Wednesday, May 1, 2019

2019.04. 28 Am I My Sister's Keeper? Women Explore.

Most of my life I’ve resisted being anyone’s keeper or being kept by anyone else. I don’t mean being a “kept woman”—like by some man for his sexual pleasure. No, that would surely lead me to suicide or homicide. Maybe a deep sense of belonging or true love, but it would have to be mutual. It’s hard to give with no take. Then again, what would be the spirituality of keepership?

On Thursday May 16th at noon I will be speaking on the topic “Am I My Sister’s Keeper?” for the lecture and discussion forum called Women Explore (WE) at 45 Mt Auburn Street, Cambridge. All are welcome. “Am I My Sister’s Keeper?” is one of the topics scheduled for WE’s spring series on women immigrants, sex trafficking, women’s rights, and more.

I was invited because I asked—how obvious—and because I am a lifetime female explorer. People mostly think first of Columbus, or men heading out to cross dangerous seas to discover new lands, crossing frozen tundras, scaling the peaks of Everest, when they think of explorers. Of course women can and do explore this way. And I’m not the only woman who has a deep intuitive sense of a bright, splendid, ineffable, unnameable, and unmanageable Mystery that lies beyond her grasp but that she can discern shimmering in a child’s face, or in human kindness, as well as in the glory and ferocity of nature. Some call this energy soul; some call it spirituality. It’s worth exploring together.

WE provides lectures and discussion within a feminist learning community for women, to connect with the sacred dimensions of their experience and to support and encourage each other in the world community. It began as T.O.P., the Theological Opportunities Program at the Harvard Divinity School in 1973. Sacred? Theological? Divinity School? I called WE. They’d had a cancellation for this topic. Timing is everything. But am I my sister’s keeper?  I know for sure I wasn’t such a great keeper of my own biological little sisters. Still, the topic became emblazoned in my imagination. I love to infuse meaty scriptural wisdom with feminine energy.

WE is committed to liberation politics and is aware of many ways in which women are still oppressed living in a patriarchal system. God knows all scriptures and all religions are familiar with the unjust structures of patriarchy. But would this group take a Rev.?

The issue about being another person's keeper appears in an ancient biblical story about the first murder and cover-up. (Genesis 4:1-16) Contemporary societies should be right at home! After the Garden of Eden affair, things go down hill fast for the sons of Adam and Eve. Cain, jealous of his younger brother Abel’s apparently earning divine approval, murders Abel, then covers up the ugly deed. God suspects evil, yet questions Cain about his brother’s whereabouts. (Isn’t that funny, when most of the world thinks God knows everything anyway, yet God courteously—respectfully— asks anyway? ) Cain, defensive, pops his infamous question to God: “How should I know? Am I my brother’s keeper?”

The story unfolds in fascinating ways. It is not historical/literal, but boy, is it true  to human experience! The question the story poses, though unanswered, has gravitas and still hangs over history and human conscience to this day. And now WE is wondering about the gender implications. Are women our sisters’ keepers? Am I?
I set to wondering. Is this question more sensitive for women, and also men, who have struggled with addictions and codependency issues?  How does care-taking differ from caring?  What does the word “keeper” really mean? What about parenting? What does Christian faith have to say about this issue? Was Jesus Christ anyone’s keeper? This topic is rich and I plan to consider it with care—after I consult with my flesh-and-blood living sister.

I will speak to Women Explore (WE) from my own spiritual experience and professional training, using my own words. PLEASE JOIN ME to explore this tender topic. Come at 11:30 to 45 Mt. Auburn Street. Check website for parking information.

So just maybe I'm a keeper.