Jesus Thoughts (24) : rule by thumbprint

I want to think out loud a little more about this question of dominion, God's rulership (reminded of Wallace Stevens line, "the fatal, dominant X").

Image of Stephen Dedalus, near the start of Joyce's Ulysses, wandering along the shore muttering "signatures of all things I am here to read" (or something like that).  Connected with his interest in Thomas Aquinas' theory of artistic beauty as consisting of "integritas, consonantia, claritas", or "beauty, wholeness, harmony and radiance." & this linked with his (Joyce's/Stephen's?) idea that the artist pays attention to the quiddity of particular things : their unique substantial particular essence, their character, their individuality.   Similar to Russian poet Nikolai Gumilev's Acmeist dictum (developed about the same time, early 20th century), that the poet must evoke and celebrate the "chasteness" of things - their inherent value as "creatures", the individual value and dignity of particular things, large or small, humble or great.

We each have our irreducible personhood, our unique thumbprint.  And I think somehow that the rage of Yahweh, as presented in the Bible, is the rage of a Creator speaking through his universe, his cosmos - challenging the merely human urge for domination (so evident in human history).  Yahweh stands up and rages at those Pharaohs and Assyrian kings and Philistine giants who are themselves raging to impose their will on their peoples - to command and lead their cultures by sheer force & violence.  The Biblical Yahweh would check them all, as He reigns in the waves of the sea, and sets their bounds.

& I think of Jesus's mysterious declaration about John the Baptist : "from the days of John until now, the Kingdom of God has come by violence, and violent men take it by force.  But it shall not be so with you."

Thinking also of the righteous rage of John the Baptist : this strange, liminal preacher, who heads out to the "waste places" of the Jordan river delta, where it spreads into the Dead Sea (like other semi-wild, swampy, undeveloped delta regions - like the Mississippi Gulf, or the Danube outlet) - & from this point of wilderness & freedom, sets out to stop the time & history & culture & political order of Israel in its tracks.  He is not part of the priestly orders, not even associated with the desert communities (like Qumran) : he is alone, he is a "voice crying in the wilderness".  he goes to the delta of waters in the desert to preach an apocalyptic end-time warning, and to establish his baptism - a seal of the repentant soul, committed to a change of ways.  And prophesying that "one greater than I is coming to judge Israel"....

This rage of the lone prophet seems to embody or transmit the rage of the Creator : a stance which transcends the flow of history and cultural violence & corruption : the coming-to-surface of that divine Personhood who says to Moses, when he asks : "Tell them I am that I am has sent you."

What I'm circling vaguely around here is this idea of a divine manifestation - an intervention of God which stops time & history in order to lift up & repair the quiddity, the dignity, of His own Creation.  This, it seems to me, starts to get at, or at least approach, the deep plot of the "sacred drama" of world history : framed by the thumbprint of a mysterious Presence.... invisible, but so close...  a "still, small voice" emitted through our own bones...

Stevens, again (from "The Idea of Order at Key West") :

Oh!  Blessed rage for order, pale Ramon,
The maker's rage to order words of the sea,
Words of the fragrant portals, dimly-starred,
And of ourselves and of our origins,
In ghostlier demarcations, keener sounds.

No comments: