Fair Warning: These are late night, post-bizarre-work-week ponderings. This blog is about to go rogue, y'all, back to the unscripted and uncensored outlet of the aughts...all the way back to the blinking green cursor of Doogie Howser, the mystery-solving pen of Ghostwriter, the episode-ending column voice-over of Carrie Bradshaw, the secret notebooks of Harriet the Spy. Lena Dunham's doing it these days, and I love all those characters. I wanted to be them all. So, I think, I will be.
My reading of late has been a bit fluffy.
I read a 600 page novel about vampire zombies over Christmas, willfully ignoring the Judith Butler and Slavoj Zizek sitting right there on my bedside table.
Then I read Tiny Beautiful Things, a compendium of Cheryl Strayed's advice column - yes, a compendium. Of an advice column. And it was probably the most pastoral thing I've set eyes on. Seriously, you seminarians should skip Pastoral Care 101 (um, I did), and just read Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond and listen to Dan Savage and Marc Maron. Throw in some Janet Varney, for good measure.
And THEN, I had to buckle down and wade into Brian Blount's book on reading Revelation through African-American culture, because the congregational book group is reading it. Also, the second in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, because my Jr. Highs LOVE Percy Jackson (dude. his dad is Poseidon. we can work with this.)
None of this has even a remotely tangential relationship to the things I want to be thinking OR writing about. But reading with a telos necessitates clarity and focus and I simply do not currently possess the required amounts of either.
Still. Scattershot reading or no, there's a tiny little glimmer of a nugget of a potentiality of an idea starting to take shape. It started with Parker Palmer, except probably a long while before that.
Parker Palmer's Promise of Paradox was another obligatory book group read, but the ideas wedged themselves in my brain and I couldn't stop worrying them. Seemingly intractable oppositions can give way to greater truth in paradox, two opposites informing and shaping the other, holding one another up and creating more meaning in opposition than either could do alone.
And then, talking with the NuDunker crowd, thinking about Brethren theology as an expression of theological/hermeneutical/ethical/practical integrity of praxis - that systematics start in practices, that lifestyle mirrors discernment in community, that all of how we live depends on this singular commitment to Christ and the Church. Stop asking how theology informs our practice. Ask how our practice might be translated into a theology.
What, I want to know, is the relationship between paradox and integrity?
Can you practice integrity and hold on to the potential for paradox? Does that question even make sense? There are a couple levels of the question, I think:
1) Can you behave in a morally integrated way and still leave room for unexplained and unexpected Good?
2) How do we structure common life together (in a congregation, a denomination, an intimate relationship) in such a way that demands accountability and expectation while at the same time opens up the possibility that the exact opposite of what we expect may, in actuality, be filled with the most Spirit, the most reality, the most Christ-likeness?
2) Can you build a system of thought out of integrity that allows for its opposite to be not only true but also mutually beneficial?