Mar 122015

Picture by Fiona Halliday
Artist: Fiona Halliday

Some weeks later…

I am clearing out my stuff, I think I might need to move away and start again so I am clearing out my stuff, and there’s a box of my theology books from uni. I leaf through a Saul Tulloch that used to be important.

You do not know where you have come from, or where you are going. The state of your whole life is estrangement from others and yourself. Estrangement from the origin and aim of your life. Estrangement from the depth and the greatness, while drawing on – living on – the very power-source from which you are estranged.

…But you cannot escape the bindings. You are inextricably bound to your Self and to all other life. Separated and yet bound; estranged and yet belonging; not believing in life, in the life-force, yet being alive. It’s a sickness; one that you feel only death will end.

Yes, so I’m toying with that option, okay? You head-fucker.


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  11 responses to “Page 44”

  1. Saul Tulloch?

  2. A wild guess – Paul Tillich?

    • Yep (Ingrid), I think Tulloch sounds like some sort of clone of Paul Tillich (1886-1965) who was a metaphysical thinker in a Christian context. Famously Tillich moved beyond what he considered the “impossible” does-god-exist debates about whether God is an ‘eternal essence’ or an ‘existing being’. Tillich’s premises were that a) God is beyond the distinction between essence and existence, and b) anyway this debate is not couched in terms that sound relevant in contemporary society; it does not grapple directly and urgently with the most fundamental concern of the individual, the one that looms largest and over-rides all else: namely, our “radical doubt and despair about meaning in life”.

      I agree with him about our main concern being whether there is any meaning whatsoever to anything; whether being itself is random (“the benign indifference of the universe” as identified by the character Meursault in Camus’ ‘L’etranger’). Is not angst, German-style, the terminal disease of the modern human?

      Interestingly his wife Hannah’s memoir after his death besmirched Tillich’s name in the straight world by disclosing his sexual behaviour.

      Should we reject ideas when we find that they come from a person whose character or behaviour we dislike? Personally I do not find it off-putting to hear that a fellow-human has an intimate life (full of mess, mistakes, poor judgements, uncontrolled emotions – all in the quest for satisfaction) just like all of us.

      • My wild guess was Sean Tunnock, whose crisp insight works well with a creamy smoothness of argument, all encapsulated in a chocolate-like coating, and produced on a regular basis in a package with a classic six-part division.

        • Oh, the Incurable Existentialists: First came Kierkegaard, then Mr Big – Heidegger, then Sartre, then Tillich… They all had the individual taking centre stage to soliloquize. A spin-off from the Romantic Movement? Possibly…

          But I think that in the UK, God language – for me at least – became the focus for theology. We (notice the plural!) tend to think language is a shared thing needed to make sense of life, and theological language offers a way of doing that. Tillich, like other conservatives (Thatcher wasn’t the only one!), seemed to forget there are things like community and society…

          … So, Suki, even though an individual may become possessed by loss and grief, the language is still there. It’s patient; gives us time to come through.

          • [The existentialists] all had the individual taking centre stage to soliloquize – well that’s very Suki (“me me me”) – but also an emblem of our era, don’t you think?

            ‘All there is is me’.

            Are we each an island? Or is there such a thing as Society? The pilot who took all his passengers with him on his suicide kick was just about him. He felt no relationship with all those people sitting behind him. And ‘just him’ was self-evidently an empty place.

  3. The quote has quite a few words which gang up to give the feeling they are trying to describe. I think ‘Estrangement from the depth and the greatness’ is not clear (to me). But lots of lines can make a picture. Awful horribleness for Suki. The Oxfam shawl stays in my mind.

    • Thanks for your comment Janey. We have popped round and had a conversation through Suki’s letter box. She seems alright.

  4. Sometimes existential theologians, despite being full of raging passions that cut to the quick, despite themselves and their scalpel insights, are just desolate. Warmth, compassion, inadequate approaches shared by someone who genuinely loves and cares about you, and whose love you can accept, speak more to the aching, angry, wordless void. If I were there, I would simply and inadequately be present. There are no right words, there is no judging: just accepting love.

  5. You are not here.
    There is nobody here.

    • What? Nobody? Believe in fairies and you’re never alone: I raised some elementals and can’t rid of the beggers.