Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Ironic Advent 2016 Meditation #23: Long Night

It's the longest night, the shortest day 
of the long, dark year.

Put another way, using the amplificatio trope I hope I learned well from my Renaissance mentors, 
no other twenty-four hour period this year had so little light, 
so much darkness.

Lately I've been saying the word "objectively" a lot.
No, I don't "feel" that you are acting racist. You are acting racist. 
I don't feel that you are beautiful. 
Take a survey. Check the results. 
It's an objective fact.

The Solistice occured this evening at 6 something Eastern time, 
so this is, objectively, the longest night and the shortest day
of the year. 
Of the long, dark year? Was it, after all, a long, dark year?
That part is subjective. 
Need it be so? 
That would be subjunctive, and I'm not going there.
I wish I could be subjunctive though(get it?)

Anyway, or anyways as Jennifer Lynne Ricke, says, 
it is dark. 
And cold, although after the arctic blast of the previous few days, we kept saying that today was "balmy."
Objectively, though, it's cold.
Going down to 16 tonight. 
Subjectively balmy though, I got to admit it. 

I hope you are all shiny and bright, 
and having fun at the mall tonight. 
I'm lamenting the fact that I haven't yet been able to leave for Texas.
And that I seem to have an inability to move quickly (except 
on the treadmill), 
and that a dark cloud of something pervades my present reality--
SUBJECTIVE? Maybe. Unless it's all chemical. 
Hah! Got you. 

It's OK
Wait I can do better than that.  
I'm fine
Wait, I can lie . . . I mean I can do better than that.

How's this: 
All shall be well, and all shall be well, 
and all manner of thing shall be well. 

I'd like to say that I made that up. 
Don't tell Tara Owens, because she might shoot me. 
As would many friends named Jennifer, also Julie Mullins, 
and, almost certainly, Jane Chance, my dissertation advisor. 

They might try to tell you that these are the words of Dame Julian of Norwich, a 14th Century anchoress (please look it up, I'm wordy enough already). She was a mystic who meditated on anchors (sorry, I can't help myself; really, no anchors were involved). 

So, here we have the solution to our subjective (if it is subjective) darkness, a condition not being helped along much by the objective darkness outside my window (which keeps reminding me that I'm not in my car driving to Texas).

"Don't Worry, Be Happy." 

Wait a minute! Wait one big Advent Wait minute, everybody (that's two consecutive imperatives)! Is that what Julian said? Is that what it means? 

Well, if so, I think we are all just fine here. Let's wrap up this little meditation, as well as my depression and everyone else's. Tell the victims of war and hunger and injustice that they have just been stressing over nothing. Cue Mel Torme. Roast chestnuts.

After all, everything is beautiful in its own way. Actually, people who believe that have never seen my office at Christmas time. 
Or, planet earth at Christmas time. 
Or sat with the mothers, of Bethlehem or wherever the hell you want, after yet another slaughter. 

I've said this before and I guess it bears repeating (by the way, I love that phrase; I love people who bear, I love it when I'm good enough to bear, I love being borne)--the darkness, the sludge of late December, the cold (all objective, if you're keeping track), the depression, the mental pain, the soul chill (subjective? I can't keep track any more) are real. 

Even if the latter (subjective?) ones are only real to the one person in question. That one person is one hundred percent of the people he or she could be (a very interesting grammatical construction, which actually cheers me up). 

I want my friends to see that Julian is not one of THOSE mystics (despite her anchor) who say "don't worry, be happy, everything is really OK, you're fine, etc." In other words, she doesn't say that the suffering and the darkness and the dread and the rest are  illusions. There is not a real world of light and beauty, but our vision is a little messed up so that pretty world keep looking . . . well, a little messed up to us. 

No. Plowing a truck into a crowd of people? The children of Aleppo? The inability to trust another human being because of objectively bad sh*t done to you? My hair? No. This is not a world of light and beauty. 

I don't mean there isn't any at all, of course. But you understand what I mean if you just read the previous paragraph.

In her vision, which was one of those major medieval mystic visions, believe me (that's my way of saying I'm not going to provide all the context now), Julian was lamenting the existence of sin and sorrow in the world. Well, I'll let her tell the story. 

"I often wondered why, by the great foreseeing wisdom of God, the onset of sin was not prevented: for then, I thought, all should have been well. . . . I mourned and sorrowed because of it, without reason and discretion.
But Jesus, who in this vision informed me of all that is needed by me, answered with these words and said: ‘It was necessary that there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.'"

Julian, then, looks at sin (let's add darkness, suffering, the sludge of the world in its dark night)and calls it sin. And in response, her loving Jesus (and that loving nature is really the most famous thing about Julian's vision), also calls sin (and the rest) what it is. What he meant by "necessary" is not part of this meditation. I'm not trying to dodge it, just say, I need to sleep. And eventually get to Texas. 

There is sin (and the rest), but all things shall be well. How many things? All things shall be well. Which things, specifically? All manner of things shall be well.

Shall. Shall ain't is. Shall is shall. We are waiting for shall. In the is of Advent, we hope for the shall.  

I'm not saying this is enough for me, dear reader. I'm not saying it should be enough for you. It was enough for Julian. Well, that and the fact she kind of imagined that Jesus was her husband (objective? subjective? wacked out?) and that he really really liked her. A lot.

I am just pointing to an alternative Christian spirituality that does not claim that everything is beautiful or that the only problem is our perception (since the "real world" is so so pretty if we just had better vision). 

In the mean time, and I do mean mean, what do we do? We wait, of course, but you've got to be getting sick of hearing that by now. From me. From the Advent liturgy. From the church tradition. All these imperatives. Wait, wait, wait. My response is wah, wah, wah. And I'm not ashamed of it. 

Going foward, I won't go back to interpret Julian, although there is something really interesting about her emotional and even physical "spirituality" to which I respond. But let me point you to a modern mystic pal of mine with something that might help you. A couple of years ago in one of these meditations, I said that we needed to embrace both the ancient traditions of Advent and find some new ways of spelling (in the old, best sense of that word)the old story forward. 

I suggested we have entire services dedicated to lament, to grief, perhaps even to wailing and whatever it takes. I thought that actually would capture the spirit of Advent better than the glitzy lit-up "Christmas season" which has come to co-exist with Advent time for mostly commercial reasons. 

I didn't know if this had been practiced, and, really I still don't. But this week, I've been reading about something my friend Tara, who is sort of a Christian mystic (with a big emphasis on the body)and a spiritual director and a mom and a friend of mine and a good writer and her name is NOT Jennifer. 

I saw this post from her the other day:  
I'm helping to lead a Longest Night Service at our church in Colorado Springs this Tuesday, December 20. It's a service for any who carry grief, struggle, loss, or ache that things are not as they should be into the holiday this year. If you just need a place to be quiet and acknowledge the darkness, please join us. If you need a place to weep, please join us. If you are looking, hoping, longing for the light but don't know where it is to be found, please join us. All are welcome.
7 pm @ International Anglican Church (IAC)

A Longest Night Service.I pretty such am the kind of person who doesn't say "Thank You Jesus" very much. But a loud THANK YOU JESUS may have been uttered when I read that. I just hope to Saint Mary Mags they included a laying on of hugs ritual.  

By the way, I think that "a loud THANK YOU JESUS may have been uttered" might be an exclamatory subjunctive passive. 

Anyway(s), if I were in Colorado Springs tonight, I SO would be there. But I am already one hundred percent of the only people that I can be. Or something. And I'm in my office. In Indiana. Looking out at the objective darkness, from my subjective darkness (if it is subjective) on this the dark day, long night, in which I experience, for real, the sludge of existence (as well as more beautiful things than I can count, but that don't count enough to me right now to lift the fog in question). 

This is my baby brother Noel's birthday. He came to our family at Christmas. Thus the name. He brought life and light when he came. He passed at Thanksgiving, 2013.The world got a little darker. In fact, it was terribly cold that day in New York City. And my brother and sister and I, not to mention Noel's kids, have had a bit of a soul chill ever since.

I'm not happy about that. But another friend posted tonight that her sister, whom I knew a long time ago, is dying of brain cancer. And, sounding a lot like Julian of Norwich, my friend added, "she will soon see the face of her loving Jesus." 

I sure hope so.In the mean time, I'm going to hunker down for the longest night. And think good thoughts (mental hugs) for Tara and her Longest Night congregation. And try to get past the inertia keeping me from Memphis, Texarkana, and Austin.

And think about being with family for Christmas Eve. 



No comments:

Post a Comment