The world is what it is, and any true guide cannot make it what it is not. Truth will lead me through bizarreness and cruelty and banality. I have to face that when I look for that soaring feeling of resonance when looking through lenses of science, faith, patriotism or nostalgia. Disappointment is inevitable as the ubiquitous intrusion of frazzle, frump and junk demands attention. The grand unifying theory of experience and meaning stays elusive. And it might well be remembered that such a truth is a principal piece of the puzzle.
Experience, taking in perceptions corporally, is our starting point. Thought, even thought that aims for pure transcendence, climbs upward through the brambles of sensual input. The pain and pleasure, the annoying and the numbing, all of the stuff we bump into and through, provide the substance by which we project a hope of something beyond. And then we are grieved when our ideals do not just soar; they do their time trudging.
The discouragingly unentertaining book of Numbers is what triggered this thought. Clever sermons can more or less truthfully be preached about how the record of real people, and real counts of real things, mean God is the God of our detailed lives. He knows us, and knows what we do. There is accounting. And that is true enough, but it punctures an unjustified wish for some Bible believing Christians: that the Bible is the pure and unsullied source of transcendence. That goodness and clarity are evenly dispersed, numbered line by line, throughout the sacred canon. That the warning of the Apocalypse, to neither add to or take away from this book, implicitly include the Book. That reliability (inspired-inerrant-infallible) also means accessible-relevant-reassuringly sensible.
But there are really weird and disturbing things to deal with. Apologetic responses sometimes dodge this or that accusation about slavery, killing rebellious teens, joyfully smashing baby skulls of other tribes. But the essential question is more ruddy. Why is my book on transcendence so earthy?
A true answer to this is a brave answer. There is a quick answer (it’s not transcendent, its tribal thought slowly developing from tribal to universal, and not that smoothly). At times I can see the allure in that. Cynicism at his level almost always moves toward a feeling of brave honesty and a belief in science. But that is seldom enough. Brave science like that leads to amorality, at least from a transcendent point of view. Everything is functional and the top of the Truth pyramid is power. Not maniacal power that revels is superiority; just cold force of what is. Rock – paper – scissors. Stuff happens, including delusions of meaning and transcendence. But there is another brave answer.
What bravery to believe that the transcendent reality, self-existent Personhood, actually works through tribal bizarreness and bad koine and clumsy communities of provincials trying really hard to believe they are living the Ideal. What if God has indeed spoken, I really can trust the Bible printing in my hand to lead me into a deformed paradise that careens toward destruction moment by moment but is pregnant with promises of the invasion of everything great we ascribe to Transcendence. Everything and more.
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