Rediscovering God’s Grand Story
In an interview with Studs Terkel in 1961, famous American atheist intellectual Gore Vidal made an insightful statement about all cultures in each generation.
You’re born into a society and you are shaped by it, whether you know it or not or whether you like it or not. Each of us is born into a prison, of received opinion of superstition and of prejudices. . . . Alfred Whitehead said something fascinating about this. He said, you know you can always determine the nature of any society by the things it does not write about itself. It takes them so much for granted they feel no need to state it. So by the omissions you can begin to determine what a culture is like. . . . The prison is going to break you eventually, but you can at least get a look out; and it is the look out that is art—seeing something that is elsewhere, an alternative to the life that you’re leading. So, to try to see the thing whole.
Everyone in each generation is “born into a prison, of received opinion of superstition and of prejudices.” This is just the way it is. None of us stands outside of our time in some neutral place. The question is, do we merely reflect our time or do we reflect on our time and on the prison into which we are born? This cannot be done without intentionality, and certainly not without the perspective of history. What is even harder is to see things whole. We must see things from “elsewhere,” be able to imagine an alternative to the life that we’re living. To try and get sense of our own prison, we must, as Whitehead suggests, consider what we don’t write about ourselves, what we don’t talk about. For it is in what we don’t write about and talk about that informs us of those things we just take for granted as settled matters, even if they are not.
In the modern world a dominant proclivity is to interpret the world and our lives analytically. “Analysis” means to pull apart, break things down. “Religion,” on the other hand means to “bind-together,” “religament,” to see things whole. This is what Lewis draws attention, when he shows how different everything appears when we look along the light instead of stare at the light.
Jim Roseman seeks to write about and observe our present moment, his present moment, by looking along the light. In hopes that by doing so we might see more than just the beam, and see things by the light.