Quote For The Day

“In the Gospels Jesus is always talking to the crowds in parables, which he later ‘explains’ to his disciples. The dynamic is odd in a couple of ways: either the parables are obvious, and the explanations seem almost patronizing, or they are opaque, and the explanations only compound their opacity. (Or could it be—and I confess to relishing this possibility—that the explanations illustrate Christ’s wry sense of humor, which is nowhere else evident?) In any case, the notable point is just how little the explanations amount to, how completely the ultimate truths of the parables—just like dreams and poems—remain within their own occurrence.

Behind every urge to interpret is unease, anxiety. This can be a productive and necessary endeavor, whether it’s literary criticism or theology or even the dogmas and rituals of a religion (since all religion is, ultimately, an attempt to interpret God and numinous experience). Such effort deepens and complicates our initial response, even as it gives us an aperture through which to see our moments of mystery, crisis, and revelation more clearly—to give them ‘meanings,’ to integrate them into our lives. The trouble comes when the effort to name and know an experience replaces the experience itself. Just as we seem to have grasped every level of meaning in a poem, the private and silent power that compelled us in the first place seems to drain right out of it. Just as we plant the flag of faith on a mountain of doctrine and dogma it has taken every ounce of our intellect to climb, our vision becomes a ‘view,’ which is already clouding over, and is in any event cluttered with the trash of others who have fought their way to this same spot. Nowhere to go now but down,” – Christian Wiman, “Hive of Nerves”

Previous Dish coverage of Wiman’s writing here, here, here, and here.