Pulpit of Loose Canons

Catholics are the most forgiving people. They learn a portion of their patience from Sunday sermons. Only indifferently patient people can bear the Sunday sermon of priests. Gone are the days when priests excelled in languages. Now we have neither good English nor Malayalam. Our materials are outdated, our outlook is pathetically narrow, our parlance is being mocked, our premonitions are bleak with no substantial reading. When we appear in media, we look vulnerable. Those who have doctorates have knowledge but no life. Those who have no doctorates sparingly escape from stupidities. Some people spent many useless years in foreign universities doing research resulting a huge capital loss of the church. What Voltaire said is correct: the greatest curse of a society is an ignorant priest. There is no wonder when people take us for Draculas. Sunday sermons are excellent ways to quench our Vampire thirst. Some priests take one hour to finish up what can be said in five minutes. Like Narcissus, they fall into their own voice.

Even our greatest preachers are nonsensical, just wooing the people with simple narratives. Their charm remains for a while, then goes off. These simple narratives are deadly, they sedate the intellectual possibilities of religion and keep people in an eternal infancy. Philosopher Zizek said, “I like to complicate. I hate simple narratives, I suspect them.” Shalom TV with all its eunuch talks is an abomination to people who take gospels seriously. Mindless TV sermons are worse than TV serials. Let the dead gods bury their own TV gods. But listen to what atheist Zizek says, “Christians and Marxist should unite against the contemporary onslaught of vapid spirituality.” It’s time we purge this vacuous spirituality with a dose of atheism. Passionate and intelligent atheists are more pleasing to Jesus than effortless TV theists, I believe.

What is the malicious implication which has beset our gospel interpretations? Firstly, our shallow thinking does not trust in appearance, we somehow think that every word has a deeper meaning lying somewhere else. We are searching for a content which is not there. Susan Sontag shrewdly observes “the idea of content today is mainly a hindrance, a noise and is, or not so subtle philistinism.” Interpretation is very much a forceful conscious act which plucks some elements of the text and shows that they are in relation to some other elements of the past. In our case relation of the new Testament to the old Testament. Correlationism is the only thing today’s interpretation is capable of doing. Correlation consists in asserting specific and unsurpassable relations. It’s like saying; there is no X without givenness of Y. Levi R. Bryant unravels the hidden danger of correlationsim, “Correlationism is thus not the thesis that we must relate to something in order to know it, but rather that what we know of anything is true only for us. In this regard, correlationism is a form of scepticism for it asserts that whether or not things-in-themselves are this way is something we can never know because we can only ever know things as they appear to us, not as they are in themselves.” It’s paramount to say that the text has no life its own but in relation to something else. Meillassoux presents his account of how we might break out of the correlationist circle in his discussion of the principle of factuality in After Finitude. The worst instance of correlationsim is the spiritual relation we give to erotic text, Song of Solomon. It’s based on our long lasting understanding erotic as evil. Actually, our correlatinist spirituality is inhuman and evil. What is the problem with erotic? God is erotic. If we can interpret an erotic book as spiritual, then the opposite is also possible, someone can interpret the spiritual book as erotic. Interpretations have this problem, they open up textual anarchisms.

In certain occasions, interpretation can be a liberating act but no interpretation is capable of giving us a formidable and complete scenario. Marxian interpretations of human relations on the basis of economy and exchange is fragmentary. It is foul when it aggressively bind all relations in economic mode. Freudian psychoanalysis is an intelligent tool to read human psyche but it is destructive when stretched too far. Susan Sontag smartly observes it “ in other cultural contacts, it [interpretation) is reactionary, impertinent, cowardly, stifling.” Our hermeneutics is a forceful stifling of the text.

Another fearsome element of our interpretation is that we are not satisfied with the text, they are not enough. They can be good only if we substantiate them with interpretations. And we end up replacing the text with some morbid interpretations. The sensuous and artistic surface of the text remains a threat to religion. We rebel with the book, not for ageing and becoming arid and bore. Hearing our interpretation, does the congregation want to read the text? Only reading is capable of recovering our senses of hearing and feeling. The preacher has only one duty, to propel the listener to read the text for himself. Susan Sontag makes it evident, “In place of hermeneutics, we need an erotic of art.” Our interpretation is seldom an art.
Now how can we read the text without stiffening it? How can we found the text in our situations? If there is a depth in text how can be steep into it? French philosopher Francois Laruelle (of non-philosophy) is capable of giving us some guidelines.
When we interpret the text, we should careful not to elaborate present, distends it, seeking to make present unending, to sustain or carry the evils of the past along with it. By contrast, Laruelle challenges us to exit from it. Our interpretations should usher in the future, “the future is to make a certain usage of memory, rather remember, bear witness or even mourn.” They are indeed some things which do not avail to interpretation. They should not be disfigured but must be preserved as materials for future. Interpretations need truth but truth is not in need of meaning or interpretation. When Pilate asked Jesus “what is truth?” Jesus refused to give any meaning or definition of truth as it is impossible. The truth is something to be experienced in the future.

Perhaps, the greatest admonition of Laruelle is this: don’t put things in white, the watchers and onlookers are the ones who see white. But the one who sees black is a visionary, the black seer is the oracular prophet. “Vision is foundational when it abandons perception and sees- in-the-night.” When the lights are ablaze visions fade. In the wake of the night came Nicodemus to see the most visionary among men, Jesus. They converse intimately. Nicodemus went back with visions of birth because he saw him in the dark, birth hour of life. One has visions when he looks avidly into the pitch dark of night.

“Simplify colours!” Laruelle pleads. “See black, think white! See black rather than believe ‘unconscious.’ And think white rather than believe conscious.” Don’t see, be a seer. Interpretation is capable only of seeing and reporting. So, stop interpreting and start envisioning. To see visions we need to stop looking, “Only with eyes closed can we unfold the future.” The real substance is not available to look and perceptions, the dark matter with which that universe is made and expands has never been to the gaze of man, “Black is the without-ground which affixes light in the remote which never absorbs it. Here lies the crazy and catatonic light of the world” and “no light has ever seen the black universe.”

Don’t dilute your Scriptures in multicoloured dreams rather emancipate them in black, the radical of colours. The vision in black takes as to the essence of colours which is not coloured. Colouring is the job of feeble heart, afraid of seeing the black. There must be a science which can repel ecstasies of colour. One who sees colour from a back universe is able to transform them without mixing. The simplifications of colour can bring out the whiteness of understanding, which means don’t look from the perspective of colour because the horizon of reality is not light, aperture or flash. Our interpreters are children who are afraid of the dark. They fend off the dark by humming colours. They must know “black alone is subject and may render manifest the philosophical interlocking of concepts.” In the depth of a closed eye infinite is a knowledge that penetrates boundless night. Our messages should not be submerged in muggy and corrupt waters of the present. Fit it with a binocular to unravel the remote and future. Laruelle dares, “See black! Not that all your suns have fallen. They have since reappeared, only slightly dimmer. But black is the colour that falls eternally from the universe onto your earth.”

When darkness pitched its vast tent on earth, when all fell into silence and sleep he came into the world as a secret, stranger, nomad. He was a brother of starts and son of the night. He is now the source of all colours, but he himself is not a colour.


A Communist

Philosophers Hardt and Negri’s Empire is a Communist manifesto of the 21st-century. In Empire Hardt and Negri are seeking the best means for undermining imperial sovereignty. How can we be against the empire, the sovereign cruelty? Hardt and Negri think that we can defuse and defeat Empire by refusal, by desertion, by deliberately embracing exodus, mobility and nomadism. We resist the network system of regulation and power by desertion, which means that we do nothing more than deliberately abandoning the places of power. Exodus and desertion are the techniques which allow us to access the generic, “Whereas in the disciplinary era sabotage was the fundamental notion of resistance, in the area of imperial control it may be desertion” writes Hardt and Negri. Exodus does not mean to evacuate the place, “class struggle in the biopolitical context takes the form of exodus but the exodus does not necessarily mean going elsewhere. We can pursue a line of flight while staying right here.”

Who has embodied the joy of neo-communist struggle against empire? Hard and Negri’s answer is St Francis of Assisi. By identifying himself with the poorest and most oppressed Francis countered the key kernel of capitalism. This according to the authors, is an inherently revolutionary act.

“To denounce the poverty of the multitude he adopted that common condition and discovered there the ontological power of a new society. The communist militant does the same, identifying the common condition of the multitude its enormous wealth. Francis in opposition to nascent capitalism refused every instrumental discipline, and in opposition to the mortification of the flesh (in poverty and in the constituted order) he posed a joyous life, including all of being and nature, the animals, sister moon, brother sun, the birds of the field, the poor and exploited humans, together against the will of power and corruption.”

Francis’ obedience was another form of rebellion. He posited rebellion against the power symbols of church and world. Francis lived the communism of Gospels, “Once again in postmodernity we find ourselves in Francis’s situation, posing against the misery of power the joy of being. This is a revolution that no power will control—because bio-power and communism, cooperation and revolution remain together, in love, simplicity, and also innocence. This is the irrepressible lightness and joy of being communist..” write Hardt and Negri.
Anyone who takes Jesus seriously is a communist. Francis took Jesus extreme seriously.