Friday, April 07, 2006

the face of knowing

In the most recent phase of my journey through this pilgrim land, I have been enamored by symbol in all its epistemological glory. The first class I took in Seminary was Epistemology. We never talked about symbol. And we mostly talked about foundationalism and the virtues of truth derivations from logical categories. My anxt was piqued against the authority everyone seemed to ascribe to all things logical and calculatable. So I wrote a paper on the epistemological value of the mystical. Symbol, parable and, yes, even mystical experience, have drawn me in steadily, ever since. Logical arguments moving precisely from point a to b have their own effect but there is nothing that delivers a smarting slap in the face, as does a well-placed parable or image laden with meaning. Nor can anything leave one in such profound amazement. What is even better is if one can tell a story and it has multiple meanings—the more multiple the meanings, the more genius the parable. This is in large part why I have fallen in love with the scriptures all over again. Before, scripture was God’s operation manual to humankind. Now I read and everything has layers of meaning in some of the most fantastic artistic expression. The prophets took symbol and parable to the nth degree. Many lived their parabolic message. My intrigue and amazement always begins and ends with them because they are actually quite shocking in their presentation. I love it! Take Hosea, who lived a life with an unfaithful wife to exemplify the relationship God had with Israel, who was as unfaithful as Gomar. Ahijah the prophet anoints Jeroboam as the king over ten tribes of Israel by taking off his new coat and tearing it into 12 pieces and giving 10 to him. Christ’s parables were in your face. John’s visions on the Island of Patmos are divine. In my own life, images and visions have transformed entire paradigms for me in an instant. At other times in my life, I have been inexplicably compelled to communicate in symbol. When my sister treated me hatefully, I felt as though dying by knife stabbings would be akin to what was occurring. I thought to give her a knife and demand that she stab me instead. I could probably still send her a knife. When I discovered my so-called boyfriend had a wife and child, I sent him a white rose (her name was Rosalie) and a lollypop along with the things he requested. I don’t think it a coincidence that I was vomiting violently for a day after encountering the truth. Vomiting is symbolic. Gifts are symbolic. Self-mutilation is symbolic. Unfaithfulness is symbolic first, actual later. Viruses are a particular symbol of evil. A totally free gift is an act of altruistic love.

Then! If you look closely enough, a harmonic symphony can be discerned when one looks at the movement of the hand, the gift offered there, the word off the tip of the tongue, the glint in the eye, the patterned step on the path and its rain drenched/sun scorched brick. Dissonance evokes its discordant lurching. Harmony sings its melodious dance.


S-Nisly said...

BTW, I really enjoy your writing.

Since I am a bear of very little brain, symbols and images work a lot better for me than logic.

espíritu paz said...

Glad you responded.
Espiritu paz

Anonymous said...

I like what you said, "What is even better is if one can tell a story and it has multiple meanings—the more multiple the meanings, the more genius the parable."

My good friend(John Schimke) and I (Stewart H. Redwine) have created three modern parables as part of 36. I would very much like to hear your opinion of our modern versions of Christ's parables, which we believe retain the original levels of meaning in a new context, the 21st century United States. Go to to see "Found" for free and download the other two, or get the DVD.