"Few people would fall in love had they never heard about it."
Francois de la Rouchefoucauld.
I participated in a conference in Memphis last week. It was, as most conferences are, a way to connect with friends that I don't see enough, get a break from routine, visit another city, and hopefully be stimulated intellectually, creatively and emotionally. Fortunately, it accomplished most of those things, thanks in part to the people who were there--to me, it's never the stated purpose of the event, it is the alchemy of the attendees that makes it work.
I did a panel thing and particiapted in a PechaKucha event each day of the conference. PK is a fun way to present work and ideas, it emerged in Tokyo as a way for designers to get their ideas out to each other--essentially it is a presentation that demands economy, things reduced to bare, concise essentials--twenty images and twenty seconds to comment--it's a challenge but it's also great fun.
But of course it is introductory, you can't dig too deep really. The image at the top is one I used. There were many ways to go with it and many potential ideas at work in my choice. I went with the broad statement that the challenge is not in coming up with new ideas so much as shaking off the old ones. The tyranny of the past, the way it can literally hold us hostage, is I think, a particularl challenge in the realms of doctrine and dogma--these elements are, of course, the means by which an ideology survives the ages, giving shape and contour to the particularities of faith--but they can also prevent advancement, movement forward, when it is necessary.
ideas, in my mind, are, at least in main part, a product and invention of both culture and history--the times so often determine how we think about certain things--the limits of our knowledge, our understanding of ourselves and the world about us, our concpetions of cosmology, of biology, all these things contribute to the generation of certain idea in every realm as far as I'm concerned.
Francois de la Rouchfoucauld, the 17th century French writerof maxoms and aphorisms, makes a great point, quoted here. 'Falling in Love' is so central to our understanding of romance and relationship that it is hard to imagine even the beginnings of a relationship between two lovers without the idea--we are addicted to the concept in the west--it's the backbone of novels, cinema, music, that addressess issues of romance and love--but there was a time, and there are places, where falling in love is not part of the equation. Not only that, it is an idea that developed and evolved over time--courtly love, for instance, may have been a precursor.
When it comes to theology, the same is true. Theological ideas, do not fall out of heaven, they emerge out of cultural moments and contexts, and those things can, and do, change. One age has central idea that may become peripheral in another. I realize that this presents challenges, particularly when we begin to think about things such as religious orthodoxy and the like, but I am not advocating abandonment as much as awareness really.
What Rochefoucauld's quote really invites us to is humility, to hold things a little lighter in our grasp, prepared to amend and shift and change as information, knowledge, wisdom comes to us.
The past is a gift and a curse, and it can hold us hostage or liberate us, it can be a wall or a springboard--I hope it is always the latter...but it often isn't