The Imprecision of Words

I saw the following comment through an online group that I moderate. The specific subject is one of reasonably deep theology and philosophy but I thought I'd post it here because it points to a broader topic -the possibility, in every endevour of life, of recovering a more poetic orentation on language rather than tying words down to hard and fast meanings and then goint to war with each other over the results. 

Here is the snippet from the forum:


"For without God we cannot, without us, God will not. So push out into deeper water." - John Dominic Crossan


This bothers me, as it yet infers the old 'God-human' hierarchy, all the while sounding 'progressive'

Adrian's response:

I'm sure many would share your concern. I wonder though with this concern whether we risk adopting hard definitions of certain words and then rejecting the whole statement based on those definitions? That is, as much as we think of ourselves as anti-literal we end up becoming very literal.

I wonder whether the point of a progressive, emergent or generative understanding is less to "constrain" words and then prohibit people from using those words together and more to help people understand words poetically, metaphorically and allegorically?

For sure, I can interpret "God" as absent deity and "us" as separate, hopeless humanity. I know many people do use those definitions. If I were to use such an interpretation I would find Crossan's words disturbing. But the poetry of this piece could also suggest "God" as ground/source of being and "us" as being, in the flesh. Then the whole picture Crossan paints is one of "ambient divinity" - divinity everywhere.

With such poetic meanings Crossan’s whole expression becomes ripe with possibility. And we can push that even further by looking at the words “cannot” and “will not” which are used in this prose. At its roots, “cannot” expresses something about unknowing or to not know. At their roots, “will not”, says something of choice being removed.

So without the ground of being – without the very source of possibility and limitation – we (the living, manifest beings) would be “undefined” or “not able to be separately known.”

……and equally….

Without manifest beings – those beings that take all of the rich possibilities of the ground of being and come to life in splendid diversity - then choices are limited and life diminishes.

When read this way the “push out into deeper water” piece rounds this all out so wonderfully. It tells us to explore the depths and breadths of life’s possibility and limitations. It’s all divine!

Words are always imprecise tools. I wonder whether we can help people to love that imprecision and infer meaning humbly?

No comments:

Post a Comment