A Reflection on a Talk by Tim McIntosh
Tim McIntosh recently visited New College Franklin and gave a collegium talk on the division of heart and mind in post-modernity. One of his central premises concerned the role of story in transformation, that is in the metanoia or change of mind which occurs in personal upheaval. As an example, he referred to Nathan’s confrontation of David where David’s moral indignation turns back upon him. “You are the man!” declares Nathan.
A few years ago, in a post called Logocentric Restoration, I touched on that story, but wanted to add some thoughts on the nature of story or logos in general. Why does story have such hidden power to ‘catch the king’ as Mr. McIntosh suggested?
The technique of enjambment might help explain this power of words.
Enjambment is when a sentence continues through the break of a line of verse. In other words, the meaning which one line intends continues into the next. This is significant because it effects not only the rhythm or meter of a poem, but the way in which the mind engages with its meaning in time.
If a reader has only considered the meaning of a sentence up to the line break, than there has been an act of understanding which is incomplete. The remainder of the sentence awaits. It may await the reader like a daisy on the end of its chain, but the reader may find at the end of that chain not a daisy, but a tiger!
The reader can only read in time and can only fully appreciate a poem or story or song as meaning which unfolds in time. This means that there are meanings which await their time and place. Yet, because the reader is engaged in interpretation from the very beginning, the poem not only unfolds itself to the reader, but has the potential of unmaking or remaking meanings which the reader in his partiality has constructed.
The temporal unfolding of a Logos which is greater than us, whose meaning we apprehend but in part, means that we remain ever open to its power. We stand upon our understanding of words, but because our understanding is incomplete, we don’t know precisely what it is upon which we stand, and whether it will remain still. This is because the logos is ever bigger and truer than us.
A man whose narrative has been that of successful provider may find that in the enjambment of living narrative, he is more truly an absent husband or father. The man whose narrative has been that of meaningless clerk, may find the ground suddenly shift and reveal that he has been the loving, faithful provider, whose sacrifices were more than appreciated.
In this sense stories, words, logos is like a hinge upon which turns the meaning of the world and our place in it. The Word is like a door within our soul, and its hinge is the cross, and on the cross is the Word of love, and it will crush us.
The Christian awaits with hope and terror those final turns which shall make all things new.