Thursday, May 20, 2010

"odd and pixeled"

I logged on to a live chat with New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik yesterday afternoon, discussing his piece in the new issue "What Did Jesus Do?" It's a smart review of the spate of new books on Jesus, including Bart Ehrman's Jesus, Interrupted. (Ehrman will be our department's first Lyceum Lecture guest early next year, stay tuned.)

Reminded me of the "biotech & ethics" Friday chats we did a couple years back: rapid-fire, a bit choppy, but fun and challenging and quickly over.

Here was my little exchange. (The excisions marked by [...] indicate moments when all those other unseen chatters rushed in to interrupt with their own agendas. You obviously couldn't do this in the flesh, it would be too much like a presidential press conference.)
[Comment From Osopher] 
Thanks for clarifying the end of the essay. But it still bothers me that you evoke a "mystery" surrounding this man, rightly credited by Jefferson with moments of moral sublimity but also documented by Bart Ehrman and others as having been almost uniformly misunderstood. So my question: what do you see as the unsolved mystery about Jesus of Nazareth?
Adam Gopnik: By "unsolved mystery" I meant only that there are aspects of the Jesus myth that are just never going to be susceptible to rational judgment, and that faith, as everyone says, remains a leap -- foolish or necessary -- but a leap past reason. [...]
[Comment From Osopher] 
So the mystery might be more about us: why do so many find reason so uncongenial?
Adam Gopnik: Because our lives are bounded by the certainty of death, I suppose, and what reason can give us seems, to some -- to so many -- unsatisfying. I'm with Darwin on this one -- enough in life to give anyone meaning, if we make it hard enough -- but I understand the opposite feeling. Much the best account of this, I think-- this double feeling --is in William James's "Varieties Of Religious Experience" [...]
[Comment From Osopher] 
Totally agree about Darwin and James. Thanks for the chat and for the review, I've got to go and pick up the kids now.
Adam Gopnik: Pleasure sharing views; even in this odd and pixeled forum.
And I do totally agree: many of us don't feel a need for Jesus to furnish our lives with meaning, though we admire his message-- which was not exclusively his, of course-- of hope and charity and love and forgiveness etc.  But like William James and Adam Gopnik I must also acknowledge the "double feeling" of so many others for whom sweet reason seems not to be enough.

It is indeed a pleasure sharing views. But I don't think I'll be joining your "mafia family" (an avatar-driven online game, I presume? ), Adam. Thanks for the invite, but I already feel a little guilty for the time I stole to join you online yesterday. But only a little.

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