growth of an idea

Yesterday, we met for the weekly ‘No Small Talk’ pub lunch.  The topic was ‘what makes a good book for you’ — something easy to get us going again after the holidays.  My mental list read along the lines of:

  1. quality of writing
  2. quality of writing
  3. creativity
  4. quality of writing

But as I read last night, I realised I’d forgotten the one thing for which I will forgive a certain lack of verbal sparkle:  the ability of a book to generate and refine a thought stream.

It can be vague, of course:  half-thoughts that intrigue, but aren’t fully resolved.  And if the truth be told, I prefer the game when played not with written text, but in counterpoint with a good lecturer; but that is a more costly endeavour.  What I love is that moment when someone else’s idea leads you into something, a hunch, a glimmer — and then as you’re musing, and reading or listening to something which is their thought and not yours, they suddenly say something that gives you the next piece of the puzzle, that sets you off on a tangent again.

So, last night as I was reading Christopher Irvine’s The Art of God,  the thought stream went like this:

Picasso once said, ‘I don’t seek, I find’; the world is gratuitous, it is simply there, and there to be discovered and delighted in.’

interesting.  I would say I believe that.  It is an incarnational statement — the ability to God in our midst, to respond to what’s there, respectful of the other as other rather than as someone/ thing in relation to me.  But for all that it feels wrong.  I have a theology of incarnation, of givenness, but a seeker’s restlessness.  Not ‘as is’ but ‘becoming’ … more likely to seek than to find.  So how does that fit?

On and on it went, musing, pondering, following different themes and arguments being presented in the book, till 20 pages later, he said this:

The New Testament bears witness not only to the figure of Jesus Christ as the image of the invisible God, but also to how the Christian might grow into the likeness of Christ by being conformed to the pattern of Christ’s death and resurrection.

And there it is.  That’s why I spend half my days trying to offer the reassurance that God is already here, that we are already loved, that there is glory in our midst; and the other half trying to disturb the balance, to stir the cognitive dissonance needed for growth, to nudge people out of their comfort zone (and myself too) into the scary place where we are changed and changed again.

It’s not the best book ever — it feels a bit too much like a master’s thesis, covering old ground.   The writing is competent but not elegant.  It was stimulating without  being so captivating that my own lines of thought were overwhelmed; but sometimes ‘good enough’ is all you need.

[never what we hope for, but sometimes all we need]

One thought on “growth of an idea

  1. A sharing of such moments from our reading might be a good thing – and it’d be fun to do it “live” (in a suitable context) but given the time pressures on so many of us it’s perhaps something for Hermione …

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