Transit Us

          I feared that the verb ‘transit’ would be intransitive, but hopefully it is not. It plays double and gives me enough space to work my legs both ways. The inquisitive nature of man had always had overtones of accusation, a sense of angst and an orientation to salvation. It inevitably involves a release from the monotony of daily routines or general procedures. Philosophical endeavours thus poised on the verge utter non-conformity and many of the mystical writings from any part of the world sounded like narrations of escapades often spilling over to erotic symbolism. The adventurous medieval soul expressed itself with full import wherever it was involved. Thus it is with the same recklessness that sent Francis flying in his mail and tapestries that he approaches the burning bush of God’s love. We should start to speak of these singular experiences as paradigm shifts rather than conversions, because no such transformative action takes place in a mediocre soul; even God finds it unpalatable. To know that ‘transit’ admits passive and active modes makes us all the more accountable, sparing us the trouble of locating a first cause for our demeanours for which none but we are responsible.

          Foucault speaks of ethics as ascetics. Ethics becomes self’s relation to itself and is therefore part of both the history of subjectivity and the history of governmentality. This reminds one of the need to take constant care of oneself- an intensification of relations to oneself. The alienation from the self is the greatest impediment to wholesome axiological experience of any given situation. It robs us of the basic certainty of our experiences. Foucault quotes Seneca as saying Disce gaudere – learn how to feel joy, that which will never fail one when one has found its source. It is a de tuo – from your own store- which implies that it is the very self and the best part of you. This realization led the early philosophers to have recourse to ascetic styles of life. By their out-of-the-ordinary behaviours they came to be called as atopos- unclassifiable. This is to be seen as a way of eminence by which the philosopher attempts to transcend the banality of the situations. This is in stark contrast to dystopic lives which are malignantly out of place and contra-communitarian. Asceticism necessarily warrants social involvement. The essential psychic content of the spiritual exercises of ancient philosophy is the feeling of belonging to a cosmic consciousness. As Seneca calls it, ‘a plunge into the totality of the world.’

          It is, therefore, no surprise that in the Canticle of Brother Sun each cosmic element is seen to be an appreciation of matter and thought to possess a profound splendor. Imagined (oneiric) images of material things have their roots in the soul and ‘every landscape we love is a state of soul.’ It is noted that the adjective ‘precious’ Francis adjoins to the elements of nature is used elsewhere by him only in relation to the Most Holy Body and Blood. The theological intuition of Francis regarding the universal fatherhood of God was inseparable from a profound affective and aesthetic experience.

          Does it not rhyme well when Max Weber proposes Buddha, Jesus and Francis as archetypes of world-denying love (Liebesakosmismus) and posits that such a stand is more akin to mysticism rather than asceticism? The religiosity of the congregation transferred the ancient ethic of neighbourliness to the relations among brethren of faith. It moves in the direction of universalist brotherliness which goes beyond all barriers of social association, often including that of one’s faith. There existed a sense of generalized reciprocity among kinsmen in pre-congregational societies but the expectation of reciprocity was indefinite. This gets absolutized in religious brotherhoods. Weber believes that Jesus was quite deliberately homeless as he invited others to this life of zero-establishments. In Buddha the superhuman compassion bridges the vast gulf between eternal silence of transcendental wisdom and the preaching of the truth in the world.  Similiarly one may very well think that in the Incarnation, God himself tried to bridge a communication gap putting an end to his supposed status of absconditus. God so loved the world. This is reminiscent of Heinrici’s co-incarnational model of communication. There is an intrinsic relationship between world-denial and love. Our love for man is entirely dependent on God and as we are obliged to love everyone, we can do that only in the respect in which everyone is equal, i.e., in the relation to God, whose children they are.

          As Onam celebrations came to a close, something strikes my mind, incidentally.  Three teams went up for a bicycle slow-race taking turns on the only two bicycles available, one with a rickety seat which gave its rider a visible disadvantage. It occurred to none (me culpa!) to fix it. Rather lots were cast to condemn a team to this bike. In such an exercise we preclude a positive action and localize the naturality in time and space tying to the singularity of the action of taking lots. Thereby we adopt an arbitrary turnout as a determinant. It works well with lotteries but not with men. If only we could transcend and transit over the conveniences of a false conscience and associations to delve into a cosmic liturgy.

11.09.11

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