Tuesday, November 6, 2007

I think we could use a wee bit of ORTHOdontia...

[NOTE: Updates made at 3:00 pm are in purple italics.]

Two of the three Brown boys are currently involved in the whole ortho "alignment" process...so it does not surprise me that the discussion about the essential "right" things needs a bit of pushing here and pulling there--and a possible extraction or two--in order to make room for all the elements to both appear in the right spot and be aligned properly with one another so that they might accomplish their task effectively without doing injury to any of the elements.

It is striking, of course, that the whole concept of orthodontia is an experience of suffering....

It is also equally striking (pun to come?) to remember that teeth that do not have an opposing tooth to strike against become diseased...they continue to descend, looking to find their counterpart....hmmm....

Brad has a very interesting post about this whole "ortho" business, with a number of important comments, over at his blog.

So, after that lengthy introduction, here is my reply to the thoughtful comments from yesterday's post...a second step, as it were, to processing orthopathy.

I heard Alan's assertion that "pathos" is more than suffering, but includes the whole range of human emotions. And I would agree that the whole concept is important to keep in mind.

And I heard John's assertion that "pathos" is more a matter of passion than suffering...strongly felt emotions, not just suffering.

I even heard Brad's assertion that imagination and aesthetics need to be included in the mix...and that wisdom is an important overarching perspective to consider.

Isn't this the greatest thing about the blogosphere?! None of us have to get the whole picture...we can each contribute a piece here and a piece there without the burden of believing that we can any of us get a grip on the whole thing...very much in line with A Celtic Son's comment over at Brad's post.

And so I will build a bit on all these and see if there might be some wisdom that comes forth from the whirlwind....

I return to the Great Commandment: to love God with all of one's heart, soul, mind, and strength. And while it would be a grand series of word studies to revisit, I'm going to generalize here and challenge you to do your own word study! But before we get too far, I want everyone to stop and realize that we are looking at parts of a whole...and we cannot fully separate them into their parts. We must embrace the ambiguity that comes from approaching the mystery. So, this in not an attempt to cut cleanly and precisely--thereby defining ultimately. No, humility is the watchword of this Abbess. I know enough to know that I cannot know enough to ever know it all.
  • Heart--this word speaks to the deep will, including the whole range of emotions; it is where the rubber meets the road, as it were. This is the core of the person--the essence. It may or may not always be visible to others or understood by the self, but it is always open to God's view. He looks on the heart and sees who we really are...what makes us tick...how we deal with life's adaptive challenges...and always responds with hesed--that which is in our best interest. It is about right perception, I think. This speaks to orthopathy.
  • Soul--this word speaks to the imagination and the aesthetics...the reality of Eikons as sub-creators under God. We have the ability (inspiration?) to take "stuff" (stuff of the earth and stuff of the heart and stuff of the mind) and fashion unique stuff...stuff of great beauty and usefulness and meaning. Physical stuff, yes. But there is much more. Spiritual stuff. Relational stuff. Wow. Here is where we build those things that are imperishable...that are eternal...that cannot be destroyed because they can be remembered. What does this right inspiration speak to? Orthopneumaxy (Hey, I'm just flowing with the inspiration, here! ;^) )
  • Mind--this word speaks to the many different ways in which we have the capacity to receive and process information. It is where we think about "stuff." It is where we struggle to respond to what we see and hear and smell and taste and touch and emote and intuit. Here is where we begin to understand...to make sense of the "stuff." The result of this struggle is frequently called "knowing" and "believing." This speaks to orthodoxy.
  • Strength--this is the action word...calling forth vehement action, actually. God calls us to expend 100% of whatever we have in loving him...in hesed toward him. In looking out for his best interest. Whatever strength we have is always sufficient because God is our partner. It's not a question of having enough strength...it is a question of giving it all. This speaks to orthypraxy.
As I ponder the challenges of the Great Commandment (not forgetting the addendum to love our neighbor as ourself, of course), I also ponder what this means--to God and to Eikons. And I am struck by yet another paradox--of the freedom that comes from restraint.

First, freedom. Freedom for all that God has created for us to be. Freedom for all that perfect community (shhh...yes, perichoresis is what I'm thinking of, here...I'll get around to posting on it one of these days!) is meant to be. Freedom from focus on self and the resultant bondage. (No, I haven't forgotten freedom from sin, but that is not the point of this particular pondering.)

Then, restraint. I have come to believe that restraint is the greatest attribute of God. Greater than all his "omni" stuff because, without his amazing restraint, we could not exist. All of his "omni" reality he restrains so that he (Shall I use they to speak of the Triune God?)...they restrain in order to be free to enter into relationship with us Eikons. And only as we restrain ourselves can we embrace the freedom they offer.

And that takes me back to suffering, friends. Because restraint is, by definition, a form of suffering. To have a "heart" is to suffer. To have a "soul" is to suffer. To have a "mind" is to suffer. To have "strength" is to suffer.

The Incarnation is freedom through restraint...and that is why Messiah was recognized (and also not recognized) as the "Suffering Servant" in Isaiah. To be is to suffer. To be free is to suffer. To be restrained is to suffer. To be restrained by loving God and loving others as oneself is to suffer...laying down one's life for another. And only then, in willing submission to the suffering that loves with all of one's heart and soul and mind and strength--and other as oneself, is one truly free.

The Purple Martyrdom embraces the paradox of restraint and freedom. The restraint that comes with embracing extreme brokenness and powerlessness as a holy sacrifice to God brings with it an extreme freedom. Freedom to embrace God's perception, inspiration, thinking and action empowered by the Holy Spirit rather than cling to one's own abilities. Freedom from fear of that which can deprive/hurt/kill the mortal flesh but cannot deprive/hurt/kill the immortal soul. As my friend, S. Scott Bartchy, has so long challenged:

How much freedom can you stand?

...still processing...


John said...

Nicely done milady. Truly something into which we can sink our teeth ;-)!

Orthopneumaxy - not sure this word will ever find its audience. Nice try though.

AbiSomeone said...

Hey...I knew it was a narrow-audience word--not unlike this entire blog ;^)--but I'm open to another word if someone can come up with a better one...Brad? Celtic Son? Alan?

Brad said...

ummm ...


okay, still working on it ...

AbiSomeone said...

Uh...yeah, still working ;^)

brad said...

Hi Peggy, I’ve read thru your post and it makes sense overall. I might have more thoughts to post later on the restraint-and-freedom paradox.

But, meanwhile, there is still one naggingly queasy question from all these “ortho” posts that has taken all week for me to identify and articulate. It has to do with the *ortho-* prefix in the various words we are using.

This prefix comes from the Greek orthos, meaning straight, correct, right, upright. We – including myself – have been throwing around orthodoxy, orthopraxy, orthopathy, orth-etcetera. While I strongly believe there are many things in the category of right beliefs and right behaviors, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is something off center in how we’re using these terms overall.

It seems to me that the underlying nuance of ALL these meanings has to do with an analytic process that involves distinguishing this from that, and determining right from wrong according to some agreed on standard. (In our case, what God states in Scripture is the ortho-standard!)

However, that very nuance puts us on slanted ground, where other concepts roll away from us. It means all these ortho-issues are seen in categories that makes them into MORAL issues. And this is a problem of syncretism with Greek/analytic frameworks that typically seek exactness in word usage and meaning, and perfection in understanding. In other words, in the very process of seeking to explore how some biblical concepts synthesize, have we unwittingly syncretized to a culture of gnosis?

An example of the ortho-trap. Is all knowledge a moral issue of right or wrong? In my understanding, the answer is “No.” Some decisions are absolute moral decisions, and we either obey or disobey, while others are relative wisdom decisions, and we make either choices that are more or less wise.

For instance, seems clear enough in the New Testament epistles that single people who follow Jesus Christ should only get married to another follower of Christ. That is a moral decision; we either obey that edict, or disobey. However, Scripture does not tell any of us exactly who that other person is. If it did, we would be obligated as disciples to obey and marry that specifically-named person, right? But since it does not, we are free to choose a spouse, and hopefully will make the wisest possible choice – and then find growth and joy in making the combination of all subsequent moral and wisdom decisions about progressing in that marriage relationship. [And I won't venture into the issue of how the Holy Spirit may indeed lead in certain directions; I question whether such leading then constitutes a revelational moral absolute, or whether it is guidance to make the wisest possible decision.]

Another example of the ortho-trap comes with orthopathy. The combination of word roots to create something that translates as “right emotions” or “right feelings” is problematic. Does Scripture really state what we SHOULD feel? Or is the reality that we feel what we feel, and the moral issues revolve around how we should RESPOND to whatever those emotions are? So … is even the idea of orthopathy actually a form of pathology itself?

I am wondering if there may be some help in Hebraic words/concepts that balance things out. That was why, in part, I used the term “righteous” instead of “right” a time or two in some of these related posts. Kind of like in Chaim Potok’s book, The Chosen, where the father of a son who has undergone severe wrestling in his character, eventually proclaims his son “a Tsadik, a righteous man.” Here he didn’t seem to mean that his son was just a moral, upright man, but a wise, virtuous man. Right/righteous. Moral and ethical/wise. Passionate/compassionate …

I’m not against this discussion, nor against analysis (especially considering that assessments of my “Cognitive Style” register that I am at the highest level of “Very Analytic”). It’s just a caution that if we’re trying to find the “right” ortho’s, perhaps we have gone right off kilter in our very attempts to get started on a righteous task.

AbiSomeone said...

Yes, Brad, I also prefer Hebraic approaches to Greek...for the same reasons.

I am getting more comfortable with "right perception" for orthypathy rather than "feelings" or "emotions"... and that helps me some with the whole need to respond properly as well as the wisdom needed to perceive well.

And perhaps, as you suggest, our pursuit of precision leads us astray. This is just one more aspect of dwelling in our weakness so that we may serve in God's strength.

I have been feeling for quite a while that I have to step back, at some point, and process what God has entrusted to me so that I may be faithful in my circumstance rather than trying to move outside of my sphere...it is an interesting place to be....

Brad said...

hi peggy. i don't know if it's completely parallel, but i'm having some issues about sphere(s) in which to function. i could spend hours and hours blogging my own thoughts and material, or commenting on other people's posts, but is it ultimately advancing the completion of the curriculum i know i need to finish? i may have to step back from any number of things in order to restrain myself from good things in order to have freedom to pursue the best thing.

AbiSomeone said...

Brad, I think it is very much the same thing! This time at the beginning (and restarting) of blogging has been important to fire up my brain, as it were. But I find that there is so much "out there" that cannot be read and processed that it is exhausting. What I must do, however, is be faithful to the task God has laid out for me. And I know you feel the same. We just need wisdom as we go forward...always following the Spirit rather than our whims!

It might be a bit of both/and, you know...and that's where the practicing of restraint becomes more critical...when to stop, when to blog, when to do....

Be blessed...and may God grant us the wisdom we seek!