Wednesday, March 14, 2007

UFC, dragons and the image of God





















"When we place value (the only value) in the overcoming, or transcending, or triumph over these things, (struggles, difficulties, sufferings etc.) we empty them of their positive content and value. When it comes to people then, the victim is valued when they overcome their victimization, the addict is valued when they have triumph over their addiction or when they clean up and the "criminal" has value when they are delivered from their "deviance" and rehabilitated."
(hineini)


i think i hear what you are saying, hineini.

last summer, i was in a meeting where somebody made a statement that all they had had to do was pray and they were healed... that their faith had made them whole.

now, i have no problem with feeling this- i mean, it's even biblical.

however, feeling and articulating are two very different things. one must needs be careful with this kind of testimonial because of the message of hopelessness and failure that this kind of announcement indirectly puts out there for someone who is still struggling with and being overcome by something that is completely out of their control. to put it another way, the victim of an infirmity feels devalued as a person because of his or her inability to somehow slay this dragon and bring back a victory report to the crowd.

a friend of mine, an old 'saint' and one of the most faithful followers of Christ i know, had been struggling with major kidney failure and had been doing and receiving from others a heckuvalot of prayer- but was losing the battle. to make this glib 'mind over matter' kind of statement in his presence was to suggest that his faith was somehow not strong enough to overcome this physical ailment. what was intended to be a shout of victory for the encouragement of the masses within their own circumstance probably just rang out as hollow hopelessness for my friend. try to tell someone who has been praying against something for years to no resolution that 'God has no favorite children' and then listen to their side. there is this pervasive 'well why not ME then?' question begging for an answer- although my friend would never say this, i believe i might if i were in his place.

even beyond this, contrast western prosperity theology and all this 'child of the king' talk with war, hunger, starvation, disease, homelessness and natural disaster in any of the three or four worlds and see how well the rhetoric holds up to real life. i remember being rather stuck for an answer when a new friend of mine in sri lanka asked me point blank the first time we met:

"what do i tell the people of my village who have lost everything- family, friends, home, livelihood- to Tsunami? who is this God that i am to share with them?"
(rev david gunasari)

d'uh... good question.

journeys down 'alleyways of strife' have and always will be things of beauty... but not the comfortable, renaissance, dayglo psychadelic or off-in-a-field-somewhere-with-the-archbishop-of-canterbury kind of beauty... the kind of wild, action-painter beauty of jackson pollock paintings, bearing upon them the scars of the creative battle itself; the beauty of jacob's walk after his all-night UFC bout with an angel of God; the beauty of my friend rev david's angry resolve to hold tightly to his faith in an invisible God- the only thing in his life that wasn't destroyed by the disaster that destroyed his village and killed many of his family and friends.

there are very few things as inspiring to me as seeing the faith of one who is fighting an ongoing battle with something and refuses to relent on either the battle or the faith that brings greater strength to contend.

i find great inspiration in the white-knuckling of faith in the face of all manner of opposition. job's refusal to accept the advice of his wife to just 'curse God and die' makes him already victorious- but not in the manner of the 'colonial triumphalism' described above, which seems to be a 'fought the good fight, ran the good race' kinda thing.

in my view, job's 'victory' is an ongoing one of day to day conviction and plain perseverence- not in naivete but in hard-nosed faithfulness. rather than being the opiate of the people, faith for people like job and my friend is adrenaline, enabling them the supernatural strength to somehow do things that they really shouldn't be able to do.

but i don't think that any of this is what hineini is saying.
what i take from hineini's comment above is a challenge...

i am being challenged to find inspiration in the life lived in desperation, struggle and strain; the life lived to ultimate 'failure' in these Victory in Jesus terms; the life lived to bear testimony to the love and lifebreath of God simply because it is a human life, and being such bears the truth, the dignity and the opportunity to enlighten that is the very image of God.

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32 Comments:

Blogger SocietyVs said...

"i am being challenged to find inspiration in the life lived in desperation, struggle and strain; the life lived to ultimate 'failure' in these Victory in Jesus terms;" (JB)

Can you? Is there some kind of hope in that 'dying to live' I don't know about? There is no inspiration in the destruction of the human form - none that I have found as of yet. Ever met a murderer that is happy to do it again? Or a drug addict who has to rob to feed his habit - and does it with no remorse? Or what about the prostitute that only sells her tail for some dope - yet is quite content with the lifestyle? So there is some hope in hearing their stories - is there? Unless were talking about two different things concerning suffering here. Harsh and I missed the point.

I think Heinini seems to be getting at the fact the there should be as much equality of position of the struggling and the not-struggling - no difference in each's importance to the faith or to life in general. Value of the human being seems to be key in Heinini's statement.

3/15/2007  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

woah woah, let's not draw equal signs between the consignment of the murderer or the drug addict to enslavement and my words about fighting dragons.

one who spends his or her life doing battle with a dragon and chooses to continue the fight rather than give in to this contentment of denial is what i find inspiring. i don't find inspiration in destruction... or self-destruction for that matter. it does not feel like we are talking about the same things here.

"what i take from hineini's comment above is a challenge..."
(jollybeggar)

"Value of the human being seems to be key in Heinini's statement."
(societyVS)

see, i think that this is an important distinction. i cannot interpret the words, i can only articulate my ownership of my inference. doing this gives us all the freedom to take whatever we will from what has been said- even if those inferences are as different as those making the inferences are from each other.

do the ideas that we take away from this discourse inspire us to live with greater appreciation of life itself?

if so, i'd say 'high five'

3/15/2007  
Blogger Bill Scott, Sr. said...

Yes, you are correct, there is nothing like fellowshipping with the body of believers.

Bill

jollybeggar has left a new comment on your post "Journal 3/15/07":

hi bill
thanks for dropping by my blog today and for leaving such a kind comment. you wrote in you last post about the sharing of a passage of scripture, friend to friend, at just the right time...

isn't so much of the walk of faith this way- done best when informed by fellowship?

thanks for offering yours.

3/15/2007  
Blogger SocietyVs said...

Beggar I knew you weren't taking glory in the self-destruction of others - or in fact trying to find that glory - I wrote, then I realized - wait...I am way off with this one ain't I? "Harsh and I missed the point" (SVS)

But I figured i'd keep it in there so we all know what is being said here - and that I was saying that the self-destruction of others has no glory whatsoever within it and of itself - namely to the one self-destructing and not caring about the consequences. Which is why I mentioned the colorful cast of characters on the margins of society we can find if we try.

Sorry about the Beggar if I 'inferred' something about what you were saying - I think we both know well enough that is not like your character at all. Mine, maybe, but yours 'no way'...and Heinini - well he's a good guy through and through.

But I did enjoy the seat wiggling and the emotion you brang to the post - I can dig it man.

3/15/2007  
Blogger hineini said...

"...that I was saying that the self-destruction of others has no glory whatsoever within it and of itself - namely to the one self-destructing and not caring about the consequences."(societyvs)

Much of my original post was about the value of the individual, that much is true, but I also made passing mention of something else too; about our perspective on the decisions made by others. My point is that our own personal morallity bleeds into the lives of those around us far too easily. We can see it above with labelling the "murderer" and the "addict" as "enslaved". If someone showed up in church and recounted an encounter with God in which God demanded the person take their child to some high point and sacrifice them. We would make certain judgements about both their actions and, more than likely, their state of mind. Condemnation of the act would be swift even in the face of a clear biblical precident. Now I'm not saying that there is no ethical difficulty here but what I am saying is that when we see enslavement, the other might see vocation but yet we hold ourselves in the position to judge the ethicality of both our own choices and theirs. But maybe we can say more on this later.

3/16/2007  
Blogger SocietyVs said...

Now that sounds like a good blog topic - wink wink nudge nudge.

3/16/2007  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

"If someone showed up in church and recounted an encounter with God in which God demanded the person take their child to some high point and sacrifice them. We would make certain judgements about both their actions and, more than likely, their state of mind. Condemnation of the act would be swift even in the face of a clear biblical precident."
(hineini)
***

Oh God said to Abraham, "Kill me a son"
Abe says, "Man, you must be puttin' me on"
God say, "No." Abe say, "What?"
God say, "You can do what you want Abe, but
The next time you see me comin' you better run"
Well Abe says, "Where do you want this killin' done?"
God says, "Out on Highway 61."
(dylan)
***

yeah, i know... i've quoted this many times before

especially love the johnny cash version that appears as a song snippet voice-over at the beginning of the 2003 tommy lee jones, benicio del toro film 'the hunted'- totally worth searching out- i think that you might even be able to find the soundbyte on limewire (not that i had anything to do with ripping that mp3 from opening moments of the film) or youtube.

anyway, nice use of this biblical anecdote as an example of how we inconsistently use our own morality as a template which we overlay upon the lives and decisions of others in order to sit in judgement over them.

"what I am saying is that when we see enslavement, the other might see vocation but yet we hold ourselves in the position to judge the ethicality of both our own choices and theirs."
(hineini)

so are you asserting that murderousness (let's make it a little broader to include war-mongering as well)is simply a vocation that i misunderstand, having placed my own morality overtop of one's perspective and clipped off the edges so that it fits my own?

hmmm. maybe that's how some of our world leaders sleep at night.

3/16/2007  
Blogger SocietyVs said...

"Did you see him in the river?
He was there to wave to you.
Could you tell that the empty quiver,
Brown skinned Indian on the banks That were crowded and narrow,
Held a broken arrow?"
(Buffalo Springfield - Broken Arrow)

How's that for finding an Aboriginal quote from somewhere - oh it's way off topic - but it's a great quote from Neil. A little bit of Neil and his thought about colonialistic history in the USA. No reason for the quote - just that I loved it.

3/16/2007  
Blogger hineini said...

"so are you asserting that murderousness (let's make it a little broader to include war-mongering as well)is simply a vocation that i misunderstand, having placed my own morality overtop of one's perspective and clipped off the edges so that it fits my own?" (jollybeggar)

My point is that you can only know whether warmongering is right or wrong in your own life, whether its right for you or not. This doesn't mean you can't stand in opposition to it, and "sacrifice your life to the flames" in order to stop it but, I would argue, it does mean that you can't make broad absolutist declarations about what is "Right" or "Good" or "True" that apply past your fingertips. Maybe God told Bush to butcher scores of people? It wouldn't be the first time genocidal directives have issued from on high, at least if were using the Bible as a reference point.

The sad thing is that this makes living the ethical life much harder to live. It is easy to spout absolutes and colonize the morality of those that surround us; claiming divine sanction or support for our beliefs. But having a faith that is between me and God and facing my vocation without being able to offer any "easy" justifications about why I (must) do what I do, that is the heroic action. What can Abraham say when Isaac asks where the offering is? Abraham must speak, yet cannot speak! And the consequences, Sarah dies and Isaac and Abraham are estranged, never to speak again. The stakes could not be higher.

3/16/2007  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

"you can only know whether warmongering is right or wrong in your own life, whether its right for you or not." (hineini)

pretty slippery slope. with a little creativity, one could draw from these words that 'if it feels good (to them) then they should go ahead and do it'... that it is, in fact, their calling to live a life of relativism with, as i mentioned in a comment elsewhere recently, so much 'not that there's anything wrong with that' rhetoric that any subscription to natural law is dismissed as 'fine for the individual.'

you know, hineini, i've enjoyed using the word 'vocation,' newly defined (as something greater than simply one's job) by the time we've spent together talking about such things, but this further nuance prompts me to suspend my use of the word until i understand it a bit better.
***

"Maybe God told Bush to butcher scores of people? It wouldn't be the first time genocidal directives have issued from on high, at least if were using the Bible as a reference point."
(hineini)

this idea has been pinballing around in my head for awhile as to why the level of anti-american sentiment is so high, especially in the eastern world: it's because they have presumed to be God's new chosen nation. america's attitude of global moral authority, complete with all of the dark justifications that go with it is somewhat reminiscent of that of the biblical israel. it appears, in reading biblical scripture, that the rest of the world was at odds with israel, and that israel was at odds with the rest of the world over favoritism.

the story of joseph appears to be, on one level anyway, globally microcausmic in that we have the one son, beloved and bestowed upon by the father, and then all of the others who develop incredible hatred towards him. it is israel's story. it is america's story.

i wonder if the first indication of america's embracing of her vocation as a chosen therefore justified people began with inscribing 'in God we trust' on the money.

3/18/2007  
Blogger hineini said...

"pretty slippery slope. with a little creativity, one could draw from these words that 'if it feels good (to them) then they should go ahead and do it'... that it is, in fact, their calling to live a life of relativism with, as i mentioned in a comment elsewhere recently, so much 'not that there's anything wrong with that' rhetoric that any subscription to natural law is dismissed as 'fine for the individual.'" (jollybegger)

I'm not sure I completely followed this but let me try...

"slippery slope" This assumes a privilaging of "up" or "higher". My point was that no one has a "view from nowhere" who is able to dictate which way to go. Everyone has their opinions but they stop with themselves with no one being sure of what is best, regardless of how loud they shout.

"if it feels good..." Again the point is that I am in no position to dictate to another what their morality should be or say they must decide in a certain direction. So in a way, it is close to "if it feels good..." in that I must let the other decide for themselves.

"relativism" People often use the accusation of relativism when the power they have been used to wielding begins to get questioned. I am not saying that every value or action carries the same or no moral weight. I am saying no one is in a position to be the arbiter of value for a society, group, individual.

Maybe a relavent question would be why do you want to maintain control of being able to define moral and immoral actions? Why do you think its important that you get to tell others when they are wrong and have your view carry more weight or be more legitimate than the other's?

---
Just as its difficult to speak of "the Church" so its a bit complicated when we say "America" or even "Israel". There are many ways to read the idea of chosenness and not all of them assume a priviledging at the expense of the other.

3/18/2007  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

"Maybe a relavent question would be why do you want to maintain control of being able to define moral and immoral actions? Why do you think its important that you get to tell others when they are wrong and have your view carry more weight or be more legitimate than the other's?"

ha ha- well, i suppose one could ask you the same question, my friend. it feels like we're not really moving forward in our understanding of each other, so i'm happy to toss this one to the cat.

i agree, though, that globbing everyone together and calling this glob either 'America' or 'Israel' is a horrid mess. nothing is that easy, with white hats on the 'good guys' and black hats on the 'bad guys.' the bridge from the absence of light to the purest presence of it is the colour spectrum. i too realize that there is no such place as a purely black and white world.

so having conceded this, i am very interested in the spin on chosenness hinted at in your comment above...

do tell

3/18/2007  
Blogger hineini said...

Please forgive the cut and paste. This exerpt comes from one of my papers:

Levinas believes to be Jewish is to honour the responsibility we have for the other, this infinite responsibility that demands my life in the face's command, "Thou shalt not kill". To be Jewish is to live in fidelity to this responsibility, this command, "In my relation to the other, I hear the Word of God. It is not a metaphor; it is not only extremely important; it is literally true."(Levinas "Entre Nous" pg 110) Levinas writes;
" ...to be Jewish is not a particularity; it is a modality. Everyone is a little bit Jewish, and if there are men on Mars, one will find Jews among them. Moreover, Jews are people who doubt themselves, who in a certain sense, belong to a religion of unbelievers. God says to Joshua, "I will not abandon you" [and in the subsequent phrase]: "nor will I let you escape" (Josh. 1:9)" (Levinas "Is It Righteous To Be?" pg 164)
The inescapability of our responsibility for the other! And it is the burden of responsibility that makes us hostage to the other and it’s this burden, this unique responsibility, that Levinas identifies as the oft-misunderstood "chosenness" of the Jews. "Chosenness does not privilege; it has only a moral meaning. The moral man is the one in a group who does the thing that is to be done. The prophet who demands justice is chosen not by others; he is chosen because he was the first to hear the call."(Levinas "Righteous To Be?" pg 163)

3/18/2007  
Blogger SocietyVs said...

"Levinas believes to be Jewish is to honour the responsibility we have for the other, this infinite responsibility that demands my life in the face's command, "Thou shalt not kill". To be Jewish is to live in fidelity to this responsibility, this command, "In my relation to the other, I hear the Word of God. It is not a metaphor; it is not only extremely important; it is literally true." (Heinini)

That last part is very reminiscent of something John writes in the beginning of his gospel 'the word become flesh'. I would say these 4 words define the Christian movement. Words = God's teachings and Flesh = life - in essence - the words need to be made 'real, alive, living' (Jesus as the template). For some reason this reminds me of what heinini just wrote about Levina's.

3/19/2007  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

"Chosenness does not privilege; it has only a moral meaning. The moral man is the one in a group who does the thing that is to be done. The prophet who demands justice is chosen not by others; he is chosen because he was the first to hear the call."
(Levinas "Righteous To Be?" pg 163)

we were dialoguing about the call of God yesterday. i very strongly acquiesce with what i understand of levinas' idea that the response to the call of God seems to be the big deal.

it is the faithful 'here am i' response that determines what happens next- in these holy negotiations that are ongoing as long as we have breath, there is an offer and there is the acceptance of this offer. God offers invitation... it seems to follow that the challenge is there to be not only listening for the voice of God as it resonates in relationship with others, but to be ready to act faithfully in response to that voice, right?

as for the Word becoming flesh, i love the idea that Jesus is God's living word- the embodiment of the old testament scripture, the personification of truth, so to speak.

"ex nehilo: God created
all that is from nothing by his Word"
(kemper b. crabb)

3/19/2007  
Blogger BrotherKen said...

I would argue, it does mean that you can't make broad absolutist declarations about what is "Right" or "Good" or "True" that apply past your fingertips. (Hineini)

Did the Word of God come to us that we would not know what is right and wrong? I know by experience that there is winning against the point that Hineini is trying to make here unless he is willing to accept the hard truth that there is a right and a wrong in every decision we make. Yes Hineini, I said "winning against". There is right and wrong and there is a winner and a loser. I am no expert on the Jewish Faith but I know enough about the OT to know that God was never about equality. Yes God wants us to be giving and sharing and all that but have you not lost sight of some key lessons taught in the Bible when you say that we can not know what is right from wrong past our own fingertips? Why would God try to teach us anything if we are not able to discern what is good and what is evil?

Why do you think its important that you get to tell others when they are wrong and have your view carry more weight or be more legitimate than the other's? (Hineini)

For the believer, Jewish or Christian, should it not be about what God has taught? There is always a right and a wrong viewpoint and God's is right. When you see lying, stealing, cheating and usery in a persons life (or as a pattern in the operation of a group of people) can you not call a spade a spade?

Now, I know there is caution and wisdom required to address and hopefully correct the sin of others but that does not mean that we can not make a judgment call that, say; "that guy is a terrible father because he whips his kids every night".

I don't wish to push you on this Hineini because we both know that we could go on for quite some time banging heads, but this is black and white to me, and I pray that you can see my point some day. Love and peace to you.

3/19/2007  
Blogger hineini said...

"...but this is black and white to me" (brotherken)

This sums up my response to your post. It is black and white to YOU, not to me or my neighbour or your neighbour. For the rest of it, it just seems horribly naive to speak of what "God says" when there isn't anything close to consensus even within the religious communities that claim the texts your argueing in support of. Sorry, but I see very little helpful or just in trying to dictate to everyone a particular (and very contentious) reading of a single text.

Jollybeggar, I appreciated you holding my feet to my own fire. It took me awhile to think stuff over and I don't have much to offer. Obviously I'm blind to much of what I write so I hope you'll help a little as a sounding board and do more challenging, I always appreciate your wisdom. What I wanted to mention though is a clarification of what I was trying to offer. My alternative or the possibility I wanted to see pursued, while still maybe making declaritive statements about morality, was in an attempt to open up some space for the morality of others, create some space for other voices to be heard in what is generally a Christian hegemony that says the word of God came to us (read me) and self-criticism and social responsibility takes a back seat. [for music fans check out Bright Eyes' "When the President Talks to God" for a great telling of this story].

"the challenge is there to be not only listening for the voice of God as it resonates in relationship with others, but to be ready to act faithfully in response to that voice, right?" (jollybeggar)
Thats a bit of a Christianization but its the general point of it yes. Remember that the ethical person is the one who does what _must_ be done, not what should be done, or what is "good" to do. And the whole "readiness" idea is a huge compromise. The face demands "Thou Shalt Not Kill!" even before I hear or encounter the face. My readiness doesn't enter into it. I'm not the one who calls the shots as it were.

3/20/2007  
Blogger SocietyVs said...

For some reason the logic of it all has lost me - the sentence, the story, the verbs, and the point - I have no clue what Heinini is saying in the post - maybe I am stupid or something (I am not sure at this point).

But if Heinini is saying be open to other points of view - I am all for it - not like we Christians in our last few 100 years have figured this out - in fact it seems we waddle dangerously close to developing 'law' all over again within our small church cultures (at times).

3/20/2007  
Blogger BrotherKen said...

I think I know what Hineini is attaining to but at the risk of getting off base here I would like to interject something that struck me today. Society reminded me of it with his comment about other points of view. I was wondering if we would be open to another movement of God that could be so strange to our current understandings that we would crucify the messenger all over again? Things popped into my head like God talking directly to us from a fiery cloud and giving us the power to heal and bring back the dead. Or maybe He would start killing people for disobedience and bring back some of the fear of God that was once a big thing for Him. I have no idea what I am saying just throwing ideas out that would rock the church foundation. Would we hold fast to what we know and understand or would we accept that God is in control and can change the game as He so wishes? Does God just mess with us now and then to keep us dependent on him?

3/20/2007  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

"Thats a bit of a Christianization but its the general point of it yes." (hineini)

ha ha- well, i'm praying that everything i do and say has 'in Christ' as its identity... although there are some days when i'm more of a romans 7.15 kinda guy. hate that.
***

"Remember that the ethical person is the one who does what _must_ be done, not what should be done, or what is "good" to do. And the whole "readiness" idea is a huge compromise." (hineini)

i'm not sure i agree with hineini on the 'compromise' bit for two reasons:
1) in my view, readiness is about my free will and the subjection of that free will to the invitation of God, even when that invitation is to engage in areas that are outside of the circles inwhich i most naturally turn. if anything, it is to be personally compromised to greater and greater degree until my will IS completely given over and i have essentially 'sold myself out' to God/love/goodness/earnestness/honesty/compassion/charity/devotion/selflessness/integrity etc (which seems to compare with this whole notion of the ethical person anyway)

2) but, being a romans 7.15 guy far too often, i have trouble comprehending the realization of this ethical personship. as a work in progress, i find that i am getting better at doing what must be done, but that i often fall back on the conscious 'should be done' thinking and acting simply because of my fallenness. the best i can do some days is to step outside of who i am and try to project upon the situation what the best course of action is to be based on things outside of me rather than inside of me- even though my theology holds to this notion that God himself has taken up residency here. sadly, even though i am compelled by the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit to love completely and to live that love, there is always this metadialogue going on (largely because my free will is tainted by fallenness and self interest) and some days 'should do' is as good as it gets. the greatest compromises exist in my divided heart, not in my readiness to serve. i would contend that the readiness represents me at my most given over.

3/21/2007  
Blogger SocietyVs said...

"readiness is about my free will and the subjection of that free will to the invitation of God" (JB)

I am a big propomemt of our personal choices in relation to God - and I dig what you say here - this is also a sacrifice. I find nothing wrong with being prepared to do something - sometimes planning is the best we can do.

"the ethical person is the one who does what _must_ be done, not what should be done, or what is "good" to do. And the whole "readiness" idea is a huge compromise" (Heinini)

I kind of get Heinini on this - and I think we should strive for ideals that help us in all situations 'do what has to be done' - even if we have never done it before. However, I make less distinction between these ideal as Hineini - I ask for sincerity in belief - so that the ideals you cherish run deeply through your mind, soul, strength, and heart.

3/21/2007  
Blogger hineini said...

"in my view, readiness is about my free will and the subjection of that free will to the invitation of God..."(jollybeggar)

"...and I think we should strive for ideals that help us in all situations 'do what has to be done' - even if we have never done it before."(societyvs)

See here is the thing. The "I" and the "me" are what get in the way of meeting my responsibility to the other. Remember this is not a morality described by Levinas, it's a phenomenological reality. So as soon as we start speaking of readiness or free will, striving or finding things to help us, we have privilaged us over the other, put ourselves first so to speak. This is a pre-rational pre-judgement thing, maybe thats where the difference lay.

"For some reason the logic of it all has lost me..."(societyvs)

I'm extremly shakey trying to articulate something that even the people I'm quoting say "gets lost in the saying".

Maybe we're bumping into something else too. I have little to no loyalty to the faith community you guys belong to [although I'm reading a new book on Christology that has some hopeful possibilities :) ] and have an ironic stance towards the authoritative text(s) and this is obviously going to come across as we share ideas. I'm not sure...is there such a thing as an unbridgeable religious divide? I kinda hope not for the health of society but maybe I'm naive.

3/21/2007  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

"So as soon as we start speaking of readiness or free will, striving or finding things to help us, we have privilaged us over the other, put ourselves first so to speak." (hineini)

whatever our preference, inclination or desire to live otherwise, the reality is that human beings make decisions. we cannot separate ourselves from our free will. even if we tried, all we would have done is made a decision to make no further decisions. it seems to be a moot point.

could it be that active ownership of and identification with our vocation can take place without creating this false disparity of privelege over the other (in the same way that chosenness can?)

3/22/2007  
Blogger SocietyVs said...

"is there such a thing as an unbridgeable religious divide? I kinda hope not for the health of society but maybe I'm naive" (Heinini)

I think there is reason for this hope - I have never found a single thing you have said Heinini to be of contention or irritability. I really am not too concerned if people 'believe like I believe' - that's a personal thing in which I am not even involved, but discussion on issues is good for all of us.

I would say as a disclaimer to my belief set that a lot of people presume to know what I believe based on mainstream belief sets within churches, however this is not quite the case. I research my beliefs in some depth and made a paradigm of my life that can work in this society - and that changes (so I enjoy discussions for this very reason). I would say there is a lot of hope of finding the common ground within discussion called 'respect'.

3/22/2007  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

"I have never found a single thing you have said Heinini to be of contention or irritability." (societyVS)

ha ha- it is nice to see we have our own little mutual love society going on here. i've gotta confess, though- lots of things i hear and read from people are contentious for me and sources of irritability. thing is, i'm cool with that.

i neither grow nor change without challenge. i would argue that none of us do...

just because a perspective bumps up against mine and i feel the need to sort it out rather than let it ride doesn't mean that i look upon the opposing viewpoint with derision. i agree with the idea asserted by societyVS that respect is some pretty crucial common ground, but will never equate respect with either agreement or acquiescence. i would even contend that my respect grows as i push up against an idea and find that it has a sturdy foundation.

but often finding the sturdy foundation to an idea is a lot like discovering a coffee table with your toe while walking through the dark to the bathroom... for me to say that this isn't irritating would be lying, but to just pretend that the coffee table isn't there would be denial.

3/22/2007  
Blogger SocietyVs said...

Let's breed.

3/22/2007  
Blogger hineini said...

"whatever our preference, inclination or desire to live otherwise, the reality is that human beings make decisions. we cannot separate ourselves from our free will. even if we tried, all we would have done is made a decision to make no further decisions. it seems to be a moot point." (jollybeggar)

I totally agree that the reality is that we decide, we must decide. The point is that our ethical responsibility is prior to any decision we make or any decision that occures to us and is prior to our knowledge or conception of ourselves. Thats all I was trying to say.

"could it be that active ownership of and identification with our vocation can take place without creating this false disparity of privelege over the other (in the same way that chosenness can?)" (jollybeggar)

Well, I think according to Levinas this wouldn't be possible. Any justification of self is always at the expense of the other, the murder of the other even. So self ownership or personal embrace (of vocation for example) is always at the expense of the other. This is because murdering the other is not simply stabbing with a knife or some other violence. There are many ways we murder the other, failing to honour the "Thou Shalt not Kill" that the other commands. One of the ways is a perserverence in our being, a claiming for ourselves or a justification of our existence. I think we've spoken of this before.

Now about the vocation question, I liked this word or idea because of its involuntary component. One doesn't choose one's vocation, one is chosen, its something like the Levinasian concept of chosenness I mentioned above. I think Levinas might also be uncomfortable with any kind of institutionalization of vocation that could be read into our attempts to own our vocation. If we try to own it then we understand it, it's then defined (institutionalized) in regards to what's included and whats not so to speak. Our responsibility to the other needs to be unlimited and radically open or uncalculable.

Anyway, I'm sure this isn't any clearer but there it is.

The toe meets coffee table example was wonderful by the way, quite a gem. Thanks

3/22/2007  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

okay- i don't want to understand the breeding comment... other than i guess with all that talk about respect and bumping against perspectives, somebody's imagination went somewhere. societyVS, you saucy fellow.

but hineini, the levinasian way is a pretty complicated game of philosophical dodgeball, isn't it? i mean, acknowledging our ethical responsibility to the other, but at the same time not permitted to accept this responsibility in any way that actually permits us to see a role for ourselves on this terrestrial orb without committing some self-justifying murder of a complete stranger. this was all reminding me a lot of Christianity (what with self-justifying murders of complete strangers and all) but for the fact that this all has to happen involuntarily, like some kind of determinism meets zen thing.

i am seeking understanding here, and the one theme that seems to resound amidst all of my own background static is that we need to get over ourselves and live life given over to the other, responding to each new deal in advocacy of the other, rather than in rational self-interest.

in and of itself, this is an enlightenment out of which i am now challenged to live.

3/24/2007  
Blogger SocietyVs said...

kxxkkcq was the word verification - I think breeding is the ony option left.

now it says 'azzmp' - weird stuff dude.

3/28/2007  
Blogger hineini said...

"acknowledging our ethical responsibility to the other, but at the same time not permitted to accept this responsibility in any way that actually permits us to see a role for ourselves on this terrestrial orb without committing some self-justifying murder of a complete stranger"(jollybeggar)

sorry for my tardy response.

I'm not really sure I completely follow you. But maybe I can make some comments. Levinas is describing an ethical reality that is prior to any acknowledging or accepting we can do. This means that accept it, acknowledge it or not I have an infinite responsibility to the other. This, to borrow your example, may be a dodgeball game, but every ball hits. I am never able to dodge. In regards to the "self-justifying murder or a complete stranger", my reading of Levinas says that there is never any justicication, at least none that ever relieves or excuses guilt. We may dream up and number of "justifications" but in Levinasian ethics they are all moote (and possibly even new murders in themselves). I'm not sure whther this is what you were meaning or not but thats how I read you.

Levinasian ethics is the opposite of letting us off the hook. I understand Levinas to say that before we do anything or are ever aware of anything we are already guilty of breaking the commandment "Thou Shalt Not Kill". But still we are confronted with a face and we are faced with a limitless responsibility.

"...we need to get over ourselves and live life given over to the other..."(jollybeggar)

I think this is very much a conclusion that follows from Levinas' thinking. He states plainly in many places that he isn't advocating a morality of any kind but I think that if we are to choose a certain ethics, you've described it well. I want to emphasis the "getting over ourselves" part as important. Concern for the other has been a common theme in ethics but these other ethical systems always already assume my existence is justified and so there is already a limit put on my repsonsibility to the other; if it threatens me then obviously I wouldn't have to do it. But for Levinas, the other demands our very life and our existence threatens theirs. Maybe this helped a bit?

3/29/2007  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

"Concern for the other has been a common theme in ethics but these other ethical systems always already assume my existence is justified and so there is already a limit put on my repsonsibility (sic) to the other; if it threatens me then obviously I wouldn't have to do it. But for Levinas, the other demands our very life and our existence threatens theirs." (hineini)

so what i'm trying to figure out is 'who is this other?'

or better... who is my neighbour?

it would appear that, in the teachings of both emanuel levinas and Jesus Christ that this person is someone of great import. i am probably mistaken, but it seems like the only justifiable existence, according to levinas, is that of the other, as this person affords us, in his or her need, opportunity to serve. of course this all unravels a bit in that i am imposing a role upon this person, limiting this person by rendering his or her existence to something somehow justifiable through subjective means as opposed to something more objective.

to serve, regardless of some external or otherwise arbitrary measure of worth or need, is to truly and indiscriminately love, which appears to be the point of living... other than perhaps that the living of one provides the other with another to serve and is therefore an opportunity to enact love and service simply by existing.

i find Jesus' words concerning the greatest commandment (matt22 and mark 12), paraphrased from leviticus 19, and those of the self-justifying legalist (luke 10) related to this levinasian idea, but with one significant difference... the whole concept of self value and its acknowledgement and expression.

now, i know that we've discussed in the past the fact that the whole 'as yourself' phrase presumes that one's self needs match those of the other. this is not my point of reopening this passage.

in this key text from leviticus which summarizes the portion of the law which attends to human relationship, self is there and self love as presumed- arguably even encouraged. i do not find the scriptural prohibition of healthy self-love that seems to be so key to the levinasian way as articulated by hineini.

so i guess i'm wondering if this is a personal nuance, hineini, or if it is a crucial part of levinas' teachings... and if the latter, then why is it so important to contradict the words of Christ and the books of the law in this way?

4/11/2007  
Blogger SocietyVs said...

"so what i'm trying to figure out is 'who is this other?'" (JB)

Or better yet, what is our perspective of the other? Since the other is not someone we can truly know all about - we create that person from what we think (in some senses)...filling in the gaps as we see fit to explain the other. Our perspective effects everything.

Which makes the 'of yourself' idea all more pertinent, well not pertinent, realistic. What Heinini is pre-supposing is something we do not interact with - but think (and is more philosophical in nature than religious). There is an obvious inherent problem in that - 'we' are the ones thinking about the world (and 'we' cannot ever divorce ourselves from that reality).

So if someone says 'do unto others as you'd like done unto yourself' that's as far as stretch as the human experience can actually make. Or can we actually know what others would like 'done unto them'? No, we have neither their life experiences nor values - but we have our views shaded by ours experiences and we gauge by that barometer. But if someone thinks they can escape into a field of philosophy and find an experience outside themselves (if it is possible) - they ruminate this within their mind first (interior). I am yet to find anything that actually contradicts the idea 'of yourself' as part of the idea in ethics one to another.

4/13/2007  

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