conversation is an engine

A lot can happen in a conversation

Decentered. As in “not the crux of all things.”

with 6 comments

A place for everything and everything in its place

I’ve put a recurring early-morning block on my calendar titled “Decenter.” The block or early morning quiet and focus has actually been on my calendar for decades, but I’ve recently retitled it based on a cue from Merold Westphal, a philosopher who teaches at Fordham University.

Westphal, writing in The Phenomenology of Prayer (NY: Fordham University Press, 2005), introduces prayer as a “decentering” activity. As a conversation, prayer takes me out of the center of my universe. Like the prayers of the old poet-king or the prayers of the inveterate letter-writer, these are conversations that recognize some other as the center of everything. Those two saw God as the center—I’m with them on that.

There is mystery beyond our convenient placeholders.

There is mystery beyond our convenient placeholders.

Of course, “de-centering” is not the way we could describe many of the prayers we pray. We send up endless lists to some imagined order-taking god, with caveats about when (“Now works for me. How about now?”) and where and how. And especially how much. But listen to Westphal:

…prayer is a deep, quite possibly the deepest decentering of the self, deep enough to begin dismantling or, if you like, deconstructing that burning preoccupation with myself. (Prayer as the Posture of the Decentered Self, 18)

Again and again I find myself at the center of all existence. Maybe you do too. We’re sorta set up for that, given eyes and ears that operate from a central pivot, constantly swiveling about to take in all we possibly can.

It seems natural enough to think everything revolves around us.

The truth is we need help to back away from this “burning preoccupation.”

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Dumb sketch: Kirk Livingston

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6 Responses

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  1. Reblogged this on Dumb Sketch Daily and commented:

    Yesterday’s drawing told me this story.

    kirkistan

    May 15, 2015 at 11:29 am

  2. Praying for others is a good way to do that. I like your exercise.

    createarteveryday

    May 15, 2015 at 6:57 pm

  3. wise words well said

    weisserwatercolours

    May 17, 2015 at 9:15 am

  4. I like the way you bring the ordinary into the extraordinary. If we can step outside ourselves, it’s all magic.

    memadtwo

    May 26, 2015 at 5:38 am


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