Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Resisting the Urge to Congeal ...

... in LIFE as well as in one's reading of the BIBLE ...

... from Walter Brueggemann "First and Second Samuel: Interpretation"

Focus on "the whole story" is an urgent need of our interpretive situation. We have learned to read the Bible either in bits and pieces or according to a dogmatic presupposition that domesticates the text. Artistic attention to the shape and flow on the whole does not promise a "true" reading or a "final" reading but only this reading now. The text, like our life, is so open that it will hardly stand still for our interpretation. he interpretive act itself is a recurring decision not to "congeal." A recent novel by Gail Godwin contains a telling and penetrating conversation about congealing (p.4). One character, Ursula, instructs the narrator, Justin:

"There are two kinds of people," she once decreed to me emphatically. "One kind you can tell just by looking at them at what point they congealed into their final selves. It might be a very nice self, but you know you can expect no more surprises from it. Whereas the other kind keeps moving, changing. With these people you can never say, 'X stops here,' or 'Now I know all there is to know about Y.' That doesn't mean their unstable. Ah, no, far from it. They are fluid. They keep moving and making new trysts with life, and the motion of it keeps them young. In my opinion they are the only people who are still alive. You must be constantly on your guard, Justin, against congealing."

The live word resists our congealing, in life and in interpretation. That does not mean interpretation is unstable. It means, rather, that we may continue to expect surprises and can never say, "Now I know all about the text."

1 comment:

  1. ~Tell you what ... I definitely feel pretty congealed right now. And that goes for my life as well as my faithful reading of the the Scriptures. I suspect that in a physical sense, the process is irreversible ... that this ailment must be cured on a spiritual level. But that's just my suspicion.