I hear you call, apophatic theology

 

I Hear You Call, Pine Tree by Yone Noguch

I hear you call, pine tree, I hear you upon the hill, by the silent pond
where the lotus flowers bloom, I hear you call, pine tree.

What is it you call, pine tree, when the rain falls, when the winds
blow, and when the stars appear, what is it you call, pine tree?

I hear you call, pine tree, but I am blind, and do not know how to
reach you, pine tree. Who will take me to you, pine tree?


13007442844502

One of the best things I did this summer was sign up for the Academy of American Poets’ poem-a-day. Through this daily email, I’ve been introduced to more diverse and eclectic poets, beyond my usual, yet still utterly amazing Francis Choi and Mary Oliver.

Today’s poem by Yone Noguchi knocked me on the floor. It leaves me with many questions. Is the pine tree calling out to the writer personally or to anything or anyone who will listen? Is this call actually a command? Does the call change depending on the environment of the pine tree (i.e. rain, wind, at night)? The blindness of writer too is curious at the end. Are they blind to the call, as if they need an interpreter to translate? Why would the speaker ask the pine tree for a companion, if they don’t even know what it is saying in the first place?!? This poem fills me with such content while at the same time has me wanting more.

What attracts me to this poem is the sense of mystery and what I believe to be apophatic theology  poetic style. The call from the pine tree is never understood fully. The writer thinks the pine tree is talking to them, yet doesn’t know with any certainty. In the apophatic tradition, God can only be understood through negation or beyondness. For example, God is beyond any human conception of love or goodness. God is beyond being. I’ll have to think further on this metaphor of God as pine tree. 

Yet, the last question still lingers: “Who will take me to you, pine tree?” Perhaps it is not a person at all, but an experience. The experience of mystery. The experience of beyondness. Or perhaps it is a person, but not an interpreter of the call, but someone just to hold our hand. Perhaps.

 

 

Theology, the future, and pop culture

The abstract for my paper, “The Eschatological Lens of Saga,” has been accepted at the Mid-Atlantic Pop and American Culture Conference in November. I’ve been so excited for it that I even started to re-read one of my sources for the paper, Jürgen Moltmann’s Theology of Hope.

One quote struck me tonight, it reads,

“Theological concepts do not give a fixed for to reality, but they are expanded by hope and anticipate future being. They do not limp after reality and gaze on it with the night eyes of Minerva’s owl, but they illuminate reality by displaying its future. Their knowledge is grounded not in the will to dominate, but in love to the future of things” (36).

giphy.gif

According to Moltmann, it’s not necessarily the historical relevance of how a theological concept came about, but what the concept is pointing towards. For example, to assume that everyone deserves hell because of original sin presents a certain future, which one can act out in the present by being selfish or only enjoying the company of fellow-heaven goers. Rather than actually caring for those around you who are in need. Our theology shows us what we want the future to be like through our present actions. For a similar reason, I love reading Saga. Unlike other futuristic sci-fi films, such as Her and Lucy, which only white people are represented, Saga writer Brian Vaughan and artist Fiona Staples construct a future-universe much like the present: full of diverse populations, creatures, and hopes. A world I love being in living in New York.

I guess my conclusion is: theological concepts and visioning another world are not so different after all.

bft’s reading,listening,&watching list

IMG_4019.JPG
Snapped at 125th Street Station at sunset.

Here’s my weekly list of things I thought were interesting enough to share. Enjoy!

Podcast

Radiolab’s “From Tree to Shining Tree

“Mutual Aid at its finest” would probably be a better title. This episode is about how forests have setup a network of care and communication through fungi. A must listen for those in need of a little hope.

Article

The Smartphone Society

I have re-read, shared, and quoted this article many times. I find it so relevant.

“Smartphones extend the workplace in space and time. Emails can be answered at breakfast, specs reviewed on the train home, and the next day’s meetings verified before lights out. The Internet becomes the place of work, with the office just a dot on the vast map of possible workspaces.”

Movie

Holidays

Over the years, I have become less interested in the genre of horror in movies. It has relied heavily on boding and loud music to accomplish what it did in the past to scare its viewers. But I’m also a sucker for holiday themed movies, so I had to give it a chance. Holidays is an anthology consisting of seven holiday short films by seven directors. Each of them have a surprising spin to these classic holidays that had me wanting each section to be longer than the twenty or so minutes it was allotted. If you like horror, or at least don’t mind it, and enjoy great story telling, Holidays is for you.

Video

Vox presents how freeium gaming apps make money.

Album

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros’ “PersonA”

I stumbled upon this album today. It will probably be my main album for the week.

Rev. Barber and the Heart of Democracy

For the past two years, I’ve gone to North Carolina to attend the Historic Thousands on Jones Street with Rev. Dr. William Barber II and the Moral Mondays Movement.  I’ve been awe-inspiried the several times I’ve met Rev. Barber. I’m glad last night a much wider audience has been able to experience the presence and prophetic witness of Rev. Barber. 

Here’s a blog post I wrote for the Kairos Center the first year I went to the protest: Glossalia of the Movement

Also, here’s his transcript from the DNC. 

Willam Barber

Forward Together, Not One Step Back

Frantz Fanon, #BlackLivesMatter, and American Exceptionalism

In my bedroom hangs a poster with the first and last chapter of Frantz Fanon’s book, The Wretched of the Earth. I received it as a gift after seeing the film, Concerning Violence, which I cannot recommend enough. As I looked at it again today, I was struck by these words,

“Two centuries ago, a former European colony took it into its head to catch up with Europe. It has been so successful that the United States of America has become a monster where the flaws, sickness, and inhumanity of Europe have reached frightening proportions.”(The Wretched of the Earth, 236-7)

This reminds me again that the US has never been great, but a monster from the beginning. It rears its ugly head when our justice system refuses to condemn any police officer in the murders of Freddie Grey or Tamir Rice or Sandra Bland. And the US defends this monster by repeating, especially at conventions, the lie of American Exceptionalism.

 

13879309_10154375033819819_5605036243159735846_n

We’ve got to get over ourselves. 

Politicizing Villains

I retweeted this so fast without thinking it through.

If we lived in a world of super heroes and super villains, I think it would be more like The Watchmen than the world of Marvel. In other words, one can’t tell immediately if someone wants to harm or protect. The repeated phrase in Alan Moore’s The Watchmen is “Who Watches the Watchmen?” Even those who say that they are super heroes should be watched because anyone can err on the side of manipulation, corruption, and deceit.

To take it a step further, it is because of this election season I can imagine people defending a villain like Batman’s Joker. “He had a bad childhood, he’ll turn over a new leaf. He has the organizing skills, we just have to help redirect them toward better things.” I’ve heard more people make excuses for political candidates, treating them like goddesses/gods rather than like human beings. 

3203135-5896911248-flat,

If Trump is a super villain, surely Clinton is not a super hero. In super hero movies, it’s not  those in political office who are super heroes. Although, it becomes fuzzy with S.H.I.E.L.D., which is an arm of the government and includes super heroes (Captain American, Black Widow, etc) working for them. It’s not the political conventions we should be looking to for super heroes, but for those who stand for justice, not through speeches, but by caring for the poor and working class and shouting to the hilltops Black Lives Matter. These are the people who are overshadowed by all the talk about the middle class. 

I’m reminded of the immortal words in the song “Eyjafjallajokull Dance” by The World is a Beautiful Place and I am no longer Afraid to Die:

“Today we are superheroes, but tonight we’ll just be tired”

Perhaps the singer is tired because they realize that a pure super hero does not exist and they were trying to live up to an impossible expectation. I think it’s only right not to cast this expectation of pureness on anyone either. No one is a super villain and no one is a super hero, we’re all mixed like cyborgs with brokenness, love, hope, despair, sadness, and joy. I agree with Donna Haraway when she ends The Cyborg Manifesto declaring, “I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess.” We don’t need more people who think that they are the answers to our world; rather, we need people to be committed to communities of struggle, understanding that they are flawed, but something must be done to create a better world for us and generations to come. 

 

 

 

Poetry for the Election Season

Give us water and food to pursue our tasks. 
Help us not become wards of the state, 
impoverished, homeless, destitute, crushed 
under the heel, buried in systems, imprisoned, 
dead, hospitalized. We die die die. Our dogs 
will not walk themselves after we go. Our bodies 
will not burn themselves after we go. Our apartments 
will not pack themselves after we die. Instead, 
bright ribbons of work, tangled in our bodies, 
will be vomited out and indeed bright ribbons 
will be vomited out. In the meantime, 
the light’s eyelashes open and close. 
And in the meantime, work and reprieve. 
Lie down; don’t lie; lie flat; lie still. See these 
Books bound in itching white leather? They are
your life. And each feathery page, lifted by hot wind. 
O summer air, o gardens, o seasons ô châteaux. 

The glaring day, it binds, o occurrence, o soil o soul.


Today I heard this poem from the podcast Poetry off the Shelf (“Extreme Exposure“). It begins in a prayerful manner, petitioning that one does not get caught up in the unjust prison system or to be marginalized as the homeless. It then transitions to focus on death, ‘bright ribbons will be vomited out,’ and how possibly our lives are like books ‘lifted by hot wind.’ Or how possibly that we are buried in ‘o soil o soul’ and books represent our stories which will continue way beyond our existence? Either way, this poem is fantastic and can be interpreted in many many ways. 


It feels appropriate too that we hear/read this poem in an election season. It’s not that electing someone new into the White House or Congress might actually change our imperial politics as usual. But that for those of us who work for a more peaceful and just world, we don’t want to be “wards of the state”or “die die die” while our utopic visions are unfulfilled and someone else has to walk our dogs. Honestly, Turkey has been on my mind, and their dictator locking up and/or killing hundreds of “people whom he assumes is against him,” is a reality I fear. While it may never happen in the US, although we certainly lock up people who release information about the US that shows our imperial nature, it doesn’t make us look good to be supportive of countries who do such acts or even help with such acts (i.e. School of the Americans, Salvador Allende, etc.).


a change of rulers

My hope is that we continue to be granted “food and water to pursue our tasks” for new realities where everyone is housed, with full bellies, and communities where you care for your neighbors. 

Mr. Robot questions theodicy

tumblr_oao7agR7e81rpby98o1_400

tumblr_oao7agR7e81rpby98o2_400

 

Mr. Robot‘s Elliot gave an epic rant before a faith-based support group in the latest episode, k3rnel-pan1c.ksd, saying,

“Tell me, why didn’t God help my innocent friend who died for no reason while the guilty ran free? Okay. Fine. Forget the one offs. How about the countless wars declared in his name? Okay. Fine. Let’s skip the random, meaningless murder for a second, shall we? How about the racist, sexist, phobia soup we’ve all been drowning in because of him? And I’m not just talking about Jesus. I’m talking about all organized religion. Exclusive groups created to manage control. A dealer getting people hooked on the drug of hope. His followers, nothing but addicts who want their hit of bullshit to keep their dopamine of ignorance. Addicts. Afraid to believe the truth. That there’s no order. There’s no power. That all religions are just metastasizing mind worms, meant to divide us so it’s easier to rule us by the charlatans that wanna run us. All we are to them are paying fanboys of their poorly-written sci-fi franchise. If I don’t listen to my imaginary friend, why the f*ck should I listen to yours? People think their worship’s some key to happiness. That’s just how he owns you. Even I’m not crazy enough to believe that distortion of reality. So f*ck God. He’s not a good enough scapegoat for me.”

 

I will be chewing on Elliot’s words this week. Hopefully I’ll have something constructive to say by Friday.

bft’s reading,listening,&watching list

This week I attended my first poetry workshop at a New York Public library. It made me realize how much I miss the structure of school. I may have not enjoyed writing papers or having deadlines, but school brings with it a sense of purpose and form that shaped my time. I thought that I could return to having a simple structure through this blog, that I have been less than faithful to, by attempting to post each day. On Sundays, I have decided to post podcasts, articles, songs, etc., that have inspired or made me think this week. 

sophiscated_cat.PNG

Article

Why Are Voters Angry? It’s the 1099 Economy, Stupid by David Dayen from New Republic

This article sums up many of my frustrations when it comes to describing the US economy.   We are not creating lasting or full time jobs, but rather giving out 1099s that benefit employers, not workers. 1099s do not allow for benefits and, as I have done for the last 6 six years, workers have to save their money to pay for their taxes at one time. Ugh.

Podcast

Sooo many white guys hosted by Phoebe Robinson and WNYC

The concept: a show without the presence of white men. Great! What I sometimes get worried about with this kind of concept though is that then the show continues to discuss one’s relationships with white men, usually comparatively. The barometer for success then is still white men, rather than the persons own worth. I just finished listening to Phoebe’s interview with Ilana Glazer from Broad City and I thought it was incredible. Phoebe asked Ilana about Broad City’s cultural appropriation of black culture and why Ilana is going back to stand-up comedy. Ilana’s responses were spot on and humble. I can’t wait for new episodes.

TV Show

BoJack Horseman, Season 3

Last Friday, Season 3 was released on Netflix and I watched all 12 episodes in two sittings. This season has taken far more creative liberties than either of the two seasons, especially with episode 4, “Fish Out of Water.” I recommend this whole series as it raises the issues of depression, happiness, and loneliness as never have been done.

Song

Phil Collins’ “Take Me Home”

Mr. Robot Season 2, episode 2 has an amazing montage and this song plays in the background. I haven’t been able to get it out of my head.

Lastly, Movie Trailers

Marvel’s Luke Cage

Wonder Woman

 Justice League

Super excited for all of these, especially Luke Cage. I wish I was at Comic Con!

 

Thanks for reading, watching, and listening to my recommendations for this week!

 

Belhar Confession (with inclusive language)

The Presbyterian Church USA General Assembly 222 accepted the Belhar Confession into their Book of Confessions. As a Presbyterian, I am very proud of this. 

1. We believe in the triune God, Creator, Redeemer, and Holy Spirit, who gathers, protects, and cares for the church through Word and Spirit. This, God has done since the beginning of the world and will do to the end.

2. We believe in one holy, universal Christian church, the communion of saints called from the entire human family.

We believe

  • that Christ’s work of reconciliation is made manifest in the church as the community of believers who have been reconciled with God and with one another (Eph. 2:11-22);
  • that unity is, therefore, both a gift and an obligation for the church of Jesus Christ; that through the working of God’s Spirit it is a binding force, yet simultaneously a reality which must be earnestly pursued and sought: one which the people of God must continually be built up to attain (Eph. 4:1-16);
  • that this unity must become visible so that the world may believe that separation, enmity and hatred between people and groups is sin which Christ has already conquered, and accordingly that anything which threatens this unity may have no place in the church and must be resisted (John 17:20-23);
  • that this unity of the people of God must be manifested and be active in a variety of ways: in that we love one another; that we experience, practice and pursue community with one another; that we are obligated to give ourselves willingly and joyfully to be of benefit and blessing to one another; that we share one faith, have one calling, are of one soul and one mind; have one God and Father, are filled with one Spirit, are baptized with one baptism, eat of one bread and drink of one cup, confess one name, are obedient to one Lord, work for one cause, and share one hope; together come to know the height and the breadth and the depth of the love of Christ; together are built up to the stature of Christ, to the new humanity; together know and bear one another’s burdens, thereby fulfilling the law of Christ that we need one another and upbuild one another, admonishing and comforting one another; that we suffer with one another for the sake of righteousness; pray together; together serve God in this world; and together fight against all which may threaten or hinder this unity (Phil. 2:1-5; 1 Cor. 12:4-31; John 13:1-17; 1 Cor. 1:10-13; Eph. 4:1-6; Eph. 3:14-20; 1 Cor. 10:16-17; 1 Cor. 11:17-34; Gal. 6:2; 2 Cor. 1:3-4);
  • that this unity can be established only in freedom and not under constraint; that the variety of spiritual gifts, opportunities, backgrounds, convictions, as well as the various languages and cultures, are by virtue of the reconciliation in Christ, opportunities for mutual service and enrichment within the one visible people of God (Rom. 12:3-8; 1 Cor. 12:1-11; Eph. 4:7-13; Gal. 3:27-28; James 2:1-13);
  • that true faith in Jesus Christ is the only condition for membership of this church.

Therefore, we reject any doctrine

  • which absolutizes either natural diversity or the sinful separation of people in such a way that this absolutization hinders or breaks the visible and active unity of the church, or even leads to the establishment of a separate church formation;
  • which professes that this spiritual unity is truly being maintained in the bond of peace while believers of the same confession are in effect alienated from one another for the sake of diversity and in despair of reconciliation;
  • which denies that a refusal earnestly to pursue this visible unity as a priceless gift is sin;
  • which explicitly or implicitly maintains that descent or any other human or social factor should be a consideration in determining membership of the church.

3. We believe

  • that God has entrusted the church with the message of reconciliation in and through Jesus Christ, that the church is called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, that the church is called blessed because it is a peacemaker, that the church is witness both by word and by deed to the new heaven and the new earth in which righteousness dwells (2 Cor. 5:17-21; Matt. 5:13-16; Matt. 5:9; 2 Peter 3:13; Rev. 21-22).
  • that God’s lifegiving Word and Spirit has conquered the powers of sin and death, and therefore also of irreconciliation and hatred, bitterness and enmity, that God’s lifegiving Word and Spirit will enable the church to live in a new obedience which can open new possibilities of life for society and the world (Eph. 4:17–6:23, Rom. 6; Col. 1:9-14; Col. 2:13-19; Col. 3:1–4:6);
  • that the credibility of this message is seriously affected and its beneficial work obstructed when it is proclaimed in a land which professes to be Christian, but in which the enforced separation of people on a racial basis promotes and perpetuates alienation, hatred and enmity;
  • that any teaching which attempts to legitimate such forced separation by appeal to the gospel, and is not prepared to venture on the road of obedience and reconciliation, but rather, out of prejudice, fear, selfishness and unbelief, denies in advance the reconciling power of the gospel, must be considered ideology and false doctrine.

Therefore, we reject any doctrine

  • which, in such a situation, sanctions in the name of the gospel or of the will of God the forced separation of people on the grounds of race and color and thereby in advance obstructs and weakens the ministry and experience of reconciliation in Christ.

4. We believe

  • that God has revealed Godself as the one who wishes to bring about justice and true peace among people;
  • that God, in a world full of injustice and enmity, is in a special way the God of the destitute, the poor and the wronged;
  • that God calls the church to follow God in this, for God brings justice to the oppressed and gives bread to the hungry;
  • that God frees the prisoner and restores sight to the blind;
  • that God supports the downtrodden, protects the stranger, helps orphans and widows and blocks the path of the ungodly;
  • that for God pure and undefiled religion is to visit the orphans and the widows in their suffering;
  • that God wishes to teach the church to do what is good and to seek the right (Deut. 32:4; Luke 2:14; John 14:27; Eph. 2:14; Isa. 1:16-17; James 1:27; James 5:1-6; Luke 1:46-55; Luke 6:20-26; Luke 7:22; Luke 16:19-31; Ps. 146; Luke 4:16-19; Rom. 6:13-18; Amos 5);
  • that the church must therefore stand by people in any form of suffering and need, which implies, among other things, that the church must witness against and strive against any form of injustice, so that justice may roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream;
  • that the church as the possession of God must stand where the Lord stands, namely against injustice and with the wronged; that in following Christ the church must witness against all the powerful and privileged who selfishly seek their own interests and thus control and harm others.

Therefore, we reject any ideology

  • which would legitimate forms of injustice and any doctrine which is unwilling to resist such an ideology in the name of the gospel.

5. We believe that, in obedience to Jesus Christ, its only head, the church is called to confess and to do all these things, even though the authorities and human laws might forbid them and punishment and suffering be the consequence (Eph. 4:15-16; Acts 5:29-33; 1 Peter 2:18-25; 1 Peter 3:15-18).

Jesus is Lord.

To the one and only God, Creator, Redeemer, and Holy Spirit, be the honor and the glory for ever and ever.