Monday, August 17, 2009

How I Write about Theodicy

First, a joke. One time when I asked the class if anyone knew what "theodicy" is, someone said "Isn't that that book by that guy Homer?" Haha. Points for knowing Homer wrote The Odyssey, dude. Points off for confusing it with "theodicy." A little knowledge is so dangerous, or funny, depending on the circumstances.

So, anyway, I know I write about theodicy all the time. It's the question of how God (theo) can be just (dikaios) in the world as we have it now, full of pain, suffering, death, and injustice. It seems to me it's about the #1 set "given" of a zombie apocalypse, or any tale of mass destruction - why's God letting this happen? Why doesn't He care? What kind of God (to phrase it a little differently) would let such things happen? Is He a Cosmic Sadist and Bully? etc.

As I say, that's all a "given." Almost everybody's zombie tale has some of that in it. But then I saw that I'm developing a kind of standard "tag" at the end of a lot of chapters. It's always something about a character noticing something in the natural world - wind, waves heartbeat, etc. - that has a rhythm and reliability, but doesn't do or affect much beyond itself (except the calm it bestows on its observer).

So... what the hell's that got to do with theodicy? I'm a doctor, Jim, not a poet!

Yes, Bones, but that's sort of the point. There is something, I think, subtler and more mysterious about feeling, rather than seeing (or even worse, deducing) the rhythms of the universe as pleasing and soothing. In other words, the problem with theodicy is that it's too... blatant, too overt and open, too masculine and logical - "objective," as we like to say, and with the implication, I think, of objectifying - of making the universe something I'm separate from (and above) and can observe w/o really being a part of it (when I really am). "Explain this to me! NOW!" And the further problem then is that the "answer" to theodicy cannot be phrased as a logical proposition or argument - it's just a feeling, and that's both fortunate (since I don't think ultimately logical arguments are the best way to address our minds and soothe their pain) and unfortunate, because it's a difference of kind - you asked an objective, logical question and were given a subjective, aesthetic answer, and that's bound to be even more frustrating to you in your quest.

So, there you have it! Oh, and my theodicy question for today (really, for all this week) is why is it so frickin' hot? Why do you hate me so, oh Lord?!

UPDATE: My friends at Solid Rock Church Of God (the name of which always makes me snicker because, um, well, never mind) must know of my heat-theodicy problem! They always post "witty" sayings on their marquee. (For "witty" you may substitute "idiotic" or "tasteless" or "uplifting" depending on your outlook.) Today's was "No it's not hot as hell outside!"


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