Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Fragments and unjoined up thoughts on this and that

So today I started an idle thought on Facebook "Wondering whether a 'theology of fragments' might be one useful starting point in thinking about the ecumenical movement" and was surprised about where it led.
Dr B pointed me to David Tracy's fragments as a theological category:

Fragments show the need to shatter any reigning totality system, such as the "white" understanding of modernity and culture. At the very same ... time fragments embody quite a positive meaning: a break out of totality into infinity by discovering one's own routes and one's own traditions. In this process, one discovers all the others and the different, in the very same way, as possible disclosures of infinity.

My friend Simon Oxley pointed to Duncan Forrester's "Theological Fragments: Explorations in Unsystematic Theology" which was not what I had been thinking about - my own thoughts had been more a half remembered musing on Henning Luther's theology of fragments and the idea of Christ's own life as a fragment. Luther seems to have developed his thoughts in part as a pastoral theology to find meaning in situations of palliative care, particularly for younger patients with AIDS or cancer.

Today fragments of my day would include:
A conversation about biblical archeology with a Palestinian Muslim and a surprising conversation about Thomas L Thompson in which I was definitely the person on the learning curve.
Thoughts exchanged in French about Unitarianism within Protestantism as an important yet often unexpressed part of our tradition.
Sadness at the realisation that my own life is also just a fragment and wondering if Jesus may have felt something of that as he faced death so young - then wondering whether the struggle with meaningless was ever part of earlier cultures. Yet my life being just a fragment is also oddly quite reassuring. Not sure I can quite explain that just yet.
And now at the end of the day as I return to the idea of a fragmentary theology of ecumenism, I suppose I wonder whether we need both an unsystematic theology of ecumenism and also a deep understanding of the ecumenical movement as a fragment - a humble fragment. Can't take this much further than that for now but maybe one day in heaven or in the other place I will have time to ponder some more.
Fragments of the day also included coping with the welling up of tears and being surprised when laughter and ideas drove away my current deep sadness.
Fragmentarily, I look back at the day and remember the morning dew, the heavy late afternoon rain, the humility of getting it wrong when interpreting, the pleasures of translating well written German, the joys of editing, the grind of grief, the stunning light of sun through crowd, a great conversation with an Arabic translator and the support of friends.
All as weighty as dust, yet part of the pathetic yet essential struggle against meaninglessness in my fragmented life.
For tonight fragmentary ambiguity is where I'm at.
Tomorrow as they say, is another day. Thank God.