Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Of Gods and Children

Sometimes I curse the gods for pestering my tiny brain with so many thoughts, both useless and important. It's funny how the cursing of mythological characters cracks open the pot and lets some steam out, a second before the whole thing blows. I'm thinking of fashioning my own personal god and affixing him (of course he will be male) to the top of my brain, as a sort of steam-release valve.

I've spent years yelling at the real God and have decided it's no good; as recondite as He often is, He always pulls out the "Absolute Perfection" card and trumps my ( less impressive) run of moral failures.

In all seriousness and before I dive head-first into the shallow pool of Sacrilege (have I jumped already?) I'll get to my point: Life is maddening.

I wonder if human life has always been so difficult. My guess is that it's never been a cake-walk. Perhaps it's a bit more like Musical Chairs; we're all running around with a nervousness in our gut, looking out for a small slice of space to squeeze into, while keeping half an eye on the person with the boom box. When the music stops, we've somehow managed to miss the signs and stand enfeebled, shocked senseless; that mangled piece in our middles drops clear through to the floor.

Children's games are altered since I was a girl. Musical Chairs now boasts a merciful 1:1 ratio of chairs to children. Red Rover isn't a Keeping Out; it's a Welcoming In. Kids can't even be on a winning team, anymore; the Law of Opposite's would rear it's head and call the other team losers. This is all part of the big conspiracy we adults concoct to hide from our children the genuine, cut-throat nature of life. I don't know why today's parents try to hide it while yesterday's parents practically created it; maybe, in the face of near-miraculous technology, we're more optimistic about the future of the human race. Maybe, as we move into a global society, we're sure that education and tolerance is the sanity that delivers us from evil. Or maybe each of us is still the red-faced girl who knows the game is over and she doesn't have a chair to sit on.

Kids seem to know our little secret; with the adults gone back inside, they pick up a game of Dodge-Ball. The stronger children pelt the smaller, slower, weaker ones, until somebody bursts apart the illusion of a gentle world with hot tears. They all think this is great fun and will play again tomorrow.

I think there is a sort of counter-intuitive wisdom in this, as there is in most things children do and adults frown upon. While I'm stuck inventing gods to yell at and chasing my tail around inside my head, weaving an impossible knot, the neighborhood ruffians are learning that they've got to run with all their might to evade a hit; that everyone trips over his own feet now and then; that sometimes the little ones deserve a head-start and that a ball can only be thrown so hard before someone gets hurt.


Roo said...

Intrigued at the idea of building characters to get mad at (as in your first paragraph). Can you expand on that?

I really like, too, the 'While I'm stuck inventing gods to yell at and chasing my tail around inside my head, weaving an impossible knot, the neighborhood ruffians are learning ...'. It reminds me of my favourite description of the Holy Spirit - 'The great untier of knots'.

Rachael said...

well, I can expand on that if my computer will function long enough for me to post's 7 years old and on the fritz. I lost a few paragraphs earlier today (that's what I get for composing online). I'll see if I can get to this tomorrow. Right now I need a glass of wine and a quiet house (how do you get three brothers with a friend sleeping over to shut up?).

Roo said...

Being more specific ... how is the: 'the neighborhood ruffians are learning' the answer to 'While I'm stuck inventing gods to yell at'?

What is happening here? How are they escaping your trap and what is the alternative for you?

Oh and I just got the QueenOrual web address :) (Strange if that related to my question ...)

Rachael said...

Andrew: Do you want to be my editor? ;) You ask good questions. When I sat down to write this I had no idea where I was going; I didn't even start with an idea, just a feeling in my gut. By the time I finished I realized that my point was obscured and that I had created more questions than answers.

I'll try to address your questions a little at a time.

Re: fictional characters to get mad at, the furthest I have ever gone is to say, "damn the gods!" or "The gods must be crazy". But I can expand on this if you want me to.;)

First of all, I don't think a fictional human character would be nearly as to the purpose (as a deity)for venting anger. You'd either start to like him after awhile (most novelists nurse a fondness for even their most vile characters), which would get in the way of your being mad at him, or you'd start being mad at all the real live people he reminded you of. A deity is an easy target for rage(as evidenced by a great portion of humanity) because we have the sense that he/she is responsible for our plight; whether directly, through divine curse or indirectly, through divine indifference. If you make your god capricious, like the Greek gods, he'll be even easier to hate.

Of course, You may ask if a Christian might better direct her anger toward actual evil and injustice. And that would be a good question, though not one which necessarily puts to death this whole crazy idea. You see, one might construct her god as an embodiment of the evil and unjust things which infuriate her in the first place. Although, come to think of it, we might do just as well to simply curse the devil.

The only benefit (other than the employment of your creativity)I can see to erecting an imaginary foe is that it will give you a (relatively) safe place to put your anger. I tend to let my anger build up and fester until my kids ask one too many questions or disrespect me and then I yell at them, because it's easy and because I can't yell at the people/things that I am really mad at.

Roo said...

Yes, I remember a particularly good lunchtime discussion recently where we talked about anger. One of the things that struck me was the thought that we need someone capable of absorbing the intensity of our anger. Maybe that's another reason why we curse the gods/God - we don't feel anyone else is able to take our anger. Which for some types of anger may be the truth.

But for others, we may feel the other person may not be able to handle it properly (they aren't 'safe'), whether absorbing it or perhaps returning it. Maybe that's how God responds sometimes - He returns it and says 'Look at the plank in your own eye'.

But I don't think your post degenerates, it just needs to go further. There is a link between:

'While ... the neighborhood ruffians are learning'


'I'm stuck inventing gods to yell at'

which I can't see yet. And I do think it's something to do with Queen Orual and her relationship with Pysche.

Perhaps Bardia is in there somewhere?

Where is the Fox?

What kind of gods do the neighbourhood ruffians have?

What happens to Orual when she reads her petition?

Now there's degenerating into questions ...


Rachael said...

How is 'the neighborhood ruffians are learning' the answer to 'While I'm stuck inventing gods to yell at'?

It's the answer because my "trap" is that I'm thinking too much. Life is maddening because of the evil and suffering in it, but also because of the sheer volume of ideas and actions vying for our attention. And in our expanding world (ie. "communities" are no longer geographical; technology and education give us unlimited options) it is a confounding task to sort out which ideas we should attend to, which hobbies to take up, which career to pursue,which bit of earth to set ourselves down on, which suffering to relieve (now we know not only of the suffering of those immediately within our reach but that of people everywhere, to the ends of the earth).

In any case, I have a fairly logical mind, which wants to take all things involved in an issue into consideration before determining a conviction and acting on it. This is not only impossible but highly confusing to me (hence, the "impossible knot").

The relief for my frustration lies in the fact that I am not mind only; I am also body. I am physical; I live in a physical reality. Sometimes the answer to my questions isn't an intellectual one but a corporeal one.

Let me give an example: This morning I checked my email, read the New York Times online, read over these comments on my blog and thought and thought about how to express what I feel but don't have adequate words for. I started and stopped several times and finally went outside and spent 2 hours clearing away bramble from the side of my woodshed. As I dug in the dirt, tugged at root systems many years entrenched in the soil, somehow life became clearer, narrowed; life became the act of clearing away bramble and the act, reciprocally, communicated simple truth to my bewildred spirit.

The physical world is sascramental. Ideas don't exist only on an ethereal plane; they are discovered and understood in our bodies and in the earth.

Children don't consciously make this connection but they are always busy living it: subliminally learning how to live through the physical and sacred act of living.