January Links Roundup: No White Knights

Welcome to 2019! Will this be the year I finish the Endless Sequel? Somewhere between crushing my son at Pokémon and looking at medieval dildos on Twitter, I am determined to GET ‘ER DONE.

Lest you think social media is a waste of time, though, I have discovered some spiritual wisdom therein. Jessica Dore, a teacher of “Tarot for mental health”, shares daily card draws with profound insights about working with our shadow parts and difficult feelings. On the Death card, for instance, she muses: “Because death is not deterred by ego attachments, it’s in some ways deeply trustworthy. We can cope w/ loss by meaning-making or finding silver linings, but it will likely still hurt. Death requires that we be OK w/ hurting. & With going where we least want to go.”

It takes a lot to give me a new perspective on trauma. By this point I’ve read, written, and held space for more tales of psychological wounding than perhaps I should. But I learned something new from Dore’s latest blog post: we make ourselves susceptible to predators by seeking someone to rescue us from the hard work of personal growth. Trauma disrupts our intuition; that gut feeling of rightness about a new person or situation could just be re-enactment of familiar wounded patterns. Our unhappy ego, like the Knight of Swords, is always in a hurry for the quick fix, so we ignore the red flags and hidden conditions on love.

It is this aspect of the human psyche that gave birth to the mythic knight in shining armor; a rescue fantasy so embedded in the collective consciousness that none among us are immune to projecting it onto any person, place or thing. It is a part in all of us that is ever lurking, waiting for that fast ride out of what a meaningful and fulfilling life requires: work, comfort, pain, change, repeat...

The ego may rush to say “yes!” to that thing, eager to relinquish the steadfast and true to be relieved at last from the burden of saving one’s own life. It is the part that so badly wants the predator to be a permanent waiver from doing the work, that it is willing to believe just about anything.

Defending the Soul from predators and traps (Seven of Wands) is a dirty job, but those who want a life of meaning must do it. It takes a certain tenacity to commit to the long game instead of doing the quick back alley deal where too much is given for too little.

Fruits torn from a tree before the branch is ready to release them never taste as sweet. Fruits hurried are downright sour. Do not give up on your slow route to success so quickly. If you have been doing the long, honest work, if you have felt the promise of things taking shape (Ace of Pentacles), try to trust it for one more day. And then another, and another.

I’ve been thinking about making The Devil the centerpiece card of my Wheel of the Year spread for 2019. I feel that I’ve been in self-created bondage to my fear of the unknown. The Devil speaks to me of the vitality of the Id, a force of untamed creativity, like Orc in William Blake’s mythology.

Gay spirituality blogger Stephen Bradford Long is a former evangelical whose journey to accept his sexuality brought about a deep crisis and ongoing reformation of his faith. He has also written about the healing power of Tarot and its compatibility with Christianity. In this post from November, “I Have Always Been an Abomination: On Homosexuality, Satan, and the Church,” he speaks frankly about the trauma of being brought up to believe that his basic nature was broken, and why that now leads him to identify with the rebel in the Biblical drama of good and evil:

No matter how kind, generous, or welcoming my Christian friends were, that never erased the horrific consequences of their theology.

In other words, my deep sexual desires and impulses were in themselves profane, blasphemous, and contrary to God. I have always been an abomination, no matter how hard I worked to be otherwise. Is it any wonder, then, that Satan is the more appealing figure to me, now? The father of all abominations and outsiders, the father of those who dare to challenge, question, and rebel?

In popular culture children of Satan are often portrayed as having a deep, self-destroying hatred of holy objects. Crucifixes, churches, bibles and priests all send the infernal into a triggered conniption. That’s true, but not true for the reasons popular mythology put forth.

The damned are eviscerated by religious symbolism because it was under that symbolism that we were raped, abused, tortured into another orientation, scalded by good intentions. Those of us outside the traditional kingdom of God are tortured by the presence of holy icons and talismans not because we are so very evil, but because the religious systems of abuse are. I still love church, Christianity, and the Bible, but too many of the Church’s symbols and practices send me into a tailspin. They just hurt too much.

I therefore claim blasphemy and Satan, not as the icon for all that is evil, but as an unapologetic embrace of being outsider. It’s the acknowledgement that it isn’t I who was wrong, but the Church.

Over at Brain Pickings, a literary newsletter/blog by Maria Popova that can happily occupy hours of your time, she reviews philosopher Adam Phillips’ essay collection Unforbidden Pleasures, which challenges us to stop the addictive cycle of criticizing ourselves and others. In her 2016 post “Against Self-Criticism: Adam Phillips on How Our Internal Critics Enslave Us, the Stockholm Syndrome of the Superego, and the Power of Multiple Interpretations”, she lays out his contention that we are in a kind of trauma-bonded relationship with our inner critic (or superego). We’re fused with it, to the extent that we can hardly know ourselves; the judgment comes before the perception. But if we met this carping critic, as a person outside ourselves, we’d actually think his monomania was ridiculous and tragic. “The tyranny of the superego, Phillips argues, lies in its tendency to reduce the complexity of our conscience to a single, limiting interpretation, and to convincingly sell us on that interpretation as an accurate and complete representation of reality.” By cultivating skepticism about any totalizing dogma, we can develop a more spacious, accurate, and compassionate mind.

At The Guardian Online, check out this witty and hard-hitting conversation between two queer feminist icons, bestselling author Roxane Gay and Australian stand-up comedian Hannah Gadsby. Among other topics, they cover fat stigma and the hard work of holding space for traumatic stories, both their own and those of their fans.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the 12th-century mystic, artist, and playwright Hildegard of Bingen, but did you know she painted a map of the universe based on the vulva? Dr. Eleanor Janega at the fascinating blog Going Medieval will tell you all about it. See, you can learn a lot from medieval dildo Twitter.

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