Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Mind of the Maker: Autobiography

A mass of legend and literature, which increases and will never end has repeated and rung the changes on that single paradox; that the hands that had made the sun and stars were too small to reach the huge heads of the cattle. Upon this paradox, we might almost say upon this jest, all the literature of our faith is founded.  GK Chesterton, THe Everlasting Man
We are up to Chapter 6 of The Mind of the Maker,  and suitably enough for the season, the topic is the Incarnation.   You can go to Cindy's post for her comments and links to more posts. 

Reading this chapter made me think through the autobiographies I have read.   It seems to me that most people write an autobiography for a purpose beyond simply recording their life history.   And God, of course, became incarnate for a purpose, too.

Many autobiographies are some sort of "apologia", not the same as an apology, but a sort of explanation or justification.    Augustine and St Therese wrote autobiographies of their souls, which in both cases made the account less about their exterior lives and more about God and His work through them.    Ronald Knox and John Henry Newman wrote about their conversions, and so did Chesterton.   CS Lewis's "Surprised by Joy" is another one in this field that comes to mind.  I am stretching now to remember autobiographies I have read which were NOT focused on the workings of grace.  My Dad wrote a memoir of his early life, and I think "memoir" is the word for a story about your own history that is mostly about your context, what brought you to where you are now.    He himself was the connecting thread, but I think he wrote it more to cast into literary form his early memories, and to reflect on his life, rather than to explain himself to the world.   

In God's case, He became a character in His own work for a purpose too.     As with the spiritual autobiography and the memoir, the story of the Incarnation is the story of a relationship.  

Sayers says that when you cast yourself as the main character in your work, you have to follow the rules for that work just as you would in any other writing.   Yet you can't help being something other than a character in the book.  You are yourself, the maker, as well as yourself, the character.

Sayers quotes TS Eliot:
Then came, at a predetermined moment, a moment in time and out of time,A moment not out of time, but in time, in what we call history; transecting, bisecting the world of time, a moment in time but not like a moment of time, A moment in time but time was made through that moment: for without the meaning there is no time, and that moment of time gave the meaning.  -T. S. ELIOT: The Rock.
I don't know what this means but it reminds me a bit just because of the rhythm of the words, of the English-translation beginning of the Gospel of John.   And it does give one a distinct image of a cross shape being drawn, something "bisecting" history, time, sharply from outside.  How odd that something from outside time can impinge on time.

Others have compared the Incarnation to a stone dropped in the water that ripples outwards BOTH WAYS.  For some reason, that thought always thrills me.   The Incarnation worked backwards.    It completed history in both directions. 

Yesterday my husband was watching a so-so John Candy movie called Delirious.    It was about a soap opera writer who bumps his head and seemingly gets pulled into the world he made up in his head.  By typing, he can change the outcome.   As one might imagine, he is tempted to use the power to make a world that revolves around himself, the world that Satan tempted Jesus to build.

Jesus did things so differently.   He came to save us and draw us into the love between the persons of the Trinity.   Recently when I've been reading the Gospels I notice how many times He talks about doing the will of His Father, and about how He will send us the Holy Spirit to be our Comforter and Guide.     Unlike the soap opera writer who wants to shape his invented world to suit himself, Jesus wants to draw us up out of the mere status of creatures, into a status where we may walk and talk with Him and be called His Friends.  I wish I could realize this more clearly and live by it better, but as CS Lewis said,

Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
 I guess that's rather far from the original autobiography topic, but I do notice that the best autobiographies, in my rather limited reading of them, are the ones that are primarily about relationships, about love, rather than self, and that try to give something to me rather than grab something from me. 

1 comment:

  1. As I read your post, it occurs to me that God's autobiography of Himself through Jesus stresses right relationships, and that if God Himself were not Triune, three persons in one, we would be unable to understand or have "relationship" modeled for us. It was necessary that God be Triune in nature for us to understand and develop relationships.

    As One who modeled that perfect relationship with the Father, it is as you say, a constant pointer by Christ to the One He is obedient to. He is giving rather than grabbing, as you say.


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