Some Love from Begbie: Ordered Openness

Arts and TheologyJust finished Jeremy Begbie’s Resounding Truth today. There have been many things going through my head, but this is one that has the most practical impact for me right now. On pages 198 and following, Begbie writes on the order of creation and the openness of creation. He hits on these two main subjects a few times in this book and a few of his other books: freedom exists within constraints and change does not always necessitate disorder.

On the topic of freedom and constraints, he quotes Stravinsky on page 249:

I experience a sort of terror when, at the moment of setting to work and finding myself before the infinitude of possibilities that present themselves, I have the feeling that everything is permissible to me. If everything is permissible to me…every undertaking becomes futile…I shall overcome my terror and shall be reassured by the thought that I have the seven notes of the scale and its chromatic intervals at my disposal…strong and weak accents are within my reach, and…in all these I possess solid and concrete elements which offer me a field of experience just as vast as the upsetting and dizzying infinitude that had just frightened me…What delivers me from the anguish into which an unrestricted freedom plunges me is the fact that I am always able to turn immediately to the concrete things that are here in question…Whatever constantly gives way to pressure, constantly renders movement impossible…Whatever diminishes constraint, diminishes strength.

This idea of freedom working within constraint is the subject of another post regarding jazz.

The second idea of change not necessitating chaos can easily be heard in Bach’s violin partitas. There is a sense of improvisation here (Bach was an incredible improviser), but there is the unmistakable feeling of order. Order within improvisation. For the believer, this is a great comfort. God, who made order out of disorder in Genesis, is in control of all things, even change. And change need not be automatically characterized as disorder. This gives meaning for our lives- lives of suffering and pain- these things have meaning and purpose in the grand scheme of things, they are not God’s mistakes or evidences of his lack of control. Through Bach’s works, we can see that change or variation or rearrangement can be ordered and have teleological meaning as well as existential and situational meaning.

Both of these truths give great comfort to the believer, and allow us to hear these truths in our time.

One thought on “Some Love from Begbie: Ordered Openness

  1. Pingback: greg willson » Blog Archive » More on freedom

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *