Thursday, October 30, 2008

Multiple Choice Jesus?

Casey dissects one of my recent Torah talks on his blog.


Anonymous said...

Saw your blog mentioned on Goldberg's Philo-sem. post. I suggested Paul Buhle, historian of Jewish leftists and pop artists. And Borges.

Read your exchange over at Casey's blog. Will watch the videos soon. Huge laugh when you wrote "tr-th". Massive laugh, in fact.

You note appreciatively a Jewish concept of disagreement producing greater truth. I don't have that expression as such in my mind, but plenty of supportive material -- Hillel and Shammai both recorded in Talmud, even when one "loses" debate; R. Zalman Schachter, "most of us see 17 degrees of the circle as we look out from the center, but truth is 360', and every truth has a counter-truth" among others.

Often contradictions and conflict are only so if viewed in limited perspective. Jewishly there's 4 worlds Kabbalistic thinking (physical, emotional, intel, spirit) or PaRDeS, the 4 levels of rabbinic interpretation (same in Church tradition, Catholic); paradox's power in Zen and Quaker teaching (via Parket Palmer); Ken Wilbur's New Age schematics; Rosenstock-Huessy's 4 forces (inner, outerspace, past, future times). (This is a quick and highly idiosyncratic list of methods for truth-seeking that are "meta-logical" if you can forgive me for the strain phrasing)

This is all warm up chat before your main topic, Sadness thru (certain types of) Knowledge. Yes.

I've experienced "unmooring" from the world, or from the world as I'd come to know it, from formerly comfortable ideas, situated-ness.

The Jewish and/or/not Christian thing in my own life is ongoing. You may know of Rosenzweig and Rosenstock-Huessy's Judaism Despite Christianity which is relevant to me here.

Currently, if you check out my own little blog, you see that silence has grasped me since the vitriol of the October Palin-McCain rallies. Haven't explained it to anyone yet, let alone myself. Seems all I can do to respond such fervor is dive within. Am not able to dismiss, to box up and cart off those whose passions I can't understand. And I can't simply ignore their existence. Since I'm engaged with Girard's work, I'll employ his language. Perhaps I have grown unwilling to demand the (ideological) sacrifice which once kept the chaos ordered.

The sadness here, for example, may stem from no longer having simple political conversations, or truthful ones. There's a holding back in most conversation that follows my unmoorings. (I'm not an academic, and even then unmooring from one's academic-niche-Isle is not generally common)

Thanks for reading my random info dump thus far. If I may inquire, what texture and hue is your post-knowledge landscape?

Monica said...


Thanks for responding so thoughtfully. You say a number of interesting things. I like that you point out the inclusion of both Hillel and Shammai in the Talmud, even when one school typically emerges with the "right" answer. It's as if the Talmudists are winking at us, perhaps even implicitly admonishing us against reading the Talmudic exchange as a right-vs-wrong experience.

It's interesting that you bring up Rosenzweig as well--of course, he ultimately remains Jewish, but his flirtations with (and near conversion to) Christianity suggest that things are not so black and white, especially when it comes to trying to define oneself in one religious category.

But your question regarding the "texture and hue" of my "post-knowledge landscape"--this sounds like a fascinating question, but you're going to have to elaborate on what you mean! I think you are asking what life looks like after the realization that I have accumulated a great deal of knowledge that has not given me "the answer"? I suppose it all looks very gray...sometimes it is terroizing, and other times it is more comforting than anything I can imagine to know that I don't know....

Anonymous said...

Was just looking at Jacob Neusner on Philosophy of the Talmud. He notes, or maybe it was said within the text, that Hillel is taught because he always recognizes Shammai's argument. [tangent --keeping the minority opinions from US Supreme Court decisions is a great way to keep the conversation, debate alive. That's Covenant. Not power over- Hillel beat Shammai in the Smackdown of 20 C.E.! Keep talk going. Hesed, the fellow-feeling for other members, is greater than in contract, for which the letter of the law is central. END TANGENT]

You wrote, "it all looks very gray...sometimes it is terroizing, and other times it is more comforting than anything I can imagine to know that I don't know...."

Oooomph. That's evocative. And you offer a great Palinism, "terroizing." Rosenzweig's Christian friend-interlocutor, Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, writes about the balance of forces which a soul must contend (as I mentioned previous post). Eugen sketches a "cross of reality" with vertical axis for space (inner to outer) and horizontal for time (past-future). In the center to soul struggles to balance the forces, to prevent a tilt too far to anarchy, war, revolution and anarchy.

Eugen alludes or addresses his own struggle to balance these forces, within himself and in the German nation. Solidarity, power, loyalty and faith are the antidotes to the dangers listed above.

Eugen watched his world descend into war twice. He felt "out of step" believing in a future peace, and planning for it (and not joining the resistance as some of his friends did).

Franz by the way, formed his Star of Redemption as a modified "Cross of Reality" by Eugen. On the points of the star -- Creation, Revelation, Redemption, Man, God, World. Franz suffering, ALS, his pleasure from Torah and tefilah (prayer), also inspires me.

So that was a bit of a data dump. Over the summer I went to a gathering of Franz and Eugen scholars, and students of theirs, grandchildren, etc at Dartmouth. Susannah Heschel was there of course and was a herself a part of the story. So they are friends and guides, Franz and Eugen, and I don't get to chat enough about 'em.

Cheers and regards,