countries of thought and substance

February 18, 2014

This is my afternoon:


Listening to this. Considering packing. Chatting with Frith on Facebook about the vague amorphous lines in the sand we’ve drawn- culturally and individually- around romantic and sexual attraction; how we decide when we Like like someone, and how exactly define it, and how those definitions, vague as they are, have shifted over the centuries. Narrowed, I think. I think we draw smaller circles than we used to, and it’s not a good thing. And yet.

I feel like we should have been handed user manuals at puberty. Humans and human feelings are so complex and layered and vague; a wash of bleeding watercolours that we try to draw lines of sense and meaning around so we can finally stare at it and say, oh, this is a flower! or aha, this is a bee! We like making sense of things, we like naming things, but maybe, sometimes, we shift ourselves and realise that the lines we drew before might need shifting too as we move around this bizarre watercolour sketch. As the watercolour, itself, changes.

I’m thinking about worldviews at the moment, and narratives; just vaguely, in haphazard graspings of the mind trying to grab clumsy fistfuls out of fog or water. I’m trying to pin down a topic for the mini-thesis I need to work on this year, as a kind of practice test for Masters; it’s not easy because they threw the gates wide on this one and said whatever you want, really. The only boundary is that it has to be applicable to applied theology and the bounds of research (and subtly, research that Other People Haven’t Done So Much Of Before which is the painiest of pains to consider). It’s tricky because I don’t really know the precise boundaries of applied theology, and I don’t know the boundaries of my interests. Which is to say, I have too many interests. I want to know everything; I don’t have solid, clearly plotted questions or coherent ideas, just vague areas of what if? and I want to know about! and why isn’t and why won’t and what does?

If my mini-thesis topic was a particular house I have to walk into and make myself at home inside, make a home of, a house I have to become familiar with right down to the nicks and tea-rings on the kitchen table and the pitched whine of the kettle and the smooth worn flagstones and the warm sunlight on the wall beside the vase of ornamental wheat, then right now I’ve found the continent it’s in.

It’s a continent I like, which is why I’m here; the countries and their suburbs and cities are ones I spend time in voluntarily anyway, live in often, have made temporary homes in before. Vast areas like worship and worldview and identity, districts and regions like media influence and practices and habits of discipleship. The knowledge of Godsexuality and singleness and gender roles; grief and loss and suffering and joythe place and role of emotions in the discipleship journey and how the constant barrage of secular stories affects our narrative understanding of reality without adequate counterbalance from stories grounded in the drama of Scripture.  Okay, that one might be more like a street. A street I’m very fond of. I spent the last little while in a house on a cul-de-sac off that street, living with the question of what made fiction ethical and unethical to read, which entailed some research into how fictional narrative affects our understanding of the world and thus how we behave in it.

I did enjoy it greatly. I have a pretty consistent fear of deciding on just one thing, however, of settling down with one idea, because what if it’s the wrong one and this other one might be better? Maybe I should hold off until I have more information to make this decision. Which is typical of my personality, apparently, at least according to Myers-Briggs.

I’m in the middle of flathunting at the moment, which may explain this metaphor; however it is, I like it. But I’m still no closer to narrowing down a subject. thoughts branch off into too many directions, like a tree that won’t stop growing, a thousand thousand permutations of a single idea and none of them quite right, because I don’t quite know what I’m looking for.

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