In this prolific age of the spoken and written word we are literally and constantly being shouted at, abraded, challenged, disputed and queried. Particularly, during this season of political discontent, for instance, so many seem to be lunging at one another’s throats to establish a particular unassailable opinion or position. Human discourse today seems to have a raw edge to it.
I often long for an alternative way to discern what deserves to be treasured and sustained in human discourse. In the course of reading my usual Catholic or secular periodicals or newspapers, for instance, I often find myself searching first for something that will nourish not simply the intellect but the soul, one’s deeper faculties. I search for a piece of poetry, for instance, a short story, a commentary on a film or book, before I turn to the editorial page or to the letters to the editor that so often appear purely argumentative.
The alternative position I am insisting on is a certain turning away from pure rationality, logic, absoluteness, argumentation, speculation in order to find a platform for fresh dialogue based upon surprise, amazement, astonishment, wonder, admiration and depth; in short, an opportunity to ask deeper questions.
Turning to the study of sacred Scripture for a moment, to support this point, it seems to me that throughout Christian history scholars have often used the sacred word as a tool, a sort of proof text to establish a particular theological, moral, doctrinal or canonical position.
I think for instance of the poetic style that Jesus often used to discribe the meaning of God’s kingdom. To paraphrase, he would say, “Look at the birds of the air — the lilies of the field, the red glow of the sunset at eventide. Do not worry about your clothing and other material possessions. God already knows that you need them.” Often Jesus, in his teaching, also turned to parables, metaphors or axioms, even puzzles from real life that describe the meaning of mystery. Or turn, for instance, to the poetic style of Christ pictured by the author of the Book of Revelation, the passage assigned for this Seventh Sunday of Easter season: I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Morning Star.
I offer these lines from the Book of Revelation and the Gospels simply as examples of scriptural poetry, a source of reflection and contemplation on the deeper meaning of biblical literature. Obviously, the human intellect can find abundant ways to communicate truths or insights that do not lead us into conflict.
Finally, we must say that human communication is surely one of the most precious gifts that our Creator has bestowed upon us. Obviously, this is meant to help us draw closer to one another, to share the discoveries and insights we have accumulated over the millennia. It is also true, of course, that we often claim a certain pride in whatever it is we have discovered for ourselves and are loathe to share it. Ultimately, however, human knowledge belongs to all of us as a human family. When we have finally learned that, then well-mannered conversation will seem totally normal.
Scriptures for May 8
Acts 7: 55-60
Rev. 22: 12-14, 16-17, 20
John 17: 20-26