Sunday, June 6, 2010

Book Review, invitation to theological thinking

Paul Bloom's New York Times book review of Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons's The Invisible Gorilla And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us calls up several themes worthy of theological reflection.

Our capacity for paying attention is finite. If we're asked to pay attention to one thing, we may very well miss or ignore something else that is quite important. Part of the strategy of prayer is to focus attention on God. Arguably that could lead us to ignore earthly things that are more urgent--and perhaps in terms of demanding our action, more important. It also could be argued that reflecting on God enhances our sensibilities when it comes to other things.

Our memories are quite plastic and prone to distortions in our favor. In the so-called Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 7:1f) Jesus says:
"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, "Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.
If we pay attention to the flaws of another, our ability to perceive our own flaws is limited. By judging another, we become blind to ourselves.

Applying this insight is controversial and Matthew's structuring of the sayings does not make it any easier. The 'judge not' saying is followed by this 'judgment requiring' bumper sticker.
"Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.

**with thanks to Justin Hume for linking to Bloom's review on Facebook.

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