Monthly Archives: January 2013

We are not yet liberated, but we shall be.

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A Chrysalis called Clarissa, by Gareth founder of Northern Ignorance

“What’s all the complaining for?”  The seventy year old man pushed his weight into his cane and looked at me with clear twinkling eyes.  “Women won their freedom in the 70s and they’re still not satisfied.”  Apparently the Joan Chittister video wasn’t the biggest hit in the men’s bible study.

My throat clenched.  Does he want to discuss feminism? Or does he just want to vent?  I watched the corners of his mouth spread into a smile.  “You’re a breath of fresh air,” he added as we stood in my secluded office.  I couldn’t find the quick witty words to push back.  I knew my quiet agreeable demeanor makes me more attractive to some men, even as it poisons me from within.  And afterwards I judged myself harshly, like the feminists who rail on their sisters for propelling patriarchy.

I am not yet liberated.

I’m still becoming the woman wrapped inside the chrysalis.

Recently Pat Robertson had another tantrum on TV when he announced the real reason marriages are in crisis:  women are not pretty enough for their husbands.  If beautiful women have more faithful husbands, then why do so many men cheat with less attractive women as a new study in Business Week recently revealed.  Pat also defended the Petraeus affair by saying:  He’s a man!    And it seems to me his real argument, shamefully done in the name of Christianity, is:  men can’t help it.  (So get used to it, ladies.)

We are not yet liberated.

My mother, (who watched Pat Robertson when I was little) has come a long way in her own liberation, recently posted Jimmy Carter’s article Losing My Religion for Equality on her Facebook wall.  He writes:

“This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women’s equal rights across the world for centuries.

At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.”

And an old family friend, deacon and spiritual mentor replied by posting a Puritan article from the 1800s arguing that women are anatomically different from men,  God created them for the home, not for preaching.  The addendum was added:  some men just can’t respect the authority of women–as if that was sufficient justification for silencing the oppressed.

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by Dyson

We are not yet liberated.

I have worked in the Episcopal church for ten years.  The first denomination to ordain women in 1976.  The first denomination to ordain LGBTs.  And still, our prayer book uses only male warrior imagery in our corporate worship.  Imagery that Carol P. Christ argues, in her article Why Women Need the Goddess, “Religions centered on the worship of a male God create “moods” and “motivations” that keep women in a state of psychological dependence on men and male authority, while at the same legitimating the political and social authority of fathers and sons in the institutions of society.”

We are not yet liberated.

When I am unable to speak the name of the man who sexually abused me as a child because the statute of limitations has run out, when the law protects him from the defamation he did to me, I know we are not yet liberated.

When our white sisters rail against black women like Michelle Obama for choosing to cultivate a garden because we are still blinded by elitism and racism, we must behold our wounds.   When we fail to remember that for centuries black women had no choice but to work outside of the home and had no land of their own which to cultivate, we fail to see the liberated woman standing before us.  When we still try to fit all our sisters in a one size fits all pants suit, we know we are not yet liberated.

As India springs with protests against the lethargy of justice for women who are raped, we know that we are not yet liberated, but we can hear the bells of freedom ringing on the wind.

Listen to the sound of it.  As women are freed from the male gaze and able to define themselves from within,  listen as we claim our own voices and speak our own truth, listen to the chains falling to the ground as we are liberated from the idolatry of the dollar.  Listen as the great walls of class crumble before us, joining the worlds of human pain and inalienable dignity, listen to the rising symphony. Listen as we refuse to remain scapegoats, as we return the gift of wholeness to others, listen to freedom’s bullhorn as we carry light into darkness, as we companion with others through the valley of the shadow of death, to find the feast that sustains all our lives, then, then the chains shall finally break and we shall know we have won.

In a few short seconds I wanted to say all of this to the gentleman at church.  But just because the moment was lost, my voice is not:  We are not yet liberated.  But, oh we shall be.  Let freedom ring.  I will listen to the sound.  And I will sing the melodies I hear.

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Let the Rocks Speak, a poem from my memoir

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In the beginning darkness covers everything.

Not light, but sound first breaks the void—Shhh. Leave it alone.

There is a voice crying in the wilderness,

“Prepare the way of the Lord!”

If all are silent rocks will cry,

“Prepare the way of the Lord!”

Rocks that sit at the edge of the cliff,

Rocks that kiss the great abyss,

“Prepare the way of the Lord!”

Rocks that live in the pit of my stomach?

Be Quiet. Leave it alone.

Silent night, holy night,

The little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.

Silent night?

Yeah right.

No crying?

Baby’s dying!

Shut up and leave it alone!

In the beginning darkness covers everything.

Until I speak and then, there is light.

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The Feast of Epiphany

Photograph by Kwon O. Chul, TWAN, for National Geographic

The zodiacal light towers over Africa as seen from the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro in July 2009. Photograph by Kwon O. Chul, TWAN, for National Geographic.

“Then you will look and be radiant,
    your heart will throb and swell with joy”
-Isaiah 60:5

Where is the light in your life right now?  Where is your joy? For me this is a difficult season because someone I admired very much passed away during this time last year.  In fact, our community has lots of difficult anniversaries to walk through this year since many have so recently left us.  And instead of reflecting on the light, my mind is drawn into darkness.  And I ask the question that we all ask when unexplained bad things happen:  Why?  To which I can find no good answer.  I try to shift my thoughts.  I ask: Where?  Where is the light and the joy?  Let me follow where they lead.  Where can I shine a light today?

Today is the Feast of Epiphany when we remember a bright star that shone in a midnight blue sky, so brilliant that strangers from another land marveled at its mystery and followed it all the way to a distant, strange and humble place.

The light leads us all to humility.  To behold our many mangers.  To unexpected places where love can be born.  Through cities full of raging kings, through the tears of childless mothers, through mobs worried about money, through peoples’ judgements upon our lives, through it all so that we may know that light can shine in all these places.  Here, among us in our bleak midwinter, love is born.

Here is a blessing for you this day:  May you see and follow the light (however small) and the joy (however childish) that is shining in your life.  May you fear not the place to which you are called to go.  May you behold the child in the humble manger–the one with a face similar to yours.  May you hold this child, the incarnate light of God, so that all may see and know that no matter how dark a time is this:  love wins.

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Shining Light on Newtown, CT and Our Collective Unconsciousness

“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it.”  

-John 1:5

The fact that we are all children of light can now be scientifically proven.  We are made of waves and particles of light, bundles of frozen light, even the light of stardust.  The very same particles that once inhabited the body of Jesus and the Buddha, also inhabit our own.  And yet this knowledge seems ethereally unearthing as we yearn to land our feet on more concrete times, when we could clearly differentiate between the good guys and the bad guys, the sons of light and the sons of darkness.

Postmodernity has certainly challenged the way we think the world works.  It is frightening to think that I cannot clearly define my enemy.  For who am I without my adversary to make me stronger?  And how do we fight the demons of the mentally ill?  I don’t understand how people can do such awful things.

“It’s a chemical imbalance,” the psychiatrist says.  And I know that drugs can help.  But stories can too.  And self knowledge.  And community.  And collective wisdom.

How does a person grow up and execute a god-like fantasy of being all powerful enough to kill anyone they please?

“They’re crazy.”

“They are the bad guys.”

“We need more guns to fight these devils.”

And yet Carl Jung’s thought runs through my mind:  what happens in the culture is reflected in the depths of the human psyche, in the collective unconscious.  ‘The collective unconscious contains the whole spiritual heritage of mankind’s evolution, born anew in the brain structure of every individual.’ (CW 8, §342)

Our brains resemble old museums that contain many of the archetypal markings of our evolutionary past. … Our brains are full of ancestral memories and processes that guide our actions and dreams but rarely emerge unadulterated by cortico-cultural influences during our everyday activities. (Panksepp, Affective Neuroscience, p. 75)

“I’m nothing like my brother,  Adam!”  Ryan Lanza pushed himself far away from the piercing collective judgement that fell upon him when police misidentified the killer.  We all pushed ourselves away.  We are nothing like him either.  Are we?

In Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ best selling book, Women Who Run with the Wolves, she describes a character deep within the human psyche that we must track in order to avoid becoming his next murder victim.  This character is told of in many myths and fairy tales, in Fitcher’s Bird, in Bluebeard, in the Bible–King Herod and Pharaoh and many other ancient rulers are also archetypes of this deadly man.  Certainly many of us thought of Rachel’s lament over the Holy Innocents when we heard of the horrors in Newtown, CT.  The frightening character that runs through all these stories is the powerful male who cannot stop slaughtering the helpless and the innocent.  (Who we all are, without our own guns to protect us.)

This is an ancient story.  This is a human story.  It is a part of our ancestral makeup.  What bit of wisdom are these old stories trying to pass on to us?  How can we defeat this enemy in our time?

Estes writes of his destructive nature: “He is filled with hatred and desires to kill the lights of the psyche.  In the malignant formation there is trapped one who once wished for surpassing light and fell from Grace because of it.  We can understand why thereafter the exiled one maintains a heartless pursuit of the light of others.  We can imagine that it hopes that if it could gather enough soul(s) to itself, it could make a blaze of light that would finally rescind its darkness and repair its loneliness.”

Her description sounds like our task is to defeat Lucifer himself. Lucifer, meaning ‘morning star’, or ‘the light of Venus’ or light bearer.  When I was a child my mother told me that Lucifer got kicked out of heaven for wanting to be like God.  He didn’t want to worship God or be God’s messenger.  He wanted all the light for himself.  He wanted to be God, not bear God.  He acted against his own nature.  He wanted to be the light, not bear the light.  This story is also our story.

Growing up is painful work.  We learn that the world does not revolve around us.  That we are not the one light of the world, but in fact there are many other beautiful and brighter lights around us that are just as precious and valuable as we are.  We learn that the god we once thought we were (even as a teenager) is actually a mere mortal, capable of dying just like everyone else.

Freud wondered how the child lets go of the omnipotent illusion–the Pleasure Principal–and adjusted to the Reality principal.  And maybe this is where these shadowy figures become stalled in human development.   How difficult is it to face our own illusions of grandeur in the most powerful country in the world?  (It’s not even an illusion!) In my own life, how do I maintain the illusion of being all powerful? (In writing a blog?)

Jung’s solution is different than Freud’s who believed the reality we awoke to was dim and filled with countless neuroses.  Augustine would have been proud that his doctrine of original sin was translated into scientific language.  But Jung discovered a light in the darkness: his delusional patients weren’t just talking crazy, but actually recounting ancient myths and stories.  The key to their healing was finding the thread in the labyrinth, the life line that led them out of the darkness into a reality that maintained a connection to the inner world of imagination, of God, of Spirit.

I think many of us are still searching for that connection.  Many of us are living unconscious myths.  The myth that might makes right is a powerful one.  And people are grasping for power in a world that is seemingly filled with more scarcity than abundance.  Reality can be harsh, but we are made to incarnate light, to create and imagine a better reality.  To remain connected to our true light filled nature.  To live in community.

Does our culture lack a sense of wonder?  Do most of us feel we’re right and everyone else is an idiot?  (Sometimes.)  Do most of us desire power over the more vulnerable challenge to love one another?  How many of us enjoy feeling vulnerable anyways? Let’s admit it, we admire our strength and we fear the delicate side of our nature which is why the NRA commands we all be armed. This way we can defend ourselves from the other half of the human psyche, from that part that is vulnerable enough to be penetrated by another person’s perspective, to having another way of life incarnate our bodies and potentially transform us.  We want nothing to do with that kind of vulnerability.

And yet we claim God is on our side.  We give names to God like Almighty Father. All Powerful.  Victorious One.  Great and Mighty One.  Christians must remember what Jesus says, if you want to become great, become like the least of these.  (Matthew 20:26-28).  Unless we become like little (vulnerable) children, we will never get into the kingdom of God (Matthew 18:3).

Let us all look at our hands for any trace of blood.  As a culture we have been denying a part of our human nature.  We secretively want to kill the weaknesses in ourselves.  We work 80+ hours a week, push ourselves to the very limits, we starve ourselves to be thin, we stay busy, busy, busy so we don’t have to face the nagging insecurities within, the ones we project on to others whom we loath and tease for not being as tough as we are.

How can we truly care for those who are weak, poor and  mentally ill if we have not learned how to have compassion on our own vulnerabilities?  If we have not yet discovered that our greatest weakness might in fact turn out to be our greatest strength?

Let us walk to the river of repentance together.  We are created to bear light, not guns.  We have a whole lot of animus energy in our culture.  And it is way out of balance.  Would Jesus carry a gun?  (Please answer no or I will call you an idiot.)

I will not send my children to a school where teachers are armed.  Because human history has taught us this:  humanity is not filled with good guys and bad guys.  People have good and bad days.  Sometimes we break down and the light is lost from our eyes.  Sometimes no one has treated us like the miracles of creation that we are.  Sometimes no one has held up a mirror so we can see the light within.  We are missing the connection to the Sacred Feminine.  It is Her bright light of compassion and wisdom that can help us care for ourselves and one another.  Her energy that can teach us how the light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot not overcome it.

So as we approach this season of Epiphany, when we recall a great star in the sky, may we remember that its brightness shines in each one of us and may we take the light we have been given to bear in this time and bathe in its beauty, carry it into the unconscious terrain so that strangers who are traveling by night a great distance away may find the humble places where love is born among us now.  If anything can help us, love can.  More love and more light.

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Welcome to my New Blog

It’s a new year and time for a fresh start. I bid adieu to my tumblr blog, www.jessicajcreech.tumbr.com. I hope this new blog makes it easier for readers to share favorite posts with friends. Happy new year!

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