Monday, June 16, 2014

lest he tear my soul like a lion: collaboration #7

1 O LORD my God, in thee do I put my trust: 
save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me: 
2 Lest he tear my soul like a lion, rending it in pieces, 
while there is none to deliver. 
3 O LORD my God, if I have done this; 
if there be iniquity in my hands; 
4 If I have rewarded evil unto him that was at peace with me; 
(yea, I have delivered him that without cause is mine enemy:) 
5 Let the enemy persecute my soul, and take it; 
yea, let him tread down my life upon the earth, 
and lay mine honour in the dust. Selah. 
6 Arise, O LORD, in thine anger, 
lift up thyself because of the rage of mine enemies: 
and awake for me to the judgment that thou hast commanded. 

Returning to the hills and valleys where I first breathed air, returns me to deeper places.

I want that to be enough to say.

I don't want to count out all the ways that what I am is woven around with the sound of crickets at evening, the weight of air in the mornings here,  the contours these slants of light bring out on the tawny foothills. I don't want to spell out all the ways, no matter where I go, I take the blue backdrop of the Wasatch for granted - for granite I first thought that saying went, glancing sideways at those big blue rocks the morning clouds crashed up against like heavenly sea-spray.  I don't want to have to display all the harmonies between and within.  Any more than I want to fan out my disbelongings and disagreements (between, within) like cards for anyone to fish from.

I just want to be.  What I am.  Without discussion or argument.

Because argument feels like danger in the current climate.

As a child I felt protected by the rocky rim of mountains all around me here, consensus on every side and the concentric love that centered on the circle of my parents' love and rippled out in harmony to the highest hills.

It's true, as a clever-mouthed undergraduate, I loved debate : the heady flush of words rising and sparking in the air.  I used to think truth was built between opposing views.

Maybe motherhood has given me a disgust of bickering.  Now, I hate arguing -- except that I still do debate with Fritz (poor Fritz) who is good to me no matter what and who accepted at the outset that we would not necessarily agree. That probably we could not. That the truth had to be something big enough to contain us both. 

I don't want to argue outside that safe intimacy:  the sickness of heart that rises in me when I can no longer keep still but feel compelled to stand.  I write :

thursday, january 16, 2014
You know I don't usually comment on people's political posts because there is so much passionate feeling involved.  It's a conversation that goes nowhere and does no good.
We have different opinions. But I know you are a good person doing a lot of good in the world. I'm just asking you to step back a minute and remember that when you attack liberals and insist they all believe this or that, you are attacking people like me.
Please don't call my politics evil unless you really know why I've chosen to vote the way I do.  And I promise not to call you evil because of evil effects I see arising out of some conservative legislation.

 And then I feel exposed to danger -- that I will be misunderstood, yelled at, pitied, scorned, judged, accused, understood too well, undone.

7 So shall the congregation of the people compass thee about: 
for their sakes therefore return thou on high. 
8 The LORD shall judge the people: 
judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness, 
and according to mine integrity that is in me. 
9 Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end; 
but establish the just: for the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins. 

I am visiting the valley of my forebears.  Rather than stand and speak, I will busy myself -- I keep telling myself this.  Writing notes in my margins of 1 Kings.  Rather than argue with the warble-voiced white-haired teacher (whose class I am a visitor in) as he blithely separates J from P from E, carelessly disposing of parts of David and Saul's story as likely unhistorical and certainly awkward.  Rather than argue with the kind-faced woman who explains away the wiping out of an enemy tribe as probably more charitable if seen from God's view.  Instead I will scribble silently, vehemently, No, no! to take a text as sacred means you have to deal with its hard parts, its shadows.

The relationship with God -- as I believe Old Testament Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Hosea, New Testament Paul, would recognize  -- being an intimacy with a knowable, but not easily knowable, partner.

At the same time, though, I don't want to have to argue why the intimacy of faith is a relationship worth working for.  For me.  Why this place is the right place.  For me.

And when a loved poet (Robert Hass) picks from a multicultural list of texts that celebrate war, singling out for special derogatory notice "the psalms of David, which are shot through with tribal self-righteousness and violence," I don't construct counter-proofs or try to argue why there may be some use to trying to live my way through the cycle of the psalms as I have been doing for the past year.  I only lay beside his words the words of a loved novelist (Marilynne Robinson):
The Old Testament is certainly not ours to misrepresent, since in doing so we slander the culture we took it from, an old and very evil habit among us. . . . By what standard but their own could Israel have been considered ungrateful or rebellious or corrupt?  Granting crimes and errors, which they recorded, and preserved and pondered the records of for centuries, and which were otherwise so historically minor that no one would ever have heard of them -- how do those crimes compare with those of other peoples, their contemporaries or ours? . . . [The Old Testament] is an endless reconciliation achieved at great cost by a people whose relation to God is astonishingly brave and generous.  To misappropriate it as a damning witness against the Jews and "the Jewish God' is vulgar beyond belief.  And not at all uncommon, therefore.
I imagine these two loved writers sitting side by side at evening on a wide porch, like the porch of my grandmother's house, which is now the porch of my mother and father's house.  Not arguing, these two beloved scribblers, because the peace in them and around them is so huge.  But seeing things differently and saying what they see.

My walking buddy, witty and reasonable and unbelieving, drove through these valleys a few years ago and all she saw were the billboards and rusty warehouses and dryness. My youngest, to whom this landscape is still new, can't get over the mountains with their mottled red bands and soft sagebrush hills.  "Doesn't it look like it's not real?  Doesn't it look like it was painted for a movie to be in front of?" 

But for me, this is the first real place. A place not just geographical but anatomical.  'Give!' said the little stream is not just a call to industrious generosity and social responsibility, but a steep and gurgling mountain creek of icy snowmelt I've walked in until my feet were numb.  Come, come, ye saints is not just a message to carry on and carry forward, but a patchwork of irrigated fields bordered with poplars and lilac bushes seen from a rocky point I've hiked up to through the floating drift of silky cottonwood fuzz and the sharp sweet scent of sage.

And the industrial ruins along the highways, the smoggy inversion in the high-altitude valleys, any sad flaw or misinterpretation? None of these are lastingly real for me, more like a bad haircut, a bloating illness that, for a time, masks the lines of a beloved face.

17 I will praise the LORD according to his righteousness: 
and will sing praise to the name of the LORD most high.


Lisa Dawn said...

I loved this one, almost more than any you have written. I don’t know why but I am crying.

Lisa B. said...

I keep returning to this piece. It speaks--obliquely--to the present moment for me. Thank you.

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