I was introduced to the philosophical work of Jerome Miller a few years ago by my good friend Nicole Long. She studied with him in college and has been an emissary for his work ever since. I was signed up as a fan as soon as I stepped into his brilliant The Way of Suffering: A Geography of Crisis. For anyone who is doing deep interior landscaping in their lives, this is a terrific handbook for that journey.
This passage is from a subsequent book, In the Throe of Wonder: Intimations of the Sacred in a Post-Modern World:
To be fully rational requires surrendering unconditionally to the throe of wonder instead of clinging to the given; it means allowing oneself to be cast into the abyss of the unknown instead of trying to find a way to secure oneself from that vertiginous possibility. But if this is true, being rational has little in common with the drive to plan and control, the desire to manage and organize the effort to program and systematize, which have led, over the past four centuries, to the “rationalization” of human life in all its facets. Ordinarily, the attempt to “rationalize” human life is motivated by the hope of achieving precisely the kind of control over the unknown which we do not enjoy when we experience it as unknown and so are aware that it transcends us. It is true that to be rational in this managerial sense we are required to be inquirers, but such inquiry is limited to figuring out how to bring the unknown inside the parameters of the known, how to disarm its difference, how to remove its transcendent dimension so as to reduce it to something manageable. Every method which sets up knowledge as a goal to be achieved by means of its methodical procedures conceives of knowing, whether it knows it or not, as the process of gaining control over what is to be known. For in construing knowledge as a goal to be achieved, we make the search for it a practical project which we are to accomplish by making the object of our search yield to our grasp of it. Inquiry is thus transformed into a way of mastering the unknown. What makes the achievement of such mastery so attractive is precisely the fact that it promises to provide us a way to escape the inferior position in which wonder places us when it makes us aware of the unknown which transcends us.
Reading Jerry usually shifts something deep in my core. This passage spoke to my struggle to complete this most recent body of work. I read it as an invitation into another way of being with the process. And there is more, oh so much more from this wise man.
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