As part of my ongoing attempts to shift my mood and emotional state, I have been slowly doing a bit of rearranging at home. I’m trying to reduce clutter, brighten things up a bit, clean out stuff I no longer want/need, change things around to give a sense of newness.
It feels really good … to me, anyway. My cats are much less enthused about this process.
“Depression is something that makes you lose your sight.” ~Michael Schenker
Dark night. Black cloud. Thick fog. Darkness. Shadowlands. Blackness. Black sun.
All of these common ways of describing depressing describe conditions in which we can’t see very well. Our sight is dimmed in darkness, fog, and shadows. Familiar objects take on distorted appearances. Color is washed out. We can’t see where we’re going, and we can’t even see our current surroundings with any clarity. Everything appears gray and misshapen.
Things have been unusually busy this week at work as a number of deadlines are all hitting at roughly the same time. In the midst of the busyness over the last couple of weeks, I’ve found myself letting my daily gratitude journaling slip away. I’m just so tired by the time I fall into bed each night that it feels like a burden instead of a gift to take time for that one extra task.
Despite the lapse in actively writing down the things that I’m grateful each day, I’ve found that I’ve internalized the practice of gratitude enough that I continue to look for and notice things that I’m grateful for throughout the day.
One of the (many) gifts I took away from my recent class in Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) was a renewed appreciation for the role that story plays in a life of faith. The Old Testament begins with long sections of story-telling. These stories are re-told and re-interpreted throughout the rest of the Old Testament books and into the New Testament. In fact, we still engage with those stories today both in traditional religious settings and in literature.
While there are ways that my religious upbringing has left some deep scars, one of the things that it did give me was a strong knowledge of these stories. Some of the stories are comforting, many are disturbing in one way or another, but all reflect the messiness of real life as it was then and as it still is today.
I’ve learned the hard way that when it comes to people and relations appearances can be deceiving, words can be used to trick and to hide as much to expose, feelings can’t always be trusted, and that the “truth” in any given situation usually depends on who you ask. In short, there is seldom an absolute truth to any interaction between human beings, and even the truth that can be reliably nailed down in some way is likely to be interpreted differently by each participant and each viewer.
For many years, this made me hesitant to trust my own perceptions of situations I found myself in. I distrusted my feelings, questioned my motives, doubted my observations. Most of all, I ignored my intuition. At the slightest hint of contradiction to my own opinions, I accepted the “truth” of those around me above my own knowing.
I attended a First Friday event tonight (my first!) with a friend. We had the opportunity to view works by a wide range of artists working in many art forms, styles, and media. We would stop and discuss our impressions and reactions to pieces as we moved slowly through the galleries.
In many cases, our impressions were quite similar. As we would explore our reactions and try to suss out the details in the piece of art that provoked those reactions, we shared many understandings of the visual cues. For example, dark colors prompted more somber or heavier emotional reactions. Bright colors prompted more upbeat and intense emotions. Muted colors prompted a sense of mystery or peace or wistfulness, depending on the hues and the subject.
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” ~C.S. Lewis
I spent some time with a newer friend today and had the pleasure of discovering several things that we share in common, from interests, to authors we enjoy, to patterns of reacting, to writing styles. It reminded me of just how powerful it is to discover a point of commonality with another person, a discovery that becomes more powerful the more rare the point of commonality is.
These moments of connection remind us that we are not alone. They bring reassurance that all of our quirks fall within the natural variety that makes up the human race, and that we are not broken or defective for being as we are. They bring the pleasure of finding someone to share our interests, hobbies, and activities with who will value them as we do. These moments whisper the reassurance that we belong to those corners of our souls that fear that we are forever on the outside.
On the last day of my Introduction to Hebrew Bible/Old Testament class before the final exam, we had a class discussion about what it means to us to say that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. Given the wide range of denominational and theological backgrounds that students bring to class, it was not surprising that our opinions differed on this topic.
It’s probably also not surprising that I was the outlier in urging caution about placing too much reverence in the Bible. It’s not that I don’t value the Bible—in fact, I do very much, and this course I just finished helped me to value it even more—it’s that I believe that it is a text that provides its greatest benefit to us when we are able to wrestle with it and question it. Much like the Zen Buddhist saying that cautions not mistaking the finger pointing at the moon for the moon, I believe that the Bible should point us toward a relationship with God and not become the object of our worship itself.
I’ve seen too many cases where the Bible (or one’s interpretation of it) has become such an object of worship in itself that it leads to the text being used a weapon against others or can lead to driving others away from Christianity altogether because of the misuse of the text. Today, I’ve collected a few links from people who express similar concerns with how we treat the Bible.
I’ve always been mystified by the zodiac and the identification of various animals and creatures from the stars whose points of light make up each sign. I could never see the how the ancients came up with the pictures they saw when they looked at the stars.
But now I find myself staring at my bedroom ceiling each morning and find myself picking out animals and people from the shadows created by my bedside lamp on the textures of the ceiling. Not unlike the game of identifying objects in cloud formations, I am well aware that I would have great difficulty getting anyone else to see the items that appear so clear to me. In fact, I often find that if I look away from the spot, I may never re-find the same item again until it magically reappears some other morning when the light is again just right.
And so, this early morning game on the edge of sleep and wakefulness has become my own practice in finding my daily zodiac reading for the day. If nothing else, it is a constant source of wonder and an exercise for my creative mind.
I have just finished reading The Fidelity of Betrayal: Towards a Church Beyond Belief by Peter Rollins. It’s one of those books that is so good and so mind-stretching that I need to read it again before I’ll be ready to write about the book as a whole. I can say for now, though, that it’s absolutely fantastic and well worth the read. Its message is also subversive enough that it’s going to take me a little more time to fully process it.
In this post, I just want to look at the one idea quoted above that really jumped out at me as I read tonight. While I have heard about the importance of wrestling with the text before, I have a deeper appreciation for the importance of this as I come to the end of this semester of studying the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament).