Monday, November 10, 2014

Back to Work? I Hear You Saying to Me, This Blog Is a "Breathing Hole in This World of a Hard-Frozen Pond"

As a new work week begins, I'm going to take a stab at summarizing some of what I think I have heard from your valuable, so much-appreciated response to my cri de coeur last week. A proviso: I still feel akimbo inside, a bit off-kilter spiritually, and I distrust myself when I'm in such a state. To be specific: I'm not sure that what I write when I'm akimbo is worth reading, and whether it does good or perhaps causes harm.

So please take what I say here with a grain of salt. I may be mishearing all of you. I may have missed important points. But because quite a few of you have told me you encourage me to keep blogging, I am going to try — to try to assure myself that I am hearing you correctly in a posting that will, I hope, move beyond the blockage inside me and re-open the blogging stream.

Here's what I think I have heard:

1. Several of you tell me you benefit from my telling you, sometimes in painful detail, how I'm reacting to what's happening in my life and the lives of many of us, as we journey together towards the goals this blog set for itself from the beginning: to be on pilgrimage towards the horizon of hope, a more humane society.

2. I hear you saying that, when I speak from my real spot, to echo a powerful phrase from poet Sharon Olds, something good seems to happen. My experience connects to yours, and my articulation of my personal experience turns it into something more than personal. I then speak not just for myself but for you, too.

3. A number of you have told me that you value this blog because it speaks for you and for others who may not find a place for their voices in the world in which we live. A friend of mine who is a poet and who has had an exceptionally painful journey of his own in recent years emailed me last week to say that this blog is a "breathing hole in this world of a hard-frozen pond." He means that this blog is such a breathing hole for me. But I think he is also affirming the work I struggle to do here as such a breathing hole for others.

4. I do have to admit that this encouragement to keep telling my story here and elsewhere resonates with me. I feel a certain . . . power may be the word I want . . . when I speak from my real spot. I'll be bluntly honest: very little theology speaks to me any longer. Much of it seems to come from a spot that can't even begin to envisage the spot I inhabit, along with many other people in the world. When I sense that a theologian is addressing people like me as abstractions (when he deigns to try to see us at all), I'll be truthful: I just stop listening.

5. And so I have always understood the insistence of feminist theologians (this is a major theme in Ivone Gebara's book Out of the Depths: Women’s Experience of Evil and Salvation, trans. and intro. Ann Patrick Ware [Minneapolis: Fortress, 2002], about which I blogged here this year). She insists that real theology, theology that matters, begins with real people living in real spaces, real times — whose real lives are affected by what theologians say. And she insists that theologians must reflect on and acknowledge the place from which they are speaking, if they're to be effective and to speak truth.

This is also a point Elizabeth Johnson has made continuously in her work. She maintains (echoing Newman, whose gayness has never been fully acknowledged as a matrix of his powerful thought) that how doctrinal formulas connect to the real lives of real people is part and parcel of the truth claims they make. The effect of doctrinal statements on people's real lives cannot be abstracted away — or, better, subtracted away — from the truth claims made by doctrines.

All of this is to say: I'll keep trying. I do have some worries I'd like to share, as I commit myself to keep slogging along with all of you:

1. It's very easy for a blog in which someone speaks from her heart, from her real spot, from her life, to become an exercise in narcissism. I don't want that to happen. I want to let this blog die a natural death before I end up at that place.

2. Like everyone, I have my good days and my bad days, and many days, I just don't have much of significance to share here — from my real spot, that is. I seem to have missed some essential lessons in Gay 101, or to have failed that particular course in my Being Gay in the World Today college major. My life, my life with my husband Steve, is excruciatingly, boringly vanilla. It is nothing like the lurid wall-to-wall orgy many homophobes imagine for us gay men. It's a life of getting up, drinking coffee, piddling around with household chores I despise, scrubbing the kitchen and cleaning the bathroom, talking to and petting our canine family members, sweeping the front porch and sidewalk and back steps, sitting down to read and write, slogging on the treadmill as I watch old episodes of "Ellen," planning and cooking supper for us, taking a walk with the dogs when Steve arrives home in the late afternoon, watching a few television shows, reading my latest book or books until my eyes fall shut, sleeping, and then waking up and doing it all over again.

3. As some of you have recognized, it does also take energy to try to post frequently here — and to answer or acknowledge your comments here. I see my energies flagging, just a little bit, as I age. I don't mean to flog that horse over and over; I count myself very blessed that Steve and I have relatively good health at our age, in our mid-60s. I do see, though, that I begin to miss details more and more as I type, and I sometimes work to muster energy to think and write — and, again, I don't want to continue this blog beyond a point when a wiser person would have realized he was simply boring people with the stream-of-consciousness nonsense he was posting at his blog as his energies waned.

4. Several of you have valuable suggestions to help me deal with that particular worry: stop pushing myself to post constantly, and stop feeling so compulsive about responding to each comment addressed to me here. (As I explained in response to that particular suggestion, I do try to make a point of responding to comments addressed to me personally because I don't like treating people who have spoken to me as if they're just not there. It seems to me important — a matter of principle — to respond to people who have spoken to me, to affirm their humanity and not to treat them as mute objects.)

5. A question I ask myself and want to put to you: many Catholic blogs, many of them wonderful, came on the Internet scene in the first decade of the 21st century, only to wither on the vine and die of late. Why has this happened? Why have so many Catholic blogs, many of them far more worthwhile than this one (which is, admittedly, about more than Catholic concerns), closed up shop in the past year or so?

I have the impression that, if blogging in the Catholic world has been about providing a voice that's an alternative to our big Catholic journals and magazines, if it has been about supplementing the news coverage and commentary of the mainstream Catholic media, it has failed. I also have the impression that the mainstream Catholic journals and magazines are, on the whole, pleased that this is happening.

To the extent that they have not been able to co-opt the voices of Catholic bloggers and to the extent that Catholic bloggers have been openly critical of the shortcomings of the mainstream Catholic journals and magazines, those media outlets have been openly hostile to some Catholic bloggers and have sought to freeze them out. At the same time, because they see the power of the Internet to facilitate real-time discussions and to transmit information instantly, they are trying to refashion themselves (and to open new Internet-savvy journals) in order to capture online audiences — even as they continue to freeze out Catholic bloggers critical of these media outlets.

What do you think? I apologize for going on and on in this initial back-to-work posting. As I said when I started it, I still feel jumbled up inside by all the things about which I spoke in that cri de coeur posting. I haven't even spoken here about the online bullies who are given free rein at many of the mainstream Catholic publications online to issue nasty taunts to bloggers like me. I haven't talked about the overt homophobia that clearly energizes some of these folks, or even the hidden, unacknowledged homosexuality of some people who can't do enough to tear down their brothers and sisters who are openly gay, and willing to struggle to speak honestly and in the daylight about their experiences as gay Christians.

I'll perhaps save that commentary for another day.

I find the photo used at many blog sites online, with no clear indication of its origin. If any reader has that information, I'm happy to know it.

No comments: