Thursday, June 02, 2005

Tillich and boundaries

I came across a couple of posts at ilona's blog that made me think of something I wrote ten years ago.

It is a little disturbing, but also reassuring, to discover in greying old age that somebody else, famous and published no less, has aleady trod the same path. The reassurance is from the comfort of knowing that one is not going mad, but may, in fact, still be learning to articulate what life is teaching. The disturbing part arises from the discovery that what seems so fresh and important is not only thirty years old, but probably debated and filed by many bright minds both in and out of the classroom.

It seems that Paul Tillich reflected at length on what he refered to as "boundaries," those fertile areas of intellectual provocation between

...two temperaments, the meditative and conscientious, as against the romantic and carefree; between country and city; between social classes; between reality and imagination; between theory and practice; between one's own will and the obligations of the citizen, the member of the community; between theology and philosophy; between church and society; between religion and culture; between eternal life and the immidiate needs of today, particularly the needs of the least fortunate among us...

From On the Boundary, 1936, quoted by Robert Coles in his study of Eric Erikson

It is by wrestling manfully with what appear to be contradictions that we are able to grow in understanding. It is not cowardly to run from the unknown; sometimes it is the smartest course--especially if engaging the unknown may destroy the fibers of order that we call sanity. But to gather courage to face the unknown, knowing the threat, is to stretch the limits of truth and knowledge. Ultimately there will never be an end to the process. (The ear has never had it's fill of hearing, nor the eye of seeing. Eccl 1:8)

Nevertheless, to be alive and posessed of an inquiring mind requires that the faculty be used -- as surely as a taller person can see over the heads of the rest, or a child feels the fresh excitement of blowing fluff off a dandelion. The process is as inexorable as the birth of a baby. It cannot be stopped without stopping life itself.

My purpose, then, is to explore what seem to be contradictions, or (because that word has a kind of inflexible nastiness to it) areas that fall in the "borders." For some time I have been aware that in my life there are a number of trends bigger than I like to think about, but which have important implications, not only for me individually, but my children and generations yet to come.

If the concern were for me and me alone, it would be of no imprtance. I will come and go anonymously, with no more impact on the world around me than a leaf that falls in the woods. But the "trends" (I don't like the word. It has too much power.) that I'm thinkng about are bigger than my own piece of the ecosytem.

* * * *
* * *
At this point my notes trail off into a bunch of scribbling and an outline of some ideas that were fermenting for me just after the Oklahoma City bombing.
A few pages later I find this note:
.
Counsel for the defense in the Oklahoma City bombing argues that the trial needs to be moved distant from the site of the bombing, the further the better. The goal of a change of venue is said to be "impartiality" in reaching a verdict.
.
Such arguments strike me as specious and disingenuous.
As a society we are steeped in a need for purity, perfection and rectitude in every facet of our earthly journey. Is this quality part of our Puritan heritage?
By standards advanced by the above arguments, no war crimes would ever be tried because no impartial venue could be found.
.
I'm going to have to think about what I have just revisited and figure out what, if anything, it has to do with the true grit posts. It was written long before the WTC tragedy and subsequent events. ( Link to the other post.)
I know there is a commonality, but I can't put my finger on it. Here is a string of questions to think about...
.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS...
*THE NEXT HOUR?
*WEEK?
*YEAR?
DO YOU HAVE A TEN-YEAR PLAN?
WHERE DO YOU EXPECT TO BE AT 50, 60, 70?
CAN YOU GET OLD GRACEFULLY?
CAN YOU BE YOUNG GRACEFULLY?
HOW DO YOU BALANCE MODESTY & ACHIEVEMENT?
DO YOU DARE CONSIDER FAILURE?
DO YOU DARE IGNORE THE POSSIBILITY?
.
WHAT IS PLAN B? PLAN C?
ARE YOU ALONE? HOW MANY OTHERS?
*DO THEY KNOW?
*DO THEY CARE?
*DO YOU?
.
PRO-ACTIVE OR REACTIVE?
TOWARD WHAT END?
TOWARD WHAT CONDITION?
ARE YOU FLEXIBLE? (OR WIMPY?)
ARE YOU RIGID? (OR BLIND?)
IS VISION CONTAGEOUS?
IS CHARISMA DELIBERATE?
IS LEADERSHIP A SKILL OR TALENT?

2 comments:

ilona said...

I found this post deeply moving. for me, it gives the capstone to why we keep engaging our culture and our fellow travelers in this life: it is more than just us.

It is more than winning arguments or extablishing our little kingdoms. It is about a whole stream of human beings that will be made better or worse for what we have agreed together in forming and handing down a heritage.

Thank you for finding these notes and sharing them.

ilona said...

sorry about the typos-tears were in my eyes, and I am a terrible typist in the best of times....