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Errantry: Novak's Journal
...Words to cast/My feelings into sculpted thoughts/To make some wisdom last
Personal/Random: Recovering, Kev, Work, Difficult Conversations 
12th-Sep-2007 02:24 pm
Tell me more....  June 2007
Recovering continues. I managed to teach my classes yesterday, but ripped my throat raw in doing so and had to grimace through that the rest of Tuesday. Not so fun, but not so big a deal as other things might be. The swelling is down and so I managed to sleep through most of the night without waking up choking every hour for the first time since Thursday, which was a mercy. Still raw and painful today. I'm getting really tired of eating so much mac and cheese and the like. I'm heading out for soothing hot chocolate and some talk with Julie tonight, which will be refreshing both for her company specifically and for just socializing itself after all this. I've bowed out of four dinner engagements in the last week and I am just missing people.

September 11th is Kevin's birthday, and so our national tragedy on that day cast a shadow on it for him. We exchanged some warm letters, though, after my initial birthday greetings. Regis is apparently reading Kev's new book, The Half-Truth High: Breaking the Illusions of the Most Powerful Drug In Life & Business, through the instigation of Tom Morris, so that would be great fun if Kev could end up on that show as a result. I think the two of them would probably hit it off. If that happened, that's when I'd really start to wonder about what kind of consequences my contribution to the "religion" section would have.

In our usual mode, he began to write about some thoughts he had been having about fear being an unaddressed factor at the root of most dysfunction that he observed in failing marriages and like relationships, and how fear was such a potent threat to love. I shared my own reflections on that point, and how taken I was with the line from 1 John 4 that "perfect love casts out fear," a thought I'd seen Saint Benedict develop in the Benedictine Rule in the most genius way, and which I'd then put at the center of my thoughts in my song "Listen To You," and in my unfinished song "Love." So some thoughts on that might give birth to some further collaboration between us. Having failed to get out to Jackson Hole in the summer, I might try to sneak out for an extended weekend around peak week, to hug my goddaughter, meet Max, and go looking for cougar amid much good talk and food with the Flemings.

With some sleep finally under my belt, my critical faculties/theological mind has returned out of the fog of my last week's stupor and I'm getting some serious work done. I'm going back through Sullivan's older book chapters and articles from the 1970s on the charismatic renewal and correlating those to his monograph on the subject, trying to get a sense for development or refinement in his thinking on the matter.

A surprise good talk with a hurting friend last night. There's a book waiting to be written about how to talk parent-to-child (or maybe more specifically parent-to-adult child) about sex and morality in ways that don't provoke unnecessary pain and feelings of being judged. Still, that's almost impossible with people who assume that any association of the two is automatically judgmental. There's such an expectation of people who assume that any Christian speaking about moral issues is automatically moralizing that it may be almost impossible to be heard in any other way. I've certainly borne that fear or prejudice more than I'd hope would be necessary. But there's so much unnecessary pain caused by people raising perfectly valid issues by their doing so so awkwardly.... I don't know. Maybe it's inevitable because these are such tender, vulnerable parts of our psyche, but it seems to be that there must be some way to consistently do this more smoothly, and this must be able to be taught, somehow. I have enough students calling me to talk about their sex lives and spiritual concerns that I must be doing something right. I'd just like to see more people gain from such conversations, and not be so unnecessarily wounded by people they love, while not falling into the opposite trap of dissociating such matters from our spiritual and ethical lives.
Comments 
13th-Sep-2007 12:54 am (UTC)
As I contain approximately 90% of the USDA recommended daily allowance of worry and fear, that particular line in John is more of a kick in the pants than a comfort (alongside Lewis's injunction against prudential loving which I have mentioned once or twice). It's the process emphasized in 1 John 4 that keeps me from worrying about worrying... [/blither]

There's such an expectation of people who assume that any Christian speaking about moral issues is automatically moralizing that it may be almost impossible to be heard in any other way.

What's been surprising to me is the way folk used to relativism assume moralizing from anyone who has a non-relativistic belief system. (Because, of course, judgment is a dirty word) A week or so ago, one of my colleagues called me "aristocratic" and that she was frightened of my judging her, both academically and personally. Nor, as it turns out, was she alone in expressing this. I was horrified -- I am not a particularly vocal in my belief systems or anything, but apparently my very way of living was sufficient to brand me as formidable.

I don't know how to reconcile this appearance with those who treat me as a useful sounding board, and use me (and in some cases, misuse me) as such. Guess further proof that people find what they wish to find, and another injunction against paranoid reading and mistrust...
3rd-Oct-2007 03:36 am (UTC)
I'm sorry! I was just scrolling down my journal, looking for something else, and I noticed that this entry had a comment, which I now vaguely recognize but must have set aside as one of many "good intentions" that in this case was obscured by the tonsillitis.

What's been surprising to me is the way folk used to relativism assume moralizing from anyone who has a non-relativistic belief system. (Because, of course, judgment is a dirty word) A week or so ago, one of my colleagues called me "aristocratic" and that she was frightened of my judging her, both academically and personally. Nor, as it turns out, was she alone in expressing this. I was horrified -- I am not a particularly vocal in my belief systems or anything, but apparently my very way of living was sufficient to brand me as formidable.

This of course makes perfect sense once I think about it. Setting all other possible fearsome aspects of you aside, I cannot imagine anything more elementally and existentially terrifying for those schooled in relativism – conditioned and oriented toward a dogmatic nothing – than to encounter something.

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket of your selfishness. But in that casket -- safe, dark, motionless, airless -- it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

What a passage. It also should just happen that a few hours ago I was glancing at everything written between us this weekend (we are hopping all over the months!), and thinking "Wow! That was a busy stretch of writing!" or the like, when I noticed again something you'd written about feeling a little satisfied about things coming back to Jen. At the time, I thought you were referring to her breaking her bone as a sort of "karma" thing (you are, after all, "formidable" enough to punch adjuncts at will...), but I now saw that your phrasing seemed to imply something else, and so I looked at her journal, which I'd not been doing. Enough people read her or looked her up that I heard a few big things like the "sexcapade" entry with attendant "You ducked a bullet with this one" messages that it blunted my curiosity. Now, reading about that experience of her hopes for this one, and then, yes, like me, being cut off without real communication/conversation on her part, but then already playing and looking around this weekend, reporting that her feelings for that guy are fading away and almost "out of the way" – well, it just became pitiable.

I saw it at the time, in May and July, and thought I couldn't be seeing what I thought I saw: that her heart or her capacity for love had been wounded enough that love couldn't set down very deep roots anymore. But now it really looks more the case. What were huge vulnerabilities or sacrifices for me in trying to open up to her in love, or the possibility for love, were for her not terribly significant at all by comparison, not because of a strength in love, but a sort of privation in it, where neither I myself, nor what she felt for me, was getting anywhere close to the fundamental root of her person, as I had assumed was the case with her, too. What would take me at least a comparable number of months to heal from, and would be for any person not wounded in these ways, look for her to be a matter of a few days effort to seal away. Or she's trying to make them be such. The Lewis passage seemed so apropos. It certainly makes my own difficulty in forgiving her cruelty or coldness seem a futile self-indulgence, or as a dangerous flirtation with anger disguised as wounded justice that any real love in me doesn't need or have the time for.
3rd-Oct-2007 12:25 pm (UTC)
Oh MIKE -- please don't apologize, though I appreciate the impulse to do so. I won't say I "expect nothing" because I am nowhere near so perfect, but I will admit that I had completely forgotten that I had even written this, so I am less relieved or huffy (ie, "FINALLY!") than I am brightened and glad to see this in my inbox, as I have a few minutes before my tea is ready and I can leave for Day 2.

I was really not trying to disabuse you of any illusions about Jen (or at least, I didn't think of it in that way), though perhaps that is the most effective remedy. While I am inclined to agree with you in your reading of Jen, I, even in all my vaunted formidableness*, still shy away from pity. Definitely what you identify here are some pretty fundamental differences of the sort that, as I've said before, are non-starters for true friendship... or anything else.

I hate to say, "give it a rest" -- but that seems to be literally the prescription.

*to be fair, that adjunct was in my space, had been at several points in the day, and was lucky given my angle I hit him in the torso and not lower. *ahem*
3rd-Oct-2007 03:01 pm (UTC)
Yes, that's where it more or less has come to, or where it naturally is going....

On a language note, are you one for whom "pity" has become a negative word, one of condescension rather than compassion?
3rd-Oct-2007 06:24 pm (UTC)
I feel like you need a hug more than words.

Also, yes, I kinda ping instinctively against the word "pity"
3rd-Oct-2007 01:10 pm (UTC)
all other possible fearsome aspects of you aside

??
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