Thursday, October 22, 2009

Texts and Interpretation

For French theorist Paul Ricoeur, sacred texts do real work on their interlocutors. Whereas in Heidegger, works of art disclose, Ricoeur takes a further step. Revelation performs, enacting new meaning in the very encounter between text and interpreter. The world of the text figures any reader who risks the seeming coherence and stability of her self-understanding in the process.

In the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, we read of a further hermeneutical approach:

ਭਾਂਡਾ ਭਾਉ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਤਿਤੁ ਢਾਲਿ ॥
ਘੜੀਐ ਸਬਦੁ ਸਚੀ ਟਕਸਾਲ ॥
In the crucible of love, melt the Nectar of the Name,
and mint the True Coin of the Shabad, the Word of God.
[SGGS 8.8-9]

As with Ricoeur, revelation does not derive from mere proposition, but from active production. Readers are responsible for minting meaning for themselves. And yet, this process of interpretative creation necessitates a distinct disposition: it bursts forth from love. In softening the self, readers unleash a torrid force that melts the abstract (i.e. God's formless Name) into the concrete, the incarnational, the intimately now.

God becomes accessible in the present and, in the spirit of Rilke's archaic torso, introduces novel ontologies that reorient readers by way of an expanded view of the world and a deeper sense of selfhood: 'Du mußt dein Leben ändern' [You must change your life].

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