I haven’t been blogging because I haven’t known what to say.
I still don’t.
There are multiple conversations in culture that demand attention (just cruise your Flipboard for awhile), and to most of them, I simply say this: I don’t know the answers to the questions we’re facing.
But not long ago, I read a post over at Stephen Pressfield’s blog that accused folks like me of simple cowardice. Ouch. To be an artist is to choose a point of view and go after it. To sit on the fence on anything is to have a yellow streak. Choose what you think and get on with it. The writer went on to say that if you don’t choose where you stand on issues, you won’t have anything to say. There’s also the famous enjoinder that reminds us that all it takes for evil to triumph in the world is for good people to do nothing.
And this blog has been silent.
I can’t tell if I’m experiencing a storm, a carnival, or some variation of the two. A storm-like carnival, a carnival in a storm, or a carnival-like storm…who knows? All I know is that there’s a lot of stuff—dark and beautiful—whirling around. And we’re all pointing and saying, “Look at that!” Not only “Look at that” but also, “Let me tell you the truth about that.” I watch smart, articulate people I know hold court among friends conversing on a particular topic, and as they speak with conviction and clarity, I wonder, “Why aren’t you as overwhelmed as I am?”
Here’s what’s whirling in our carnival storm: theology, philosophy, biblical studies, world religion, archeology, symbology, psychology, biology, physics, economics, sociology, neurology and brain studies, sexuality, politics, issues of justice, entertainment, creativity, art, ecology, fiction and literature, poetry, theatre, music, popular mass media, media criticism, history, aesthetics, phenomenology, and…the list goes on.
To say it more simply, what’s whirling are our ideas about what it means to be human, and just what it is that constitutes “the good.”
A conversation with a very smart friend of mine recently reminded me that I have traveled further down the postmodern path than I ever thought I would. He mused that perhaps the kind of Christian you became might depend on whether you read the book of Hebrews before you read the book of Romans, or the other way around. We were talking about atonement theories (exactly how Christ’s crucifixion paves the way for reconciliation with God), and his simple statement reflected my current thinking that so much of what (and how) we think and feel is determined by more factors than we can get our heads around. It can be as simple as the order in which you encounter bits of information that you eventually come to hold as your most sacred thoughts.
Genetics, the nurture of our family of origin, the specific time of history into which we are born, our economics, our social circles, our exposure to ideas in all domains of human learning and enterprise, our various degrees of intelligence and giftedness, our educational opportunities, our emotional structures and the various ways in which all these lenses are put together to create dynamically changing ways in which we see the world. And finally, add to it the notion that we are story-telling creatures by nature, and that the brain may not care whether the stories are true or not, and suddenly, deciding where to put your feet down becomes a bit dicey.
All this is to say that the latest version of what one colleague once termed my “ongoing tortured self” (“If Jeff isn’t tortured about something, he isn’t Jeff”) feels more serious than most. If all those categories of human activity and study listed above are thought of tectonic plates…well, you know what happens when tectonic plates start shifting.
At the end of the day, the starting place is simply this: we are limited, and what we know will always be dwarfed by what we don’t know. There isn’t much to do about that. It’s in the design of things. That is not to say we can’t know anything—there are in fact, amazing things to know and be sure of, but that list of “knowable” things is, in itself, mysterious, and up for much debate. Will I ever know anything with enough certainty that I will shout down those who disagree with veins popping in my neck?
I doubt it.
I begin each day with a meditation on the nature of God, and as Peter Rollins reflects on in How (Not) to Speak of God, I’ve ended up not wanting to say anything. He quotes philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein in his introduction: “What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.” Sometimes the not speaking is about knowing your own ignorance, and sometimes its about awe, but either way, no words will come.
That being said, it’s time to start speaking again, though as always with me, it’s going to be mostly questions asked, not declarations made.
Wondering what inspiration means…