Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Dividing Our Time

I came across this quote by Albert Einstein,

Yes, we have to divide up our time like that, between our politics and our equations. But to me our equations are far more important, for politics are only a matter of present concern. A mathematical equation stands forever.

I find it represents well the tension I often carry with what sort of time I will give to various pursuits. I already took some comfort in the limited time I spend reading 'current events' with the statement made by M. Swann in Proust's Swann's Way in response to value of reading 'the papers'.

The fault I find with our journalism is that it forces us to take an interest in some fresh triviality or other every day, whereas only three or four books in a lifetime give us anything that is of real importance. Suppose that, every morning, when we tore the wrapper off our paper with fevered hands, a transmutation were to take place, and we were to find inside it - oh! I don't know; shall we say Pascal's Pensees? . . . And then in the gilt and tooled volumes which we open once in ten years . . . we should read that the Queen of Hellenes had arrived at Cannes, or that the Princesse de Leon had given a fancy dress ball. In that way we should arrive at the right proportion between 'information' and 'publicity'.

Here Proust also refers to a 'division', or as he calls it a right proportion. I still hold to the position that I will be better equipped for political significance if I am formed by transformational texts (and contexts) and I am sensitive and alert to my immediate environment. And then I may well be able to understand what Stephen Harper is proposing for Canada.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

When the Sun Rises

A great quote from Rudy Wiebe's The Temptation of Big Bear. The Indian Chief Big Bear alludes to the presence of his authority as a government official tries to persuade him to sign a treaty.

When the sun rises my shadow is as long as any river on the plains.


Weil on Affliction: Only the Contact Matters

God's mercy is manifest in affliction as in joy, by the same right, more perhaps, because under this form it has no human analogy. Man's mercy is only shown in giving joy, or maybe in afflicting pain with a view to outward results, bodily healing or education. But it is not the outward results of affliction that bear witness to divine mercy. The outward results of affliction are nearly always bad. We lie when we try to disguise this. It is in affliction itself that the splendor of God's mercy shines, from its very depths, in the heart of its inconsolable bitterness. If still perserving in our love, we fall to the point where the soul cannot keep back the cry, "My God, why have you forsaken me?" if we remain at this point without ceasing to love, we end by touching something that is not affliction, not joy, something that is the central essence, necessary and pure, something not of the senses, common to joy and sorrow: the very love of God.
We know then that joy is the sweetness of contact with the love of God, that affliction is the wound of this same contact when it is painful, and that only the contact matters, not the manner of it.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Weil on (Not) Overcoming

In reference to the 'obstacle' keeping her from being baptized.

I think with very important things we do not overcome our obstacles. We look at them fixedly as along as is necessary until, if they are due to the powers of illusion, they disappear.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Weil's Religionless Christianity - Part II

After a litany of all that she loves regarding God, faith, liturgy, saints and church architecture Weil writes this in her first letter.

But I have not the slightest love for the church in the strictest sense of the word, apart from its relation to all things that I do love. I am capable of sympathizing with those who have this love, but I do not feel it. I am well aware that all the saints felt it. . . . Anyhow, one cannot make oneself love. All I can say is that if such a love constitutes a condition of spiritual progress, which I am unaware of, or if it is part of my vocation, I desire that it may be granted to me.

She continues her reflections on the church in her second letter.

After thoroughly considering everything, I think this is what they [the obstacles to joining the church] come to. What frightens me is the Church as a social structure. Not only on account of its blemishes, but from the very fact that it is something social. It is not that I am of a very individualistic temperament. I am afraid for the opposite reason. I am aware of very strong gregarious tendencies in myself. My natural disposition is to be very easily influenced, too much influenced, and above all by anything collective. I know that if at this moment I had before me a group of twenty young Germans singing Nazi songs of chorus, a part of my soul would instantly become Nazi. That is a very great weakness, but that is how I am. . . . I am afraid of the Church patriotism existing in the Catholic circles. By patriotism I mean the feeling one has for a terrestrial country. I am afraid of it because I fear to catch it.

Nothing ever said or written goes as far as the devil's words to Christ in Saint Luke concerning the kingdoms of the world. "All this power will I give thee and the glory of it, for that is delivered unto me and to whomsoever I will I give it." It follows from this that the social is irremediably the domain of the devil. The flesh impels us to say me and the devil impels us to say us; or else to say like the dictators I with a collective signification. By social I do not mean everything connected with citizenship, but only collective emotions.

And then Weil offers her binding paradox.

I am well aware that the Church must inevitably be a social structure; otherwise it would not exist. But in so far as it is a social structure, it belongs to the Prince of this World.

Weil goes on to say that it because the Church is concerned with preservation and transmission that it remains a danger to those who are influenced by social pressures. In this form "what is purest and what is most defiling look very much the same" as they are all sanctioned by the church and give the same structure of language.

This remains my tension and perhaps it is a tension that should increase. How do look to preserve an institution (which is what much of my position involves) and also remain open and vulnerable to the presence of God?


In The Middle

Great guest post over at ITM. Hineini, I suspect you will be particularly interested.


Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Conversion or One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

No time to comment but I have only recently come across the story of Antony Flew. Worth checking out.


Simone Weil's Religionless Christianity - Part I

I have on several occasions heard references to Bonhoeffer as a theologian who articulates a 'religionless Christianity'. What I have not heard is this notion being attached to Simone Weil's reflections in Waiting for God. I am sure these connections have been made but I am surprised they are not more broadly engaged. In this collection of writings the six letters of Weil, philosopher, socialist and mystic, are addressed to a catholic priest who early had a profound impact on her. Weil wrestles with and rejects the attraction of being baptized into the church. Here is an excerpt.

In any case, when I think of the act by which I should enter the church as something concrete, which might happen quite soon, nothing gives me more pain than the idea of separating myself from the immense and unfortunate multitude of unbelievers. I have the essential need, and I think I can say the vocation, to move among men of every class and complexion, mixing with them and sharing their life and outlook, so far that is to sat as conscience allows, merging into the crowd and disappearing among them, so that they show themselves as they are, putting off all disguises with me. It is because I long to know them so as to love them just as they are. For if I do not love them as they are, it will be they whom I love, and my love will be unreal.

The language used here is quite relevant to my life. Prior to becoming a pastor I spent a year working in a factory greenhouse. It was in that context that I had some of the most meaningful discussions on faith and truth with people who likely would not be caught dead in church. As a pastor now I come carrying the weight of whatever stigma a person may attach to my office. And much more of my time is spent thinking of how I can attract heavily churched kids to a 'fun' event so that I can feel successful. To put it lightly this would seem to be missing the point.
The question by Weil is well taken. Can I love someone if they will not be themselves with me? I suspect this will be the case if someone feels the need to protect themselves against the power of my office and institution.
More excerpts to follow.