the sublime hootenanny

God does not demand that we give up our personal dignity, that we throw in our lot with random people, that we lose ourselves and turn from all that is not him. God needs nothing, asks nothing, and demands nothing, like the stars. It is a life with God which demands these things.

Experience has taught the race that if knowledge of God is the end, then these habits of life are not the means but the condition in which the means operates. You do not have to do these things; not at all. God does not, I regret to report, give a hoot. You do not have to do these things—unless you want to know God. They work on you, not on him.

Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk

God does indeed give a hoot.

But it is perhaps hard for us to imagine. We struggle to picture detachment and dedication in the same breath.

I think it’s hard for us to imagine God giving hoot after hoot after hoot— giving endless hoots— constantly extending hoots into the void of the universe, for no other reason than giving a hoot about something and nothing and everything is the lifeblood of the cosmos. It is the DNA of God.

To give hoots freely is divine, but is it possible for a human? Is it easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle?

The shadow side of expectation is disappointment, her daughter: resentment. To give a hoot often ends in giving someone hell. But is devotion free of demand possible? What is love without requirement? To err and tally up the erring is human.

But—to forgive—what is that?

In God, there is no darkness at all. The shadowed underbellies of human love evaporate in his sunlight. God’s love has no shadow side, his jealousy is not possession, his gifts have no price tag attached. We spend too much time picturing God disappointed, and so we ourselves are often judging where others fall short. I wonder if God is ever disappointed. I think he is not, even when he grieves, even in his wounds.

God is not a God of dissatisfaction but delight.

God loves —and loves endlessly; cares — and cares completely. God never ceases in his hope that the humans he gives an endless stream of hoots for return back to him one infinitesimal whisper of the love he showers upon us.

But that hope has no steel in it. God’s hope is Peguy’s gentle mother, not an iron lady of calculation. God’s hope in our love is rich, abundant and delighted with any attempts at reciprocation offered.

Unlike stars, God sees us. Unlike stars, God is already among us. Unlike stars, God yearns for us. And while we were still sinners, gave a hoot about us.

What will it cost us, I wonder, to love like God?

Perhaps everything.

That is what it costs him.

But without love that does not count the cost—that is unafraid to lose its self—there is no life. There is no universe, or human beings, or cross.

And what does it profit a man to save himself in a void?

You do not have to sit outside in the dark. If, however you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary. But the stars neither require or demand it.

Annie Dillard

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