Saturday, December 5, 2009

Drawing Lines & Finding Balance: Why I Won't Pursue a Philosophy Degree

Today I was reading a book, which may come as no surprise to you. However, I haven't been reading much lately, at least, not books in English. I've been translating Greek and Hebrew, reading blogs, and listening to music (which took the place of reading while I exercised, the largest, regular time I had been taking for reading). But today was cold and rainy, and I was too lazy to walk to the gym. So, I sat to read.

I am reading about ethics and deconstruction, which probably also doesn't come as much of a surprise. The author started going through a bunch of philosophers, summarizing a deconstructive aspect of their work with catchy phrases. I am familiar with all of the people on the list, although I have read very little from any of them, if anything. I felt impotent within the conversation. I cannot dialogue with people about Kant, Levinas, Hegel, and Kierkegaard, among others, when I have so little first-hand knowledge of them. And if the deconstructive conversation so often turns to them, how can I talk about deconstruction?

My solution was to seek a philosophy degree, because you cannot learn about anything without having a degree, right? I don't need the degree, but I could benefit from the classes, students, and professors for accountability and as dialogue partners. And I enjoy philosophy.

But I can't get a degree in everything. And I can't study everything, especially if I plan to be a socially active person--"social" connoting friendships and justice. Where do I draw the line between what is necessary and what is beyond my scope?

This line is a recurrent problem in my life. In order for the kingdom to come, so many things need to be done, just as there are so many things to study. Where do I draw the line between my areas of justice and areas I must leave to others? Where do I draw the line between taking care of myself and overindulging in leisure?

Maybe it is a God problem. I want to know everything, be everything, do everything. I want to go beyond all of my human limitations and be like God. Isn't that desire what all Christians want? To be like God? To be part of the Messiah, the body of Christ?

It is for me, at least. And I seek another line, this one between accepting my human limitations and pushing on, reaching to embody God's power--whether you call it Christ or Spirit.

How did Jesus manage it? According to John's Gospel, not so easily. He didn't want to settle for death on a cross. I think he wanted to establish justice in his lifetime, to rid the world of oppression, and foster love in the hearts of everyone. As the story goes, he prayed so hard against the cross that he sweat drops of blood.

He accepted his human limitations with just the cross and God gave him the resurrection. (Yes, I think Jesus went to the cross like Abraham went to sacrifice his son and like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego went to the fiery furnace--without knowing what would happen next, whether they would be delivered or not.) But how did Jesus go about finding his limitations? How did he decide to take a ministry to the cross instead of to Rome? (Yes, I am assuming Jesus did not have to die and God did not require Jesus' blood.)

I still don't have an answer. But I'm OK looking--or, I try to be, since I guess I have to be--no matter how aimless and anxious I might get in the process.

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