Monday, September 22, 2014

It's About Time Because April is the Cruelest Month

In his The Insistence of God, John Caputo considers both kairos and chronos, and while stipulating no essential difference in content, goes on to privilege kairos over chronos because the former is open to the event. Yet, the privilege is more illusion than reality, for the opportune moment cannot be programmed, just as events cannot be programmed. The very seasonality of kairos belies predictability, as it always sees the horizon; chronos, the mindless march of time, never sees anything coming, makes no pretension to expect a horizon: it permits the event as if it doesn't exist.

The stages of time make for good planning of harvests and cuisine, but they make bad planning for the event, which cannot be planned. Because April is indeed the cruelest month, it mocks pretensions to rebirth, and misinterprets occurrences as events. The hermeneutic that privileges kairos over chronos risks seeing events in every bud, in every fallen leaf. Kairos is to chronos as sophia is to phronesis .  I don't think Caputo ever saw that coming, nor this analogy: chronos is to phronesis as kairos is to sophia. We must think of the real, as Caputo says, as if we were dead; and we must think of time as if we lived in the season-less regions.

Friday, September 19, 2014

A Mighty Fortress is our Solitude

In his The Weakness of God, John Caputo knows of only one kind of solitude, the solitude of tragedy, the solitude of the present (pp. 245 ff). Anyone who has fished the surf at dusk or dawn, anyone who has walked alone into a meadow or wood (with or without a brush and canvas), anyone who has practiced a musical instrument, anyone who has listened to music, anyone who has read a novel, anyone such as these souls would find Caputo's solitude terribly impoverished. Perhaps my difficulty with his version of solitude has mere semantic dimensions, because despite the bleakness of such solitude, it remains open to the event of healing through the 'other.'

I maintain the distinction between solitude and loneliness, both expressions of what being 'alone' means. When one is alone with oneself in joy and comfort, one is enjoying solitude. When one is alienated from oneself, terrified by the enormity of being alone in unredeemed time and space, one suffers from loneliness. Though he never says it, I imagine Caputo would agree that the 'tragedy of solitude' resolved by the presence of the other, the healing, consoling presence of another human creature, transforms loneliness into a shared space of joyful solitude, a being alone together.

This is what heals the dehumanization of illness, the alienation from a past of health. Healing sometimes brings the past into the present, often through the touch of human consolation. Indeed, Caputo's notion of forgiveness is all tied up with the arrival of the other, of the other's presence at the bedside, which sanctifies both time and space.

Being present to suffering does not split the burden, the very mass of pain, and share it. That would be magic; yet the burden is forgiven, lightened, at least for a time, a moment, a moment shared in the time of life in extremis. Such a forgiveness of time, a giving of time with less suffering, of more time less burdened with pain, is the healing of consolation, of presence, of witness to the profoundest of all human acts, the act of dying. Alone, together, the laying on of therapeutic hands and the speaking of healing words build a fortress around the sacred space of something so profoundly human.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Wake Up and Smell the Liffey

When I was a boy, I once got caught up in how to punctuate the title of Joyce's last novel. As I recall, some witty souls of scholarly stripe made a thing of it in a few veddy respectable articles. I like the most obvious explication: that Joyce uses the title of "Finnegan's Wake" to universalize the experience of the novel's fallen hero as the experience of life and death, or, better, living and dying.

It's not about the apostrophe; it's about the unsupplied comma and exclamation point: Finnegans, Wake! Here Comes Everybody, and each one is a Finnegan who must follow the imperative, Wake, Humphrey Chimpden Eawickers all! Well you get the picture. We're all on Joycerael's letter; we're all Joycob's latter saints, and we all get to fall, and do it again and again.

Finnegans Wake is a fascinating lens through which to do some serious reading. Stephen Moore has made a living by reading scripture through this kaleidoscope. Derrida and Lacan make a few adjustments in the text and call it deconstruction and psychoanalysis, respectfully. I am probably not terribly far off to suggest that Altizer and to a palpable extent, Caputo, see the death of God in poor Tim's fall from transcendence into immanence: the spirit's the thing that annihilates and exnihilates in a dreamy theopoetics.

And that's the thing: reading after FW is always heresy, as the heresiarchs of Ulysses were trying to tell us all along.

Wake up and smell the coffee because I'm preparing for the next section in my dialogue with our heresiarch of continental philosophy, John D. Caputo.