18 December 2010

Desert and legend as explanations

"Legendary explanations of history always served as belated corrections of facts and real events, which were needed precisely because history itself would hold man responsible for deeds he had not done and for consequences he had not foreseen. The truth of the ancient legends – what gives them their fascinating actuality many centuries after the cities and empires and peoples they served have crumbled to dust – was nothing but the form in which past events were made to fit the human condition in general and political aspirations in particular. Only in the frankly invented tale about events did man consent to assume his responsibility for them, and to consider past events his past. Legends made him master of what he had not done, and capable of dealing with what he could not undo. In this sense, legends are not only among the first memories of mankind, but actually the true beginning of human history." (The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, 1994; page 208). 
The covenantal partnership is ultimately about joint responsibility for what man and God do and do not deserve. Explanations for what happens depend on desert so that people can make sense of them. When desert cannot help explain the whole story legend moves in to smoothe out the rough edges and to allow for the divine ruler to enter into the course of events and take His part for the deserving of some outcome. 

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