The tyranny of round numbers has me in its grip. A decade birthday or a centennial seems to insist on comment, whether we are ready for it or not. Usually not.
Today my ‘dashboard’ informs me that this is the one-hundredth post since I began The Accidental Theologist nine months ago (note how I even avoid typing in the number 100, with its two imposing ovals). And I’m resisting the impulse to obey the round-number imperative and say something ultra ‘meaningful.’ Like a mission statement.
I am not into the missionary position. ‘Mission statement’ is a term dreamed up by PR hacks trying to give corporations some sort of moral standing, as though they had a sacred mission in life – to make things better, to help you, to serve you – other than profit. I find missionaries hard enough to take when they’re spreading old-fashioned religion; when they’re spreading the religion of consumerism, I find them even harder to take.
The first thing I wrote here, Who is the AT?, might be the closest I’ll ever come to such a statement, so I went back and looked at it this morning, and found to my delight that it said exactly what I’d say today. “None of the comfort of received opinion, no claim to truth, let alone Truth… None of that astounding confidence (aka hubris) that cloaks ignorance and prejudice.” That’s the aim, anyway, and many of you have done your best to hold me to it.
And if some are frustrated by my refusal to take a single, clearly defined ‘position’ – let alone the missionary one – I’m delighted. It means (at least I hope it means) that so far, I’ve avoided the traps of smugness or righteousness or self-satisfaction – all signs that a mind has stopped working – let alone the illusion that I have a stranglehold on that impossible ideal known as ‘truth’ (as though it were something that could be wrestled to the ground, pinned down, and held in an armlock).
I do realize that most people like to know exactly where they and others stand, and that I might be considered peculiar in that I like to explore and – the inevitable companion of exploration — get lost (which is why some people dread hiking with me, and why one of my favorite books is Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost). I find it exciting to not know exactly where I am. The things that stay with me – an experience, a conversation, a scene, a small epiphany – often happen when I least expect them, when I’m not where I thought I was going. And when I write, I often find out where I’m going only once I’ve gotten there, and sometimes I never get to any “there” at all.
So thanks to those who appreciate that we don’t all have to be on the same page (the same chapter is far more interesting, or just the same book). To people with the patience and curiosity and openness of mind to explore instead of rushing to well-defined ‘positions.’ To those who think with their heads instead of their knees (the infamous kneejerk reaction). Those who look, reflect, enthuse, even despair — who approach this whole, complex, often crazed subject of religion and politics and the larger one of our existence on this earth not as something to be ‘solved,’ but as an ongoing question.
Accidental theologists unite! — we have nothing to lose but the false consolation of consensus.