Monday, June 20, 2011

Interruptions and the given or constructed self

Adam Phillips ("On Making It Up" in Side Effects) discusses, amongst other things, the ancient debate about whether we discover ourselves or create ourselves (essentialist or existentialist; given or constructed; midwives or Prometheans).

Then he puts the question in terms of "interruptions":

In a sense, the issue of trauma can be stated quite simply: is a life interrupted by events, or are the interruptions the life? Do we, as organisms, have an aim, a teleology, a true life story from which we can be deflected, or is what we call a life – and the telling of a life story – a series of more or less productive and satisfying adaptations and transformations of what happens to happen?

All very interesting.

But what if there is a purposeful Creator who intends

  • to form a person in the likeness of his Son;

  • to do so by means of his own Fatherly ordering of events;

  • in conjunction with the Spirit's cultivation / inspiration / animation of particular wsays of responding to, relating to and handling those events which themselves amount to 'formation'


The thing is that all reactions are creative and all creations are reactive. The active / passive distinction is ultimately unstable.

We are both "given" and "constructed". Both come from God. Both demand and invite our total engagement and involvement.

Which is why it is so hard to keep precise rules for dealing with interruptions few and simple. Interruption is just a another word for event -"when God steps in to make something happen".

The Incarnation was an interruption! And Pentecost! And the return of Christ!

And the knock on the door, the indigestion, the blank sheet of paper, the new baby, the first day of holiday, the phone call, the placing (or spilling) of a cup of tea on the table in front of you.

Interruptions are events. Events are gifts. Gifts are blessings from Another. And the fact that I had planned something doesn't mean that it's not an interrruption-gift.

If unplanned and undesired, I need to reckon with the fact that it is a blessing from Another.

If planned and desired, I need to reckon with the fact that it is a blessing from Another.