No More Words (…tears still abound)
One of the blessings of being in graduate school is that it has the effect of stealing words away that would otherwise be uttered in ignorance and belligerence. Why I consider this a blessing is due to a personal conviction that I prefer not to sound like a complete and total moron. What I have discovered in the first 3 weeks of class and study time is that more often than not, I truly have no idea what I’m talking about. This personal epistemological realization has a certain gravitas – that is to say, that I am do not possess a fraction of the knowledge I thought I had, and the seeming infinite area of ground I need to cover in order to close the proverbial gap is, upon first glance, daunting and impossible to accomplish. This, coupled with being in the proximity of true brilliance adds a certain sense of desperation and hopelessness. How does one rise to the level of mastery and competency when 1) his natural faculties seem to work against him at every stage of development, and 2) by comparison, he is in fact destined at best to be merely “good”?
Whatever the future holds, I still know what I have always intuitively known, and that has more recently manifested in consciousness and action, that I can no more deny the “pen” than Homer Simpson can deny a strawberry and sprinkles doughnut. Thus, to continue in the habit of writing and to count myself among those who “write as they learn, and learn as they write,” a digression is in order. Not a devolution, but a revolution. A new way of thinking about the gathering and systematizing of knowledge for the sake of growing into the pants of which I have been fitted. It’s not premature, because anyone who pursues knowledge is bound to encounter the inevitable growing phase. But, during this phase one must learn to be silent and to simply listen. Thus, the ugly sight of an adolescent who has yet to grow into himself is merely a natural course of the process. That doesn’t mean it isn’t funny – voice cracks and acne are hilarious; and, I’m sure I’m a sight of pure and true comedy to anyone who cares to pay attention. I know I am to God.
The revolution is a way of thinking. It is ontological in its transformational abilities, which humbles and reorients, and it is epistemological in its function to coalesce seemingly disparate parts into a whole. What I’m talking about is first an orientation of being to be wholly transformed by the Gospel, which I am here at seminary not to study, but to submit. Second, to allow the mind to process the information in the best way it can. Inevitably, everything is related and even seemingly disparate parts of knowledge are integrally related. These integrations might be immediate, as with subjects or authors of a similar school or period, or separated by a distance of hundreds of years, but they nonetheless are related. The challenge is to find recognize them as being related, even if on the surface they seem not to be. This sounds abstract until we consider how many modern philosophies are not new, but the re-articulation, or re-formulation, of some previous system. Hegel relied on Kant who was responding to Hume. Nietzsche followed Schopenhauer, and what did he and Wagner have in common? What does David Strauss have to do with Karl Barth? What does Monet have to do with emerging theological tendencies of his day? Indeed, what does Athens have to do with Jerusalem? Solid lines may not be able to be drawn in all cases, but dotted ones certainly can. It is not merely the bifurcation of like systems into their own respective spheres and categorical systems that is to be desired, but the ability to find within those systems the nuances of reality and thought that flow through all of human history. Strauss may not have anything to do with Barth directly, but that doesn’t suggest their worlds are mutually exclusive.
Thus, the anxiety that is imminently upon me is to listen, to be silent, while all the voices of history press inwards and I am faced with this proposition: that to know anything, one must to some extent know it as a whole. There is not enough time in the day to accomplish such a feat in the short span of 2 or 3 years. It is a lifetime effort and my focus now must necessarily be somewhat narrow. But, by employing the solid/dotted line method, it is possible to build a preliminary construct on which to launch future inquiry. It may not be possible to know Rousseau as well as I’d like, but I can at least know him to a degree. That will have to be enough for now.
In the meantime, future writing endeavors must embody this ideal: connecting seemingly disparate pieces of information by means of citation and recitation in prose, and even to some extent, creative writing. Perhaps then, as a result, I will one day have the privilege of not being merely a voice among the cacophony, but part of the tuned few who seek to one day overtake the mass of noise with a bit of true music of their own.