Something that one learns quickly in a first year philosophy class is the need to suspend this attitude of agreement and disagreement so that we might enter into the world of the philosopher we are reading and let their vision impact our own.
While reading a thinker the question, “where do I agree or disagree with them,” effectively domesticates them and acts as a defense against the possibility of their work actually vacillating our existing paradigm. By vacillating our existing paradigm I mean the experience where one remains within ones intellectual frame, while experiencing it as a frame.
This is a vital experience in the critical process for we need to be exposed to other thinking in order to gain a vantage point over our own way of seeing the world; all the while avoiding the fantasy of being able to step outside of it.
But those of us who do think ethics play a role in coffee will agree with Vandana Shiva, a leading Indian ecofeminist who argues that “drinking coffee is a political act” and Rigoberta Menchu, Nobel Laureate from Guatemala, who says, “Coffee is more than just a drink. It is about politics, survival, the Earth, and the lives of indigenous peoples.” It would be hard to find a more value-laden commodity than coffee.
In contrast to the usual understanding of the “Good News” as a message offering satisfaction and certainty, Peter will be offering a radical and destabilizing alternative, arguing that it actually invites us to embrace the idea that we can’t be whole, that life is difficult, and that we don’t know the secret. Decrying the popular view of God as a type of product that will render us complete, remove our suffering and reveal the answers, he will offer the blueprint for an incendiary faith that courageously embraces brokenness, resolutely faces up to unknowing and joyfully accepts the difficulties of existence.
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Coffee makes people think. We can only guess at the philosophical discussions, debates, disputes, and dialogues that have taken place over coffee in its history. Coffee has historically been a beverage that sparks the exercise of intellectual energy, often of the more radical variety, resulting in verbosity, and on occasion leading to heresy and sedition.
The very notion of a messiah, or messianic presence, insinuates that there is nothing we can gauge from present history to ascertain how God is going to manifest himself in the future. Deconstruction and messianicity are bound up closely with each other, inasmuch as the deconstitution of the sign brings about a total openness to how God can reveal himself, or does reveal himself, in a concrete setting. The Christmas story-God having been born in a stable-is a complete deconstruction of all the texts of messianicity that had preceded it.
Notes from my Philosophy II class with Dr. Carl Raschke:
Abraham, in his obedience and willingness to sacrifice Isaac, like Bonhoeffer, made a decision for faith by virtue of the absurd. This is what Kierkegaard calls a ‘religious faith’. Instead, a lot of people mistake the ethical for the life of faith.
The following excerpt is from Sören Kierkegaard’s, Fear and Trembling. Kierkegaard adds commentary offering a unique spin on the Biblical story of Abraham’s journey to sacrifice Isaac. It is so worth reading:
“And God tempted Abraham and said unto him, Take Isaac, Mine only son, whom thou loves, and get thee into the land of Moriah, and offer him there for a burnt offering upon the mountain which I will show thee.”
It was early in the morning, Abraham arose betimes, he had the asses saddled, left his tent, and Isaac with him, but Sarah looked out of the window after them until they had passed down the valley and she could see them no more. They rode in silence for three days. On the morning of the fourth day Abraham said never a word, but he lifted up his eyes and saw Mount Moriah afar off. He left the young men behind and went on alone with Isaac beside him up to the mountain. But Abraham said to himself, “I will not conceal from Isaac whither the course leads him.” He stood still, he laid his hand upon the head of Isaac in benediction, and Isaac bowed to receive the blessing. And Abraham’s face was fatherliness, his look was mild, his speech encouraging. But Isaac was unable to understand him, his soul could not be exalted; he embraced Abraham’s knees, he fell at his feet imploringly, he begged for his young life, for the fair hope of his future, he called to mind the joy in Abraham’s house, he called to mind the sorrow and loneliness. Then Abraham lifted up the boy, he walked with him by his side, and his talk was full of comfort and exhortation. But Isaac could not understand him. He climbed Mount Moriah, but Isaac understood him not. Then for an instant he turned away from him, and when Isaac again saw Abraham’s face it was changed, his glance was wild, his form was horror. He seized Isaac by the throat, threw him to the ground, and said, “Stupid you, dost thou then suppose that I am thy father? I am an idolater. Dost thou suppose that this is God’s bidding? No, it is my desire.” Then Isaac trembled and cried out in his terror, “O God in heaven, have compassion upon me. God of Abraham, have compassion upon me. If I have no father upon earth, be Thou my father!” But Abraham in a low voice said to himself, “O Lord in heaven, I thank Thee. After all it is better for him to believe that I am a monster, rather than that he should lose faith in Thee.”
When the child must be weaned, the mother blackens her breast, it would indeed be a shame that the breast should look delicious when the child must not have it. So the child believes that the breast has changed, but the mother is the same, her glance is as loving and tender as ever. Happy is the person who had no need of more dreadful expedients for weaning the child!