“My Bright Abyss”, Christian Wiman

You’d see many scribbled arguments in the margins of my copy, but in spite of that I do like the book and think him wise and honest.  What maddens me is a certain pattern of thought, one that is emblematically modern, that goes like this:

1. Thought A

2.  Recognition of something unproven  about thought A

3.   Cancellation of Thought A.

So this mind never builds.  He says “A”, then “not-A”, “B”, then “not B”, and so on, forever.  At the end of a chapter of this sort of thing, we haven’t gotten anywhere.   The writer is so afraid of not being honest he cannot assert.  This radical uncertainty is loved by the 2013 sophisticate.  You can soliloquize for years on whether you should be, or not to be, without ever committing to being anything in particular.   I’d like Christian Wiman to decide if he is a believer or not.

As Wiman flirts with saying something explicitly Christian  you can appreciate how I’d perk up.  Then, the recoil:   “no, let me just undo that thought a bit” — I feel like I’m watching a tease show.   What hooks the audience as an introduction goes on to exhaust them if it runs on as the entire plot.

Such embarassment at having a worldview is the characteristic simpering tone of modernity.  I just want somebody to have the guts to stand on the table at the cocktail party and declaim a creed.  Nothing is as boring as standing around the bar chatting about nothing.

I wonder if it just an addiction to epistemological certainty.   All insight fades, as a natural characteristic of light, and intellectual vision is the same.   No perception endures so bright as at the instant it appeared, but this does not mean it was false.  In fact, it means nothing.   We see something bright in the universe or in our hearts, but then when we look back at that moment of sight, now mostly in memory, it has faded, and these modern hamlets simply toss it aside and assert something new from whatever is visible at the present moment– but why is the second perception more true than the first?  What logic tells you that the present perception is exactly true just because it is clearest, when Occam’s Razor concludes it is clearest just because it is present?

“My Bright Abyss” is an honest thinker, trying to admit that he needs Christ and that Christ might be true.   It is worth reading.

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