« On leaving church 3 | Main | Katrina »

September 03, 2005



Fascinating stuff, Caroline!

I think that this certainly goes some way towards explaining the difficulties that arise from seeing Christianity as a religion of the text rather than a religion of the (Living) Word in action.

Jason Clark

Sounds fascinating. Reminds me of a couple of things from my limited reading. Exisitential Phenomonology, people like Michael Henry, arguing that we access reality and any continuation that way, rather than rational discourse based philosophical constructs. Also George Lakhoff (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Embodied_philosophy) and his theories of non congnition, metaphorical constructions of reality (as I understand him, it means we all think in metaphors, and communicate at every level metaphorically even when trying to be literal).

On the music side reminds me that after hearing Nigel Kennedy live, a recording sounds more than it is as my brain recollects and fills in the gaps from the CD :-)

Thanks for the post. Jason.

Jason Clark

Also Rob Waller might have come across the development of 'clean language' used in therapy with metaphorcal models to talk about reality.




(Warning. Lengthy reply!)

Thanks for this Caroline. I think there are all kinds of questionable assumptions here, myself. For instance, I would strongly challenge the idea that the other senses aren't already involved in scholarly activity. There are several very active academics in my field, New Testament Studies, the most obvious characteristic of whose work is that it stinks.

No, but seriously... The (pardon the expression) focus on sight over the other senses is not 'western', or rather not exclusively western. You might say that one of Jesus' favourite expressions was auditory rather than visual: "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" However, the fact is that this was literal language insofar as the stimulus he was presenting was his vocalized teaching. When Jesus uses metaphors for 'getting it' he more often uses visual phenomena, the most obvious example being the two-step healing of the blind man (who saw men like trees walking) meant to (pardon the expression) reflect the two-step confession of Peter (who knew he was Messiah, but thought it had to do with triumph rather than death).

The other metaphor is light and dark. Interesting that 'silent' has good connotations, while 'dark' has negative ones, isn't it? Is there any culture in which that's not the case? Conversely, very interesting 'a riot of sounds' seems unpleasant while 'a riot of colours' is good. Probably this is because our eyes are the most highly developed sense organ and the results process the most quickly and richly. Still to examine something closely is as likely to be chewing it over as focussing on it...

The other major questionable thing has to do with scholarship and text being visual. We've been critiqued before (wrong-headedly, methinks, but still) precisely for not being visual enough -- that this is (supposedly) a generation that will reject text in favour of icons; reject poetry in favour of powerpoint! I think you could argue that the pictographic writing of the Far East and Egyptian heiroglyphics are visually orientated... but our texts are not, at their heart, truly visual phenomena, but rather one of the earliest methods of sound recording: our letters and syllables represent units of sound not units of sight. Scholarship and teaching is primarily, still, about speaking; writing is an extension of that.

Fact is, we get a lot more information from sight than any other sense. Hearing probably comes the closest. Everyone knows the words 'blind' and 'deaf'... ever hear of the word 'anosmic'?

By the way, one of the reasons jazz on a cd isn't as good as live jazz is that you're lacking the visual clues about how the sounds are being produced and by whom and with how much sweat and strained faces.

Another reason, though, is surprise. Live you don't know what'll happen next, know this will never happen again. CD or even DVD you know it will be just like this next time and you can rewind or fastforward.

But, and here I think you're on to something, still another is our human desire for 'event' and 'the moment'. Would you like hearing jazz live if you were the only person in the audience, or if you knew it was being played by perfect robotic simulations of the original players or would that too become dull?

So I think you might well be barking up the wrong rainbow with the 'which senses' business. The real interesting contrast in your blog entry is this difference between captured and living. Writing is certain captured; whereas speech is living. But even Jesus seems fairly comfortable with captured ideas: 'Not a jot or a tittle will pass away...' 'When you pray, say this...' 'Do this as oft as you drink it, in remembrance of me...' 'Wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told...' (Though, of course, not exclusively -- the living surprising testimony is still crucial and the domain of the Spirit: 'Don't give thought to what you'll say, the Holy Spirit will give you the words...')

Recording or not, you will LOVE the Laura Veirs song 'Rapture'. She, or her record company, allow us to listen to it here without buying it (click for type of connection, then click on the word 'Rapture'):

"With photographs and magnetic tape:
We capture
Pretty animals in cages
Pretty flowers in vases
Love of colours, sound and words,
Is it a blessing or a curse?"

She's mad as a hatter, but an absolute genius.



I really love your contrast between the 'captured' and the 'living'. That is really helpful use of words.

Thanks, I shall see where I can go with that

The comments to this entry are closed.

June 2009

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30        
Blog powered by Typepad