Tuesday, August 23, 2011

9 years all in one (2)

caper 2This is not a hunter-gatherer society; this is the early 21st century. Meaning yes, I do need to use my education, gifts and experience to benefit others and no, I cannot be well unless I'm doing so. I'm longing for the dignity of participating in life to an extent reasonably related to my abilities; I'm looking for the redemption of love.

Here's the second of my previously 9 posts eclipsed into only two.

Regarding my own future prospects. Walter Brueggemann says "bright, skilled educated people are valued and sought after." He also speaks of people feeling nullified, which exactly has been my experience for too long now, though I haven't been feeling much of anything forever, and recovering reasonable emotional responses is one of my major goals for the future. Related to which and related to the past, I know my use of tools and interventions such as psychotherapy and 12-step processes has been usefully practical. I've taken them for what they're worth and have become adept at eating up the apple and spitting out the core and most of the seeds.

I read somewhere that "being over-responsible is neurosis (does anyone use that word anymore?); being irresponsible is character disorder--you really can't help being a little of one or the other at times." Like many women, I tend toward the over-responsible/neurosis end and struggle not to assume agency for everything that happens in my life. How-some-ever, I do realize that for structural and other reasons, the small parish typically will not be able to offer me the opps I need and want, and for the most part that's where I've tried hanging out.

I'm a theologian so I do ambiguity and paradox very well, but many many situations are not at all paradoxical or ambiguous.

Cornel West speaks of "dangling people:" I don't have the exact context, but would describe it as folks with no organic connection to anyone or much of anyone else. Organic connection means you're part of something living, you're attached to it in more than a single sense, you receive from it and you give to it in something related to a symbiotic one. The rest of the "organism" recognizes you as part of them, knows you need to participate in their life and realizes they need to participate in yours (in mine). They basically know who you are! People do the best when and where they get the most support.

When a person moves to a new geographical area, whether because of marriage, school, work or all three, it takes a while to start connecting, but after all this time… Another faith, order & witness committee member observed with a sense of surprise that amongst homeless, street-bound populations a social order evolves. I commented, "of course—that's a given!" It's also a given that in a complex society where everyone is involved in several, sometimes dozens of places (family, church, work, school, clubs, professional organizations) no one will assume a place and a role in every one of them, but needs to know who and where they are in at least a few.

I describe the kind of theology I do as the interface of church and society, Christianity and culture but given that I'm not doing much of anything out there in the world (but need to have mercy on myself, because when you're constantly in scratch for life survival mode what can you do), meaning I have almost nothing to think about or write about. I'm thinking if I get out there in various venues, I might meet people and have experiences that would lead to some great blogging and even people and communities that might be interested in me--or at least curious! When singer Amy Winehouse died a couple weeks back, a lot of media talk commented on guilt, responsibility, mutual guilt and inter-responsibility (impossible to tease out much of anything) and someone said other people had not made life worthwhile enough for Amy or for others who either OD'd accidentally or directly committed suicide. For sure memories, symbols, images and (particularly scriptural) texts and previous experiences all take a part in literally mediating our current experiences.

Some New Age and other self-improvement types speak of needing to find happiness, fulfillment, etc, within oneself. That is so wrong! Needless to say, a person needs to do the "inner work," sometimes in a formal sense like psychotherapy or 12-step groups, but ultimately a person finds the plain and simple, bread and butter state happiness and the deeper, more resonant reality of joy in service to others. Some situations are ambiguous; many aren't. Some experiences and lack thereof are not quantifiable, but quite a few easily can be counted.

What can I do to help revitalize my own life? Nothing, really, but I can tell people what I need and what I want; I can ask them for what I need and what I want. I fully expected to return to full participation in mainline church and mainstream society and as I've previously written, I very much still desire aspects of both, and would be more than satisfied with a few opps to dance around their edges.

You know it isn't, "but I prepared to be: pastor of Riverside Church; CEO of Apple; Cleveland Orchestra Music Director; Attorney General of the USA… became so very qualified and someone else got the job." In real life I prepared for a life of service to church and world that would use the gifts God gave me in a variety of ways; wisely, I wasn't necessarily focused on serving in a single particular venue, but assumed most of the skills I developed were transferable and translatable into many. For example, if I'd insisted on a career teaching Sanskrit at the graduate level in a Brazilian University, that would have been opening myself to an eventually probably not happening, but that's not what I did.

But remembering and literally re-visiting and re-visioning times with friends, times of service, times of shared meals, working on various kinds of projects is part of helping realize what might be, even in the very near future. There were a lot of good and healthy times in the past, a lot of events that helped create community and even helped the participants become more who God created them to be. So a list? Not right now, not at this time, but I'm working on one. Peace!

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