Friday, May 14, 2010

During the World Pt. 1 - Greetings

Greetings from Durham, NC! (I would use my customary greeting, "grace and peace," but apparently, Dr. Marcus thinks it's annoying, so in honor of my erstwhile mentor and self-declared judge of all things literarily appropriate, I'll save it to use as my closing instead). For several months, I have wrestled with the desire to enter the wonderful, narcissistic land of the blogosphere, only to find myself turned back, again and again by various reservations. The requisite concerns are there: narcissism, self-indulgence, the question of whether I am or my experience is interesting enough to merit real estate on the web, whether I have the time between watching two infant girls, attending Divinity School, remaining a good husband and pastor, etc etc. And of course, the Cerberus that has always guarded the gates of words and hence has made the heaven of writing into a hell: how and where to begin.

Thankfully, as he has many times in our friendship, my good friend TA has inspired me in both word and deed by taking the risk of sharing himself in his blog ( And so, as the legend that is the Rockumentary Hypothesis has grown out of a past collaborative effort of epic bluegrass proportions (we are huge in S. Korea and the UAE - learn Korean or Arabic and you can read more...), I hope that something more modest might emerge from simply starting here, in medias res, in the midst of things, where I am at, narcissism, writer's block, imperfections, aspirations, and all, as I make my way as a fellow pilgrim in this time we exist, during the world.

Beginning "in the midst of things," where we as finite human beings and creatures of and characters in the drama of the God is among other things Poet always find ourselves living and wondering is the ethos I hope to explore and also articulate via the title of this blog, "During the World." I have borrowed this wonderful phrase from theologian Charles Mathewes in his book A Theology of Public Life. I hope to unpack it more in a future post - for now, however, I introduce it merely to indicate the character of this blog. In part, I want to use this space to practice the discipline of public writing. At the same time, I pray that this space may also become a kind of scrap-book or photoalbum of the various places and ways in which I have been surprised or ambushed by God's Word speaking in the midst of the adventure that is life in the world.

As someone who enjoys getting lost in the enchanted woodlands of theology, literature, music and culture, I anticipate many posts taking place in these settings. However, as a disciple, husband, father, son, friend, neighbor, seminarian, music pastor, runner, and hospital chaplain, I also hope that more academic engagements will be embedded within the greater ecology of my life striving to learn what it means to follow Jesus in this time between His life and His coming again, this time "during the world" when the drama and adventure of faith happens in all of its tragedy, comedy, pathos, beauty, and grace. Above all, I hope that in sharing my experiences of being, in CS Lewis' magical phrase, "surprised by joy," that anyone who happens to read will in turn be inspired to discover, share, and give thanks for the ways that grace is happening in their own experience.

In his wonderful book Pursuits of Happiness: The Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage, one of my favorite philosophers, Stanley Cavell writes that "without this trust in one's experience, expressed as a willingness to find words for it, without thus taking an interest in it, one is without authority in one's own experience." While Cavell writes from an Emersonian individualist perspective that is not without its problems and temptations, I think his exhortation here provides a fitting justification for blogging. As believers in God's continued creative presence "during the world," as someone committed to the Catholic truth that "all truth is God's truth," we show our faith and our commitment to that truth by taking the risk of giving words to our experience of grace in our lives. I think we discover not so much a personal authority as much as declare the AUTHOR-ity of the Author of Creation when in faith we seek to witness to God's deeds, mighty and subtle, in the midst of this New Creation begun by the terrible pen-stroke of the cross of Jesus. The psalmist expresses such a conviction of faith when she proclaims, "Come let us sing to Hashem,,,let us come before Hashem with thanksgiving and extol Him with music and if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts..." Like Cavell, the psalmist calls us to give voice to our experiences; however, going beyond Cavell, she encourages us to transform subjectivity into doxology, into confession, praise, and worship.

If this blog serves this purpose, then I believe that in spite of ego, pride, narcissism, and indulgence, and perhaps, through them as well, it will not be a wasted effort. Thank you for joining me "during the world" - I hope my words will serve you in reading as much as they serve me to write. Grace and peace, and happy travels!


  1. nice post. looks like you and I had the same idea at about the same time, with similar musings on the way in:

    ps--mathewes would be proud of the blog title :)

    pps--should we be blog buddies? TA looks lonely over there on your lefthand margin.

    pps--were you serious about reynolds and I potentially taking over your lease after you move out? we're interested...

  2. hooray! i'm glad you've started it and look forward to your writings, which i've missed!

  3. Matt, one of the best parts of my second time around Princeton was having grotesquely long conversations with you that covered every topic in the world. I've missed them. Hopefully your blog will fill a little bit of the hole that has been left when our conversations ended.