Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Saying Hello After Two Days of Travel, with Gratitude for Your Comments

I'm here, friends, fellow sojourners. I very much appreciate all of your comments in the past two days, and am sorry I haven't yet said that or replied to any of them. Steve and I have been away from home since Sunday, as he pursues business in the northwest corner of our state and I tag along to see the fall leaves begin to change and visit the spectacular Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art again. 

Hence my slowness about writing anything here the past two days: as I grow older, I'm slower, and even a drive of three hours takes a certain toll on my energy and focus. I'll confess I'm also bone-tired of so many other things — above all, of having just been given yet another signal by the leaders of a powerful worldwide Christian church that my human life counts for absolutely nothing at all in the pastoral plan of its top pastoral leaders, while commentators who should know better and ought, one would think, to have more matural moral sensibility celebrate the pope's political "win" at the synod.

"Wins" that use fellow human beings as bargaining chips to gain a victory are loathsome wins from a moral standpoint, aren't they? As is the silence — and the celebration! — of people who claim to speak in moral voices as such "wins" occur.

So, tired. I'm tired of thinking about all of this, of writing about it. Of being used in this way. Of being told to vanish, to disappear, to stop asking to be treated with human decency. I'm tired of the deafening silence of those who live within this institution and might raise their voices to protest the denigration of fellow human beings in this ugly "pastoral" way.

Tired of waiting for what is nog going to happen.

Tired, and aging, and seeking some place, some condition, in which my husband and I can live with a modicum of peace and dignity in this last stage of our lives . . . . 

That sounds doleful, and I don't mean to be doleful. I just want to explain why I feel unable to write much of any significance here at present. There's much to celebrate at the same time: the beautiful fall foliage that has just begun to blaze with color in the two days we've been in northwest Arkansas; the amazing art at Crystal Bridges, pieces of which never fail to do for me what Emily Dickinson said a really good poem does for anyone — take the top of my head off.

I've also just read, and want to recommend to all of you, Geraldine Brooks's new novel The Secret Chord. It's her attempt to re-tell the story of the biblical king David, and, to my way of thinking, she does a magnificent job of doing that. I had forgotten just how much I once knew of David's story — how much soaked through the pores of my skin from countless Sunday School lessons when I was a child — and so I had lost sight of how much about David's story had vanished from my memory in many years in which I haven't been forced to sit down and read those lapidary, blood-soaked texts in the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles.

Brooks brings it all back to life, makes it real, makes one care about how the blood flows and the storyline moves forward. Her novel has already been and will be bitterly attacked by a set of Christians adamantly determined to pretend that the text does not say that David loved Jonathan with a love surpassing David's love for women — for his many wives. Geraldine Brooks not only refuses to pretend that this text is not there: she builds much of her story around the relationship of love between David and Jonathan.

And, for the first time, this story now makes sense to me. Lifting that piece out of the text and building the story around it gives an entirely new meaning to many of David's actions that appeared beyond my ken when I was forced to read these stories as a Sunday School boy. It also opens an interesting new vista — and I think this may be part of Geraldine Brooks's sly point in re-telling the story — on the Iron Age mentality that allowed men to regard women as their possessions, as there to beget sons for them, as there to be used and discarded but certainly not loved in very many cases, since human life was cheap at this point in history, and the name of the game was to assure that one's progeny perdured, that at least one of a man's expendable wives bred one son who would survive and carry on one's name.

Not much seems to have changed in the mentality of many religionists from then to now, does it? At least, vis-a-vis the place of men and women in the world, or the relative value of men and women, and of straight men and everyone else . . . . 

I recommend The Secret Chord to you.

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