Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Do you need an earthquake?

Before you read today's post - and I hope you'll read it all & comment - take a look at the accompanying image. It's a card created between yesterday's post of desert blooms and today's words that flowed from my heart. I haven't spent a lot of time with this card, but a couple of observations: it's big and bold - there's a shadow side in there somewhere - I feel empowered and terrified when I consider it - she gives me the courage to step out and post the following reflections that poured into my journal this morning.

I didn't necessarily set out to write this for the public, and was going to heavily edit it if it turned into a post. I opted, however, to make minor revisions and go with the flow. The beginning quote is mine, made at Claire's post, Signs, where she speaks of the earthquake that sets Paul and Silas free from jail.

"yes, those earth shattering moments - many of them have melded together for me almost to the point where i see them everywhere i look - my heart has expanded and softened - fright seems to have been replaced with a love i thought i could never experience. it seems abstract and a bit cliche to put into words. simply put, yes, i've had those experiences and i remember, thank godde!"

the post describes the fear of the jailer when the earthquake shook and the prisoners were set free. the fear of the prisoners. it was elucidated in one of the comments on the blog "yikes, prisoner's escaping - time for fear." prisoners are scary, and i don't want to admit that to myself. prisoners are scary - really the unknown is scary. prisoners are just people like the rest of us and, yes, there is cause to be frightened of some of them, but not all of them. (oh, i hate them/they language.)

yesterday on a Facebook status, a well-meaning woman talked of wanting to provide spiritual direction to an "incarcerated" person and a "normal" person. my blood boiled. are you kidding me? you want to go and share God, but geez, can you hear what you're saying? i hear her saying "us and them". we're normal and they're not. an incarcerated person and a normal person. what bullshit is that? oh, i don't even want to rant about her. i need to listen to my own heart.

why does this grate on me so much? because i can see it in myself, huh? my fear. her fear. the jailer's fear - of the other. we fear 'the other', and as long as we fear the other - whether of another nationality, religion, social status - whatever - there will never be peace. fearing the other is the most dangerous thing we can do. yes, i know we have instincts to tell us when we're in danger, but what of the "instincts" we have been carefully taught? to hate people of color or those who weigh "too much" or fill in your own blank... we're taught to fear being old, too. how many of us fear the handicapped or the infirm? it's scary - really scary, 'cause it could be us!

when my mother was placed in a memory care facility (i.e. she had alzheimer's), my son at age 13 was the most compassionate person i've ever seen. he didn't fear the looping stories or the blank stares - he joined in with the residents and listened to their stories again and again. life has warped his views now with more prejudice, but then, he wasn't frightened - they were just people and he was a friend and champion for the under dog. now he is one. he's the guy behind the bars. he's the one we're supposed to be afraid of.

i sit in the visiting room at the prison and it looks like a class room. i haven't felt a moment of fear in that environment. maybe it's because the guards are standing around. maybe. but they're all people with stories. i feel more curious than anything and would love to sit down and talk with everyone (not allowed - btw). i don't see the men as "other" - other than making different choices than i've made, but i have no idea what life path lead them to those choices. fear - certainly. desperation - probably. self-contempt - absolutely.

and so we pour on the contempt by placing "them" in the other category. we're not scary and they are. we're normal and they're different. it's all fear. so what do we do? who are you afraid of? how does it cause you to be in the world or not be in the world? what's the difference between you and me and the guy in the orange jump suit? choices? luck? nature? God's plan? did God predestine them to be bad and us good? bullshit. yes, it comes down to choice. it comes down to love and fear. how can we be curious? i don't know what it means to be black or jewish or handicapped, but do you know what it's like to have a kid in jail and have the "good" Christian people afraid of him - categorizing him before they've even considered him as a person?

if you've ever read Martin Buber, you know about the i/thou relationship. when do we quit making people "it" and consider them as I/Thou. look into the eyes - yes, you may feel your blood chill - i've had that experience and i say "run". watch "dead man walking" and see sister prejean. yes, sean penn was scary in that movie - the character was terrifying and there was a spark of humanity. my son sits beside the most heinous offenders. does that make him scary? yes, i won't deny that i've dreamed of being terrified of him, and i will still give him a chance to be more than an it or they. i will not categorize blindly. at least i hope i won't.

i hope i will be like the jailer's in Claire's story and ask what i need to do to be saved - from myself. from my own pettiness and bitterness and fear. that's who and what i need to be saved from. "they" don't need to be saved, I do - especially if i hold malice and unjustified fear in my heart. - uneducated fear. ignorant fear. i say to me and you - to us: listen to yourself. have knowledge before you speak or at least acknowledge your ignorance. don't speak of love if you don't know what it's like to love unconditionally. i don't wish the challenges i've had on anyone AND i am grateful to have been challenged to know what it's like to love without condition. i'm not sure i would have done it on my own without an earthquake - would you?

Thanks for reading today. Wishing you peace and blessings.


Tess said...

Whew, where to start? Well perhaps with some sympathy over your Facebook person's remark. We use language so automatically that it betrays us.

What you write has many, many echoes for me of Philip, my brother with Down's Syndrome.
The sheer wild otherness in some of his friends could be scary. The complete lack of boundaries. Sometimes even I found it a little scary although I'd grown up with it, and for those coming new to it, it was often an unnerving experience.

And there were times when I would visit him and would be unsure whether someone was a "resident" or a "helper" because the person's behaviour patterns were not as wild as some. Did it matter which was which? Of course not. Did I beat myself up for wondering, for noticing? Of course. And I think it's part of our human make-up to scan for similarities and differences. I just don't know how much is instinctual and how much is learned.

I'd like to explore a little what this fear of otherness actually is. I can only speak from my own experience. For me it isn't physical fear (although I did once have a nasty infection after an exuberant hug from one of Philip's friends I'd never met before drove the post of my earring into the soft flesh behind my ear!!).

For me, it's fear of inadequacy, of not knowing how to react or what to do, not being able to trust to the moment, being stuck in my crusty shell. It's the constant revisiting of my old friends self-consciousness and embarrassment. Which sound small, but can get so bad they are crippling.

I don't know what the fear is for other people. I look forward to other comments with interest, thanks for such a heartfelt and thought-provoking post.

roxanne s. sukhan said...

We all need an earthquake, I think. Perhaps it's God whispering loudly into our soul, because we often refuse to listen?

Fear. I agree with Tess. More often than not it's fear of oneself ~ not really knowing how to (re)act, fearing the extent to which our humanity can and does get stretched.

I feel sorry for the language used in that facebook status. It reminds us all that we should take care with the language we use; all too often we fail to think ....

Re: the card. So bold, the bright oranges, yellows and greens, surrounding the shadowy sillouette. It speaks to me of courage, and of terrifying empowerment.

Wishing you peace.

Kayce aka lucy said...

tess - i so appreciate your muddling through this with me. i clearly see the similarities with philip and jonathon. i believe for each of us the fear can look slightly different depending upon the messages we inherited and how our stories have evolved. you, for example, have more experience with a person with down's syndrome and i am more familiar with the language of incarceration. my hope is that we all stay in conversation and learn from each other rather than blindly assuming we know anything.

sending big old hugs (hopefully not skin puncturing ones) to you, my friend!!! xoxo

(and won't it be grande to get a few more comments!!!)

Kayce aka lucy said...

tinkerbell - thanks for chiming in here. you offer wise words.

you also captured the essence of what i feel from that card "courage and terrifying empowerment." yikes! i love it :-)

Anonymous said...

Kayce....I loved the post. The Facebook comment makes you wonder who is actually imprisoned? It is one thing to be physically incarcerated and certainly another to be emotionally or spiritually I can see and is hopefully limited in time but the other is much more limiting and potentially more harmful. I would rather contemplate and value my freedom from fear all that intales in my core and how I can nurture that is my relationships and for others. That is the new 'normal'. That is my, yours and our salvation. So even though we and those we love may be imprisoned in a physical jail, or in our addictions, judgements, fear, workaholism, consumerism I am convicted that the answer is to go to my core, my home that is your home and free both you and me and is the part that I can play in salvation. I am grateful for your contribution to that. Much love from Oklahoma! Pamela

kigen said...

At a street fair recently in NYC, there was the sweetest fellow selling T-Shirts that said:


and everyone who walked by seemed to smile or laugh, because no one privately considers themselves safe within that category.

Karen said...

Oh sweetheart...I completely missed that post back in December, and I'm sorry for that and sorry for the pain you are feeling.

Us vs. Them. It seems to be such a theme these days, doesn't it? Sometimes I get sucked into it, too--we're right, they're wrong. And then I stop and think--what's behind it? Why do I have to be right? Why do they have to be wrong? What am I so afraid of? What are they so afraid of?

It's so heartbreaking. But all we can do is recognize it in ourselves and others--catch ourselves in the act, and then pause, and think. What am I afraid of? What are they afraid of? I can't do anything about them, but what about me? Do I really need to be afraid of this? Can I choose to love instead?

I want to love. I want to love the ones who scare me. I want to love the ones that piss me off. I can't do it everyday, all day, but I can do it in spurts. And I'm noticing something--the spurts are getting easier and longer.

Peace be with you.

Barbara said...

This is a very challenging post, lucy. It makes me remember my own walking beneath the windows of the Women's House of Detention in Greenwich Village, NYC and hearing the yelling and screaming from within, the scary stories I heard from the so-called delinquent girls I got to know from working with the Good Shepherd Sisters one summer. I think of the people unjustly imprisoned and those who were caught in the machine and are struggling to be free, psychologically if not physically.

I could not find the image, but I recall a painting of Salome visiting the imprisoned John the Baptist. It was she who appeared to be behind the bars. She was far less free than John.

We are all imprisoned by our fears and ignorance. Compassion is needed all around because these are difficult bars to break down.

Sue said...

I don't really have words to say anything with today. Or maybe too many at once!! So many things in this thoughtful and poignant post; it and the comments here, have really touched me.

Kayce aka lucy said...

pamela - i'm so glad to have you on this journey with me. your words speak boldly to my soul. thanks for piping up!! xoxoxo

kigen - i definitely think i need to own one of those shirts!!!

karen - "And I'm noticing something--the spurts are getting easier and longer." yep, me too. all we can do is practice and hope to make a difference (first in ourselves...)

Kayce aka lucy said...

barbara - i love the image you mentioned of salome and john the baptist. yes, often it is those who appear the most "free" that are behind the bars and vice versa.

i visited my son yesterday and he showed more signs of "freedom" than i've seen in quite some time. he seems to be finding himself in solitude, and for that i am very hopeful!

susie Q - thanks for letting me know you were here. it means a lot!

KigenKat said...

Lucy, if I see the T-shirt again, I'll definitely buy one for you, I wish I had bought ten of them and sent them to my friends, meanwhile, here's a photo I took, yours to use as you please ((-:

Dianna Woolley said...

I think I'm all the richer for having seen the soul collage last Friday and reading the post today. It's full, full, full. Vulnerability, grace, empowerment, rage, forgiveness. I feel so good having taken the time to "catch up" with these posts today. I'm not finished yet, but this may be THE one that I come back to.....still reading:)


claire bangasser said...

So strange lucy. When you wrote about the jailer being afraid of the prisoner, I thought of my 'inner prisoner' and me, outside, being afraid of letting my inner person come out...
Now I am not sure of who that inner person is, but for a split second I felt it, right there behind my bars...

Otherwise, I like your rant. It is very reasonable. It is just not always very easy to see when we are creating us/them. What a blessing to become aware of it!

Thank you. Blessings.