musicians aren't simply all over the place. So that it IS in face A PIECE (its simply about the thing coming to appear in the world).

So I guess to answer the question directly - its not possible because humans aren't god's. Humans have to act in a particular place and time in the world. They can't be "all over the place". It is, quite "ACTUALLY" (and not literally), not "POSSIBLE." God can hang out on whatever side of the veil he wants. He can just flutter around for eternity in possibility. But as humans we live on this side of the veil, and we actually do stuff. And when we do stuff, those things we do take on an outline. And if it doesn't take on an outline, then we don't actually do anything, which is to remain in possiblity like a god or a shape shifter demi-god or something. I'm speaking like an ancient right now, btw. It happens a lot in The Odyssey, for example, where you know that a character IS a god (of some sort), precisely BECAUSE it can or does shape shift.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Jason,

I think it would be more accurate to say that this Coltrane piece has a theme. There is a melodic theme running through, "these are a few of my favorite things." However, this is not a score. At least, I can't see how it is. The musicians depart widely from the theme and simply use the theme as something that can further their own freedom. The score in no way determines what will be played.

Take this into the realm of Christianity and blogging. It's a lot like when you and me and Doyle (and others of course) start playing, and by "playing" I mean discussing ideas. It's like we say, "Okay, let's start with the theme of the reconciliation and love of Christ." We all kind of go different directions, but we use all of our ideas as the context for furthering our own, individual free thought.

Jason Hesiak said...

I think it would be more accurate to say that this Coltrane piece has a theme. There is a melodic theme running through, "these are a few of my favorite things." However, this is not a score.

Regardless, as per my last comment (about shape-shifting, for example), it is still a GUIDE. And as such intimately related to how I think of "Law," or "script", or theme for that matter. Which is why I was asking you above what you mean by script. It is a "guide" SIMPLY in terms of what happens in the world, appears, or comes into being (depending on what we're talking about). We typically think of a "theme" as an analyical question on a test in English Lit. class in High School. We read the piece, and then later saw, through repeated elements in the work, that it had various "themes."

But in the context of the actual act of the piece coming to appear in the world, there is very little difference between the "theme" and a "score." What you are referencing as a "score" is more "deterministic", we might say. It heads more in the direction of telling each musician in the group exactly what notes to play and when. Whereas what you are referring to as a "theme", by contrast," doesn't even really "determine" much of anything (in the way that a conductor mechanically "determines" the movements of an orchestra). Which is why I was previously asking you, agian, what you MEAN by "script" (noting that just because the modern mechanical model of the relation between script and world is a bad one doesn't mean we have to throw out "script" - scriptures were called scriptures long before we had the modern mechanical model).

Jason Hesiak said...

I do recognize the reality of the Christ-event, but I think that it would be just like Christ (i.e., in line with the life of Jesus as rendered by the four Gospels) to work toward reconciliation with those who are not on the "Christian team." I think regeneration is also possible. Basically, at this point my brand of Christianity recognizes that there are those who are "in Christ," even if they do not know or believe it.

Fair enough. But in that case, we are gods. And not just in the sense that we make things appear in the world, but you seem to be referring to our acts as having saving power, which in my mind is a position that belongs to God.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Jason,

I would not agree. I do not think that the melodic theme is a guide. But what do you think? I mean, specifically, how does it guide?

Jason Hesiak said...

Erdmanian -

I would not agree. I do not think that the melodic theme is a guide. But what do you think? I mean, specifically, how does it guide?

In the sense that they aren't just playing ANYthing, but they are playing SOMEthing. And that particular melody/tune/"theme" is what gives form to that particular something that they are playing. They are playing closer to anything than a typical classical orchestra, but they aren't just playing anything. And their are other guides as well, like basic musical intervals and timing (although that, too, probably varies in jazz moreso than in other music, it is still there).

If they were playing anything (with no guides at all), then they would be playing nothing. But they are playing something - a particular piece - recognizable as such.

And again I stress that for the artist who is actually making something, the difference is very important between a theme that you can go back and notice after the fact and whatever-you-want-to-call-it that gives form to the piece. Because otherwise there would be no piece to analyze after the fact. Analogically speaking the Spirit would continually hover over the waters, and there would be no heaven and earth.

And practically speaking, in the end if any artist ever does anything with no rules or no guide, then it will most likely just be plain bad. And by "most likely" I mean definitely. I can think of one example where its not the case, and its John Cage. But first of all he mastered music at 15, and secondly he still did play by some "rules" (just not as many or as strict as most).

Jonathan Erdman said...

Jason,

1) The theme does not give the piece form....listen to it.....they go many different directions, and then just kind of return to the theme here and there. But here's the key for Coltrane: The theme does not "guide" the form in a prescribed way. A score/script prescribes that something be played at a given time. A score dictates these things in advance. With jazz, you just let creativity flow through. This is a big difference.

2) Just because music has a theme that runs through it does not mean that this theme is synonymous with script/score. The theme is just an option that people can mold--yes, the musicians are the gods, and the spirit moves through them. There is no conductor. This, I think is a good model. But it is very very different form the model of a conductor and score. You seem to be suggesting that there is no difference, and I cannot understand that. Am I missing you?

Jason Hesiak said...

2) Just because music has a theme that runs through it does not mean that this theme is synonymous with script/score. The theme is just an option that people can mold--yes, the musicians are the gods, and the spirit moves through them. There is no conductor. This, I think is a good model. But it is very very different form the model of a conductor and score. You seem to be suggesting that there is no difference, and I cannot understand that. Am I missing you?

I don't know. I think you're missing me some or a little but not entirely. I think there is DEFINITELY a difference between the two models - one with score and conductor, and one with a "theme." In fact I think there is a BIG difference; and it is the pre-scribing to which you refer. This is part of the modern/mechanical model of the conductor/orchestra, too. Architecture still works by that model (we do construction documents, THEN they build the building, exactly as we draw it (or pretty darn close)). That aggrevates me - a lot, actually. That's why I like italian architecture so much. One architect in particular, Carlo Scarpa, was known for working with the builders as the building was going up. I like that - a lot.

1) The theme does not give the piece form....listen to it.....they go many different directions, and then just kind of return to the theme here and there. But here's the key for Coltrane: The theme does not "guide" the form in a prescribed way.

Well...uuhh...OK. How about this? It doesn't give it form in a prescribed way, but the very fact that they return to it again and again means, obviously, that it does give form to the piece. If the "theme" did NOT "give form to" the piece, then they would NEVER return to it! But...THEY DO! So...IT DOES! Lol. Its just that the rules aren't very strict (nor so very pre-scribed).

We are used to hearing the word "form" in the sense of an object. "A form." But a form first has to be formed. Form is a verb. To form. Formation. The theme guides, not so strictly as in other models and not in a prescribed way (or at least not prescribed like in an orchestra), in the formation of the piece. How's that?

The musicians don't "creatio ex nihlio" whatever they will the piece to be. Humans, quite simply, are incapable. You hinted at as much with the whole tabula rasa discussion. Would you not agree with me on that? Would you say that "my favorite things" was created "ex nihlio" (however you spell that) by the coltrane quartet?

Jason Hesiak said...

Something I said earlier: But in the context of the actual act of the piece coming to appear in the world, there is very little difference between the "theme" and a "score."

That was a holdover from a previous part of our discussion. In my head at that point I was associating "score" with "script." And I had in mind the "scriptures", which elsewhere I've noted were around long before the modern/mechanical-"score"/conductor model. BTW (as I've said in other discussions with you guys) I think cinema is a good picture of this modern/mechanical model. With a PROJECTOR.

john doyle said...

Hesmaniak, you have a lot of strong opinions, but I think you'd agree that conviction isn't the same thing as truth. Now that I think about it though, maybe when people raise conscious stated belief in something as the highest virtue, conviction really does become more important than truth. If I REALLY BELIEVE that humans can't create, then it must be true. Maybe believing even MAKES it true...

Anyhow, Genesis 1 says that God created, and that he created man in his own image and likeness; therefore... man creates, no?

In accord with what Erdmanian said, if I follow the theme and rhythm that the resurrected Christ and the Spirit have laid down, this could construed as a kind of faith. The guys in Coltrane's combo might not be able to say what they're doing in words, but that doesn't keep them from doing it. Similarly, you might call it a script while Erdman calls it a theme, but you can still play jazz together. And it's certainly the case that you wouldn't know in any particular session what precise shape the improv is going to take. Besides, SOMEBODY wrote My Favorite Things, and before the composer wrote it that particular script or theme didn't exist as something to jam around. So even that composer, though he might be long dead, is embedded in the jazz performance.

Why do I care about this business of in-versus-out? Because if I'm wrong and God does exist, I don't want to see you guys living in eternal paradise while I get snuffed just because you believed something that happened to be true. And I don't think it's fair to force people to believe something they think isn't true just in order to get these fabulous prizes. Another reason I care is that if there are things to be done on this earth that advance things like truth and beauty and justice and love, I'd rather work/play together with everyone who values those themes rather than splitting up the band between church and not-church.

Jason Hesiak said...

Hesmaniak, you have a lot of strong opinions, but I think you'd agree that conviction isn't the same thing as truth.

Umm, yeah.

Now that I think about it though, maybe when people raise conscious stated belief in something as the highest virtue, conviction really does become more important than truth.

Lol. But I guess it can be stated that way if the truth really is different from the belief.

If I REALLY BELIEVE that humans can't create, then it must be true. Maybe believing even MAKES it true...

Or does believing it CREATE the truth of it? :) Why did you stress the word MAKE there?

The guys in Coltrane's combo might not be able to say what they're doing in words, but that doesn't keep them from doing it. Similarly, you might call it a script while Erdman calls it a theme, but you can still play jazz together. And it's certainly the case that you wouldn't know in any particular session what precise shape the improv is going to take.

True. But it would still have rules or guidelines.

Besides, SOMEBODY wrote My Favorite Things, and before the composer wrote it that particular script or theme didn't exist as something to jam around. So even that composer, though he might be long dead, is embedded in the jazz performance.

Yeah, that's part of my whole point! AND, I would add that Nobody DIDN'T write My Favorite Things (Odyssius to the Cyclopse: "Tell them Nobody did it."). And I would also add, importantly, however, that My Favorite Things wasn't created "ex nihlio" out of thin air, but had some previous basis. And whatever it was based on (probably multiple things), came from SOMEthing else (and not nothing), and so-on.

And BTW if you don't believe in God, then the distinction is, I think, fairly pointless. Or at least less important. I mean the originating idea behind my need to make the distinction is God's "creatio ex nihlio." But without that, then creation and techne become...well...the same thing. Except at that point you aren't really talking about "creation" - as in, out of nothing - correct?

Jason Hesiak said...

Why do I care about this business of in-versus-out? Because if I'm wrong and God does exist, I don't want to see you guys living in eternal paradise while I get snuffed just because you believed something that happened to be true.

I wouldn't be surprised to see you there regardless, to be honest. But I don't know. I think it would be neat to see you there, but I wouldn't want you there grumbling that no one told you for certain either, lol. I'd tell you to stick a dern sock in it! lol.

And I don't think it's fair to force people to believe something they think isn't true just in order to get these fabulous prizes.

Nobody force me. I was moved by love. And on top of that, I don't give the prizes! AND, the folks who told me about the love don't give them either! So what's not fair? I don't get it.

Another reason I care is that if there are things to be done on this earth that advance things like truth and beauty and justice and love, I'd rather work/play together with everyone who values those themes rather than splitting up the band between church and not-church.

Well, I like that idea. But I think its ultimately Jesus who is going to finish that task. That, however, doesn't in my mind, mean I can't work with you on them.

john doyle said...

Does creation count only when it's ex nihilo? Not in my opinion it doesn't. So here's another case where we might really agree in practice even if we can't arrive at the same words. And Genesis 1 really does assert that man is in the image and likeness of the creator. But this is a secondary concern here.

The main point of Erdman's post, it seems to me, is that there is no script for living one's life in the world, no specific path you're trying to find. I expect that perhaps you really do believe there is a script, not just a guideline or a theme. I.e., you expect that if you keep your eye on the ball so to speak, God will lead you along the path he has laid out for you individually. Keeping to the script becomes normative for "walking in the Spirit." It's an idea that was taught to me early in my born-again life -- kind of a charismatic approach I suspect. There were times when I'd even pray whether to turn right or left at a particular intersection. Frankly I kind of miss this sense of certainty that I'm doing the right thing from minute to minute, of feeling as though I'm the carrier of God's presence walking along this specific path through life.

Do you have this sense of the "normal Christian life," Jason? Are you a Watchman Nee fan by any chance? Charismatic in orientation? Erdman, being more of a Reformed guy, might not be as immersed in this tradition, but I don't know for sure.

john doyle said...

"So what's not fair? I don't get it."

Again, we're off the subject a bit, but listen to the implication of what you say here: because I was moved by love, I believe in God. By implication, people who don't believe in God... aren't moved by love? So loving people believe, whereas haters don't believe? This is kind of the orthodox doctrine, isn't it? Belief is a moral good, so that believers actually deserve those fabulous prizes.

Jason Hesiak said...

I forgot something from earlier:

Anyhow, Genesis 1 says that God created, and that he created man in his own image and likeness; therefore... man creates, no?

Lol...as noted, this is a secondary concern at this point...but if you can find someone who worded it like that, or similar, prior to 1600 (even if its late rennaisance, like 1580!), then I will mail you a check for 10 dollars! I really will! Lol.

Does creation count only when it's ex nihilo?

I'm saying that that's the only time that its actually CREATION, and not something else. Like making.

The main point of Erdman's post, it seems to me, is that there is no script for living one's life in the world, no specific path you're trying to find.

Well, as sort-of-noted with the Italian architecture example from earlier, I like the idea of the jazz model much better than the orchestra model. Although I'm not a huge fan of jazz in general, actually.

When worded in terms of "there is no specific path to living one's life", then I would DEFINITELY agree with that!

Keeping to the script becomes normative for "walking in the Spirit." It's an idea that was taught to me early in my born-again life -- kind of a charismatic approach I suspect. There were times when I'd even pray whether to turn right or left at a particular intersection.

Well now I realize that we probably haven't been on the same page all along with the meaning of the term "script"! Which is why I was asking! Lol, I'll be honest. Praying whether or not to turn right or left sounds a bit rediculous to me. A bit overboard, if you will. But more importantly, in the context of this conversation (and rather than "overboard", with a more solid meaning), I think that that would be more based on the orchestra/"pre-scription" model. Of which I'm not really a fan.

I would tell a couple stories from recently of how prayer, I felt, related to events of my world (and a kind of script), but it'll have to wait till later. I gotta go. One is that I'm buying a car, and I feel like God was a bit involved. The other was when I got really really angry, and I definitly on that one feel that what I am thinking of as a "script" was involved. That one would be a really good example to get at what I'm thinking of as "script."

That said - especially with the buying a car thing - I do think that the prayer and God and stuff kept me "feeling like I was on the right path." Although - its complex - I'll explain more later.

Do you have this sense of the "normal Christian life," Jason? Are you a Watchman Nee fan by any chance? Charismatic in orientation? Erdman, being more of a Reformed guy, might not be as immersed in this tradition, but I don't know for sure.

I have no idea what Watchman Nee is, lol. And sorry I'm not trying to be vescesious (Sam's favorite word :) or anything, but I...I dunno...I don't feel like I can answer that question about the "normal Christian life." I don't know well enough what that would be. Maybe I could just go off of what it looks like you MEAN by that - and I would say - I guess, yes and no. No in terms of how it sounds like you have the orchestration model in mind as being normative for us American Christians, but yes in that I feel, especially recently, that the Spirit has been at work in my life. AND "guiding" me (espeically with the example where recently I got really really angry).

Again, we're off the subject a bit, but listen to the implication of what you say here: because I was moved by love, I believe in God. By implication, people who don't believe in God... aren't moved by love? So loving people believe, whereas haters don't believe? This is kind of the orthodox doctrine, isn't it? Belief is a moral good, so that believers actually deserve those fabulous prizes.

HEY! I was move TO love BY belief IN God. And the original MOTION was GOD's! NOT MINE! And regardless, I got a bit uppidy there, maybe. Sorry. But anyway, I wouldn't necessarily say that, no. I wouldn't necessarily say that if you don't believe in God, then you aren't moved by love. But I WOULD say that if you don't believe in God's act of love on the Cross through Christ in the flesh, then you won't be moved by THAT love to love back! lol. And you also won't be moved in such a way that your "faith is strengthened," or that your (particular) "love is deepened."

So loving people believe, whereas haters don't believe? This is kind of the orthodox doctrine, isn't it? Belief is a moral good, so that believers actually deserve those fabulous prizes.

Honestly, I don't know. IS IT (kind of the orthodox doctrine)!? I've never heard of such a doctrine. I could see how various doctrines of salvation could be interpreted that way from the "outside", but...??

Besides any of that - Doylomania - you know good and well that I'm no expert on love! I've very much still learning. So you ask me these question about love, and...I mean shit I dunno. But I do know that over time, especially recently, the love of the cross is gettting more powerful (in me) and my "sin" (which you know is great - seriously) less so.

Jason Hesiak said...

...so that believers actually deserve those fabulous prizes.

THAT'S DEFINITELY NOT the Christian doctrine that I know. The doctrines I know are based on Grace!!

Also - I forgot to answer. I grew up methodist. My church in LA was "interdenominational", but basically Baptist with a different name, lol. I don't think I'm charismatic in orientation. In fact when I went to the Pentacostal church(es) in Africa, I thought the charismatic portions were a bit...uuhh...cheesy(how to put it?). And there was a lady who came to my church in LA with a charistmatic background. She would always be jumping up and down and screaming and crap. I found myself praying for patience, so as to NOT go knock her a$$ out, lol. If I were to say I am anything other than Methodist "by orientation", it would probably be Catholic.

john doyle said...

I think we have an accord. Regarding the pre-1600 bit about creation, you could say the same thing about not being able to find anyone who said that the earth revolved around the sun, etc. And I will say that there were a lot of people in the early church who weren't persuaded that God created the universe ex nihilo, or for that matter that he had anything to do with creating the material universe. Of course most of these people either recanted under force or were burned at the stake along with their writings, so their version of the belief system didn't make it into the Creeds.

Jason Hesiak said...

funny accord we have lol. maybe we're like a jazz duo. we're kinda going along a simlar general line...or coming together at one point, if you will...but often going off in varying directions :))

Jason Hesiak said...

or a trio. with one guy (uuh umm! the erdmanian) sitting off to the side by himself for a while. lol.

Jason Hesiak said...

swimming thinkin' he michael phelps or somethin' PAH!

john doyle said...

Possible strands from which an accord can be woven together:
- We are dead to the Law.
- There is no detailed life script or score written by God which each person is expected to follow.
- There are themes, principles, even melodic lines around which we can create our lives individually and collectively.
- We don't create things out of thin air, but we do design, construct and improvise using the tools and materials at our disposal.
- People are saved by a free act of God, not by their own goodness or love or belief.
- People might believe or have faith in or love the same things without assigning the same names to those things, or even sharing the same understanding of those things they believe or rely on or are committed to.
- People who are in accord with these things might be able to make beautiful music together.

If all this is plausible, then for me the issue is whether we hear the same tune and share the same sensibilities in jamming together. In my experience, Christians tend to talk mostly about God, the Bible, the Church, theology -- namely, all those things that separate the conscious "believers" from the "non-believers." Similarly, church services emphasize liturgy, public recitation of beliefs and prayers, exposition of Bible passages -- again, these are strands designed to set apart the conscious believers from the unbelievers. Conversely, non-believers rarely talk about their non-belief except when engaged in conversation with Christians (though I'm not saying they talk frequently about important unifying themes either).

So if we were to build or improvise something together using the strands of the accord, believers with unbelievers, would we agree to place less emphasis on believer-oriented topics which serve mostly to emphasize the divisions rather than the shared commitments? Are there themes which we all agree are important in which we believe and to which we can ascribe our allegiance and our commitment? Can believers overcome their nervousness that this sort of jazz constitutes a compromise with "the world," replacing God's work with man's, placing man in the role of God, valorizing earthly progress, etc.?

Jason Hesiak said...
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Jason Hesiak said...
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Jason Hesiak said...

one of the links to flickr photos didn't work the first time....take 2...

So if we were to build or improvise something together using the strands of the accord, believers with unbelievers, would we agree to place less emphasis on believer-oriented topics which serve mostly to emphasize the divisions rather than the shared commitments? Are there themes which we all agree are important in which we believe and to which we can ascribe our allegiance and our commitment? Can believers overcome their nervousness that this sort of jazz constitutes a compromise with "the world," replacing God's work with man's, placing man in the role of God, valorizing earthly progress, etc.?

I DO THIS ALL THE TIME AT WORK! My mentor/supervisor guy...who was a 30 yr. old 5th year student when I was a 3rd yr. student...he ain't Christian. But we work together quite well, I think. Or...at least...we kinda jam together, if you will.

Now to the example from this past weekend where I was really angry. Relates back to the script issue, and it will lead into more about my mentor guy dude and working together.

My mentor guy dude (Clay) and I designed a building to be used/rented by Carter Machinery. The buider/contractor is to be the owner. Two weekends ago I was on my way to Charlottesville and stopped in to see the building. It was raining and getting dark, so I couldn't exactly tell, but it looked like they had begun to put masonry up in a spot where we had designed for some vertically orinted metal siding. I thought to myself, "I'll come back and see it next weekend. We'll find out."

Well, first, here is an image from our construction documents (modified for this here particular use), showing where the masonry and siding is supposed to go:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/8612797@N03/3428282763/in/photostream/

Here is what I saw the next weekend when I showed up:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/8612797@N03/3428282921/

I got REALLY REALLY angry. I was so angry that I was just had to screaming and let it out. My throat was hurting after that. I was pissed. I called someone from my program. He has no idea what architecture is to me (and in fact recenly said in a spiritual discussion that he's no good with analogy) and used to work in the military. So for him, first of all, its just a job, and secondly its just an issue of a power play between workers of inferior and superior position. He basically just told me that its out of my control and to pray the serenity prayer. I wasn't ready for that. Still too pissed.

And besides, part of why I was pissed had nothing to do with control issues; it had to do with the building itself. So then I called another really good friend, this one from architecture school. I explained to him what Clay and I had tried to accomplish with the design of that part of the building and how and why what Carter Machinery decided to do ruined it. I also explained to him that because of Clay's conversation the previos week with the contractor/builder (owner), I knew that Carter Machinery (renter of building) was just trying to make a bunch of changes everywhere just to excert control and show off their mighty power, without a whole lot of reasoning behind it. I also expressed to him my deep frustration and even sadness over it, saying that things like this make me want to “give up.” Like just in a monstrous kind of way “give up” (on what?), and also specifically to give up on trying to bring beauty and truth in to the world. He said, “No. Please don’t do that. You’re my only hope.” That was not very consoling at that moment, lol.

I stopped off on the way home at my Mom's house. Still very pissed, too pissed for a genuine serenity prayer. I took a good nap. When I woke up my pastor called about something else entirely (good dude, genuinely caring fella'). We talked about what went down. He said: "Well, it sounds like someone else's shortcomings are coming out." I said, "Well, maybe, but if I actulaly KNEW that that was going on, I wouldn't be so frustrated. I think MAYBE, in terms of the actual REASON for the decision, they are just Capitalistically thinking, 'Hey, brick is nicer. Use that. Duuhh," but becasue we live in Babylon, EVEN IF we were to sit down and talk it through, I could never explain to Carter Machinery Clay and I's mythological/intuitive (with other factors as well) reasoning for doing it the way we did it. Its like this completely and utterly stupid situation that has absolutely no resolution. Its very frustrating." My pastor said he would lift me up in prayer.

So after getting all that out, I went to sit on the pooper plopper. By the time I'm sitting on the white throne, I'm ready to pray a genuine serenity prayer: "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." Its much easier to pray that prayer in traffic, lol.

So here I am on the white thrown praying about some idiotic situation over which I have no control. Genuinely praying TO GOD, coming to face Him (or her, as The Erdmanian suddenly likes to say these days, even though he wants to be receptive to her :), I was presented with the realization that I REALLY DON'T KNOW why I'm so angry. By that I mean the following. I started to pray a bit about the Truth and Beauty that was lost ("Beauty is the splendor of Truth"), like, just going to God with my sadness. But then I realized, in a prayerful state, that I really didn't even know if that's why I was angry (and sad), or if it was simply because I couldn't control the situation. I KNEW at that point that my lack of control of the situation was AT LEAST a small part of my anger, but I didn't know how much. I just assumed, of course, that it was small, lol.

So at that point, in the face of this God who is bigger than me, I realized that I was going to have to simply accept this situation that was bigger than me. A number of things happened in the presence of God in those few moments:

One: God said: “Trust me.” My response: “OK. I won’t give up on Beauty, Truth, splendor.” Obviously, that felt very good. And I did in fact put my trust in Him at that moment.

Two: God said: “The world is bigger than you. Chill out. You are not in control, and you are not the center of the world.” That one He didn’t say in those words so much, but using non “in-scribed” words, that’s what He said. My response: “Well Jeez OK! That’s the prayer I’m trying to pray anyway! Works for me.”

Three, and sort as a summation of the other 2: That aspect of the experience involving my lack of knowledge of why I was actually angry came to the forefront. Again, in a prayerful state, in the presence of God, I was reminded of a story from the life of King David – from the SCRIPTURES. It was when, while fleeing Jeruselem because of David’s son Absolom’s rebellion, Shimai, from Saul’s clan, was throwing rocks and insults at David and his entourage, saying that God took his kingdom because he was a man of blood. Abishai, Joab’s brother, wanted to kill Shimai. David refused, saying: "My son, who is of my own flesh, is trying to take my life. How much more, then, this Benjamite [the message words this as like: “what’s the big deal then with this guy?”]! Leave him alone; let him curse, for the LORD has told him to. It may be that the LORD will see my distress and repay me with good for the cursing I am receiving today."

Four: The verse about the son’s loosing his life because of rebellion reminded me of the Cross, and put my situation in perspective. The verse also reminded me of what God had just said to me: “Trust me.” “Maybe the Lord will see my distress and repay me with good for the cursing I am receiving today.”

As a result of this, right after the prayer (while still sitting on the white throne, lol), I CONSCIOUSLY and ON MY OWN DECIDED (with what I felt to be God’s guidance in the prayer) that I was WILLING to be A LITTLE angry, in proportion with what was ACTUALLY happening; but that I was not willing to be disproportionately and monstrously angry at everything and the whole world as a result of this stupid decision made my Carter Machinery in such a way that my anger takes over my whole being.

In other words, all in all, I wasn’t in control. I am not the center of the world. I came out of that experience with a peace beyond my understanding. I had a sense that, rather than the world being against me (to refer back to your question, Doylomannia), God loves me and wants the best for me and the world I live in. And I also felt closer to Jesus and Abba, seeing as how the Cross came out as the head and central aspect of the prayer and of my experience, putting this Carter Machinery/”Benjamite” business in proper perspective.

All in all, to me, that sounds pretty scriptural. And its not “pre-scribed” or “orchestrated” either. Not at all. Quite the opposite. In fact sort of the originating urge of what turned my will over to God in the prayer was the realization (yet again) that conducting/orchestration has nothing to do with the (or my) spiritual life. I can even draw up some plans for a building that are quite strict and detailed, but I still can’t determine the outcome of what happens in the world. The horizon recedes as we approach it; but God is still on both sides of it.

Now back to working with my mentor/friend/supervisor dude, who is not Christian. When I got to work Monday morning, I showed him the pictures that I had taken this past Saturday when I went to visit the site, showing him how Carter Machinery had “ruined” our building. I expressed my anger, and was a bit perplexed at his lack of irritation. He did agree with me that what they did sucks, but he wasn’t angry like me. In fact later on on Monday he laughed and, in passing, called me Obi Wan Kinobi.

In the conversation we had first thing Monday morning, I kept pushing him and was like, “Look, seriously, why are you not angry? Is it because you know you can’t control the situation anyway, so why bother?” He put his chair back and finally got serious, and was like, “Look, you can’t control anything. The building…is going to be what its going to be.” He would get annoyed probably if I called him a fatalist, but its basically a postion like that from which he was speaking. I’m obviously not a fatalist, and knowing the “pagan” roots of what he meant by what he said because of all the conversations we’ve had in the past, I just waived my hand in the air and went back to my desk and kept working.

Now, Doylomania, as far as your question goes about believers and unbelievers working together – I say I “just waived my hand in the air and went back to my desk.” But for much of this week I’ve been helping him work on this new elementary school that he is the primary designer on. I’m quite excited about it, and have told him as much. It’s a sweet ass plan so far. And he has asked my advice on some aspects of it, too. We’ve kind of worked together on its some, but its been mostly him so far. On other stuff, we’ve worked a lot together in the later stages of design. The point is, I waive my hand in the air, but we work together joyfully (and sometimes with frustrations, too).

Oh and also, though - a BIG part of why I like working with Clay is because he is very much aware, from the postmodern discussion, of the issue of "valorizing earthly progress." He doesn't do that modern crappo. And he does kind of replace God with man, but he's actually conscious of what he's doing and how he's doing it. We've had conversations about it and he's very aware of the difference, and of what he's doing. So then I'm just like, "Fine. Why are we doing gray and yellow siding on Carter again? I don't know about that..."

Jason Hesiak said...

One more thing -

Doylomania - you noted:

...church services emphasize liturgy, public recitation of beliefs and prayers, exposition of Bible passages -- again, these are strands designed to set apart the conscious believers from the unbelievers. Conversely, non-believers rarely talk about their non-belief except when engaged in conversation with Christians (though I'm not saying they talk frequently about important unifying themes either).

You then went on to ask if believers and non believers can work together, asking if believers can get over the things that set them apart. And, considering my last comments describing that very activity, I would like to ask: Is it OK for Christians to gather and worship their God together? We should be able to do that, right...without having to modify the proceedings to be in a (abstracted) language to which EVERYONE can relate...right? Doesn't that seem natural?

Also, doesn't it seem natural to talk about God alot if He is the center of our lives? I mean, from the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. If I think about pizza a lot, thent that's what I'm going to talk about, lol.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Jason: Also, doesn't it seem natural to talk about God alot if He is the center of our lives? I mean, from the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. If I think about pizza a lot, thent that's what I'm going to talk about, lol.

Sure....but if someone incorporated pizza into every damned conversation, then we might suggest that pizza has an unhealthy place in their life---like, "Dude, stop eating pizza, you are maxing out the bathroom scale....for real, this pizza thing is taking your eyes off what is important."

Similarly, I interact with a lot of Christians who are so obsessed with God that they cannot see people or the reality of the world around them. They can't engage individuals (nor could they ever treat them as unique people) because they have a verse or saying or idea about God to press on them.

It is a violence against human beings and against God, I think, to be so obsessed with God. It is a form of psychosis, perhaps. And, finally, too much God-talk cheapens God. The most sacred things should be spoken of delicately (Ephesians 5) with a sense of holy fear, devotion, and love.

john doyle said...

This is a great narrative, Jason. It's exactly on point with what we're talking about here. Church guys might say oh well, it's just a building, when Christ comes in glory all this crap is coming down anyway etc. Secular guys might say oh well, money talks, the building is going to be what it's going to be, etc. But you're representing truth and beauty in the world as something that God values. Your secular work is part of your "mission," even if you're not handing out tracts to the engineers and corrugated metal siding installers (if they manage to oust the bricklayers). God presumably cares about warehouses and school buildings even when they're not Christian warehouses/schools.

The dilemma you face seems like a perfect case study for this sort of jazz we've been talking about. What are the obstacles to being an agent of truth and beauty in the world, what responses are appropriate, what alliances can be forged based on this experience, and so on. I really love this example.

Also, your experience fits nicely with Anne's (my wife, and also your Facebook buddy lol) new practice, where she emphasizes "listening to..." rather than problem solving. So you were listening to frustration -- in the gap between design and construction, in the interpersonal realm of people working on this thing regarding power and passivity and money, in yourself and your own emotional responses. If when you listen God gives you insights about what you're hearing, that's of great value to you.

Regarding believers gathering to worship and talk about God, sure, fine, good idea. It's just when Christianity seems reduced to the conscious intentional focus on God stuff that it becomes an obstacle. And I think this happens, don't you? Secular work or school or whatever are regarded as proper subject matter for Christian conversation only to the extent that it's a place to work out your personal salvation or an opportunity to witness or join with fellow believers into prayer groups. Church becomes the anti-world, check all that crap about work and money and neighbors and cars and TV at the door. No problem if the believers want to worship, but what else is their faith doing for/in the world that I can relate to? And as you know, some of us nonbelievers enjoy talking about theology once in awhile (lol).

Jason Hesiak said...

Similarly, I interact with a lot of Christians who are so obsessed with God that they cannot see people or the reality of the world around them. They can't engage individuals (nor could they ever treat them as unique people) because they have a verse or saying or idea about God to press on them.

Sounds to me like an issue of what does and does not appear in the world. At least partially. What I mean by that is that they have something in their head that they read or experienced sometime and intend to PROJECT it onto their current situation (projection happens at a measurable distance from the screen onto which the image is projected) or conversation with the particular person who is appearing to them in that moment. So yes, I would largely agree, I think.

The most sacred things should be spoken of delicately (Ephesians 5) with a sense of holy fear, devotion, and love.

I would definitely agree. I think this one is definitely a particularly a modern problem. As Brennan Manning said speaking of thunder, it has gone "from theophany to nuissance."

And, finally, too much God-talk cheapens God.

I think I agree, in a sense and to a degree. But with large qualifications. For one, its definitely too much God-TALK that cheapens God. Just more of the chatter that fills the void that happens to be God chatter that is really about nothing at all. But if its God-speak, where its really God speaking, or where you can actually hear God speaking - Incarnationally - then that's happens always anyway, and you can't avoid it. Saying that too much of that is a problem is saying that Jesus is a problem. And Jesus is not a problem. The disciples wanted to be around him as much as possible.

It is a violence against human beings and against God, I think, to be so obsessed with God. It is a form of psychosis, perhaps.

Its the projecting that's violent. The hurling of projectiles and objects (words and chatter) through measurable space. And if you are in someone's "presence" and sharing with them simple life or the love and care of God, then you don't necessarily have to be talking about God anyway. They'll get it, becasue God is God.

:)

Jonathan Erdman said...

Jason: The disciples wanted to be around him as much as possible.

Yes. But Jesus didn't always want to be around them!

Jonathan Erdman said...

John: Secular work or school or whatever are regarded as proper subject matter for Christian conversation only to the extent that it's a place to work out your personal salvation or an opportunity to witness or join with fellow believers into prayer groups. Church becomes the anti-world, check all that crap about work and money and neighbors and cars and TV at the door. No problem if the believers want to worship, but what else is their faith doing for/in the world that I can relate to?

And this, of course, is (in a nutshell) one of the primary reasons why I (and so many others) opted out of American Christianity.

jhesiak said...

Yes. But Jesus didn't always want to be around them!

LOL!! That's because he was trying to get away and go pray!! LOL!!!

And Doylomania - I answered that one because it was quick and easy. I'll get back to you later. I have to take a blogging break. Last night I overcrowded my brain with cybernuggets.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Hesiak,

You've been a blogging machine!

Jason Hesiak said...

One more thing. I forgot to mention this earlier, regarding the script and pre-sript (and violence) issue. Do you guys remember why I didn't like Batman: Dark Night? It was because I felt like it was an agenda of a bunch of (postmodern) ideas that someone then forced into the actions and words of the characters in the film! And I cited other (postmodern) films that I liked a lot better, which I felt didn't do that, such as The Departed.

Lol.

And Doylomnia - thanks for your comment on my narrative. I figured you would like and appreciate that story. And I had a feeling you had married someone who was into things like "listening instead of problem solving." She's probably cool.

Regarding believers gathering to worship and talk about God, sure, fine, good idea. It's just when Christianity seems reduced to the conscious intentional focus on God stuff that it becomes an obstacle. And I think this happens, don't you?

I think there's a problem there, but I haven't fully figured out what I think the problem IS. I mean, I can't see that consciously seeking encounters with God is a bad thing. Maybe the prolem is "intentions." When I was praying in my story, it was my will that was being transformed. I wasn't going into it with intentions, expecting or intending God to have intentions, and then finding that God had other intentions for me. It wasn't really like that. That, to me, implies the same kind of measurable distance involved in the projection that I cited as a prolem in one of my last like one or two comments to the Erdmanian.

...when Christ comes in glory all this crap is coming down anyway etc...Secular work or school or whatever are regarded as proper subject matter for Christian conversation only to the extent that it's a place to work out your personal salvation or an opportunity to witness or join with fellow believers into prayer groups.

I would definitely agree that that's a problem. But again, I haven't fully formulated in my mind what exactly the problem IS. If I had, then I probably would have gone ahead and joined a Catholic church, or at least wouldn't be attending the Methodist one I'm at now (where that's less of a problem than in many other Methodist churches). Again, I think the problem is at least partially a lack of distinction or awareness of the relationship between "the modern project" (progress, ect.) and "The Great Commission."

But...I really don't feel that I know Jesus well enough to even understand the "Great Commission" yet anyway, so I don't know what to think of that yet. I recently had an intimate prayer time with Jesus on this issue. It was Ignatian Prayer drawing on the passage in Matthew where he sends out the 12 with the power to heal the sick and stuff. When it got to the "Oratio" portion of the prayer, where you listen for what the Word has to say to you, it was basically like this (and in the background of the encounter was a question of power, which in the passage Jesus gives to the ones he sends): "Look, I know you don't feel ready or whatever to go out and convert all the nonbelievers to Jesus and all that crazyness. Whatever. For right now, just bask in my love. Let me heal you. I have that power, just trust that I do." And interestingly the next and last portion of Ignatian Prayer is "Contemplation", where you basically just bask in the love :)

Church becomes the anti-world, check all that crap about work and money and neighbors and cars and TV at the door.

Well in my "working my program" I realized that I truly believed that God was loving and caring and good and such things, but I completely sucked at actually GOING TO HIM for when I NEEDED his love and care and goodness and such things. So I was often definitely a culptrit on that one. That's changing, and I'm glad for it. I don't know what else to say there. That's being worked on. I have basically zero general wisdom there. Except: "Yeah, that definitely happens, I think."

Jonathan Erdman said...

Doyle: Church becomes the anti-world, check all that crap about work and money and neighbors and cars and TV at the door.

But the interesting thing here is that even though "the world" gets checked at the door, all the materialistic American pursuits are taken up again at full steam on Monday morning. So, the church is not transforming the structure of the world (with all of its power abuses and inequalities), rather, the church just gives good Christians a break from the rat race, so that they can be fully energized and spiritually refreshed in order to go back into the system and support the structure with their work and with their economic purchasing power.

So, this is a Baudrillardian observation, right? Disney Land exists to show us that our whole lives are a fantasy. In a similar bizarre twist, the church exists to reinforce the disposable, consumeristic society that promotes inequity, despair, and oppression. The church makes its members "spiritually healthy" so that they can support the American way of life. The only saving grace is that someday the Christian's souls will float up to heaven, so they want to do everything they can to win lost souls to Jesus.

Jason Hesiak said...

sounds Zizekian.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Or Doylean.

Jason Hesiak said...

and btw after calling me Obi Wan Kinobi on Monday, since then i've taken to calling Clay (my mentor "it is what it is" guy) Yoda. lol.