Prefaces are about beginnings–and I have had, and continue to have, many of them. In the Christian life, our Way is made up of many false starts, detours, crash landings and stalled engines, all of which require some kind of re-entry into Life through the Grace of Christ, and some of which lead to the telling of one’s story–a way of prefacing the new life or beginning: “Well, things have been getting better these last couple of months, but you should’ve seen me a year ago at this time–man was my life a mess!”
For new books, I always read the Preface–it’s the best way to get inside the author’s head, or heart, and have a good thumbnail print of the work itself. One of my favourite prefaces is Schopenhauer’s The World As Will and Representation in which he suggests to the reader that if he or she doesn’t like the book, then it can be easily set upon a coffee table and used to hold a cup of tea (or something to that extent–the book’s not with me). So this blog is about prefaces, new beginnings, and the narratives that accompany and often precede them. Sometimes the ‘old life’ is simply one’s absence from church for a period of time spent gorging oneself on too many episodes of House MD in a row; however, there are other ‘old lives’ that are full of the rawness and grittiness of life itself–and those tend to be the stories I am interested in, both writing and reading about.
Are there Christians who seek out literature that draw the bow tautly between, as it were, the sacred and profane? Or, has fiction been bifurcated into a Christian stream that simply draws neat little parallels to scripture and blithely answers all of life’s questions, and, conversely, that of ‘secular’ fiction that enters into the funk of life, but with little in the way of redemption?
What does it mean to be a Christian artist anyway? I resonate with Tolstoy’s What is Art? in which he designates art as that which involves a struggle with the divine, with one or more transcendent topics that one must toil to get out; and it is in the toiling, the existential struggle, the dance with the Divine, that the product can be considered art. With this as my operative definition, I feel comfortable actually scrapping the ‘Christian’ and simply call such experiences ‘art’. Indeed, Merton talks about this as some kind of creative process: that as we give God our gifts (our writing, oration, visual art, etc) that He gives them back to us, and it is in this dance with God that we create. This creative process, this art, then, is the artist’s struggle with life, existence, despair, anxiety, guilt, and the redemption he or she finds in Christ.
What I want to know is if there are Christians out there who want to read such literature, and thus are not shaken or driven away by prose that is steeped in the funk of life; art that draws out the tension between the profanity of life and the redemption found in Christ.
If you are interested in this, please post me some feedback, whether you agree or think I’m way off.
This is a book I picked up at a garage sale for a surprising–and unwarranted–mere fifty-cents. Indeed, it’s worth much more than that. In this book, Stahlberg–a Hungarian-born writer who left Hungary after surviving the uprising of 1956–takes one through a series of very carefully observed scenarios all of which have a high level of plausibility, regardless of their seemingly alarming or far-fetched nature within conventional consciousness. No–this is a serious work, and I highly recommend that all of you who stumble upon this blog and read these words order yourselves a copy.
As a ‘civilization’ (and I use that word almost in jest), we are at a cusp point at which the systems that we have put into place are starting to run us, not the other way around. As Kevin Kelly argues in his book regarding technology, these systems are indeed eco-systems: they have a life of their own, and emerge spontaneously and capriciously. This cusp point is demanding that we has human beings apply ourselves to learning a whole new set of skills: in our thinking, and ability to access and systematize information, in how we design and create (and I use these words very deliberately and literally) new life-solutions that are separate from the market fetishism that words like ‘design’ and ‘create’ have been applied to ignorantly and in complete bad faith, and in how we skillfully apply our thinking to surviving on this planet. Life on earth is being pushed to the edge of a cliff–a force that we put in motion centuries ago, but has now taken on a life of its own and is now pushing us. Many claim it is indeed too late–we should cut our losses, and just hope for the best. If it is indeed too late, or we are on the brink of ‘lateness’, then we need to seriously think about and plan how we’re going to survive in a world when all that we have learned in the past, over generations of cultural and manufactured practices of producing and consuming, is obsolete. This can be a renaissance of human creativity and ingenuity, and it can be just as much a time of catastrophe, chaos, and collapse–I don’t see any reason why the two will not co-exist.
The video above is archer Lars Anderson whose meticulous and tireless study of his craft led him to discovering ancient archery techniques that have lain largely dormant for centuries. This is one example of a skill that is important for one to consider, quite simply in the event that we are all left to survive as hunter/gatherers again–and no I’m not talking about Walmart.
This also means that children will need to be educated in completely different ways as well: not so much specifically on the theoretical maths and sciences, i.e. educated as specialists, but more as generalists who can access multi-disciplinary information, collaborate with each other, and design, build, and use stuff. In such a model, designo is just as critical as scientia. Our children will need to learn survival skills also, in spite of the culture of helicopter moms and dads who–contrary to their own upbringing–hover over their armoured kids and don’t allow them near knives and fire and hammers and nails. Nevertheless, the world may be at some point soon divvied up among those who are prepared for these capricious unpredictable times and those who are not. The difference between the two is simply a matter of 1) admitting to yourself and others that we are at a tipping point of human civilization, and 2) taking the time to learn about these issues and put real intentional plans in place for your family’s and your own protection and survival. What Stahlberg’s book does successfully is begin that self-realization and the dialogue among those around you. But time is running very fast, the world is growing more complex, and change is emerging well beyond our ability to immediately react–and it is only getting more intense.
My research and professional work as a writer and educational designer are centred on these issues. I have worked with world leaders on these very issues that Stahlberg, and others I will write about here, outlines in his book. These issues are not mere ‘hot button’ issues to be carelessly broached for entertaining dinner conversation, but are shaping our social, economic, political, religious, and ecological world as we speak. I will be posting more of this material here from my research. Moreover, I am in the process of writing a book on these issues from my experiences internationally and pedagogically, parts of which I will also be posting here as they emerge. In my experience, leaders of our world are drawing out plans in the several decades, even into the hundreds of years–we who are stewards and occupiers of this world must do the same.