Wednesday, November 28, 2007
My visit raised new questions about ideas of sacred space, pilgrimage, and film studies. So I have recently proposed a paper for the regional AAR at Luther Seminary for next April that will offer me an opportunity to explore the nature of the pilgrimage ritual and its connection to film.
Here are just a two shots from my visit.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Monday, November 19, 2007
If places are in some sense socially constructed, whether literal or metaphorical, they are not neutral but is always defined in some sense by power. Those in power have the power to define the meaning and the norm. Politics, racism, and class all play into defining place. Inherent within the idea of place is what exists outside of that place. In the same way, what is outside defines in part what is inside. These ideas of physical arrangements are often used in common speech without conscious consideration of what is excluded. Phrases like “in ones place” or “out of place” suggest normative behavior. Those who do not act in accord with the normative behavior are considered “out of place.”
Homelessness is not just a lack of a place, but defined in terms of power, home becomes the norm creating the home-less the outsider of society. In Western society, the home connotes ideals of prosperity, safety, family. When we refer to someone as “homeless” we are not only making statement about their lack of a “house” but an implicit judgment about the lack of a “home” and the attached ideology of a home.
 Ibid., 102.
 Ibid., 115.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Worship is the encountering of human pathos (human suffering) with Divine ethos (the ways of God). Worship is giving glory to God through the offering of human pathos or suffering into the Divine ways to be transformed. We are immersed in what Sixpence None the Richer called a “beautiful mess” both majestic and terrifying. Our worship must give rise to forms that both express and confront human experience and need, but also how God has reached down to be offered in Jesus Christ. Without giving expression through intercession, lament, and protest to the darker side of the human experience our worship can become a blind, self serving flight from the realities of the world. Worship is the joining of human suffering to the ways of God. Isn’t this what God did in Christ? God took on human flesh to experience the fullness of humanity and death on our behalf to reconcile the Church to God’s own self? Authentic worship lifts up all that is human to the transforming power of life in Christ.
Without such a view of worship results in a diminished focus on confession, both individual and corporate, of those things which are explicit and those which we are merely complicit in by being a part of a sinful society (those things done and left undone). It also results in a shallow and individualistic sense of self within the work of thanksgiving rather than seeing the arms of Christ extended on the cross to the whole world.
These thoughts offered me a new and much needed freedom in a season of frustration with contemporary worship that so often seemed to ignore, not only interceding and lament for the state of the world without Christ, but the fact that we are being sanctified. We tend to focus on the idea that we have been saved (Ephesians 2.5), which is true, but we do so in a premature sense, forgetting that we are all still in process of salvation (1 Cor. 15.1-2) daily taking up the cross of Christ (Luke 9.23) dying to ourselves and the sin that is so deeply entrenched within. Both of which will end only (Romans 5.9-10) in Christ’s final victory.
Asher Lev, in My Name is Asher Lev, responds to his mothers question about why he doesn’t paint “pretty things” saying, “I don’t like the world, Mama. It’s not pretty. I won’t draw it pretty.” True worship requires that we bring real life, in all of its beauty and horror, to the healing and consoling, reconciling and illuminating work of God.
14 For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. 15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17 But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, 23 but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.
How can the world be at peace
when I am not even at peace within myself?
How can I have peace when I am torn between
Love and Hatred?
Sorrow and Joy?
Faithfulness and Fickleness?
Wants and Needs?
Work and Rest?
Guilt and Pleasure?
Attraction and Lust?
Sinner and Saint?
I have so much and still want more.
How is it that I both love and hate myself at the same time?
Lord we are anxious…
Not to mention…
Alarmed and apprehensive, daunted and discouraged, disheartened and dismayed, distressed, and disturbed, frightened and frozen, horrified and intimidated, nervous and perplexed, rattled, shocked, startled and stunned, suspicious and terrified, timid and trembling, upset and worried…and at times even numb.
Lord, our souls are not at peace…
Why are we so constantly at odds with our own self?
Is this my lot in life?
A continuous conflict?
It is I versus I and I know not the winner some days Lord.
I live not with one foot in each world…
But each world entwined within me.
This discord within me is too deep for me to comprehend…
Sin, my fallen nature, and your grace are the most intimate of mysteries…
part comedy, part drama, part tragedy is marinated in irony and confusion
and played out in the physical tension that is my life.
Who will rescue me?
Who will rescue me from the aimlessness?
Who will rescue me from this pain and loneliness?
Who will rescue me from the perpetual grey that is my life?
Who will rescue me from the world’s negativity, cynicism, and sarcasm?
Who will rescue me from me?
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Lord have mercy and hear our cry.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
One main source that most who speak about place turn to is the French philosopher, Gaston Bachelard’s and his well-known work, The Poetics of Space. Bachelard is concerned with the psychological aspects of place by doing “topoananlysis:” exploration of self through places. Using the home as the primal space of our first memories, Bachelard suggest that this understanding then frames our interactions in all spaces outside the home. Each room or place in the home is constituted by different memories and images. The soul becomes the place where memories live and bloom recreating that place within the soul where we then live. It is the internal house of memories, which may or may not relate to any existing external place yet equally as real, that guides our external interactions in the world.
Closely related is Heideggar’s conception of dasein. Rather than just “being,” it is a “being there” signifying a placedness or dwelling as the essence of being. Existence means being implaced. Places are not things we stumble upon, rather because of our embodied being in the world, places arise as a result. “Space is not projected by Dasein, nor is Dasein simply located in space.” Instead it takes space within and creates something new: room and leeway. The creation of place is an intimate endeavor for Heideggar.
Heideggar is said to be reacting against modernity’s tendency to abuse things as pure scientific objects. Humanity is not a subject apart from the world, but is by its very nature an integral and immersed member. Things, including humans, cannot be abstracted clearly from their environment or dwelling. Heideggar retraces bauen, an Old English and High German word for building or dwelling. But this meaning has been lost.
“He goes on to point out that a covert trace of it has been retained in the word ‘neighbour’ which implies to cherish, and protect, to preserve and care for, and suggests that a proper understanding of building would relate to its sense of continuity, community and of being ‘at home.’”
Heideggar is helpful to see how intimate places really are to our human nature. Bachelard, Heidegger, and Edward Casey have all argued for the precedence of place prior to space suggesting that we know first in particular places before we know space as a whole or in abstract. In the case of Bachelard, we come to know rooms, before we know the home; and the home before the outside world. This phenomenological approach acknowledges to be human is to be embodied in place, and that place is primary because of the “experiential fact of our existence.” Rather than looking for empirical information on what a place is like, they ask “what makes a place a place?”
 Cresswell, 25.
 Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space (Boston: Beacon Press, 1958).
 Bachelard, 8. Inge, 17.
 Inge, 18-19; Cresswell, 21-22, Casey, 245-273.
 Casey, 250.
 Ibid., 257.
 Inge, 18.
 Inge, 19.
 Sheldrake, 7.
 Cresswell, 32.
 Ibid., 23.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
 W. Paul Jones, A Table in the Desert: Making Space Holy (Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2001), 46.
Friday, November 9, 2007
“Being time is never wasted time. When we are being, not only are we collaborating with chronological time, but we are touching on kairos, and are freed from the normal restrictions of time. In moments of mystical illumination we may experience, in a few chronological seconds, years of transfigured love.”
An experience in
brought me to these thoughts.
I was lying on a bed
looking between the spaces of a horizontal blind at a winter killed tree.
Only a few leaves remained.
Although it seems contradictory,
it moved both awkwardly and gracefully in the wind.
I liken it to our own idiosyncrasies.
We recognize another’s movements.
A walk or run.
Those attributes make up the essence of that person.
And when we recognize this,
we are aware of the beauty of particularity.
I saw the trees essence.
I saw it moving in the wind.
I lost myself in its dance.
Indefinable time passed.
I became aware of the monotonous ticking
of a battery-powered clock on the wall.
My mind jumped.
I shrunk back.
I found myself longing to escape through the window
from chronos (human time)
to the simple beauty of kairos (divine time).
This piece is a culmination of that thought.
The bright yellow of the clock stands out,
stealing our attention away from the reeds.
Human time, finite and distracting,
often blinds our view of what matters.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Inge also works from a sacramental framework. He suggests a relational model of place, people, and God that he extracts primarily from the Old Testament. As embodied creatures, place becomes integral to our interactions with God. Following Brueggemann, Inge says that history becomes lodged in place as “storied places.” Profound events and memories embedded in place as mediators of divine presence are built into salvation history. The incarnation casts Jesus as the “new temple” as the place where God meets humanity. By relating embedded events or storied places to the incarnation of Christ, which “initiates an unprecedented celebration of materiality,” specific places and by extension the world takes on new meaning. For Inge, neither time nor place have inherent sacramental qualities apart from each other. Rather they cohere in sacramental events of times and places as the “seat of relations and of meeting and activity between God and the world.” More particularly Inge says that sacramental events are “pure gift” of God’s action and human response. Inge cites several examples in our Christian history: Constantine at Milvian Bridge, John Wesley at Aldersgate, Paul on the road to Damascus and Moses and the burning bush. Because these sacramental events are undertaken by first by God and received by particular humans, Inge rejects an intrinsic sacramentality of religious places.
Inge also suggests that the sacramental life of inside the church should have external implications as well. Experiencing God’s grace and presence in the sacraments should encourage us to seek the same disclosure in the world. And by seeking the sacramental in the world, should increase our appreciation of the sacramental life of the church. Place becomes a powerful idea in connection with the site of the sacraments.
Inge recalls geographer Edward Relph’s words, “places are constructed in our memories and affections through repeated encounters and complex associations and place experiences are necessarily time-deepened and memory qualified.” Places are unique not just because of geographical or architectural elements, rather places are unique and inseparable from the individuals and communities associated with it and tell its story”
One of the things I greatly appreciated about Inge’s work was such a simple point. “The role of such place is to root believers in their faith and point them towards the redemption of all places.” My initial concern with his work was the appeal to experience. Where would these experiences end? With the self? My fear is that such experiences only serve to insulate the individual instead of being rooted in the world. The experience begins and ends beyond the individual. Its starts with God’s action, received by humanity, and sends them to participate in further place making.
I agree with Belden Lane’s comments on Inge’s book that it is a fine summary of the landscape of place rather than a great contribution to the field. It is a very worthwhile journey for the reader to be brought into the conversation, but his constructive proposal place is only loosely defined.
 Inge, 46.
 Ibid., 54.
 Ibid, 55.
 Ibid, 52.
 Ibid, 66.
 I assume that this would too quickly devolve into idolization of the tangible world or too easily be considered pantheism.
 Ibid, 68.
 Ibid, 81.
 Ibid., 82.
 Ibid., 84.
 Ibid., 84.
 Ibid., 86.
Sunday, November 4, 2007
DONE WITH MY STUDIES I HEAD OUT FOR A SMOKE
WERE YOU HERE
I WOULD WAKE YOU
I DON MY WOOL COAT
FLIP UP THE COLLAR
MY BLUE JEANS CUFFED
I BECOME A JAMES DEAN
OF MY OWN IMAGINATION
THE STREET BECKONS
NOT SO LONG AGO
BATHED IN A HUMID SUMMER RAIN
NOW BLANKETED IN SNOW
ITS ABOVE FREEZING
I HEAR WATER TRICKLING EVERYWHERE
ONLY ONE BLOCK AWAY
STREET LIGHTS BECOME BARELY VISIBLE
CLOAKED IN FOG
SMOKE SEEPS FROM MY MOUTH
TO BECOME ONE WITH THE MIST
I HEAR A MUFFLED SOUND OF MUSIC FROM ONE
CHRISTMAS LIGHTS GLOW FROM ANOTHER
I PASS AN ELDERLY WOMAN IN A WINDOW
LOOKING OVER PAPERS ON A TABLE
I WALK ON
I ETCH BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOSGRAPHS
ONTO THE WALLS OF MY MIND
AND THEIR EXISTENCE OF GOD
KEEP ME COMPANY
AGAIN I PASS THE ELDERLY WOMAN
HER HEAD STILL DOWN
UNAWARE OF THE BEAUTY
THAT SHROUDS HER HOME THIS EVENING