Sunday, February 17, 2008

In the abyss

I was going to go out to the park today and take some pictures. There's a park I found on the internet that isn't too far from here and appears to have both a cave (although you need a permit to go spelunking) and a good view of the Mississippi River, and someday soon I swear I'm going to go and take pictures there. Not today, though, today the trees are whipping around and it's been raining off and on and the sky glowers like we should be expecting a thunderstorm. I suppose it would be possible to take pictures in those conditions, but it doesn't sound all that appealing. So instead of a nice photo post, here's a quote from the book I'm reading:

[Suffering] alienates me from my established moorings, blurring what was once clear discernment of the order of things. As the microcosm of the body crumbles in pain, so does the cosmos itself. The world that once made sense, that was once meaningfully whole, founded and guaranteed by a God who sits enthroned over chaos, suddenly crumbles under overwhelming torrents. Suffering is radically uncreative. It undoes the world.

Pain is an abyss. To be in pain is to be in the abyss. And indeed, when I am in it, even when I am with another who is in it, it is as though the abyss of suffering is overtaking the entire world. ... [T]he body in pain is an embodiment of chaos, a chaos monster, whose chaos spreads like poison from the individual body to the entire universe.

From Religion and Its Monsters, by Timothy K. Beal. The book is not on the atrocities committed in the name of religion, which is what I first thought when I saw the title on the shelf at the library; it's about the monstrous as portrayed in religious texts from the ancient Near East and also the religious as portrayed in monster stories, although I haven't read that far yet. The above passage is from the opening of a chapter on the book of Job, and the portrayal of Leviathan, Yam, and the sea monsters in that story. What I've read so far has been quite interesting.

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