Sunday, September 05, 2010

Absence of Mind by Marilynne Robinson

A central question in Robinson's new book is the utility, or even ethics of objectivity.
She is unsatisfied with the "closed ontologies" of "scientific monisms"; that is, claiming that everything can be understood in terms of (for example), perversion (Freud), class (Marx) or genes (Darwin). A flaw in these reductionisms is "the absence of an acknowledgement of ... subjectivity."

A similar question about the difference between understanding and experiencing love came up in a conversation on the camino. For instance: does knowing about the neurology or chemistry of attraction and attachment make one a better friend or lover or father? [I remember, but cannot find the source of a characteristically bold Salavador Dalí quote, "love is deoxyrybonucleic acid."]  Robinson states the case more acutely:
Does knowing 'how the machinery of the brain works' – and, in fact, we still do not know how it works – have any implication for the effective use of the mind? (p52)

Time to settle down

Now that I've been back, I've almost given up hope of settling back into 'life as normal': it's just not possible. Travel has changed me – hopefully more for better than worse. and while I can't keep traveling, I can keep reflecting; understanding the change that I've experienced and assimilating the transformation.

To that end, I've got a few post-travel tasks:

  • the 6000 word independent study project that was the pretext for my travel, including
  • the 1000 pages of reading on the theology of spirituality, theology of mission and mission in the context of the Australian Defence Force,
  • emails, postcards and gifts for the friends I made along the way
  • 10 and 30 minute presentations on spirituality for soldiers, and 
  • 30 and 60 minute presentations on missional spirituality for chaplains, pastors and Christian leaders.
But, even before I started to look seriously at these tasks, I'd already started on something else: pre-travel tasks for the next (anticipated) trip!