Sunday, May 19, 2013

On Love and God and Ambiguity

In a phone interview the other week, I was asked how I work with ambiguity. Ever the nerd, I began my response by saying something quite brief about postmodernism and then delving into ambiguity and my professional life, since that was the reason for their question.

Even if one has progressed far in divine things, one is never nearer the truth than when one understands that those things still remain to be discovered. He who believes he has attained the goal, far from finding what he seeks, falls by the wayside.
--St. Leo the Great, quoted in Peter Rollins, How (Not) To Speak Of God

After reading the above words, I thought about how this statement is true not just in divine things, but in things in general, if the two are discernibly or meaningful separate. This morning I think especially of love, which is certainly a divine thing if not the divine thing. I don't think love or God is something we can entirely attain and, as St. Leo the Great says, remains in ambiguity as much as, if not more than, it is understood and felt. 

Love and God are areas in which we must always seek for more understanding from new experiences, create more meaning in community and solidarity, and give away all that we know and learn. The more we attain, the less we can retain as the newness gives way to complete and utter newness of comprehension and experience as much as it builds on that which came before. Love and God are not impossible in this sense, but always ambiguous and never fully achieved. There is always more understanding, new experiences, meaningful and innovative creations, and leftover bread and fish when all is given away for in order to find ourselves, we must lose ourselves. And what is the pursuit of God and love if not the pursuit of ourselves, of ipseity and community, if there is a discernible or meaningful difference between the two?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Futurama's Knight of Faith ... Against W. K. Clifford & Derrida?

You can't lose hope when it's hopeless. You gotta hope more, then put your fingers in your ears and go, "Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah!... "
- Philip J. Fry
Futurama channeled Kierkegaard's knight of faith in this quote. The knight of faith has faith for the impossible, has faith when there should be no faith. This knight hopes for that which is hopeless--life from something dead, love from the unrequited, and sense and reality from the nonsensical. No matter how progressive and reasonable your faith/religion/spirituality is, at some level you are not only putting your fingers in your ears, but also screaming against contradicting noise. We are the knight of faith and the child incessantly saying, "I'm not listening!"

The difference--OK, a difference--between Kierkegaard and Futurama is that Kierkegaard romanticizes this hope against hope by calling it a knight. Kierkegaard says it is admirable to cover up your ears and refuse to listen to reason or any reasonable, alternative belief. Futurama appears to make fun of it, pointing out the childish ridiculousness of it. But in the episode, Fry's hope wins out. Futurama was very careful to ridicule the faith while also saying that either coincidence or providence could award the knight of faith (in the episode, coincidence and providence work together, perhaps).

Kierkegaard ennobles faith and Futurama remains conspicuously ambiguous. W. K. Clifford calls it unethical, saying that "sincerity of conviction" isn't enough. For Clifford, we need to have "evidence" and some sort of reason to believe. And here comes an essential question: Is reason contrary to faith and vice versa?

On the hand, I must say yes. Faith steps in where reason cannot tread. Yet, many "faith journeys" are guided and influenced by reason, at least, on some level. Once one takes that "leap of faith," reason can guide the rest of belief. It seems, reason and faith are not completely contrary.

I want to say one is more primary than the other. Of course, to say so would be more of desire than reason. And yet, to deny it due to reason would be to assume the primacy of reason. I assume the primacy of reason--I have faith in reason, because I assume it is a valid basis for belief formation.

Enter deconstruction. Of course, Trevar mentioned deconstruction. Deconstruction uses reason against itself. On the one hand we have hope against hope and, on the other, reason against reason. With deconstruction, I don't get rid of reason, but rather realize its limitations. I understand reason has boundaries. I understand faith is, at is base, unreasonable and, possibly--nay, likely--ridiculous. 

But faith is inevitable. Reason is, too, even though I think some people have managed to avoid it. We all take faith at different points and reason at different points. Perhaps it is more reasonable to shoo faith to certain places, but only because I have faith that this sort of reason is right, that there are levels of reasonable investigation into faith and reason that are responsible and levels that are irresponsible, like a diet version of Clifford's view, because it is healthier for you. 

In the end, it is health that I wish for, not right and wrong--love over impossibly definable veracity.