Saturday, January 28, 2012

Truth as Provocation

I have been reading Katherine Moody's blog for a while now and she is on to something.  She is helping to open space so that reified concepts such confession, truth, love are somehow returned to the event that they attempt to apprehend. Recently she posted a long quote from Derrida describing his notion of "invitation" vs "visitation".  I was first introduced to this tension in Jack Caputo's "What Would Jesus Deconstruct" an important, readable and significant book.  
That confession and truth is de-centered from a rational abstract conception that I somehow can objectively stand back from while the same time "owning" and is returned to an embodied event that disturbs, initiates and agitates is crucial. Truth does in fact "fall upon us" much in the same way that it did Moses - "take off your shoes you are on holy ground" NOT "one step forward and you will be on holy ground".  The event had happened, perseveration was not an option and to do so would have been an abstraction way from the event, away from reality, away from the visitation in to a space that I control and so diminish.  Truth is provocation that demands my life, my soul my all. To be found "in the truth" is the continual act of creation all the way down. Or as my AA friend's say: We must act ourselves into a different way of thinking. 
Here is the Derrida quote via Moody:
[Confession is] not matter of knowledge. It’s not a matter of making the other know what happened, but a matter of changing oneself, of transforming oneself. That’s what perhaps Augustine calls “to make the truth.” Not to tell the truth, not to inform – God knows everything – but to make the truth, to produce the truth.
What does it mean to “make” the truth? If you make the truth in the performative sense…, it is not an event. For the truth to be “made” as an event, then the truth must fall on me - not be produced by me, but fall on me, or visit me. That’s “visitation.”
I distinguish between hospitality of “invitation” and hospitality of “visitation.” When I invite someone, I remain the master of the house: “Come, come to me, feel at home,” and so on, “but you should respect my house, my language, my rules, the rules of my nation” and so on. “You are welcome, but under some conditions.”
But “visitation” is something else: absolute hospitality implies that the unexpected visitor can come, may come and be received without conditions. It falls upon; it comes; it is an intrusion, an eruption - and that’s the condition of the event…
…it must fall on me - either from above, so that I cannot see it coming, like a bomb or an airplane or God [Derrida is speaking sixteen days after 9/11], or behind or beneath, but not in front of me.

Jacques Derrida on the event of confession, from “Composing ‘Circumfession,’” in John D. Caputo and Michael J. Scanlon, eds., Augustine and Postmodernism: Confessions and Circumfession (Indiana University Press, 2005), p.23.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Guy Like You in a Place Like This....

It has been a while since I have blogged!  We have moved to Cambridge UK in August 2011 to do a Post-Doc in the Faculty of Divinity's Psychology and Religion Research Group.  It has been an amazing journey so far and I am finally getting sorted enough to get back to my sporadic blogging.

I am headed down to London tomorrow to go to the School of Life  I have wanted to visit this little place ever since hearing about it from my friend Barry Taylor.  Alain de Botton will be preaching about his new book Religion for Atheists.  Atheists like de Botton are taking a spiritual turn towards religion and actually engaging with religion in ways that are textured and critical.  There is an approach in the 2.0 version of atheism of the need to understand and learn from the dynamics of religion.  Within this engagement is the acknowledgment that individuals and society are facing problems and religion can be a helpful dialogue partner.  Alternatively folks like Jack Caputo, Richard Kearney and Pete Rollins are introducing western constructs of religion to continental philosophy's notion of the absence of God, the concealment of God and the unnameability of God.  This is the religious turn towards atheism and doubt as central to the christian faith.  I think there is much to be gained in holding these two dialogues in tension.

Here is de Botton at TED - my guess is that his talk on Sunday will be cut from the same cloth.  It is well worth the 20 min: