Mary Beth Writes

Many of us feel as if we are in limbo until Biden takes office. I don’t think you need me to say a lot about how long and hard this year has been; we’ve been in this dentist’s chair together.

But...

Did you see how many days quarantine has lasted? 292 days.

So far.

This week I read a remarkable essay. On Natural Landscapes, Metaphorical Living, and Warlpiri Identity, by Barry Lopez. https://lithub.com/. Life is weird. The day after I read it, Mr. Lopez died.

You should read it if you, too, wonder how we decide what is and is not important in our lives. If you’ve ever realized we live by myths and tales and stories. And if we think we aren’t living by stories, then that is probably the story someone told us.

Why do we think some choices are good and others are lackadaisical or bad? Like this: Why do I hide from you that I often skip church to read books, or go for a walk, or sit on my sofa and doom-scroll Twitter? Why do I care what you think about my faithfulness to my congregation?

Do you eat cupcake papers in secret places where no one could see? Do you lie to get off the phone sometimes? Do you cheat just a little on this or that? Calories? Income taxes? Your partner?

Do you judge people who get up late and/or have messy houses? Do you think little girls’ clothes with words stretched across the butt are terrible?

Do you see what I am talking about? We have so many opinions about how we and others ought to live in order to be moral, safe, and worthy.

Where do we get these opinions? Did Moses bring down guidelines about hybrids vs Hummers from the mountain? Did St. Paul really want married folks who are miserable to stay together their entire lives, no matter what? Did the institution that imagined and built St Peter’s Basilica in Rome really think there was no leadership role in the church for LGBTQ people?

We say we have morals and values. Really? Are we living by realities that came to us when we were yearning for truth – or are we living by what our parents, predominant news sources, and media sources have showed us as good or poor behavior? Where are our metaphors coming from? How do we know what is deep and linked to our human spirits – and what is just handed on do’s and don’ts from another place and era?

Barry Lopez - I’ve only read this essay but plan to read much more – Lopez would go to desolate, under-populated places to live with folks and walk around in their wilderness. He went to places to see where he was, what it was like, what stories made intuitive human sense.

He writes this about visiting the Warlpiri people and wilderness of western Australia. Warlpiri are one tribe within the indigenous Aboriginal people who were in Australia before the Europeans came there.

He went out for a multi-day wilderness trek.

“My goal that day was intimacy—the tactile, olfactory, visual, and sonic details of what, to most people in my culture, would appear to be a wasteland. This simple technique of awareness had long been my way to open a conversation with any unfamiliar landscape. Who are you? I would ask. How do I say your name? May I sit down?”

Which is my long way around to wishing you a new year in which you won’t know before you get there what you need to attain and accomplish. Where you will not argue over old stories or make long lists of what you or others need to accomplish. Where, when you are unsure or upset or sad or confused, you will walk out. Look around. Ask if you can sit down there. Take time to discover the metaphors and stories that are true.

 

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That was a powerful essay and an interesting website. I found it with this link: ://lithub.com/barry-lopez-love-in-a-time-of-terror/
Mary Beth's picture

Thank you!

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