To love is to bear with the chaos

In an earlier post I raised some provisional concerns over the direction Danial Barber’s work On Diaspora was heading (book event details now up).  Namely, I was concerned that what would be produced would have value for ‘strong subjectivities’ that would be able to do the work of decomposing sedimented discursive traditions, at mercy of the vulnerable who suffer under such forces.  I was concerned in terms of what could possibly be the therapeutic extensions of such a project (if any would indeed be relevant).  I am still not quite finished the work and so this is still provisional but I was struck by Barber’s use of Catherine Keller’s work in chaos in relationship to his development of diaspora.  I was struck if for nothing else than to read the line that titles this post.  Here is the excerpt.

The discursive tradition of Christianity is inconsistent from the beginning, and this is because the beginning it signifies is discontinuous: in the beginning was the discontinuity of chaos and God, of material divergence and creative consistency. Just as there is no need to choose between pure disruption and identitarian traditions, neither is there a need to choose between chaotic excessiveness and formal consistency. Keller considers an interpretation of creation that evades such mutual exclusivity, an interpretation “in which the chaos is neither nothing nor evil; in which to create is not to master the formless but to solicit its virtual forms.” It is precisely this approach that is implied in diaspora, which sees difference neither as something to be sublated in identity nor as something that remains the brute inverse of identity. Diasporic thought sees the chaos of the deep as that which decomposes identitarian forms and enables the re-composition—here the creative solicitation—of differential forms. Indeed, a diasporic account of Christian declaration, which emphasizes that enemy-love means beginning with the signification that exceeds recognition, discovers an ally in Keller’s “proposition for any tehomic ethic: to love is to bear with the chaos. Not to like it or to foster it but to recognize there the unformed future.”


One thought on “To love is to bear with the chaos

  1. This passage also struck me. I think the issue for me was with the connotations of the word/concept of chaos. Chaos in Keller is importantly “neither nothing nor evil.” In my reading of this text, the phrase “to bear with the chaos” resists the need to do-something (liberalism?) with difference. That is, diasporic existence is characterized by its capacity to be-with, to exist amidst difference with a posture of vulnerable receptivity to difference. This posture is neither passive nor dominant, but the resonant activity between difference(s), the composition of novel and differential relations. Think Rom Coles here on resonant receptivity.


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