Thursday, 10 January 2008

note to antonio - dec 07

Changes. To say that something changes is to say that it is. I would venture... Perhaps I am going beyond my depth in the field of philosophical relativity. Change changes and were change measurable in any meaningful way, I suspect that we would find that the rate of change changed, and in our era substantially. However - stipulating no God hypothesis - there is no standing stone in the rushing stream of life from which to measure objective change. And even with God - who it is supposed is unchanging in nature - our discernment of him (or your unnameable) is as relative as our discernment of change.

I was given to think on this as my brother spoke with a friend on the phone last night, and the reflected generational change in the nature of relationships, speaking on the phone to one's friends is an isolated specific, but there are parallel changes, in the depth and breadth of relationships, speed of life, even the physicality of our existence. And for you as you return home, against what might you calibrate those faculties by which you mark change?

I feel within me that these connected changes reflect, indeed consist in, a trajectory from and towards objective states, do you think things are accelerating away from or towards an objective state of being or nothingness? Oh to have the time to read Heidegger and friends on these.

Alternatively, in the long run, nothing changes. Ecclesiastes etc and the cyclical nature of things, there is nothing new under the sun, nothing is remembered, nothing ultimately changes, and here I begin to feel I am being obtuse to appear deep and meaningful, as I listen to myself... does a christian worldview, exclusively or even at all, give rise to a directional linear notion of time? I know that the Judaistic view was linear in a time and place when all geographically adjacent civilisations' views of time were cyclical.

The Protestant work ethic has been condemned on the grounds of too close an allegiance to capitalism, but I would go further than that, that 'development' which comfortably fits within a widely circulated understanding of diligent christian work, is unsustainable in and of itself. Based on what historical precedent is one able to say we will find a technology to offset and accommodate our ceaselessly increasing development/comfort/consumption/population on a finite planet? Easter Island? The Romans? History is littered with technologically advanced civilisations who knowingly willed their own demise by consuming the natural (and cultural?) capital which sustained them. I have been frustrated this holiday to meet Christians whose concept of work, value and the planet is so fixed in this paradigm that blindly venerates the saving power of technology to justify a lifestyle that is not only biopathic, but is inhumane and it is one that distances them from the 'provision of God' they so espouse on their Sundays. Christians surely bring to the table a unique confidence in death, an imperative to a sacrificial life, and an obligation to envrionmentalism, given that they know the cook. If Christians settle for cosmetic environmentalism, it is because of unbelief, it is because of bad theology, and it will not simply be less than ideal, I would venture that it will in fact be counter 'productive', hence the death of church?

Furthermore, although less a 'christian' issue, if I have not misunderstood the gravity, urgency and scale of the environmental question I would wish to add that the every-little-helps mode of environmentalism, may itself also be counter-productive, not that every little doesn't help but in its promotion there is the danger of then promoting a self-righteous sort of recycling derived from a comparative morality, the danger that those so inclined will settle for Brownie points without regard for a holistic environmentalism. Also the issue that to promote the driving of hybrids promotes driving, buying organic is still consuming, building triple glazed is still building all of which fly straight past the central problem: the scale and motivation of consumption, rather than the nature and specific virtue of the product. There is also the individualistic nature of most small steps which again is proliferating a social model at the heart of unsustainable living. Lastly, unless the small steps contribute to a lasting structure of total environmentalism, rather than mitigating present local climate issues this entire battle will need to be fought again in the next generation.

A Stanford lecture mentioned about something on travel, but the substance of it I have forgotten making it fairly empty to pass on, it was that in much of history, people travelled, if you wanted to travel, you travelled ~slowly and dangerously but travelled none the less~, as is attested by the spread of Irish missionaries across Europe. And I suppose the Romans etc. Made me to wonder, perhaps how slowly i might try to cross Europe. That and to what extent our concept of limited historical travel and the impoverished lives such geographically restrained individuals lead, has been painted by the vested interests of the various transport industries.

The sustainability essay, as I messaged, is going swimmingly, although it is struggling to come in to land. Most suggestions and arguments I would put forward regarding sustainability seem self-evident or impossible. That or they dispute assertions made in the title, or at the very least that 'quality of life' and 'economically sustainable' must be predicated in a radically alternative value system. Schumacher puts forward that the issue of unsustainablility is a metaphysical issue, requiring a metaphysical cure. Have you thoughts on that, not so much that there is a metaphysical issue, as that I think goes without saying, but that it should be 'the' issue and 'the' solution at the heart of the environmental question?

I very much want to write on a church for this theory and criticism essay, but I cannot find any church of substance that has been built in the last 20 years in England. Were I to chose the Vineyard, I fear I would run dry in the space of 3500wds, for lack of intentionality in the design. By the time you receive this I will have had to settle on a building, perhaps the Richard Meier Jubilee church in Rome or the Mario Botta in Paris, or the renovated St Paul's Church in Bow in London.. I await a reply from couchhosters in Paris, whom I could stay with while I do the church... that or Rome, but i can't justify it, both for the stress of going only for a couple of days and for the pain on my conscience, while the weight of my life staggers in the direction of a life more simple, more humble, more local, more joyfilled.. There is a tension that battles the selfish instinct to go for the big name, the widely published starchitect designed. Coventry's transport Museum would do amply.

I find it hard to move in simple life discussions, I would hate to think it was me, more than it was the nature of the subject, to bring out the defensive in people, to draw them to the conclusion that I am set on confrontation, or even that I have answers to the questions of wheres and whys of the destination of this planet as it hurtles ever faster into uncertainty. And there again, the melodrama that seems inevitable.

'Fresh' used in the context of food, is or has become, arguably the most meaningless adjective ever attached to an edible noun.

That God should have brought our group together is curious, do you ever feel he meant for more than this, without delving into free will and determinism, that perhaps there is a greater dimension of combined existence that by our, my, cowardice, nay lack of faith is not being seized with both hands and the opportunity to be greater than the sum of our parts in being food to the hungry, serving truth to the lost, bridging fractures in Nottingham now, is slipping from us. I would happily argue that the world suffers when the church is not up to standard, I have a very ideal vision of a church, a life giving body of people that lives for others, seeks to live with less, and this mildly utopic vision crashes to a sorry end as I engage real church with real people, actual brokenness and an opposing team playing on the field of life. It crashes, because I fail to be this church, it crashes because of my theology and world view, that I should hope this world to be that which it is not, without putting to practical use even my own talents and resources..

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