Illiterati Lumen Fidei May 14, 2012Posted by Matt in music, spirituality.
Tags: god, I Can't Stand It, illiterati lumen fidei, Jesus Etc, Misunderstood, Open Mind, theism, Theologians, theology, Wilco
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Or, how Jeff Tweedy helped write my personal theology
This weekend I will be afforded to opportunity to again see one of my favorite bands, Wilco, live and in concert. So, to ready myself for the upcoming show, I’ve been inundating myself with music from across their career, from old and new favorites to rediscovering those songs that have slipped through the cracks in my mind over the years. As I did this, I began to realize the profound beauty of the words and music, and just how much of an influence a well-written song can have on an obsessive music fan like me. In many ways, the poetry of Jeff Tweedy and Wilco mirror my own belief system and the spiritual progression I have undergone for the past several years.
“No love’s as random as God’s love / I can’t stand it / I can’t stand it.” (“I Can’t Stand It,” Summerteeth)
One of the first casualties in my move away from a belief system centered in classic theism was the idea of Divine Providence. I simply could no longer believe in a God who arbitrarily inserted itself into the world at seemingly random points in history to do things as innocuous as winning football games and as violent and awful as winning wars. Accordingly, God is always on the side of the victors. After hearing the name of God invoked in so many circumstances, you either become numb to it or you reject it as being logically incoherent. The realization that life is more a series of random variables than a carefully cultivated divine plan is quite liberating.
“You know you’ve got a God-shaped hole / You’re bleeding out your heart full of soul / You’re so misunderstood.” (“Misunderstood,” Being There)
The move away from a belief in theism is a difficult one, one that is fraught with anger and rejection, and that is something I discovered a few years ago as I began to speak these ideas aloud (or online), facing the inevitable backlash from many who have been important in my life. It’s a disheartening experience to face exclusion and dismissal from others, to realize that entire relationships are contingent upon the acceptance of a few axioms of faith.
“Our love is all of God’s money. / Everyone is a burning sun.” (“Jesus, Etc.” Yankee Hotel Foxtrot)
So, what do we do with God if the Divine can no longer be looked upon to provide divine intervention? It seems as though we must look within, to search for those characteristics marking our own inherent divinity. There is perhaps nothing more God-like than the concept of love, that cosmic force that envelopes our being, that drives us beyond the realm of critical thinking and logic and into a radical concern for others that could ultimately cost us our own lives.
“Illiterati Lumen Fidei / God is with us every day / That illiterate light / Is with us every night” (“Theologians,” A Ghost is Born)
With God no longer being the classic, thunderbolt-hurling deity in the clouds, what is left?
Perhaps God is something bigger than that, something that we can’t know intellectually, something meant to be felt, to explored through different paths. Maybe God is ultimately indescribable and unknowable, but something to which we all have thoughts and inclinations. I like to think of God as the indwelling spirit of the universe, swirling about in the cosmos, bestowing life and love upon all its denizens. Is that the correct way to describe the Divine? Probably not, but it’s the explanation that works best for me at this time of my life, and that’s really the best we can do.
“Oh, I can only dream of the dreams we’d share / If you weren’t so defined. / I would love to be the one to open up your mind.” (“Open Mind,” The Whole Love)
Thanks for the great music, Jeff Tweedy and Wilco, and thanks for helping to open my mind. I’ll see you on Saturday.