Friday, March 25, 2011

Leontes and the Annunciation

Last month I read the first act of The Winter's Tale on the same day that my husband and I had an argument. I did something he had specifically asked me to do (or so I thought) and it caused a big headachy disagreement. I found myself empathizing with Hermione, who did exactly what her husband Leontes asked her to do and found that it sent him around the bend. Don't you just want to shake him, when he assumes that she's done his bidding for nefarious reasons?

Leontes is an extreme case, of course, but I think many of the most painful kinds of conflict arise when one person assumes wrongly that he knows another's intentions. It doesn't have to be "You wanted him to stay because you're having an affair with him". It can be any variation on "You did this deliberately to hurt me," from a child's assertion that his brother tripped over the Lego structure on purpose to a great-grandma's certainty that an oversight was a willful slight.

There's something so appealing about the belief that we've seen into another person's heart that I think those assumptions are particularly hard to let go of. We know what's true and we won't be dissuaded. I haven't finished the play yet but I don't imagine it will be agreeable for Leontes to realize that he's been acting like an idiot.

Today's a good day for thinking about erroneous certainty, I think, because the more we know that we're right, dernit, the harder it is to say "Be it done unto me...." I'd like to think I'd never let a misperception send me off the deep end like Leontes, but I have certainly caused damage hanging onto my own faulty assumptions. It's poison on a smaller scale, but it's poisonous nonetheless. Food for thought, on the day when we honor the one whose submission to truth crushed the serpent's head.

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.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Winter's Tale for the Tail of Winter

Looks like the vote is The Winter's Tale. Looking forward to it, ladies.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

In Like a Lamb

Happy March, everybody. At my house the daffodils are peeking up through the soggy leaves and my children are telling me that 40 degrees is plenty warm enough for going coatless. I think we're all eager for spring.

This is my first post here-- I'm Jamie, mother to five, wife to one. I have some ideas to throw out for our March book.

First idea: one of my plans for 2011 is to finish the works of Shakespeare, and I wondered if you all might be interested in a Shakespeare play. One suggestion is The Winter's Tale, which is all about persecution and betrayal and persevering when your husband goes crazy. (Not that anyone here needs advice on crazy husbands.) Also on my list for the year is Henry VIII, which might spark some fun discussion.

No pressure whatsoever to join in the crazy Shakespeare project, though. Further ideas: I'd also be interested in reading Diary of a Country Priest, or a Wendell Berry novel, perhaps A Place on Earth.

Tell me what you think, please. Can we aim to settle on something by this weekend?