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Reading Notes 5.12.18

I like to listen to Jazz while I read. Today’s choice was Charlie Rouse — “Unsung Hero” [Full Album] 1961

Resource: Anarchy without Hyphens by Karl Hess


Hess on the essence of anarchism:

“There is only one kind of anarchist. Not two. Just one. An anarchist, the only kind, as defined by the long tradition and literature of the position itself, is a person in opposition to authority imposed through the hierarchical power of the state. The only expansion of this that seems to me to be reasonable is to say that an anarchist stands in opposition to any imposed authority. An anarchist is a voluntarist.”

The single seed from which anarchism sprouts:

“They spring from a single seed, no matter the flowering of their ideas. The seed is liberty. And that is all it is. It is not a socialist seed. It is not a capitalist seed. It is not a mystical seed. It is not a determinist seed. It is simply a statement. We can be free. After that it’s all choice and chance.”

On the non-normative nature of anarchism:

“Anarchism, liberty, does not tell you a thing about how free people will behave or what arrangements they will make. It simply says that people have the capacity to make arrangements. Anarchism is not normative. It does not say how to be free. It says only that freedom, liberty, can exist.”

How to distinguish an anarchist from a non-anarchist:

“A person who describes a world in which everyone must or should behave in a single way, marching to a single drummer, is simply not an anarchist. A person who says that they prefer this way, even wishing all would prefer that way, but who then says all must decide, may certainly be an anarchist. Probably is.”

Liberty is not a box:

“Liberty, finally, is not a box into which people are forced. Liberty is a space in which people may live. It does not tell you how they will live. It says, eternally, only that we can.”

Resource: The Traveler, the Tower, and the Worm by Alberto Manguel
Section covered: Chapter 1 (Pages 21-27)
Theme(s): Traveling through the text


One the reader’s unique experience of time:

“…vast territories of the imagination can be crossed in the space of one paragraph, and centuries can go by in a single sentence. They can be delayed in one place over dozens of pages, or they can spend a literate eternity in the course of just one volume.”

On reading as an alternate state of consciousness:

“The reading experience mirrors the fluctuating impression of being in this dreamlike world, of distance and proximity, of past, present, and future. Like the Lilliputian king who is aware of the passing of the clock’s hand marking the seconds, or like the souls in Dante’s Heaven for whom all space is one single point, readers experience in their reading the inklings of unreality of everyday life, the elasticity of time or the changing forms of space. Whether wandering through unreal cities or entering undiscovered countries, whether trying to reach the shores of Ithaca or lighting out for the Territory, whether discovering ice for the first time or being promised an ever-postponed excursion to the lighthouse, our routes are signposted and a guide (reliable or not) is always at hand, reminding us of the moments that lasted for days or years, and of the landscapes too small or too vast for comprehension.”

How reading concretizes the intuitive and intangible dimensions of our psychological journey:

“Reading allows us to experience our intuitions as facts, and to transform the moving through experience into a recognizable passage through the text.”

Resource: The Powers That Be: Theology for a New Millennium by Walter Wink
Section covered: Chapter 1 (Pages 31-36)
Theme(s): The Goodness, Badness, and Redeemable nature of the Powers


On the dual nature of the Powers:

“Are the Powers instrinsically evil? Or are some good? Or are they scattered all along the spectrum from good to evil? The answer seems to be: none of the above. Rather, they are at once good and evil, though to varying degrees, and they are capable of improvement. Put in stark simplicity” The Powers are good. The Powers are fallen. The Powers must be redeemed. These three statements must be held together, for each by itself is not only untrue but downright mischievous. We cannot affirm governments or universities or business as good unless at the same time we recognize that they are fallen. We cannot face their oppressiveness unless we remember that they are also part of God’s good creation. And reflection on their creation and fall will seem to legitimate these Powers and blast any hope for change unless we assert, at the same time, that these Powers can and must be redeemed. But focus on their redemption will lead to utopian disillusionment unless we recognize that their transformation takes place within the limits of the fall.”

Fallen powers can be redeemed:

“….what fell in time can be redeemed in time.”

“We are alienated from God, each other, nature, and our own souls, and cannot find the way back by ourselves. But the situation is not without hope, for what sinks can be made to rise again.”

“Temporally: the Powers were created, they are fallen, and they shall be redeemed. This can be asserted as belief in the final triumph of god over the forces of evil. But this schema is also simultaneous: God at one and the same time upholds a given political or economic system, since some such system is required to support human life; and presses for its transformation into a more humane order. Conservatives stress the first, revolutionaries the second, reformers the third. The Christian is expected to hold together all three.”

“…no matter how greedy or idolatrous an institution becomes, it cannot escape the encompassing care and judgment of the One in and through and for whom it was created.”

“The Powers are inextricably locked into God’s system, whose human face is revealed by Jesus. They are answerable to God. And that means that every subsystem in the world is, in principle, redeemable. Nothing is outside the redemptive care and transforming love of God.”

“By acknowledging that the Powers are good, bad, and salvageable—all at once—we are freed from the temptation to demonize those who do evil. We can live our enemies or nation or church or school, not blindly, but critically, calling them back time and again to their own highest self-professed ideals and identities. We can challenge institutions to live up to the vocation that is theirs from the moment they were created. We can oppose their actions while honoring their necessity.”

On the institutional nature of redemption

“The task of redemption is not restricted to changing individuals, then, but also to changing their fallen institutions.”

“The gospel, then, is not a message about the salvation of individuals from the world, but news about a world transfigured, right down to its basic structures.”


The Powers are divine in origin, fallen in time, and redeemable in principle.

Salvation is not merely an individual phenomenon, but an institutional one as well.

When an institution strays from it’s divine purpose of serving the world, it is in a fallen state. When that institution recovers and fulfills its purpose, it is said to have been redeemed.

God does not endorse all institutions, but He is still capable of working through them.

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