Thursday, September 27, 2007

What it's all about

One wrote to me: "Now I see, at least visually, what you meant by 'mapping' the psalms. But I must admit, I don't quite understand what the mapping is really about."

I thought about this sentence today and I had many confusing answers: how do we understand? Do we use this word to mean that we have control? If so, we are really overstanding not understanding. What is a mapping? Reading, seeing, hearing. What is this word 'really'? To the philosopher, it is a red flag indicating special pleading about what the writer means, asking for a rephrasing of the context.

Quite! I don't quite understand, nor do I overstand, but what are you getting at, Bob, with these pictures of the psalms?

I have told you. My reasons are multifold. It is reactionary on my part. A reaction of my natural rebelliousness against the authority of tradition, and against the assumptions of piety. But it is not only negative. It is a search for communication - my compulsion as a member of the children of dust. I can imagine the psalmist is like me. I can see the work of the last redactor, mediated I admit through textual form and propretonic reductions. Sometimes I think I can see the work of the first author, for the circular signature is not hidden. I can learn. I can even construct a theology like the writer to Hebrews did. Perhaps I will be able to understand Hebrews better with a little study.

But none of this is sufficient. Do I read the not quite understanding as "what's the point?" and do I read that objectively, subjectively, with curiosity or with resignation? What's the purpose of this in-depth communication we are engaged in? Enjoyment? Puzzlement?

There is only one sufficiency and that is to respond to the command: go from your land and from your family and from your father's house to the place that I will show you.

My land, my family, my father's house is in this case the place of what I already think I know, the place of convenience, the place where I might one day be in charge.

One day at a time, and I write this also for those in grief for whatever reason, one day at a time, follow the instruction to Abraham: hear, go, see what you are shown, and do it.

Is this what it's about? Without deception, and standing under not over? Do we have this grappling hook that reaches out into the unknown for this reason, that there is a call and a response?

I wrote more in my answer to the implied question - about covenant dialogue, and the glutinous tension between chiasm and prosody, and other things that are all known already, but it's not my joy, my learning, or me at the centre (aha! a connection with story) but that ultimate centre that de-centres us and in which we find our completion - whatever our trouble.

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