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Errantry: Novak's Journal
...Words to cast/My feelings into sculpted thoughts/To make some wisdom last
Theological Notebook: Figuring Out Something About A Taxonomy of Charisms 
1st-Oct-2009 11:38 am
Bernini/Teresa of Avila
I made a discovery last night while working on the dissertation over at Starbucks. In the history of discoveries, it's not much – it's virtually nothing, but nevertheless it was still kind of exciting for me. Working on a text from the Second Vatican Council dealing with a particular idea of a charism (a spiritual gift from God), I was lead back a century and had to read through a parallel text from the First Vatican Council in 1870. Comparing the two documents helped me see something distinct about this particular charism, and then it was just as though something slid into place in my mind.

Basically, I had a taxonomical insight: like a biologist working on different species of animals, I've started to be able to see relations and levels that I don't think anyone's identified before. You can look at animals and just see lots of different species. And that's perfectly fine. In the same way, you can look at all sorts of natural and spiritual gifts and just see charisms or gifts. Or you can look at animals and see domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species: the different biological levels of classification. I'm starting to understand more of what seems to be a logical taxonomy of charisms. Sullivan had made a few important insights in this direction, and last night, the logic of another level came clear for me. I ran a couple of logic tests on it, and it seemed to hold up well as I wrote up the definition in the section I was writing. I'm not going to go into more detail here, because I realized that I'm putting together enough of a set of ideas here that I think this could develop into a "side" article for publication from my dissertation research.

But is just One Of Those Things: the sweet experience of an insight you weren't at all expecting just showing up in front of you, like what I call a "Mozart Experience" in songwriting, when a song just shows up, unannounced, and the whole thing – lyrics, melody, chords – just pours out of you, complete, in a matter of minutes. "Simple Things," "Begin To Be," "My Mom," "I Met You When You Just Got Going (Uh-Huh)," and "This Romance" were all like that. It's a treat to have had an analogous theological experience, too.
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