Monday, November 3, 2014

Circumstance as sign and opportunity

We often view circumstances in a fatalistic way. Circumstances "happen." The famous bumper sticker comes to mind. Circumstances are interpreted as beyond our control, or otherwise they are placed in an evaluative framework of what is in our control and not.

Maybe it is not so. Maybe circumstances are very deliberate processes, deliberate but not deterministic. Maybe circumstances are the expressions of conscious processes, meeting, connecting, bouncing off of and bumping into each other.

If we take it as true that all things are governed by God's Providence, then a thread of intelligibility, of love, of wisdom, runs through all things. All things have a conscious direction even if asymmetrical. Perhaps intelligibility doesn't equate with symmetry and balance, but perhaps reality as intelligible is intelligible precisely as a mixture of symmetry and asymmetry, of order and chaos, of articulate and ineffable.

Maybe, then, circumstances even those circumstances that are not apparently caused by human consciousness are nevertheless not things we can try to control or fall under the control of but rather the sort of possible encounter that reality proposes to us here and now.

I am sick. In the common view of circumstance, my sickness is not under my control, but I do everything I can to alleviate it. I complain of its grasp on my life, my livelihood. Perhaps sickness is something else; perhaps it is a link in a chain of possibility, connection both to God, to myself, to others, to the underlying intelligibility of the universe, an opportunity for transcending myself here and now.

I am late. Therefore I try to speed to work. Maybe there is something else going on here; maybe the circumstance is a symptom, a sign.

If circumstances are signs instead of chance events, then I can dialogue with circumstance and draw it up into a greater conversation, the conversation of my life.

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