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Monday, May 27, 2024
The Observer

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Boston College professor discusses new book on creation

Tuesday night in Stapleton Lounge, the center for the study of spirituality hosted author and Boston College theology professor Brian Robinette for the second installment of the Ex Libris Visiting Author Lecture Series. Robinette discussed his latest book, “The Difference Nothing Makes: Creation, Christ, Contemplation,” which was published last year by Notre Dame Press.

Robinette began his discussion of his book by saying he wanted to flesh out some key ideas.

“I would like to speak from the inside of the book, from its beating heart. Its existential guts,” he said. “There are two lines of questioning that animate this book and these lines of questioning have haunted me my entire adult life.”

Robinette’s questions were about creation.

“The first question seems straightforward until you really ask it. Why is there anything at all rather than nothing?” he asked. Robinette continued to pose versions of this question, such as “why does anything exist” and “why is this all just here?” 

He said these questions transcend our perception of reality.

“Our minds reach out for some kind of answer but are left in suspense and wonder. A primal sense of wow arises within us as though opening our eyes and seeing everything fresh,” he said. “But admittedly, we don’t normally perceive reality with this degree of freshness. We grow accustomed to things and our eyes dim. We need to be practical and move on with our lives.”

Robinette argued that we don’t address these questions enough.

“And bit by bit, we’ve forgotten how to wonder, how to be surprised, how to be human. Now, I take it that one of theology’s basic tasks is to awaken our sense of wonderment and assist us in unclogging our course of spiritual perception,” he said.

Robinette’s second question was about the origin of human dysfunction.

“Notice that this question is more sharply focused than the broader question ‘why is there evil and suffering in the world?’ I’m interested in those questions too, but they don’t hold my attention the way human conflict does,” he said. “I want to know why we harm one another. Where does rivalry come from? Why, if creaturely life is so precarious and precious, do we fight one another? Why do we make life hard one each other and ourselves? And how may we become free from these impediments?”

Robinette said that the big questions do not have easy answers. He said formulating the questions was hard enough that there was no way he could produce a succinct answer in his brief talk. However, a large part of the book is dedicated to exploring the question of human dysfunction.

Junior Tess Hayes came away from the speech with ideas on how to further engage with contemplation.

“I came because the title of the book “The Difference Nothing Makes: Creation, Christ, Contemplation” caught my attention,” she said. “The talk was great, I really liked the conversation about contemplation, like how important is is to live a mindful life. And also applying that to our own personal lives. I think that’s really important and valuable.”