un-honeyed

 

 

Women were soil–
fertile ground without
power of creation.
But I’m tired of writing on women
and I’m tired of writing about you–
The poems, like you, come up short every time.

I should have known the cat would roll over
fleshy stomach up, full
breasts, only baby birds
falling from the nest
unparalleled. trauma: he was
gone the first time.
she found three parallel lines
colliding in the warm place
and said “stay.”
Marching on and around
walls that do not fall.
Do not talk to me about God
unless you see utter-up cats,
falling chicks, and 5-yr-old girls
coming to a canter in the field
as the reason for bloodied
knuckles and mythology.

 


I wrote this poem probably in the middle of Christian Ethics and I just found it in my notebook. I don’t like the title (“I do not know what it means to be a Christian”) and I don’t know if this poem is even about that anymore, but it was the sentiment that inspired this poem and so I’m keeping it as a placeholder for now.

It’s painful and uncomfortable to realize that you no longer know how to define the very thing you believe. All I know is that a lot of what I once associated with “Christian” no longer seems essential and while it isn’t fun, I believe this process is essential to breaking down illusions. While we question the definitions of that which we thought of as concrete, there will be fall out and we will make mistakes–but the life of faith is vast and adventurous.

Today my prayer is that the Lord may fill you with awareness that you are alive, and with the ability to recognize Christ in your sister and brother.

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un-honeyed

on tactile epistemology, on semiotics, on pie crusts

http://www.annhamiltonstudio.com/projects/lineament.html
Lineament, Ann Hamilton

(for a worthwhile and quick description of the above installation, see here)

Written on 14 Nov 15, at the Monastery:

I came for answers and feared God wouldn’t meet me. What I found was silence…

I have felt small and unknown, but also vast and free…but really, we are always small and unknown… But there is vastness in smallness and freedom in being unknowable. I’m not saying it makes it easier when you wake up on a Saturday and become suddenly aware of your subversive searches for intimacy wrecking havoc on your solitude.

but then you are under a cross on a hill. You are small and vast, unknowable and free. A child of God with all the physical and spiritual needs of every human. You and I have our memories that haunt us. We have our illusions and our moments of vision which we are so often unable to decipher from one another. You and I have our traumas, our baggage, our unmet needs, our days where we cannot figure out what is wrong with us;  We have our glorious moments of magnanimity and our knowing moments of destruction; We have our neuroses and our judgments, our pride, our shame, our addictions. You and I lie to ourselves: We think we are both better and worse than we are. We waste so much time hating ourselves or others or both.

Yet we have an impulse for light and many cracks through which it may shine. 

There is no more need for words.

Here, there is silence–the only war that begets peace 


I imagined the phrase “tactile epistemology” while listening to Krista Tippett and Ann Hamilton and making pie crust. I am by no means the first to come up with this phrase or this idea (see Feminist Theory, see Laura U. Marks, see Barbara Brown Taylor, etc.), but the idea of tactile epistemology and of semiotics have become overwhelmingly relevant to my life of faith and of study.

Semiotics refers to the study of meaning making–the idea there is the signified (the actual “thing” we try to communicate which will always surpass words) and the signifier (the word or phrase used to represent that “thing”) . [Congrats, you just took part in lit theory 101.] I don’t have a particularly deep understanding of semiotics, but it seems endlessly relevant to art and to belief and to love.

I have become obsessed with embodied knowledge. While my obsession with words has not waned, I find truth articulated strongly in making pie crusts, in walking, in dancing. There is a pre-signifier space when tiptoes are on warped wood floors and window light rests on hands kneading dough. There is a trans-signifier space when someone smiles at you and you feel it in your gut.

Lately, I have been sensed a heaviness when attempting to articulate that which can only be known in sharing laughter or in holding a hand or in digging in the dirt. My writing has (ironically, perhaps) been about these moments.  I think, however, that certain forms of writing transcend the world of signifiers and enter into realms of mimesis so that words begin to accomplish what music and painting and sculpture accomplishes. That is the moment that words become art.

Experiences that surpass words and the compulsion to try and contain them within words will always bring me life. This semiotic, tactile knowledge leads me to love sacraments–or at least the idea of sacraments. The visceral experience of God can and does exceed all words and dogma and God is present in the most basically ordinary of all human experiences.

There’s a strong irony to this post that makes this topic in a way, self evident. My language here has been convoluted and perhaps annoying. I’d like to think it’s because there is little to say about that which cannot be said.


 

 

 

on tactile epistemology, on semiotics, on pie crusts

this isn’t a liminal space

maybe it once was. maybe it never was. but i want it to be.

enormoussmallness2There’s sense of completion to the things I post, a sense of finality and of pretty bows. There are answers here.

Not to say the things I write aren’t genuine. There are moments of clarity rather than illusion, of solitude without loneliness, of silence that pulses with life rather than fear. But my guess is that you and I spend most of our time in the threshold. We are here, in the strange space between peace and fear, loneliness and love, communion with God and waking unsettled and unsure if anyone would miss us if we left. We exist in precarious thresholds and it is in these thresholds that I begin to write compulsively.

There are many things I write that I don’t post and won’t post. We all have things we don’t / shouldn’t share. Even more than that, we have thing we cannot share because although we write about them we cannot understand them ourselves.

But I’ve become afraid of writing in liminal spaces, which is where we learn what it is to be human.

Liminal means “occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary” and it’s from the latin word “līmen” which means threshold. In anthropology, liminality is “the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of rituals, when participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the ritual is complete.” I also think of it as that moment in a song where you feel alive and connected to what’s happening in the music, but even in that moment, you’re aware that it nearly gone.

And that’s where we are. Or at least where I am. And I want to write into that space and invite us to exist here in the threshold together–here where we do not need answers and we do not need our shit together because do we ever completely have both of those things?

Having said all this to what feels like a nonexistent audience that (if it does exist) perhaps reads the first two paragraphs of what I write, I want to also say I am going to try and be more raw here. I won’t shy away from giving “answers” but i don’t want to focus on them because this is not meant to be the space for that.

Be gentle with me.

I’ve been doing a poor job of being gentle to those around me, sometimes it is easier to be harsh because it gives us a sense of vindication.

Be gentle with each other. We are all fragile and in need of love.

So let’s learn to be gentle here in the liminal spaces of our lives, we are being transformed and we must be present in that.

Love,
Danielle

this isn’t a liminal space

Maybe someone should disable wordpress after midnight PT II

** I wrote the start of this Wednesday in the Emergency room and forgot to post it.

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Sometimes you’re sitting alone in the hospital, you smell like the inside of a sock, and the fact that whatever muscle connecting your femur and pelvic bone** is pulled and hasn’t stopped aching for 5 hours (3 of which you’ve spent in ER waiting room) is actually a 20x better situation than your closest friend’s current predicament.

I’m going to ask you to do something. Take off your shoes and socks, turn your sock inside out and take a big ol’ wiff cause that’s me. Also my face is actually resembling pepperoni pizza. I think it’s because i haven’t been eating sugar of any kind for 5 days and apparently my body it “detoxifying” itself–aka i’m pepperoni pizza face and my skin is paying me back for being fine during middle school.

Sometimes there’s so much going on that you feel like you’re skimming the surface of all of it without understanding any of it. Every time you pause to try to reflect, you end up falling asleep because you got up early after staying late in the ER and you didn’t realize you were tired until you stopped moving. And then you wake up at 3pm and you’re not sure what day it is because you didn’t go to class or work because you still can’t walk very well.

Also, you can’t put pants on without agitating that hamstring so you tell your dang leg, “Suck it up, Buttercup,” bend over in a lot of pain, and pull up your pants. You start laughing alone in your room because it’s genuinely hilarious that you can’t get your pants on.

me + bae in boston before we went our ways (look, ok, we're in love if you didn't already know)
me + bae in boston before we went our ways (look, ok, we’re in love if you didn’t already know)

On the way to Boston, you talk to a man who sells software about how much you love jesuit priests because what else do you talk about? You keep getting wheeled everywhere because there is no way you can carry all your bags while on crutches. It’s pretty fun until you realize how not-fun it is to be dependent on people. Forget crutches, forget wheelchairs, You’ll walk all through Boston if its the last thing you do (dammit!).

You keep skimming the surface of everything and you forget how to stop and go deep until you have to.  You find yourself in a new city, hardly able to walk, and you’re suddenly alone. Your mom has to leave and your friend who you originally were going to travel with is somewhere out in Massachusetts far from you.

You stop and feel overwhelmed for a moment. But then gratitude starts again because honestly, you’ve been needing time alone and far from the people you know. There’s peace in this moment. You hobble to the public library and find out it’s closed. You find a nice Uber driver to take you to a random cafe far from where you’re staying. He gives you safety tips, offers you his number and you talk about how Pakistan and India hate each other because what else do you talk about? (He also tells you the unsafe areas of Boston where he says “lots of Black people are” and you inwardly cringe knowing now is not the time or place to reprimand someone’s racism).

You get to Diesel Cafe, you sit, you read, you reflect.

And then you find that your selfless actions have been fueled by the wrong things and you’ve been forgetting to thank God for the things you do not have. In other words, you’ve been forgetting to trust God that there are lessons to be learned in all things.

Mostly, you realize that this week, you’ve been doing a lot of praying and have forgotten to listen.


**I found out later that I tore part of my hamstring. So much for “obscure muscle”.

Maybe someone should disable wordpress after midnight PT II

on meeting angels, on touch, on holding hands

(these are three seemingly unconnected anecdotes from last Sunday, but i promise you’ll understand how they connect at the end)

tumblr_muzg51nl641r2afqho1_500

When I think about angels (which is almost never), I think about 6-winged seraphim with necks bent to protect their face from the Holy, and I wonder how my wingless body expects to behold God when Isaiah’s response was: “Woe is me! for I am undone.” (Isaiah 6)

Then, I think of that girl I met that one cold Monday night. She (Brittany) stood to my right and handed out styrofoam to-go boxes as I poured hot chocolate for the hungry. I went alone that night (and every night) because the solitude makes me more aware of my body and of my spirit–but more than that–being alone keeps me vigilant to the moment when my hand flinches from another’s around the cup of hot chocolate. In other words, vigilant to the moments I forget I am there not to feed, but to be fed by the presence of Christ who is in those hands I am afraid to touch.

But It wasn’t the frightening fingers that remind me of angels, it was that girl to my right. After that night, Brittany and I agreed to meet on Thursday for coffee. As I walked out of the Jam, it crossed my mind that maybe, just maybe, I had dined with an angel. In our time together Brittany told me many things about God–some of which I wrote down on an Iphone note, most of which I have forgotten. But the thing I cling to even now is when she said “do not despise your journey”.

On 22 January 2015, I did not know I was headed towards 6 slow months of being taught how to praise God because he says “no” rather than despite the fact He says “no.” To praise God in the midst of a time of “no’s” means you’re learning to trust that God does not waste our sickness, our heartbreak, or our confusion. It’s a time of angry prayers, of laments; It’s a time where you say things to God you could never have imagined saying. But there you are, you’ve been parked in your driveway for 27 minutes but you still can’t get out of the car and you’re not totally sure if you’re talking to God or to yourself.

But in that season, it was as if the words “do not despise your journey” were seared into my mind so that in the moments when I wasn’t even sure if I believed in God (He seemed so far for so many months), I knew that I could not despise all that was happening. So when I think of angels, I think of terrifying Seraphim hiding their faces from God, but also, I think of that girl I spent a couple of hours with on a Monday and on a Thursday, whose message of “do not despise your journey” echoes in my mind even still.


I have to tell you about Ray because he is becoming an essential part of my journey.

Ray is much older than me and lacks both sight and a car. We formed a random friendship in August and now I pick him up each Sunday for Church. One day, I will write more about the incredible amounts that God is teaching me through Ray and more about the incredibly unique parts of our friendship, but for now, I just want to say a quick word about touch.

Ray’s sight comes in and out, but by most definitions, Ray is blind. He needs me to guide him and so we walk with his arm around my waist and my arm around his shoulder, we hold hands as I walk in front of him through the narrow aisles of Church of the Redeemer, and leading Ray up to the front of the sanctuary to take communion is always a slow, humorous affair. Needless to say, Ray and I have a lot of physical contact and it’s causing me to think about touch more. I don’t have some grand conclusion, but I am learning that there is something spiritual about the kind of touch that heals and has no expectations.


As I’ve said before, hands are marvelous, and the condition of my heart is so often revealed by what my hands are doing.  On that Monday night, they both flinched away from and clasped onto homeless hands. Now, in September, I find myself in a place of joy. I told someone last week that I’m almost afraid of what is next because life has been so sweet of late.

But last Sunday, I wrote in my sermon notes: “I have a profound desire to hold someone’s hand”. I was sitting in church distracted, tired, and selfish–having a hard time listening to the sermon let alone to God. But then I realized that maybe someone sitting next to me also needed a hand to hold and despite my inattentive ear, the Holy Spirit still stirred within me. So I grabbed Ray’s hand during the prayers of the people and prayed for his sight, which was particularly bad last Sunday. After the prayer, Ray told me he could see better; He called me a saint and I laughed because he would say differently if only he had known that I grabbed his hand out of my own need to quell the selfish and distracted thoughts of my heart.

But then I thought about Brittany. It is possible that she was an angel, but it also possible that she was just a human that God decided to use in a particularly poignant moment. It’s possible that her heart is just as sinful as mine, but that God gave her a prophetic word to guide me through the next 6 months in which He would feel distant and unreal. It’s possible that I am Ray’s saint, and that Ray is my saint–that despite ourselves, God is using both of us to teach one another of His love.

Today, Ray told me that he has been seeing better all week since that prayer, and as we exited the sanctuary he told pastor Tom (still looking slightly left of Tom’s eyes) that God has been healing his vision all week long. He also told Sarah and I today that he has seen all 5 “Bring it On” movies and that he loves Pretty Little Liars.

So then I did the right thing and told Ray that he has bad taste in movies.

on meeting angels, on touch, on holding hands

Common prayer, 22 July 2015

road4“Lord God, you reveal yourself to us in so many subversive and unassuming ways. Give us the eyes to see the miracles and resurrection that happen every day. Unclog our ears to hear you, and show us how to get rid of the clutter of our lives that we might make room for you. Amen.”

I can only deal with the past when I search for the resurrection. I can only find the resurrection when I am healed from my blindness to see mystery of the life. I need deep faith to believe the mystery that I am loved by God in order to stop being a consumer (of friendship, of accomplishments, of accolades, of fading bliss).

Common prayer, 22 July 2015