Saturday, November 12, 2011

Faith, Prose and Poetry

Following up on the previous post, I think it's worth emphasizing that Kierkegaard equated faith with immediacy. This makes sense when we consider that our institutions (and our intuitions) constitute the presence of power (and knowledge) in our lives. That is, an institution is that in which power is represented immediately in our experience. To "have faith", then, is simply to feel power immediately in your life. Call it the power of God, if you like, but it is really just a very obedient attitude to what goes on around you. (Likewise, as a form of knowledge, faith is a very understanding attitude.)

This, not incidently, also means that life becomes a very "prosaic" affair. Neither institutions nor intuitions are experienced as problematic.

I like Merleau-Ponty's idea of "a poetry of human relations—the call of each individual freedom to all the others" in this respect. A poem is, in a sense, always an act of infidelity. So is a philosophical intervention (for which, as ever, we lack a good word, like "poem".) A poem does not emerge from faith, precisely because it does not believe in institutions. It calls out from one individual freedom to another.

I am not wholly without faith, I should mention. (No one is.) But I do believe that our institutions must be challenged by an immediacy that is not immediately obedient or understanding. That is, there must be poetry and philosophy in our lives as well.

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