Yesterday I posted some reflections on Oliver O’Donovan’s assertion that something significant happens in one’s life when you “wake up” to the world. Whenever I think of waking up to the world around you, of finding yourself somewhere else or new, this scene comes to mind.
I wish the clip from the first episode of LOST was a little longer. Jack wakes up, unaware of his surroundings, hearing things, encountering a dog, getting up and running to a beach (past that one hanging shoe). Whatever world he is in now is completely different than the world before he lost consciousness. It’s a great illustration of what O’Donovan might be going for.
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After articulating the place that “waking up” plays in the language of the biblical story, O’Donovan asks a series of significant questions that lays out his approach to life in the world:
To what, then, must we wake? To what give our fullest attention?
He sees the answer given in the Bible in three parts. First, we wake up to “the truth of the world.” By this O’Donovan means a world (called “my world”) that is “bounded past and future by a world which was not and will not be mine, which did not and will not surround me, interact with me, condition and respond to me.” This is a reality that is “beyond myself” yet still somehow includes me.
Second, we wake up to a self of some kind. “The summons to wakefulness is therefore a summons to attend to my agency,” O’Donovan declares. But we wake up in a world that is already before and will later be after us, so “even when my first observations of the world were granted to me, knowledge of my self lagged behind them.” As such, we are always catching up.
Finally, we wake in time. “World and self are co-present only in the moment of time which is often to us for action.” Which sounds kind of existential and somewhat contingent, but I understand what O’Donovan is going for here (I think). “The opening of the present is to the future, but not equally to the whole of the future but to the future immediately before us, the next moment into which we may venture our living and acting, the moment which presents itself as a possibility.” And so we are pressed in on both sides by time, with the future as the only real opening and the present as our opportunity, however limited, to walk well into what is next.
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It feels a bit like knowing and naming the arena of your existence, these three assertions O’Donovan makes concerning our being awake and attentive. The knowing and naming are important, two things that require genuine humility and deep trust. But if we are awake, then we are somehow responsible. The question then is “where do we go (and what do we do) from here on out?”