a little something extra

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Sabbath 10

In this chapter, called "Hurtling Toward the Eschaton," Muller finally cuts loose with a full-fledged rant. No more quasi-poetic litanies about the nature of biological beings. No more coddling. Instead, Muller introduces an opponent which he seems to find worthy of heavier artillery.

The foe? Progress.

Muller draws a connection between the millenial mindset of first-century Palestine, representing a widespread expectation that the world would soon end and the concomitant events described in one's religious tradition would come to pass, and the devotion to progress that Muller found just as deeply characteristic of his own time and culture. He notes that devotion to progress tends to result in an unwillingness to give up forward motion, even temporarily, in favor of rest.

While I see Muller's point, my mind goes immediately to what I perceive as exceptions, or data points that lie outside the scope of his acknowledgment in this bit of writing. For example, if my work concerned feeding other people, and my resting resulted in their going hungry, then damn straight I'm going to have a hard time stepping away from the millstone. If my work concerned protecting people, and my choice to rest resulted in their being injured or killed, then yes, I would resist putting aside my vigilance. As it happens, my work involves nothing nearly as directly vital as either of those examples. So my quickness to come up with exceptions and objections may just be my workaholism talking.

But then Muller goes even a step further, suggesting a theology that comes close to reincarnation. (For the record, I don't believe in reincarnation, but I don't have a problem with the belief as others hold it.) First he describes the "theology of progress" as a mad rush towards the future where rest and peace reside, but which we can never reach because when you get to the future, voila, it is the present!

Muller then says, "What if we are simply living and growing within an ever-deepening cycle of rhythms, perhaps getting wiser, perhaps learning to be kind, and hopefully passing whatever we have learned to our children?... What if this single human life is itself the jewel in the lotus, the treasure hidden in the field, the pearl of great price? What if all the way to heaven is heaven?"

Well, okay. "Single human life" palliates the comparison to reincarnation. But clearly, Muller is much more willing to be satisfied with his life, than I am with mine. The conditions of his life may promote that satisfaction, and the conditions of mine may thrust it away. But this book isn't about the conditions, it's about what one can do within them. If I find Muller's imagination sometimes lacking, that's not really the point -- it's up to me to have sufficient imagination to figure it out.

I'll leave you with the exercise, which can be boiled down to two words: Go Outside.

Well, feh, Mr. Muller. I'm a confirmed indoor person. You go ahead outside. I'll catch up with you next week.

Cristopher, whose enthusiasm for this chapter far outstrips my own, has posted here. Stay safe until that central Texan ice melts, Cristopher; I remember how crazy things can get on the roads! Tripp's posts usually go up on Mondays; when it appears, I'll put in a link.


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