“I’m not a real scholar, but I play one on the Internet!” Actually, that’s not even true. This may be obvious, but in case it isn’t: whenever I find myself writing in a superficially scholarly mode, as I did yesterday, I regard whatever conclusions I arrive at with a mixture of surprise (“Hey, I didn’t know I thought that!”), amusement, and suspicion. The more internally consistent my ideas appear, the more sense they make, the more suspicious I get!
But I refuse to refrain from such bullshit scholarship, for the simple reason that ideas are fun. Thinking out loud is both a great exercise and a wonderful way to connect with other people. The best and most interesting ideas almost always come about from dialogue. Therefore I think it’s essential that bloggers exercise the freedom to put their most challenging ideas into circulation, and be as playful as possible about it. (The only thing I really worry about with a post like yesterday’s “Ring of fire” is that I might become entirely too pedantic.)
Regarding yesterday’s post, I am grateful that both of the Christians among Via Negativa’s regular comment-leaving readers have responded with great energy and perception. Again, this probably goes without saying, but just so there’s no confusion on the matter: I have no bone to pick with anyone except literalists and bigots (often one and the same). And though I have aired my ambivalence toward world religions here in the past, out of a preference for the greater complexity and sense of geographical groundedness of what I call particularizing (as opposed to universalizing) traditions, I hope it’s clear that I have enormous respect for religious traditions and faith communities of all stripes. In this case, I think readers should take my own comments about Judeo-Christian tradition with a much larger grain of salt than the comments of those actually practicing within that tradition. I also do feel that, on any given subject, those speaking from their own lived experience generally trump those of us who are simply playing with ideas.
Some ideas can’t exist without words. These are the kinds of thoughts that animate much of my prose. But I know from decades of struggling to express more hidden things, usually through poetry, that a realm of perception beyond language not only exists, but is the real ground of our conscious existence. I know, too, that too much talk about things like love or freedom in the abstract can become a substitute for the real work: giving meaning to such ideas through action and embodiment.
All too often, articulateness and thoughtfulness seem mutually exclusive, I’m not sure why. Understand, I don’t beat myself up about being more glib than wise. I always figure that as long as I’m entertaining folks, and not hurting anyone’s feelings, I’m doing fine. Sure, we all could probably stand to become better listeners. I sometimes think that if I could listen well enough, I’d hear what the angels are saying to each other – and I don’t even believe in angels! That’s the kind of mixed-up fellow you’re dealing with here. Just so you know.