More thoughts about the top 7 stories...

Ok, Wendell Berry articulates the challenge like this in What Matters? (Economics for a Renewed Commonwealth). 

To deal with the problems, which after all are inescapable (i.e. economic, social, political and moral that arise through greed, obsession and an atrophied imagination) I suggest that we may have to remove some of the emphasis we have lately placed on science and technology and have a new look at the arts. For an art does not propose to enlarge itself by limitless extension, but rather to enrich itself within bounds that are accepted prior to the work. 

It is the artists, not the scientists, who have dealt unremittingly with the problem of limits. A painting, however, large, must finally be bounded by a frame or a wall. A composer or playwright must reckon, at a minimum, with the capacity of an audience to sit still and pay attention... (And) within these (various) limits artist achieve elaborations of pattern, of sustaining relationships of parts with one another and with the whole that may be astonishingly complex. Probably most of us can name a painting, a piece of music, a poem or play or story that still grows in meaning and remains fresh after many years of familiarity. (Berry, p. 51)

To my mind, Berry offers a helpful albeit complicated way of reclaiming common ground for moral discourse:  embrace the limits of time, sense, culture and physical stamina.  Hence my decision to look for the top SEVEN important stories in both the New and Old Testaments.  There are some other limits to this search, too:

+ In a commitment to Christian formation, one of the key challenges has to be identifying stories from within our Judeo-Christian heritage that illuminate both the quest for personal integrity and our calling to serve the common good, yes?  In other words, what are our historic Biblical guidelines for framing an ethics of faith, hope and love?

+ Simultaneously, I sense that these stories must also point us towards a spiritual presence that is greater than ourselves.  Our ethics must resonate with the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus: anything less all too easily becomes utilitarian in our context - especially given our addiction to marketplace metaphors and bottom line demands.

So, the search becomes more focused:  what stories do we need to encourage and empower 21st century people towards compassionate living?  What stories provide a window into the upside down kingdom that Jesus celebrates?  What stories help us wrestle with the Paschal Mystery, too?

In the same Wendell Berry essay, he notes that when Dr. Faustus asks Mephistophilis about hell, the servant of Lucifer replies:  "Why, this is hell,l nor am I out of it... Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscribed in one self place, but where we (the damned) are is hell, and where hell is we must ever be."  Berry concludes:  "For those who reject heaven, hell is everywhere and thus is limitless. For them, even the thought of heaven is hell." 

I value your insights and replies, dear friends, so don't be shy...


Black Pete said…
"Your prison is walking
through this world all alone."
--Desperado, by Don Henley, Glenn Frey
RJ said…
An existentialist hommage if ever I heard one...and one of my favorites, too.

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