I finished Deuteronomy. It was hard work, not so much the reading of it as the holding back of judgment. The best (maybe the only way to truly read and understand something is to suspend judgment. It’s easy to have all kinds of opinions, but finally it’s mostly irrelevant, and it’s certainly the lazy way out. Cultural and political opinion lenses make it so easy, but every time we use them the agendas that made them sink deeper into our minds, inviting us to forget who we are.
Looking steadily at a hard thing without releasing into opinion could certainly be seen as morally ambiguous. How could you witness such-and-such without having an opinion?
The interesting backside of the question is, “How can you have had the moral opinion you did, and still have behaved as you did?” I’m not sure that having moral opinions affects our behaviour all that much. “I have done those things I ought not to have done, and have left undone those things I ought to have done, and there is no health in me.”
I think a case could be made for moral judgment being the ongoing gabble of our culture, incorporated, even sometimes somaticized, but always and only a social construct, not a place from which to understand or act.
It’s scary for sure. If we can’t act out of our ‘moral compass’ then we have to hand it over, as we have to hand over all of our transactions. “Not I, but You in me.” “To be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice,” And so on.
The night I finished reading Deuteronomy I dreamed I was in a warren of streets, tiny, interconnected, kind of like a hutong, those mazy Chinese tangles of alley, houses, markets, all woven together into an Escheresque anthill. It was interesting, some of it seemed familiar, but there was no way out of it. I came upon a tiny shop, open at the front, as shops are in warm countries. It was tiny, maybe six or seven feet wide, about the same in depth, with a very low ceiling, but I knew that there was a back door to it that would take me out of the warren I was lost in. I asked the owner, a Middle Eastern man, if I might pass through. He politely agreed, and let me into the house. It was a Middle Eastern home, small, spare, beautiful. A small courtyard floored with white gravel, some desert plants growing from the gravel in a garden-like way. I understood that good manners required me to take off my shoes. I delayed a little, then understood the disrespect of doing so. I took them off and apologized, at which point I met his wife. She was old-style, secluded, and while her face was not covered she kept her eyes lowered. Except for one very short moment when she looked me in the eye. She was stunningly, alarmingly beautiful, and her eyes were expressive of great power. Then she looked down again, and the host led me to the door, and out into the open road.
I think that was a dream of Deuteronomy.