Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Ontotheology 101 (Session 2)

Moses squirmed a bit as the hot sand burned his toes. He looked up and, shielding his eyes, took a furtive glance at the fiery apparition before him.

Moses: if they ask me, "What is his name?" Then what do I tell them?

The LORD: I AM WHO I AM. So just tell the Israelites: I AM has sent you.

M: Okay, I get it. The One Who Is. "Being Itself", or something like that....Mmm...but...

L: Yes?

M: Well, you see, we Hebrews are an historical people. We deal with concrete events and people, in the here and now, salt of the earth and all that. We don't much get into the metaphysics and the abstract ontological categories like "Being Itself" and so forth.

But, yeah, this notion of self subsistence is a pretty powerful idea, and it does sort of give you an edge over Ra and Isis and the other ones.

L: Okay. (Pausing, slightly annoyed, but with an indulgence fairly uncharacteristic for the time). What would you suggest?

M: Well, I might be jumping the gun here a bit historically. But how about Esse? Esse sent me. As some Scholastics will unpack this, It is a concept that unifies perfect being with perfect action within the simplicity of the godhead.

L: Sure, but it still doesn't seem all that dramatic to me. I thought we wanted to heighten the dramatic aspect. And don't forget particularity issue too: A deity who acts in specific ways at specific times and places. I'm not sure Esse is that much of an improvement.

M: Well, okay, maybe we could call you The One who is "Being-There" (Dassein). The Hebrews are kind of "thrown" beneath the wheel of Egyptian oppression. And there you are too, alongside them, thrown beneath the wheels of history too, your divine essence being realized, moment by moment, in the here and how. And there you are to help us, you know, actualize our freedom in the moment, or something like that. Existence comes first, not the abstract question that the Greeks like to fret about so much. Dassein. It's kind of weighty but also punchy, no?

L: Nope. Don't like it. Too depressing. I'm an agent after all, and the Liberator, at that. I need to be doing something. I get involved in stuff, clog up the chariot wheels of history, so to speak. Dassein just seems to passive to me.

M: Yeah, right, the athletic kind of image. A doer, not just a sufferer. I get it. Pure act. How about I say "Becoming" (Werden) has sent me?

Or, if that seems a little heavy handed, something like "The Principle of Novelty" or "Creativity" has sent me? That way, we can subvert this captivity thing a little less violently. We can rally the Israelites to be "co-creators" with you. Lure them in with beauty, and save the ethics and political stuff for another day. We could make something artistic and beautiful with those pyramids -- a little flavor of our Levantian heritage that will knock the Pharaoh's sandals off.

L: Here's an idea. In several thousand years, a thinker named Mary Daly is going to write this book titled Beyond God the Father. She's going to argue that "God" should construed not as a noun (like "being itself") but as a verb, to get at these issues of concrete agency and freedom.

Of course, one could quibble with her: In her native language, this idea doesn't make much literal sense, grammatically speaking. You would have to have an infinitive like "to god" which would have to be conjugated -- "I god...she gods...they god", etc. But she won't be the type it will do much good to argue with, especially if you're coming from this male sky god kind of angle. But I think her basic point fit what you were just saying.

M: Father? Don't think I want to go there. You know I have these issues with Papa Ramses, as he always wanted us to call him at the palace. Father? Really, why do we want to complicate this even more and bring in family systems theory?

L: Well....That's okay. We don't have to get into that for another few hundred years.

Anyway, enough of this! You've got a job to do. Now get to it. And when you go down there, stand up straight, hold up the staff and....

M:'s this other thing, Lord. It's the public speaking thing. I have this performance anxiety. Do you think, maybe, I could get a language therapist or a speech coach or someone like that?

L: (* Facepalm.)