Sergei Bulgakov on Pens and Supernovas

A youngish not-priest Bulgakov
A youngish not-priest Bulgakov

The other night, my wife happened to dig up an old notebook. I flipped through its pages and happened upon this quotation from Sergei Bulgakov:

My moving my pen on a piece of paper, thus redistributing the atoms of ink, paper, the steel of the pen, and so on, is in principle just such a cosmic event as astronomical or geological catastrophes, though perhaps of lesser force (and even this is not certain, for we cannot measure these two events against each other).

Those words come from the third chapter of his first major foray into sophiology, Philosophy of Economy, and they remind me of what I like about Bulgakov. Briefly…

  1. We are dynamic beings. I have read that the human body remakes itself twice over the average lifetime. We tend to think of ourselves as static entities, but the truth is that we are constantly changing. From one moment to the next, we are never the same.
  2. We are interconnected. Our dynamism is not individualistic. Like the molecules that comprise the air in this room, we are constantly bumping into each other, for good or for ill. In a way, one could say we are permeable. Who I am becoming is shaped by so many things I cannot even hope to control (e.g. where I am born, the food I have access to, or the technologies available in my moment in time).
  3. We are powerful. Bulgakov seemed to intuit the butterfly effect before it became a “thing.” We must be mindful even of our smallest acts, because they can have repercussions beyond our intentions.
  4. God is powerful through us. Bulgakov rightly recognized that the universe is synergic. God does not impose the divine will upon history. Rather God works within history, through human beings, because this is what it means for God to be love. God is the one who exceeds and therefore humbles Godself.

Obviously, I am talking beyond this particular quotation. Like I said, it reminded me of what I love about Bulgakov. But that does not mean I am a sophiologist. It just means I do not have to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

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