catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 11, Num 4 :: 2012.02.17 — 2012.03.01


The people that we meet

You were too busy steering the conversation toward the Lord
To hear the voice of the Spirit begging you to shut the fuck up.
You thought it must be the devil trying to make you go astray —
Besides it could not have been the Lord
Because you don’t believe he talks that way.

From “Foregone Conclusions” by Pedro the Lion

In the acknowledgements for The Sacredness of Questioning Everything, David Dark thanks, among other people, David Bazan, formerly Pedro the Lion — and with a Bazan line like this one, perhaps you can understand why they’re good friends.  When I think of artists who are, as Dark would put it, “expand[ing] the space of the talkaboutable,” I think of these two.

Explaining what he means about “the talkaboutable” by drawing on the context of his own parenthood, Dark writes,

I hasten to add that my own children understand the impropriety of bringing up particular nuggets of goings-on — crude, tragic, tragicomic, or overly tied to bodily functions — in certain company, but I’m determined to instruct them away from the mind-set (sometimes called religious) which implies that certain aspects of human life and certain human beings themselves are so beyond the pale of God’s interest and affection that they can’t be appropriately mentioned in prayer or included in the sphere of the talkaboutable.

For Dark, a taboo on asking questions (of everything) leads not just to stunted intellect, but to a decidedly unfaithful, false delineation between who’s in and who’s out, as defined by whoever has the most power and/or money.  At our best, we Christians look to the counter-image of a God who created and redeems all things, leaving nothing out.  Such a God is not just an abstract reality, calling us to pie-in-the-sky when we die.  This larger-than-large, all-encompassing love extends to the people that we meet each day.  Dark writes,

“In the end,” Thomas Merton assures us, “it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.”  And the reality comes unto us when we cast aside our categorizing impulses and our armored suits of offendedness (powerful feelings though they may be) and enter into the dangerous and redeeming space where people, all kinds of people, enter into the blessed work of actually listening to one another.

In my copy of The Sacredness of Questioning Everything, I’ve noted here, “Something to consider for where we live, after college and otherwise.”  Where we live sets so many parameters for what we experience, what we expect and whom we have the capacity to love.  Like a religion that can close our ears to the voice of the Spirit based on what we expect to hear, where we live can close our hearts to the full range of God’s love for the world and create the illusion of our own self-congratulatory perfection.  On the flip side, where we live can expand our imaginations about human brokenness and purpose, as well as the power of grace and forgiveness.

For reasons we’ve yet to understand, my husband Rob and I have sensed and responded to what we can only describe as the mystical call of God to live in the small, rural city of Three Rivers, Michigan.  In a sense, this place itself might be considered taboo — the antithesis of both the urban cultural center and the idyllic small town utopia, towns like Three Rivers often fail to count in the places of power.  Re-reading Dark’s words helps me see a small piece of why we live here, in a gesture that, in Darkian terms, expands the space of the liveinable.  While so many choose to live in places where their neighbors are quite like themselves, in income level if not in color and creed, a small town like Three Rivers thrusts us into life with all kinds of people — rich and poor, black and brown and white, Christian and otherwise, addicted and clean, mean and kind, each with our own wounds of body and spirit. Contrary to my preconceptions about small town life, what I’ve discovered here is a place of embrace, where people’s deep, dark secrets are often widely known and accepted, if not forgiven.  Sometimes this all-knowingness leads to a self-deprecating provincialism, but I love when it engenders deep, critical honesty about both our strengths and our weaknesses, because such honesty has a way of breaking through into love.

I know my experience is not the same as everyone else’s and maybe I will yet run up against a circumstance in which the town will spit me out of its mouth.  But in the meantime, I value the opportunity to live in and cultivate spaces where everyone from the urban socialites with a second house on the lake to the elderly poor with nothing but a lifetime of stories in their pockets can mingle.  Perhaps they’re not speaking to each other yet, but being in the same place seems a step in the right direction — a step toward being able to identify our own needs and desires with those of another in true kinship, which requires that no subject, and therefore no person, be “off-limits,” because God loves and dies for all of it, even me.

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