The retinal distribution of rods and cones makes it so that stars seem brighter when you look at them slightly askance. So, too, it seems is my religious sensibility: the more directly I look, the dimmer things get. Just when I think I'm finally wrestling with the angel, I awaken with my arms full of air with neither wound nor blessing to show for it.
We watched the movie "Tree of Life" this week: I found it as impressively beautiful as many have said, but ultimately annoying. Early on it raises the religious dichotomy of nature and grace -- the blind and heartless facticity of nature vs. the personal, loving and freely given gifts of God. I'm likely not stating it well, and I realize tomes of theology have been written on the subject. But if nature is not one of the "freely given gifts," then what is ? Can't one consider the entirety of one's vertiginous, en-worlded "that I am" to be a grace -- a freely bestowed, unconditional gift/given ? It would seem to be the only thing that actually holds up to scrutiny. The rest of the God-attributes that seem to be bundled in the term grace -- forgiveness, mercy, love, providence, protection, benefaction, guidance, comfort, only-begotten-son, salvation -- seem skyward projections of felicitous human attributes, the anthropomorphism-and-anthropocentricity-run-amok that lies at the heart of Christianity.
But (you might counter) it's all metaphor anyway, so why not approach "God" (who is by definition ungraspable) within homely tropes of "relationship" -- which entrain all those grace-full stances, including the most condensed and inexhaustable metaphor of all, the Logos ?
Are beautiful, complicated metaphors always upaya -- skillful means ? They are ceasing to be so for me. They are like demotic koans run through six or seven iterations of Babelfish, guaranteed to lead to supreme and perfect exasperation.
I am tired of stories. I am tired of anthropocentricity and its obnoxious mini-me, androcentrism. I am tired of hearing that at the heart of the matter is human community, and that to be suspicious of or unskilled at that is the very worst imaginable intrinsic disorder. I am tired of hearing that God adores me.
Your efforts shall come to naught whispers the fortune cookie.
A singular grace ?