Note: This post owes a great deal to Walter Brueggemann’s The Prophetic Imagination. I highly recommend this work, and this post is in response to my own processing of his book, which while being 40 years old, is shockingly current and relevant.
I am that I am.
For no man may see my face, and live.
We need a Wild God. Man’s desire for immortality causes us to constantly create structures that seek to fix—in the full multiple meanings of that word. These structures both lift the consciousness of humanity and they also ultimately chain that humanity in some new perceived “best” state. Traditional conservative religion is manifest in the desire to stand atop this edifice and proclaim the work of humanity complete when lived in harmony with these chains. Even traditional liberal responses to these chains beget more chains. Rather than the strictures of religion these tend to be strictures of ideas—a belief that elevated values are the epitome of humanity. The belief that any limited ideological path will be our ladder to heaven is endemic to humanity. This is the Tower of Babel, not a past even of history but a perpetual pattern of human action, a central parable meant to remind us of both our capacities and inclinations and remind of us of the perpetual response by a Wild God.
The Wild God stands perpetually on the side of humanity without standing on the side of humanity’s makings. The Wild God comes in and tears these structures down time and time and time again. Whenever we chain God or chain ourselves to an idea of one path, one way, one idea, Wild God returns to smash these idols and to free us, from ourselves and from our makings.
Without the work of mankind to build new structures and form new possibilities, God has no place. All is wild. But with the beginning of order, with the formation of any system, entropy—the perpetual, eternal wild—must manifest. Entropy makes all work, even the most enduring, always incomplete. This is no tragedy, but the energy of change, and in the forms of human order society, community, family, nation, religion, creed, flags, borders, classes, and castes, it means that no circumstances endures forever. Our work is building and rebuilding, dreaming and imagining infinite possibilities and potentials. This duty of human life is always renewed if not by being “transformed by a continual renewing of the mind” (Romans 12:2), if not by the formation of new consciousness, if not by symbols and traditions being rearranged, then by Wild, the unseen, unexpected, inexplicable, un-percievable forces of change and transformation. When we cease in our work through our satiation, then the Wild God will return to the scene of our stagnation to teach us grief and death, to end what is, what we came to believe may always be. Then the same Wild God renews our vision and through our grief teaches us to cultivate new hope that makes for new work.
History is not complete progressive nor completely cyclical. History is —formed and unmade and reformed. It is new patterns for the sake of new life and new ways of being. For being stagnant is not being. We are eternal things, not immortal ones. Eternal life is not life that remains forever, but life saturated completely in being and meaning. When we seek to create a stagnant “best’ we create a living death. We make an edifice of history that is a relic rather than a living symbol and fount of renewal. Relationship is lived—not made and then persevered. God is the creator—and man the maker of that co-creation. God is the destroyer of those makings so man make again— so man does not love his makings more than his being. Without God man is dead. Without either, the World is dead—devoid either of meaning or of change.
All of creation is complete. But man must make and remake new realities and ways of being of that creation. This is our work in of relationship to God and creation, and our righteousness, i.e. our correct relationship, is found in faithfulness to that work and its renewal. We have a sacred duty in space and time as those beings who imagine and make new realities. We have a duty as responders to our times and places to live fully in our times and places, ever respectful of the eternal Wild not that we wage war against to make perfect order, but that we live in relationship with—through which we enter into the full power of making and being destroyed and being remade. For we are born of death, grief, hope, birth, growth, expansion, challenge, making, reduction, and unmaking.
“No man may look on me, and live.” “I am that I am”
That is—”I am beyond definition and state and purpose and limit in place and time and in understanding.”
God. Is. Wild. Wild noun. Wild verb. Wild adjective. Wild adverb. Wild in the context of language but of the language of sacred poetry not rational prose.
With a Wild God there is no permanent despair, no absolute resignation. There is the full experience of now—and fully felt and experienced, now changes.
Depth of experience replaces permanence of experience. This knowledge of impermanence does not make our work futile. Rather it makes our/my work profoundly meaningful. Our work is necessary for now. This is our/my purpose now. And when our purpose is complete, we can let it go. Not without pain and loss and death—but through pain and loss and death—we lean how to lose what we cherish before what we cherish destroys us. We learn how to grieve and say goodbye, so that when our begins again we are not chained to the past, nor do we forget our histories and what we have made before.
And do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind, for you to prove what is the good and well-pleasing and perfect will of God.
Romans 12:2 (emphasis added)
Louis MacNeice concludes his poem “Plurality” with how it feels to be human and live this dynamic tension. I recommend the entire poem, but this piece is relavant to my thoughts here:
Not completely conscious but partly—and that is much.”