I’ve been practicing a kind of theological minimalism for a long time now.
This impulse toward minimalism is itself religious. And it’s aesthetic.
It doesn’t have to do with whether particular things are true or false (though, rest assured, such judgments must also be made), it has to do with the feel (literally, the aesthesis) of Mormonism as it’s lived.
What shape does Mormonism take when I live it? What shape does it take when it’s lived in the body of a married, well-fed, middle-aged, over-educated, white, American, twenty-first century male? A community college philosophy professor? An avid reader of high-brow fiction? A lover of college basketball? A student of contemplative practices? A father of three? A runner? A suburban mortgage holder?
Can the shape it takes be beautiful? Can it, at least, not be ugly? Can it be Mormon?
These are aesthetic questions. And, as I said, for a long time now my impulse has been toward a kind of practiced minimalism.
(Such minimalism isn’t for everyone. This is not the one true aesthetic. That’s fine. Why pretend it would be? We don’t need a church stocked with white, middle-aged, hyper-literate, under-skilled men with shaved heads! Angels and ministers of grace defend us! I’d run screaming from the building!)
Still (and maybe I’m kidding myself), it feels quite explicitly like our Mormon God has himself urged me toward this kind of theological asceticism, toward dispossession, toward parsimony, toward modesty, toward the faithful adoption of a theological poverty.
How much can I do without? How many ideas can I give back to God? How far can things be pared down? How bare of belief?
How sharply honed can thinking get before it becomes thoughtless?
How naked can a religious life be and still be religious? Still Mormon?
Like a desert father, I’ve been fasting (and praying and fasting) for years—but I haven’t been fasting with food.
My thin ribs attest a Mormon minimalism.
Some elements are occluded by such experiments in minimalism. This is true. But some rush to the fore with stark concretion.
A black square is all that’s left?!
But so black! So square!
What can you see? You’ll never see everything at once.
Just keep coming back.
And trust what others say they also see.