The Spectral Luminosity of Ordinary Things
Excerpts from "Glory: The First Passion in Theology?"
by Mayra Rivera, Harvard University, Divinity School
In considering luminosity, you might also appreciate:
The Numinosity of Rocks by Patricia Adams Farmer
The Quaking and Breaking of Everything by Patricia Adams Farmer
Turtles and Whales by Rabbi Bradley Artson
Nature is my Bible by Stephen Hatch
Life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end. Is it not the task of the novelist to convey this varying, this unknown and uncircumscribed spirit, whatever aberration or complexity it might display?(Virginia Woolf)
An Appreciation from Jay McDaniel
So many of the phrases in the previous paragraphs can be, and should, be, the first sentences of poems. Or perhaps combined into a poem, like this:
The flickering of glory in ordinary life.
The spectral luminosity of ordinary things,
Neither irresistible nor self-sufficient. Still,
I welcome the wonder before the weight of reality.
In a perennially unfinished and redeemable world.
Without ever believing that I have at last discovered
The absolutely real.
The poem might be titled "Theology as Wonder Welcoming."" This is not the kind of theology I learned many years ago in seminary. That theology was preoccupied with right belief and not at all about paying attention to the flickering of glory in ordinary life. It was all about arguments and merit badges, but not enough about welcoming a multiplicity of voices, languages, and genres. It was about the glamour of well-known western scholars but not the glamour of passing clouds, burning bushes, and human faces. It was too scholastic and not Zen enough.
But something is certainly changing with theologians like Mayra Rivera. She is a Latina theologian who, along with many, many others in postcolonial theologies, are introducing tastes of very new wine. Her words come from an essay called "Glory: The First Passion of Theology?," which appears in Polydoxy: Theology of multiplicity and relation. Edited by Catherine Keller and Laurel C. Schneider. New York: Routledge, 2011, the essays in Polodoxy seek "to explore the results of postcolonial/poststructuralist/postmodernisms and process thinking on contemporary Christian theology." The goal of the anthology is to bring new life to Christian theology and Christian faith by opening up previously closed doctrines to the vitality that multiplicities and pluralisms bring. Don't you sense some of this new life in Rivera's welcoming of indeterminacies and her turning to everyday halos? I do, too.