Saturday, 21 July 2012

The Blade that Cuts also Heals

Excerpt from Mike Higton's Difficult Gospel: the theology of Rowan Williams
We are all of us precarious creatures.  We live in environments we cannot control, and are hedged about by limits we cannot overcome.  We face frustrations, we face competition for scarce resources, and we are jostled in a confined space by the egos of others.  There is only limited difference that we can make, and we have only a limited control over even that difference; our actions are inevitably shaped by what others have done to us, and they mix uncontrollably with the actions of others and the unpredictable resistances of our environment, and they escape us.

Our unavoidable dependence on and involvement with others is distorted by their selfishness, and the inevitable dependence of others on us and their involvement with us is distorted by ours.  And in the midst of all this, we constantly invent ways of pretending that all of this is not true, or of refusing the responsibility with which it leaves us.  We inherit and invent endless ways to deny our finitude.  We ruffle our feathers to make ourselves big enough to scare the world; or we try to move the world to pity us.  We try to force the world to feel its moral obligation towards us, or we try to make ourselves so small the world will not notice us.
We pretend that we can shape the world to our will, or we despair and assume that we make no difference at all, and that we are therefore not responsible.  We are finite, we are mortal, we are weak - and in the absence of any sure foundation, these truths are too bitter for us, and we hide them behind layers and layers of fantasy and illusion.
We try to persuade ourselves that there is some territory in the world, or some core to our selves, in which we alone are in control, in which we alone get to define what is valuable.  We scratch away at the world to produce some space in it that is definitively ours, that we can defend against all comers - knowing that, deliberately or inadvertently, imperceptibly or violently, others would colonize it if they could.
'The Gospel', says [Rowan] Williams, 'frees us from fear and is the great enemy of self-indulgent fantasy.'  The Gospel is the message that we are held in a loving regard which we cannot coerce or fight off, and which has no shadow of selfishness about it - no shadow of our being so-opted into someone else's strategies, somebody else's fantasy.  And so it is the message that we are set free to see and accept our finitude, our limitation, our mortality, and to surrender that limited, mortality to the love which upholds us. 
pp. 17, 18
SCM Press


  1. This was the best book I read last year (on the beach). Keep adding inserts but don't forget page numbers.
    ps send it back when you're done, along with all the others.

  2. Ah, just found the page numbers. keep up the good work.

  3. Okey-dokey.

    I saw more of myself in that section than I normally care to acknowledge.