Tag Archives: anger

Genesis 1 and Darkness

If light has some special relationship to love and life and God, then darkness … maybe does not? Darkness was not created or made; it was already there.

“…when darkness covered the face of the deep… And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.”

Darkness is a pre-existing condition, but it wasn’t Night until God named it.

We’ll have to think about the power of names and naming at some point. But “darkness” for now is enough to think about. Before it was Night, when it was all there was however formless and void that “all” was, was darkness actually something or was darkness a characteristic of the formless void? By naming it Night, did God give form and purpose to darkness? Night is an essential part of life, an essential fundamental fact of existence as we know it. So it cannot be innately bad or evil or hate, right?

I want to suggest that the opposite of light is not darkness but “nothingness” a vast empty. In fact, I think we have all heard it said that hate is not the opposite of love, but indifference is.

In the midst of indifference, something, somehow, needs to spark a light in order for existence to matter, for even darkness and shadows to have a form and a meaning.

In the book “Learning to Walk in the Dark” by Barbara Brown Taylor (HarperOne 2014), she acknowledges how scary darkness is, how night conjures up fear. Yet, she writes, “I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light.”

I really don’t think I like that! I would much rather not be afraid. I would rather not know through those lessons of darkness.

Yet trying to have a world that is always sunny, Taylor writes, “can result in a kind of spirituality that deals with darkness by denying its existence or at least depriving it of any meaningful attention.” Things are not always good no matter how much faith you have, no matter how much you trust God, no matter how hard you try to manifest hope and joy and peace. As with seasons, there are going to be patches in life where bad things happen. Blame it all on darkness?

Since darkness is a pre-existing condition, and even a requirement for how the world works, perhaps take blame and shame and disgust out of the situation. Perhaps waiting for the sun to shine again, the earth to spin, the inevitable change to arrive is a type of faith.

Or maybe the darkness that was present before the Light is something utterly different from life and love and different entirely from fear and night. Perhaps it is more like “IT” in Madelaine L’Engle’s strange teen classic “A Wrinkle in Time”. Meg has to rescue her long-missing father from “IT” on a planet that has been captured by the enemy. It is not dark there, that planet’s sun still shines on the people there, in fact, it is orderly and well-lit and organized. But fear is everywhere, and the danger of indifference and meaningless is something beyond hate.

It is in fact, Meg’s anger that becomes her greatest gift and weapon against the power of “IT”.

God calls the darkness “Night”…. perhaps not to tame it or claim it, but perhaps to shape it into an actual something, to remove “formlessness and void” from the created world. To make “Night” part of the design.

(I would still rather the joy of the morning!)

Advertisements

Interrupted by Thoughts on Anger, Women, and Superheroes

Last week I read an article about women’s anger in The New Yorker, “The Perils and Possibilities of Anger” by Casey Cep. It is a very interesting article and well written. I highly recommend it. It reviews some new books about women and anger and in light of our present political nightmare and the shock of #metoo in every direction, there is a lot to be angry about. Then this article seemed to haunt me and provide a new lens to see through.

It turns out, what anger even is is hard to define, Cep writes. But whatever it is, if you are a female you know you are not supposed to act that way. It isn’t proper or nice or sweet. It isn’t understanding. I am angry just typing that. The strange thing is that I feel split in half. I feel so angry about so many injustices and other, less abstract, things. But at the same time — at the exact same instant — I want to be that graceful, calm, soothing, peaceful woman who just gently helps things work out for the best.

Cassie Nightingale of The Good Witch tv movies and tv shows epitomizes this ideal. She is beautiful and loving and slightly magical in how she knows how to make things work around right. Like Shakespeare’s comedies, things where Cassie lives — the magical little town of Middleton — are always on the verge of tragedy. But they never fall that way. Things sort out, even awful horrible things like death or foster care. It is so easy to make fun of this show… and while I enjoy the movies and tv shows I can’t honestly recommend them. But Cassie is never, ever, angry. She is what a truly good woman is supposed to be. In fact, in her own intuitive way, Cassie is a superhero.

Cep writes, “All these authors [of the 4 books she reviews] are right to note that a major problem with anger is that some people are allowed to express it while others are not.”

And last week, as TV ramps up again and my beloved silly superhero shows are back, I saw that these shows make an accidental illustration about women’s anger and women’s voices.

Over the years, a common superhero or super villain is a woman who screams.

Not in a closet like on “Grey’s Anatomy,” but out loud, at supersonic levels — screams that can kill. Quickly springing to mind are the characters Black Canary and White Canary on “Arrow” and “Legends of Tomorrow” to “mutant powered” Reeva Payge (played by Grace Byers) on “Gifted.” In a way, “Thunder”/Anissa Pierce (played by Nafessa Williams) on the tv show “Black Lightning” (which is awesome and mixes ripped-from-the-headlines with superheroes in a way that will rip your heart out and remind you of Greek tragedy) has a variety of “scream of anger” power.

The Canaries scream and people are brought to their knees. That is a pretty straightforward power. If they lose control they can kill people with their voice. However the villain Reeva Payge’s scream, on Gifted, is filmed — silently. What? They thought it was artistic to depict the cool and surgical strike of Reeva’s scream by using no noise? This irony is that the woman who is fully in control of deploying her superhero power is (1) a villain and (2) silent. And a woman of color. And compare that to the character of Anissa Pierce who is the superhero “Thunder” — when she holds her breath, whatever she hits is hurt badly, like a roll of thunder, like an earthquake.

To activate her power she must hold her breath.

Voiceless, silenced, only able to be powerful or to be a girl whose words do little for justice, Anissa is in a world of hurt. Anissa is also black and gay.

Our stories, even our most fantastical ones, depict our world in some way.

Cep, toward the end of her article about the books on women and anger, writes, “Anger is an avaricious emotion; it takes more credit than it deserves. Attempts to make it into a political virtue too often attribute to anger victories that rightfully belong to courage, patience, intelligence, persistence, or love.” It could be, she further writes, that “secret subject” of the books she has reviewed is women’s community, the positive power of working together to build up and lift up.

I finished up last week watching “King Lear” where of course the good woman is Cordelia whose voice “was ever soft/Gentle and low, an excellent thing in woman”.  That was hard, indeed.

A big part of the reason that I blog is to have a voice. An uninterrupted voice. A voice to say anything I want.

Let me finish this over-long post by saying, I would very much like to see a superhero story about women who get to be friends and get to work together and get good things done. Or wait — that might be the secret subplot of “The Good Witch” after all.

 

Interrupted by the Cross

Believe it or not the same week in which my pastor preached on Christ crucified, like Paul did, in a completely random way I was trying to find “The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ” by Fleming Rutledge via my library for reasons having to do with the Festival of Faith and Writing in April. I only found a sample of the e-book but have asked my library to get it. But the sample is amazing. The sermon and this book together are bringing me — hope. I have been so angry for a over a year, at the awful awful world, at people, at some medical stuff going on with me, everything has made me angry. And living with that anger, being on that edge and needing that control all the time, is exhausting.

Rutledge writes ” Understanding the cross and resurrection as a single event, undertaken from within the Trinity itself, is of utmost importance … The scandalous “word of the cross” is not a human word. It is the Spirit-empowered presence of God in the preaching of the crucified One. The Holy Spirit … inhabits the message and empowers the speaker, so that the proclamation of God’s act in Christ is the new occasion of creation, issuing from the Trinitarian power of the originating Word itself.”

The world — as completely horrible as it seems to be — may in fact be in the midst of being made new. Not with worldly power in any way (not politics, or privilege, or people/mob power and certainly not with hate and anger); but the generative power of God…

For some crazy reason it gives me a feeling of calm. If God is trying to fix the world, then however powerless I am, its okay. I can do my best not to make the world worse and call that a victory.  It is an acknowledgment — by God no less — that the world was/is broken and needs fixing. This is a horrible world. Paul would nod and maybe even roll his eyes: Of course it is. But for so long it just seems as if no one was listening. Or they would listen in the wrong way like: yep that is it exactly, that is why I am just doing what I need to do and the rest of the time eat, drink, and be merry. Which I just can’t seem to do. I can’t seem to not care.

This world: brutal. Beautiful. Both.

But one day only Beautiful.

 

My Story 4

Oddly, I keep remembering the first time I got mad at the church. I have always had a sort of temper, but I rarely remember whatever I was angry about. Honestly, I just don’t. My husband loves this about me.

I do remember the first time I got mad at the church so clearly because I was so eager to learn more about God and had started trying to study the bible. And it was Christmas time. And the adult Sunday school class was about the nativity story. Great, I thought, this is an excellent place to start. I’ll start at the beginning. Isn’t there a song about that?

So it was interesting to learn that there are only two nativity stories, one is in Matthew and one is in Luke and that they are distinctly different.

It was interesting to learn that Matthew’s Joseph plays a large role, and a lot of it in dreams. There’s a sort of mystical quality I liked about Matthew’s version.

It was wonderful to have to more accessible Luke story, and to wonder how uncomfortable the trip to Bethlehem must have been for Mary. I started to imagine the story, imagine the stable — likely attached to a house — being rather cozy and warm.

And I got really angry when the third or fourth class was about pulling it all down. The teachers told us that Jesus is extremely unlikely to have been born in winter. There was a sort of ancient history of creating “birth stories” for beloved people in that era. Politically for Jesus to “compete” with other religions, he had to have a mysterious Godly birth. Nor can the two versions of the story be easily compared. And all the dream stuff in Matthew, so clearly made up! And so on.

I was absolutely furious. None of that was important to me. What was important to me was the story.

And I was scared. I didn’t realize it then or for many years. But I didn’t want my newly found faith to be made frail; I didn’t want to sink back into the despair that had left me open to God’s zapping love.

The gift this anger gave me was my first “Christian” poem. And many many poems thereafter….

 

Here’s my “first” poem:

 

Angel Dreams

It started as a dream for Joseph

No, actually, it started as a deal

He and Mary’s father discussing dowry and dickering

like for a horse.

And then discovery of damaged goods.

 

So, okay, it started, for Joseph, as just business as usual.

It turned into a dream.

A dream with angels, a dream of freedom for Israel.

Imagine being chosen to protect God’s son!

 

Hear what I think:

God picked Joseph because he listened

He listened to angels in a dream. How long had God

searched for a girl willing to say yes and

a man willing to listen?

 

Reality started on a cold night, in a stable,

or maybe not cold or a stable. This I know:

Giving birth hurts.

Turning dreams into reality hurts.

Hear the cries of pain, the pleading for it to be over,

See the blood, the mess, the ugly cord connecting

God’s son to Mary, and there’s Joseph,

holding the knife

carefully, carefully, barely breathing, cutting Him free.

I know, warm or cold, inside or outside, Joseph and Mary shared

a look between them of wonder and amazement.

God big enough to create himself so small inside Mary

and is now helpless before them.

Joseph’s all ready to die to protect Him.

Even though right now he’s so scared he can barely breath, and

with just the tip of his finger he touches God’s soft, warm, helpless red face

gently, gently.

___

The best bible studies are discussions, where all sorts of things get discovered together, and no one’s voice is silenced and no one’s questions are wrong. But no one is left afraid of losing faith either.

The word for where I’ve found myself is “literary” (not “literal”), where I use all my tools of being an English major: themes, characterizations, narrative, motifs, patterns, plot, everything.

Wonderful things arise!

(And perhaps check out stuff I’ve written about Matthew and Luke and so on: for example:

For example: https://rrussell10.wordpress.com/2015/12/26/christmas-luke-2-vs-john-1/)

 

Moses and Zipporah (Exodus 2:11-22)

This love story starts with a murder — verses 11 to 15 are about Moses stopping an Egyptian from beating a Hebrew. He knows that he is a Hebrew by birth, but he feels for the injustice and “He looked this way and that, and seeing no one he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.” Wow! Moses grows up and bam gets in trouble immediately. But he’s afraid. He’s didn’t haul the Egyptian to a person in authority for public justice. He didn’t try to change the system. He’s a young man and a hot head at that.

Funny how I don’t think of Moses as being a young man. I think of him as a baby and then as a old man. Chopping away preconceptions frees the text. Interestingly, in the footnotes the word used for “beating” is same word used for the retributive plagues later, only then translated as “strike”. Huh — the plagues will be a beating, will strike the Egyptians, as this Hebrew is now being “striked/beaten”.

The story starting out this way would mean starting with a lot of motion, a lot of action, a lot young-man energy. I find myself resisting the story, wondering about the mixed messages. Moses didn’t like the Hebrew being beaten, didn’t like what he saw of the forced labor, identifies with the people despite his upbringing. Yet he is hiding, tricky, and lying (acting as if he didn’t kill anyone). He looks this way and that…if he had seen that he was observed, he wouldn’t have acted. There’s something mixed up going on, it isn’t just freedom fighting or hot headed anger.

What do you think? How do you feel about about this passage? Would we act if we saw a child hit? an older person? a person our age? if we thought it was unfair? Now a days with a camera in every phone, perhaps the light shines more easily! What if what we saw wasn’t the “real” story? How do we know a story from seeing?

Maybe I’m just completely over-thinking an exciting story!