Some days – perhaps most days – I write because I think I have something to say or I have a conversation I hope to begin. Some nights – like tonight – I write to show (myself) I can make the letters line up in words and sentences to make some sort of meaning. I write to prove to myself I can and to refuse myself the option of falling into the deep.
Today was a good day. In worship we celebrated our confirmands as they chose to become followers of Christ. I had coffee with a friend after church, a good nap in the afternoon, and Indian food with some other friends this evening. And I feel like I’m living under the weight of one of those lead blankets they put over you when you have your teeth xrayed.
It is hard to talk about yourself, and so before I describe my current writing experience, at this time in my life, I wish to make a few observations about the impact that a disaster, a traumatic situation, has on an entire society, an entire people. I immediately recall the words of the mouse in Kafka’s short story “A Little Fable.” The mouse who, as the trap closes on him, and the cat looms behind, says, “Alas . . . the world is growing narrower every day.”
Grossman is writing about the effect of living in the midst of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and (at the risk of belittling his observations by connecting them to my personal state of being) I find resonance in his quoting of Kafka. The world is growing narrower everyday for me.
I also found resonance in this paragraph:
Writers know that when we write, we feel the world move; it is flexible, crammed with possibilities. It certainly isn’t frozen. Wherever human existence permeates, there is no freezing and no paralysis, and actually, there is no status quo. Even if we sometimes err to think that there is a status quo; even if some are very keen to have us believe that a status quo exists. When I write, even now, the world is not closing in on me, and it does not grow ever so narrow: it also makes gestures of opening up toward a future prospect.
Again, he is speaking in more global terms than any individual’s psychological struggle, much less my depression, and I understand how the world can change when I put words on paper. Part of our UCC ritual at confirmation is to ask the young people if they promise, with God’s help, to resist evil and oppression in Jesus’ name. While we were getting ready for church this morning, there was a television preacher who promised a CD that would cure depression if I would just believe enough to send him some money. (His actual tone was less cynical.) Another made it sound as though it were just a matter of my strength of will: if I were sincere enough in my prayers and committed enough in my mind and heart, I would feel better.
Damn. If I’d only thought of that sooner life could’ve been so much easier.
The question to the kids did help me as I asked myself if I promised to resist.
Resist: express opposition through action or words; withstand the force of something; refuse to comply.
The image that came to mind was that of freedom fighters from World War II Europe to Mandela in South Africa looking for ways, both big and small, to keep the world from growing more narrow and to resist what was destroying their humanity. Every person that has refused to comply with whatever sought to narrow their world has gestured toward “some future prospect” that is not necessarily painless or perfect, but is something beyond the status quo. I’m not saying my personal pain is on a par with those is Gaza, Jerusalem, or Darfur. I am saying the act of resistance is a personal act regardless of the size of the oppressor.
One of the things Ginger said to the confirmands today was:
As you face the demons that accompany adolescence and adults adulthood, remember that practicing our faith and praying empowers us to live as Jesus taught refusing to nurture those inner demons who hinder us from being who God calls us to be, hinder us from wholeness, from being all that we can be, wonderfully and uniquely created in the image of God and worthy to be loved.
As a congregation we repeated the words, “I am wonderfully and uniquely created in the image of God and worthy to be loved.”
Though I feel as though I’m living a lead-plated life, I will move my hands to write and resist, looking for words to widen the way to wholeness and connectedness, harboring hope, and refusing to comply with the narrowing way. If I can write it, perhaps I can live it.