Planning Is a New Variety of the Sin of Pride

Jean-Luc Marion wrote, at the opening of his book God without Being, “One must admit that theology, of all writing, certainly causes the greatest pleasure.”

Today, at the remarkable online journal Triple Canopy, I’ve got an essay that’s about the closest thing I’ve so far come to writing theology. It’s called “Divine Wilderness.” It is a project, actually, that I’ve been working on for some years now—originally when I was 19 years old studying computer science, then in a very confusing essay I wrote two years later, and, most recently, with a talk I gave at the Bushwick Reading Series. Thanks to the guys at Triple Canopy, the essay—as well as the accompanying images and computer code—are finally in a form that approaches comprehensibility. I hope.

They situate it in an issue called “Urbanisms: Master Plans,” putting the theological abstractions of my piece squarely in the context of architecture and urban design. It really is a wonderful thing to do to abstraction—to thrust it onto the ground, to put it among things and ask, “What have you to say to one another?” So the reflection is theological, but its consequence is intended to be of the world. I very much recommend reading it in the context of the issue as a whole, which is being slowly published a piece or two at a time.

I’ll leave you with the passage that inspired the whole project, which I discovered hidden away in David Cayley’s 1992 book Ivan Illich in Conversation. The characters are Illich and Jacques Maritain, the neo-Thomist French existentialist philosopher.

In a 1988 interview, the priest-turned-radical Ivan Illich recalls a 1957 encounter with Maritain. Illich wondered why there was no reference “to the concept of planning” in his work.

[Maritain] asked me if this was an English word for “accounting,” and I told him no… if it was for “engineering,” and I said no… and then at a certain moment he said to me, “Ah! Je comprends, mon cher ami, maintenant je comprends. Now I finally understand. C’est une nouvelle espèce du péché de présomption. Planning is a new variety of the sin of pride.”

Find out what he means at Triple Canopy.

Nathan Schneider is an editor of Killing the Buddha and writes about religion, reason, and violence for a variety of publications. He is also a founding editor of Waging Nonviolence. His first two books, published by University of California Press in 2013, are God in Proof: The Story of a Search from the Ancients to the Internet and Thank You, Anarchy: Notes from the Occupy Apocalypse. Visit his website at The Row Boat.