Sunday, April 11, 2010

Reason, Logic, Role Models, and a Sense of Irony!

I am really not sure where this post is going, but I know I have a desire to explore, seek and experience things, and I am not even always sure what those things are. The last two weekends were crazy for me! I had to to grade a mega-amount of paragraphs, essays, tests, and worksheets for my sixth grade language arts classes, so I could input grades before the deadline for the third quarter. I also had to scramble to allow myself the time to attend Bailey's first performance with The Eagles Concert Band here in Pittsfield. It was held at the First United Methodist Church and the music included songs like; The Phantom of the Opera, An American in Paris, and more contemporary selections like Circles of Light and Beyond the Horizon! Bailey did a great job and this mostly adult band was fantastic! I am so proud! Here is a clip of Bailey playing the xylophone at a wonderful dinner and talent show at First Church of Christ on Park Square..

The second thing I want to venture into is the whole idea of role models and the notion of irony. I was once told that Emily Dickinson was not much of a role model, and I am not sure why she wouldn't be, even though I don't really believe in role models, at least in the typical sense of perfect, shiny people to try to be like! I think that in spite of her many issues she was able to create great art. Michael Jackson was as flawed as can be, but he entertained people with his moves and music. Certainly, the Pharisees appeared to be perfect in their external, surface ways, but they lacked the depth and deeper soul that Christ was pointing to. I think it is dangerous to be caught up in these surface views. We as a culture are so SHOCKED when a supposedly perfect person like Tiger Woods is exposed, and on and on it goes when seemingly perfect or high end role-model people screw up. You see, like Pharisees they look good on the outside but there is rot on the inside just like the majority of us. I bet Christ would have hung out with someone like Emily Dickinson because she found self acceptance in her malady. She put aside pretense and dealt with what was real in her life! She didn't let it stop her from producing great art in spite of her "not so perfect insides." She couldn't leave her house or even greet people, but that life produced great poetry! That is so ironic and certainly there is room for healthy admiration.

A quick quote from Emily...

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul - and sings the tunes without the words - and never stops at all.

I am not sure where this is leading at all, but I know it is filled with irony, and irony is a truly religious thing, unlike the more traditional religious views , as Thomas Moore points out, "Many theologians and religious people largely avoid irony and instead try to state their positions one-dimensionally, allowing no mystery, and therefore no real religion. They are often the most irreligious of people because they use the language of God to fortify their own human one-dimensional ideas." I have to say right here that pretty much all words in quotes from this point forward are from Dark Nights of the Soul, and I want to be careful to acknowledge that, as so much of it is emblazoned in my memory! So, "To be religious is to be ironical, because you see the bigger picture." TM even goes on to quote the Tao Te Ching..."He who speaks doesn't know; he who knows doesn't speak." TM includes this quote in many of his lectures which immediately acknowledges his own contradiction.

I know I am truly in a "Dark Night of the Soul," and on the one hand, I want to move on (and in some ways have) from Vicki's death and at the same time don't want to. This re-birth of my life has resulted in a strange new world, that just like a new born, feels cold, foreign, and much less comfortable than anything I have experienced before! I sometimes want to try to define all of this, share it with people and at the same time i want to stay away from people. I sometimes feel moments of inspiration only to feel them vanish. Again Thomas Moore says, "During a dark night you may feel the need to be quiet, even silent. You may find talking difficult, and you may seek out a quiet place....You may feel the need to be alone, or at least to avoid certain kinds of socializing. You may disappear for awhile, and your friends wonder what has become of you." He even goes on to explain how you may even be a "monk of sorts in your own way." Whatever I am feeling sure feels more intense during free time like this vacation, because my professional life simply allows no time for MY feelings! I understand this isolation in some ways causes people to be extreme in their reaction to it! Some ignore it, either because they want darkness as far away from them as possible, or as Moore again says, "They try to bind you and give you orders" in that one-dimensional religious way that I cannot stand at this time! Yes, I feel the danger of cynicism, self-pity, and depression, and people offer help to try to make everything go away (which I am sure is to make themselves feel better) or they ignore me. But, during a dark night you need to become darker, yet at the same time this doesn't have to be negative or defined as depressed, but more like "the weight of the world pressing down on us." Thomas Moore goes on to say...."You can be bright. thoughtful, creative, and imaginative during a dark night. You can use your power to imagine your situation in your own way. You can reverse expectations and refuse to be literally defeated. And none of this has to be denial of your tragedy or the repression of your feelings." I think this is what people like Dickinson, Anne Sexton, Brian Keenan, John Keats and many others in dark nights have done, which to paraphrase from Dark Nights of the Soul, is to "make your own world, instead of succumbing to the one that presses down on you!" I guess all of this brings me back to my original point about role-models. People like Dickinson are role-models if we allow a more whole view of life and realize that to have "happiness to you have to accept profoundly and honestly the sadness that awaits at every turn. Every decision for happiness will get you in trouble, and your occasional courageous forays into the dark will likely give you a taste of heaven." IRONIC!!!! I always like to include music in a post so i will include this song from Roland Orzabal from Tears for Fears. The CD "Tomcats Screaming Outside" tends to be obtuse in its meaning but he visits Cain and Abel, atheism and many other subjects in his lyrics. I love the Music and cannot get enough of it.....This song is called Low Life and it just seems to fit here (for me!)

Now please remember as you read this that I am NO theologian, nor trained a philosopher or writer. I am sorting through all of this, trying to keep my wits about me and I DO know that irony surrounds me, and maybe I really haven't yet been re-born yet. I think I am still in the "gestation" process. Maybe I am in a "period of lifelessness that precedes a new birth of meaning." Maybe it is "one big ironical challenge, just the opposite of what it appears to be...not a dying, but a birthing."

I think this next part fits in well with all I am trying to say here.......I watched the movie "A Beautiful Mind" again this week and just felt that same irony in this movie about the life of professor John Nash and his battle with mental illness. Logic and reason, numbers and theory mean nothing in the face of love. He was able to survive his dark night not because he completely beat his illness, but by accepting that the delusions were there, acknowledging it at times with a sense of humor, but choosing not to empower them, and all motivated by the love of one that stood by him. This is Russel Crowe's depiction of Nash's Nobel Prize acceptance speech which still moves me to tears!

1 comment:

  1. Permit me to disagree with you, Steve. You Are a theologian, and a damned fine one. A theologian is someone who seeks to learn about faith, to explore who God is to them, and what it means to be a person of faith,.l and your blog demonstrates all of that to a high degree. One of the reasons I link to blogs like yours and not to the heavy-hitter theologian types is that you and people like you are Real and have a lot to share in your struggles and (unfortunately) pain. Thanks for being who you are.