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   "A word to the wise ain't necessary --  
          it's the stupid ones that need the advice."
					-Bill Cosby

Saturday, February 28, 2009


Marilynne Robinson interview

Here's a fascinating interview with Marilynne Robinson in The Paris Review.

Robinson comments on religion as a way of orienting oneself toward the world and describes culture as the "skeleton" of meaning:

INTERVIEWER
Ames [the narrator of Gilead] believes that one of the benefits of religion is “it helps you concentrate. It gives you a good basic sense of what is being asked of you and also what you might as well ignore.” Is this something that your faith and religious practice has done for you?

ROBINSON
Religion is a framing mechanism. It is a language of orientation that presents itself as a series of questions. It talks about the arc of life and the quality of experience in ways that I’ve found fruitful to think about. Religion has been profoundly effective in enlarging human imagination and expression. It’s only very recently that you couldn’t see how the high arts are intimately connected to religion.

INTERVIEWER
Is this frame of religion something we’ve lost?

ROBINSON
There was a time when people felt as if structure in most forms were a constraint and they attacked it, which in a culture is like an autoimmune problem: the organism is not allowing itself the conditions of its own existence. We’re cultural creatures and meaning doesn’t simply generate itself out of thin air; it’s sustained by a cultural framework. It’s like deciding how much more interesting it would be if you had no skeleton: you could just slide under the door.


And when was the last time you heard a critically-acclaimed contemporary author speaking favorably about John Calvin?

Robinson is a Christian whose faith is not easily reduced to generalities. Calvin’s thought has had a strong influence on her, and she depicts him in her essays as a misunderstood humanist, likening his “secularizing tendencies” to the “celebrations of the human one finds in Emerson and Whitman.”


Her book of essays is called The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought.

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