Monday, February 2, 2009

This is the moment in which reality challenges our whole journey

The Thinker, Auguste Rodin

Diakonia According to Me (2):

Reality. What is it? Why did God make it? Why does God keep it in motion, give it shape and substance? Why did he give us these five senses, to perceive it on so many levels and yet in such a limited way?

I used to think of the world as God's work of art, and that I could perceive something about him from studying it to the same extent that I could perceive something about an artist by studying his paintings.

But this analogy is not really right. Because Rodin (for example) did not sculpt for me. When I stand in front of The Thinker or The Kiss, I may learn something indirect about Rodin, but I learn nothing of his relationship with me -- because we don't have any relationship! Rodin and I are tragically cut off from one another by both space and time. If I were silly and fanciful (as I was, once), I might go so far as to imagine, while standing in front of a favorite sculpture, that Rodin might have been thinking of someone, one day, staring at his work and "getting" it the way I do. In my inner world, my imaginary Rodin can have meaningful human contact with his imaginary me.

But this is not what happens between me and God when I stand in front of His work of art, that is, reality. This reality that surrounds and envelops me, in which I live and move and have my being, is made for me. God does have me in mind -- all the hairs on my head are counted -- and he had me in mind from the beginning of Creation. So, this work of art that I contemplate is also the way He comes to meet me and communicate with me. He doesn't place us within reality to distract or confuse us. He gives us this particular reality in order to communicate himself to us, to reveal his love to us, to seduce us, to solicit our tenderness.

This is true even of temptations, trials, sufferings, betrayals, mistakes, and misunderstandings! All these things are given to us so that we may become holier -- they are tailored to our particular needs. A temptation or a trial or a particular suffering are given to me because God knows exactly what I need to see and experience in order to move toward him.

When we move or act within reality, it changes in response to us. Reality shows us that we exist. So, the analogy is more like this: I am standing in front of a sculpture, and the artist is there, too. When I touch his work, he alters it, according to what he knows about me, in order to respond to my deepest needs. When I speak, the sculptor alters his work to reflect the sound of my voice and the content of what I said, but in such a way as to give me the perfect response -- one that will again (and again, and again, for as long as I stay in front of his work) respond to the deepest need of my heart.

1 comment:

clairity said...

Beautiful. I need to ponder this more.

Dumbstruck by the Mystery

...our temptation is always to impose our prejudices or our measure on reality -- except when we are faced with a fact that leaves us dumbstruck, and instead of dominating the fact ourselves, we are dominated, overcome by it. If there were no moments of this kind, the Mystery could do anything, but in the end, we would reduce everything to the usual explanation. But not even a Nobel Prize winner can stop himself from being dumbstruck before an absolutely gratuitous gesture. If there were not these moments, we would find answers, explanations, and interpretations to avoid being struck by anything. It is good that some things happen that we cannot dominate, then we have to take them seriously, and this is the great question of philosophy. If the conditions for the possibility of knowledge (see Kant) impose themselves on reality or if there is something that is so powerfully disproportionate that it does not let itself be "grasped" by the conditions of possibility, then the horizon opens. If this were not the case, then we could dominate everything and be in peace, or at least without drama. Instead, not even the intelligence of a Nobel Prize winner could prevent him from coming face-to-face with a fact that made him dumbstruck -- instead of dominating, it was he who was dominated. Here begins the drama, because I am called to answer. It is the drama that unfolds between us and the Mystery, through certain facts, certain moments, in which the Mystery imposes itself with this evidence. These are facts that we cannot put in our pocket, which we cannot reduce to antecedent factors.
-- Julian Carron in "Friends, that is, Witnesses."