Safety in shadows

Yesterday marked the class’ initiatory exploration of the concept of God Beyond Borders. For once, I didn’t complete the readings, so I anticipated a severe disadvantage for engagement.

We had a guest speaker to begin the lecture. Here are points I felt were key for me, accompanied by my thoughts.

  • Transparency allows safe space for others. This is the meaning of caritas, charity. True charity asks for radical hospitality, which is when both host and guest are vulnerable in each other’s presences, and both are enabled to live in their identities. This doesn’t demand comfort and/or safety, oftentimes, vulnerability is uncomfortable and/or dangerous. Risk is implied in vulnerability.
  • Epistemological humility. Meta-knowledge by itself is a framework.
  • Acculturating (appropriating) God doesn’t give the responsibility to God to change the context. That task is left to the ones who do that action, and the ones that follow take up that struggle.
  • Interestingly, the speaker used mirror imagery frequently. He employed the symbol of mirror as the individual who reflects and refracts the same light. People as living mirrors.
  • Transformation can occur when two conditions are met: (1) Acknowledgement of brokenness, and (2) radical hospitality. Shown in the reflection read by the professor, a passage depicting new life in broken ground.
  • Holding the Other as their face is turned towards God. Call the Other to what gives them life, not your ways.
  • There is a difference when referring to God as “God Most High” and “Lord.”
  • “As above, so below.”
  • The highest form of prayer is surrender, related Teresa of Avila. Vulnerability is to be celebrated, it is an act of tremendous courage.
  • There is treasure in darkness. This, the speaker posited, is the meaning in John of the Cross’ dark night of the soul. Not the experience as painful, lonesome, or terrible, and hanging on to the arrival of the dawn. The dark night encourages intimacy in ways that bright day cannot begin to express.
  • Lack of understanding does not equal lack of confidence.

My question to him when he was able to accept inquiries was about the concern regarding my liminality. I summarize his reply here:

Liminality – shadows – hues and variability. Talking about light and darkness is too simplistic for me. God is there too. To force me into light is an act of violence, as shown in my mention of a crimson dawn – the first colour of a sunrise after twilight is deep red. This is why I need safety in community. Most people fear the dark, and yet here I am, more at ease in maternal depths. I was affirmed as someone who makes home in shadows. Crossing into light and dark should be my choice, but it’s fluid and dynamic, and always to remember that the shadows of twilight is my foundation, my home. I can see shades within shades, variability in hues. Nothing is purely one way or another for me. That, to many, is a lonely place to be. Yet for me, that is the womb, the mother.

Andrei had been using an interesting twist on mirror imagery for me, since a couple of months ago. The mirror is often thought of as a reflective surface, sometimes a refractive surface. Yet, argued my partner, the mirror is also reflexive.

It took me a long time to understand what on Earth he was talking about. He refused to explain it to me, insisted I experience it for myself to get it. The key was a play written by Brian Foster, entitled Myra’s Story. It was performed outdoors tucked into a space by Laurier’s Library, I was in attendance. When I finally came up with an example solid enough to potentially use in conversation, I sent it at the guest speaker’s way. He said he had to take time to try on the terms I gave him, that I spoke of a subtle shift. I replied that it is subtle yet profound. Change even one letter in an English word, and the meaning also changes.

Reflection: Acknowledging my image in the mirror.
Refraction: How another acknowledges my image.
Reflexivity: I am part of the mirror -> I am in the mirror.

The classmate who sat next to me, I must credit her for inviting me to conceive of “reflexivity of reflexivity.” Here is my answer:

Meta-reflexivity: I am the mirror.

The surface of the Mirror is the event horizon.

+ “Amatialle”

To venture beyond this is to invite integration and annihilation.

Despite going to bed before 1am, my mind wouldn’t cease its chatter. Around 3am, I put on headphones and tried music, that’s worked before. Nothing. I could describe it as feverish, the way my mind was analyzing and re-analyzing without pause. All kinds of insights jumped before my eyes, demanding recording, demanding immediate expression, immediate gratification. I fought back, insisting on the need for sleep. I already had dark circles forming under my eyes, and the bouts of continuous stresses weren’t helping.

“Give me relief,” I moaned at 4:30am, tossing and turning. “Must I enact shutdown, despite the warnings of consequences when relying on survival tactics?”

The guest speaker’s finishing remarks for me came like a gentle breeze to the increasing heat-pitch of my thoughts.

When things get too heady, when your intellectual storm threatens to overtake and overwhelm, remember presence.

Andrei: Presence. Mindfulness. Presence in the body, not the mind.

Your journey is the human journey.

Tears rolled from my left eye, and sleep found me.


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