Friday, December 2, 2011

2011.12.11 Fleeting Frail Memory

It occurred to me as I write my memoir that even the facts I know I don’t remember long or well, often doubt altogether. It’s why fragile memory can’t be proven, only explored and experienced with loving care. Then gone.

Here is a quote on memory from Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited.  I love it.

"My theme is memory, that winged host that soared about me one grey morning of war-time. These memories, which are my life—for we possess nothing but the past—were always with me. Like the pigeons of St. Mark's, they were everywhere, under my feet, singly, in pairs, in little honey-voiced congregations, nodding, strutting, winking, rolling the tender feathers of their necks, perching sometimes, if I stood still, on my shoulder; until, suddenly, the noon gun boomed and in a moment, with a flutter and sweep of wings, the pavement was bare and the whole sky above dark with a tumult of fowl. Thus it was that morning of war-time. "  

I do envy that prose. We'd be blackballed today probably for such a lengthy sentence but it is eloquent.  We who write are all honey-voiced don't you think? 

My favorite Christmas memory of my childhood is my father reading aloud "Twas the Night Before Christmas" as we small three daughters listened in awe and wonder. The story itself held all the enchantment of the Nativity story. It's the story that converts and transforms, not its veracity.

My second favorite or clear memory of Christmas is of my father singing carols in his rich bass voice in church. It was enough just to listen and watch the candles flicker for me to know Love lives no matter what else dies.

The Eucharist is like Waugh's memory pigeons, a glimpse of remembered life, sharply present, beckoning, the past possessed, then, suddenly, swallowed and gone—not forgotten just gone. The Greeks call this phenomenon anamnesis (no amnesia.)

All you can do is say thanks for the memory.

2011.12.07 Anita Hill, Still Brave

It's Pearl Harbor Day, a time to remember tragedy, grieve our warlike ways, and up our efforts to prevent war!!

Also a fitting time for me to commemorate one of my heros who in her own way made a contribution to the effort to end violence and its ideologies.

In early October I heard Anita Hill speak on her new book Reimagining Equality. Stories of Gender and Race and Finding Home.

Hill as I expected her to be was eloquent speaking of how our ideas about HOME shape our experience and form our ideas of justice and equality in America.

I remember being riveted to the TV in 1991 when Hill confronted the issues of sexual harassment at the Senate hearing to confirm Clarence Thomas as a Supreme Court Justice.

I’d never heard of sexual harassment but I sure had experienced it in church and society AND never thought a thing about it. I figured it was about my being an attractive women. Imagine!

Not until I read and became a feminist did I understand inequities, power dynamics and patriarchy, aptly defined by theologian Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza as any system of social organization that depends for its stability, its very existence, on -isms, strongly held beliefs and norms whereby one group has,and is supposed to have, more power and more access to resources than all others.

The inequity is structured right into the system,politically, economically, and theologically. It’s a short attitudinal hop from God HE the Almighty power to HE the man who has power over the woman. HE with all the power and right is sexISM.

Ism to me means that whatever precedes the -ism has all the power in the mind of a culture, an individual, or a group. I’m glad Christianity isn’t called Christian-ism.

Anita Hill told us that her grandmother’s name never appeared on the documentation or deed for a large farm her grandparents homesteaded in 1869. Her grandFATHER went from being property to owning property, the American dream. What happened to HER? The grandparents farmed the land together, both giving sweat and tears to the project of landed freedom. It wasn’t that her grandfather treated her grandmother with personal disrespect; the context ignored her very existence.

That’s old stuff you say. Maybe and maybe not. We’ve come a long way for sure and we’re not there yet. Hill cited the current housing crisis and foreclosure as no accident. The crisis is gendered. Women, singles in fact, have been unable to get loans and gain greater economic independence.

The two-parent single home solution isn’t working as the dream. It is failing to provide true HOME.

This is not the space to go deeper into this but Hill said the American dream of everyone being able to own property has ballooned. It has become distorted to mean that every American MUST HAVE bigger and bigger homes. "Trophy" mansions represent a failure of equity. They are symbols of a failed vision.

I’ve never like the idea of equality anyway. Human beings are not equal. They are equivalent, of equal value in our nations and in our churches.

Hill suggested that HOME means belonging, safety, community, not just house.

Many churches bear the name Heavenly Rest. Rest is a biblical metaphor for God. It doesn’t just mean peace after you die. You have a home in God as you are right now.

If we could begin to see each other this way we might rework the American dream and work to enlarge the concept of HOME as belonging in a community of equivalent souls where anything that devalues things black, female, disabled, poor, etc. undermines the whole.

According to Hill we need a movement from tolerance to belonging—very spiritual, very political, very economic, very American.