>Where does your hand go when you make a fist?




Question is it hand=fist, lump of bronze=statue? Or is it hand !=fist, bronze !=statue?

1) If you say hand=fist you are wrong because: “If you say that the fist = the hand, then when you make a fist nothing new comes into existence, and when the potter makes a pot out of clay, nothing new comes into existence.  And when a mason makes a wall out of stones, nothing new comes into existence.  He started with some stones and he ended with some stones.  Given that the stones exist, and that the mason’s work did not cause anything new to come into existence, must we not say that the single composite entity, the wall, does not exist?  (For if it did exist, then there would be an existent in addition to the stones.)  

But it sounds crazy to say that the wall the mason has just finished constructing does not exist.”

2) If you say hand != fist you are wrong because: “If, on the other hand, you say that the fist is not identical to the hand, then you can say that the making of a fist causes a new thing to come into existence, the fist. The same applies with the statue and the wall.  After the mason stacks n stones into a wall, he has as a result of his efforts n +1 objects, the original n stones and the wall. But this is also counterintuitive.  Consider the potter at his wheel.  As the lump of clay spins, the potter shapes the lump into a series of many (continuum-many?) intermediate shapes before he stops with one that satisfies him.  Thus we have a series of objects (proto-pots) each of which is a concrete individual numerically distinct from the clay yet (i) spatially coincident with it, and (ii) sharing with it every momentary property.”

Where does your hand go when you make a fist? You get a handful of fist? Or is it a fistful of hand? This kind of thing can be frustrating for some, but for me these questions are delightful. They work on at least two levels – one is a level of language and propositions, then other is the level of phenomenon and perception. As someone who engages the world predominantly through the intellect and others primarily through argument (the good kind, the kind that seeks the truth, not the shouting-until-I-am-hoarse kind) the first level of this puzzle helps me to remember the limits of communication and thought. But also its importance.

It does matter – at some level – whether there is a “hand”, a “fist”, or neither, or both! See in the beginning was the word, and that word was Light…or perhaps that word was “Make light”, or more imperative: “Light – be!”…at any rate there was a creation out of a Godly word. That very same Light at the beginning of Creation is shining in me: “For God, who said ‘Let there be light in the darkness’, has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor. 4:6)

The “very same Light” is shining in my heart. So: is it one light or two lights? How can the Light which started Creation be starting me, a new creation?

Here we bump into language, into the limits of intelligibility. Before I myself received the gracious enlightenment of the Spirit such wordplay was meaningless, but now I have come to see and know that there is no more apt or fitting description of the process. This words are inspired – in the sense that what they describe is fittingly, efficiently and correctly described. Further I have come to understand, to experience that that-which-is-described is protected and incorruptibly transmitted from generation to generation, from culture to culture by the Holy Spirit, who is at work even now in every person and committee which prayerfully seeks the Spirit’s guidance when translating Scripture.

I have frequently said that I believe in the inerrancy of Scripture the same way I believe in the inerrancy of a great poem: it could not be other than it is. But I have come to see this more broadly now. After all, a poem is perfect in its original language. Translation of a poem does it much harm and is inferior (no matter how good). Scripture is perfect in the prayerful reading, or receiving, of it. This means the words flooding a plowed and seeded heart lead to abundant fruitfulness.


About spaceloom

An urban monk, and an experienced spiritual director with a Masters in Psychology. Married with two children. Want to know me better? Read my thoughts.
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