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Re: The Sir Toby correspondence

Re: The Sir Toby correspondence

Congratulations, Shiert, you’ve passed through the portal and entered into the heterotopia poised between fact and fiction. At the beginning of this string I declared my intention: to write an imaginary Preface for a book that describes imaginary characters, conversations, and adventures. In so doing I’ve recounted a series of historical events leading up to the (self-)publication of Peter’s book (an imprint of All-Is-Vanity Press?). You can verify much of the evidence I’ve compiled in these comments because it’s contained in publicly-accessible posts here at OST and on my own blog. I’ve also cut-and-pasted excerpts from correspondence that still exists, with date stamps, in my email archives (and, presumably, in Peter’s as well). In other words, so far I’ve stuck to the facts.

Now consider your response. You’ve interacted not at all with the content of what I’ve written. Instead, you made a meta-comment about verbosity. In good modernist style, you offered this critique without wasting even a single word saying it directly, allowing the reader to infer your meaning outside of language, between the lines as it were. Well done, you. But then you write this:

I believe that much of what is written here and everywhere else in theology and religion is verbose. This view will be further advanced in an upcoming book.”

Is this statement paradoxical or ironic? For now let’s just call it funny. I can easily imagine someone — your own alter-ego, say, Shiert — uttering this line in theological debate at Sir Toby’s. And so your comment begins subtly drifting through the door entering onto a familiar alternate reality…

After acknowledging your critique of verbosity, you also confess to reading a variety of emotional motivations in what I’ve written here:

I sense some level of anger, hurt, sense of betrayal, and just downright bad feelings coming from you…”

My appropriate next move is demurral: oh no, Shiert, you’ve misconstrued: it’s nothing but a series of historical facts I’m describing; Peter and I are totally objective collocutors, frequently seen hoisting an amicable pint or two together at Sir Toby’s; you seem to be exercising what Paul Ricoeur termed a “hermeneutic of suspicion;” etc. etc. This of course repositions me on the ultra-rationalist high ground, leaving you to roll around in the emotional sawdust that covers the floor ankle-deep but which all the theologians pretend isn’t really there (the dogs know!). At this point you’re reduced to confusion, perhaps to anger at my denial, perhaps to humiliation at revealing your touchy-feely sensitivity. And so you start imagining some other way the conversation might have gone, where I — or some more truthful and therefore more fictional version of me — start beweeping my outcast state, troubling deaf heaven with my bootless cries, hurling blunt yet heavy silverware across the Great Hall toward my foes…

And then there’s this:

I am fully convinced you are a pseudo-atheist.”

I’m intrigued: people who say important things thereby reveal themselves as Christian, or only Christians can say anything important? Anyhow, now you’ve entered fully into an alternate reality, Shiert, a reality where the self-professed atheist is revealed as an anonymous Christian. This is a superb move. We could even outline a variant of what Jacob might accept as theological realism: someone can really be a Christian without knowing it or believing it. There’s a corollary, sort of Kantian in flavor: God can really exist without anyone knowing anything true about him/her/them. Or take (what I interpret as) Desert Reign’s counter-position: I am not real in and of myself; I become real only when people talk about me. The same could be said of God perhaps: real only when he’s the subject of conversation. These speculations might make for stimulating discussion among the Sir Toby’s theologians, even as the Inn and its occupants intermittently to go out of existence only to pop back in again…

I do appreciate your empathy and solidarity, Shiert, truly. I won’t deny your intuitions — though of course I won’t confirm them either. Even though we’re having this conversation virtually, I bet I’d enjoy quaffing a beverage with you at some post-medieval Eastern European public house…

Finally, it should be noted that each time someone writes a comment on this thread, the post about Peter’s book gains renewed visibility on the right-hand side of the OST interface, thereby making it incrementally more likely that someone will return to the post, read it, and consider actually placing an order with the publisher. Also, by my count this is the 13th comment written on this post — a post which, despite public grovelling by its author, has been consigned by the Proprietor to the purgatory of the right-hand column, never gaining the center-stage visibility of such other recent posts as, say, the one entitled “Richard Rohr on the Emerging Church,” which since its publication one month ago tomorrow has generated not a single comment. There’s a certain perverse scientific curiosity involved: is there a “tipping point,” a critical mass of cumulative commentary that shifts a post leftward on the page?

And someday I may still write the post I claimed I wasn’t too embittered to write in our prior discussion on Peter’s (barely coherent) book review about a guy from Holland who wants to install some sort of Exodus theme park on Mars…

The Sir Toby Chronicles By: peter wilkinson (27 replies) 3 March, 2009 - 17:34