Sunday, August 14, 2022

Strange and Yet Familiar

What a strange week it has been in so many ways.  And yet, in some ways, the strangeness feels familiar.  Here I'm thinking the news of the FBI raid and classified documents hundreds of miles from where they should be stored, in the possession of Donald Trump in Florida--in some ways, it seems unprecedented, and in other ways, I shrug and say, "Of course it goes this way."  Traces of polio in the NY sewer system?  Of course it goes this way.

All yesterday, my brain returned to Salman Rushdie, who was attacked on Friday night by a man with a knife.  Yesterday morning, the news came that he was on a ventilator, and I dreaded where this story was headed.  But this morning, he's speaking.  Still, his injuries are so severe that in some ways, it seems shocking.  Yet in others, it seems like the logical outgrowth of the times we live in--and a fearsome road sign.  How does this trajectory end?  In armed civil war, as in the nineteenth century in so many countries?  Or with more of us taking more precautions of all kinds?

As I thought about Rushdie, about attacks on artists, my thoughts drifted to my own work.  While my mean inner voice sneered that I needn't worry, my rational brain thought about my work that would challenge those of a traditional Christian faith . . . or those with a traditional view of gender . . . or those with specific views of what should be taught in the classroom.  While most of us won't face the kind of severe threat that Rushdie has faced (hopefully we won't), we are none of us as safe as we might think we are.

I have been getting back to poetry writing, after a season of being mostly away--in part because of my broken wrist, in part because of moving.  Three weeks ago, these lines came to me as I thought about my spouse and myself and the ways that we have such different interests and how it can be hard for me to understand his approach and how he might be baffled at my midlife shift to seminary:

He's never seen a wall

he didn't dream of moving.

She rewrites every sacred text.

I thought these lines might make a good poem, and I tried.  That approach went nowhere in the first incarnation.  

But as I read updates and tweets and posts from the Churchwide Assembly* for the ELCA (which is the group of moderate, mainstream Lutherans which is one of my current worshipping preferences), my poem went a different direction and became something more interesting.  I had a glimpse of it and wrote this tweet:

"Wrestling with a poem that will include this line: 'She rewrites every sacred text.' It will include chickens and drying herbs and a churchwide meeting in a far away place. And some sort of art with fabric."

I am at the point with this poem where I am not sure if it is finished.  Does it have more to offer?  Should I just leave it alone?  It feels like I have more to say, but I'm not sure exactly what or how.  Once I might have been sure I would sort it out.  Now I am just as likely to wander away and never come back to this poem.  Is that O.K.?  Is some essential part of myself being lost?

Yesterday, I ordered books for seminary classes this fall, lots and lots of books.  I made this Facebook post:  "Just ordered all my books for Fall seminary classes and am now enjoying multiple freak outs: Can I really read all of these books in one term? Can I really do this work? Each book is inexpensive, but all of them together cost how much? And I know that the answer is that I am a strong, capable woman who can do this work and afford these books, but my inner freak out voice is not easily banished. Note to self for future terms: perhaps order the books one class at a time, instead of all at once."

Again, a process so strange, yet so familiar--I've successfully completed one year of seminary studies.  Why am I having anxiety now?  And yet the anxiety is familiar.  And perhaps that is why my brain returns to these patterns, so strange, yet so familiar.

*For more on what a Churchwide Assembly does, see this post on my theology blog.

No comments: