Sunday, March 20, 2011

Heather King on Faith and Stories

Did you see Heather King's latest essay at Patheos, The Word and Our Stories?
I thought this passage was particularly illuminating and very much reminded me of our discussion about the endings of memoirs:

To be a sober alcoholic is to have a very particular experience of the Crucifixion and Resurrection. Just as the Gospels mostly lead up to the Passion, then give us a very short, very patchy glimpse of the Resurrection, an alcoholic's story—what it was like, what happened, what it's like now—is generally about three-quarters "drunkalogue" and one-quarter sobriety. That's not because sobriety is less "important," but because the Resurrection is inherent in the way the story is told, which is with humility, gratitude, and often humor that would do the nearest Comedy Club proud.

As with the Gospels, the drunk's Resurrection is patchy, ephemeral, incapable of being held onto. Just as on the road to Emmaus the disciples recognized Christ in the breaking of bread and he immediately vanished from their sight, an authentic story describes our moments of joy, our epiphanies on earth, as fleeting. An authentic story imparts the sense that—just as with those post-Resurrection stories in the Gospels—sometimes we "see" Christ, sometimes we don't; sometimes we recognize him in the flesh, and sometimes we experience him more as spirit.

1 comment:

Emily J. said...

Thanks for calling our attention to it, Melanie. Interesting comments, also.

I hadn't seen that, but I did notice on Saturday in the WSJ a reference to Dr. Nagai: Thank you for calling our attention to him, also, Melanie.

The relevant passages:
"Many decent Japanese saw the atom bombs as a punishment from heaven, after which the moral slate was wiped clean. The most famous account of the Nagasaki bomb was written by one of its victims, radiology expert Takashi Nagai, who later died of leukemia. He saw the bomb as a kind of blessing, a catastrophe that would lead mankind to redemption. He was a Catholic, as were many citizens of Nagasaki, but a great number of Japanese believed in his message.

Dr. Nagai's home in Nagasaki became a kind of shrine. As victims of the atom bombs, the Japanese would now be the saviors of human civilization, forswear war, and pray for eternal peace. In their new pacifist mode, Japanese did what they had always done in the face of nature's forces; they tried to appease them, by incantations. Responsibility for the war was largely forgotten. Military security was handed over to the old enemy, the United States—and the main guarantor of security was the American nuclear umbrella.

Dr. Nagai was well aware of the destructive power of atomic energy, but he also saw it as a "triumph of physics," a giant step in human progress. Japanese have long shared his ambivalent feelings about nuclear power. That elements of the U.S. nuclear umbrella pass in and out of Japanese seaports has always been an open (but much detested) secret. And though, as we now know, Japan has been more dependent on nuclear energy than most countries, there are good reasons why the most distrusted institution to emerge from the latest nuclear disaster is Tokyo Electric Power Co., which has a long record of covering up dangerous flaws in its nuclear reactors."