The novelist and the theologian

I’m trying to live as Haruki Murakami writes: with questions but not an end in mind. 

Have you ever woken up and felt your world had become completely strange, almost foreign? I’m sure this is a disconcerting feeling for anyone. For those of us trained to study and think about particular slivers of the world, the vertigo is especially distressing. Even before the pandemic, the acceleration of seemingly endless news cycles of economic, ecological, and social fraying was hard to keep up with. For me, this acceleration was coupled with teaching theology, coming to class every day with hope and some sort of explanation—something that would suggest it could be different. But it never seemed to be.

I’ve been telling people that the last few years “broke my brain.” I just didn’t have an explanation. But it was more than that. I didn’t know what to pray for, so I stopped. I didn’t know how to make a sense of the fragile psychologies of Whiteness and patriarchy, or of why institutions would let themselves crumble rather than see the possibility of life with God for all of us.

To be perfectly honest, I stopped trying. I did my job. I believed what I was teaching, at least, but I wasn’t furiously pumping water out of the boat anymore. The waves were crashing, the water was rising. At some point I stopped bailing and just held my breath and wondered how long I’d be able to tread water.