Friday, June 15, 2007

THE MOURNING PATH




I've been reading the Gospels for references to mourning. I see so clearly how little space there is for mourning in our society. We are moved from one tragedy to the next with hardly space for a sobbing breath in between. Years ago, when I lived on Riceville Road and taught at the Juvee, I bought an enormous block of clay and molded chunks of it with my hands into these hollow standing figures, only two of which survive. An art historian friend told me they were examples of funerary art. I hadn't known such a thing existed and just continued making them, one after another.

There's a movement in Qi Gong called "Carry Tiger Up the Mountain." And every time I did Carry Tiger, which you repeat 17 times or something, I'd weep then feel sobbing approach. It was the strangest thing. None of the other moves had this effect. My instructor explained one day (he'd never comfort me during the practice, always left me to do the work myself) that the movement was begun by a Tao master who, when it died, carried his pet tiger all the way up a mountain because that was the only way he could grieve and honor it with his whole being. The move is ancient, and it amazes me that it still speaks its story to the body that does it.

Anyway, funerary art. Grieving. The more I think of it, I am quite sure that this is what depression is--grieving that didn't have a chance to get done so it turned into a horrible knot.

In the Book of Kells, this knot is everywhere. Sometimes it's outside people. Sometimes it's inside them. In one image two men are grappling with eachother (could just as a easily be a love grapple as a war grapple) and the knot is within and between them. It says so much to me. It helps me objectify the knot when I'm uncomfortable with what I'm feeling, so maybe I can feel my way into it on another level, the way my grandfather once spent two hours untying a knot in my Ocean Pacific swimsuit he'd pulled from the clothesline, worked on it 2 hours with his eyes closed. It was just his project for the night. The Psalmist says, "You will feel anger. Do not sin. Sit on your bed and commune with your heart." If our society honored sitting on beds and communing with hearts, we'd have way fewer tangles in us, fewer tabloids, more gardening magazines.

As much as I am aware that this is work of any spiritual path, I am convinced that this process is also what it means to be a follower of Jesus--who is always on the move, here, there, hopping in boats, climbing up mountains, traversing the terrible desert of the inner world. Like the ropes in the Book of Kells or following a thread of imagery in the Bible, we are given only glimpses of the whole and follow the glimpses toward a complete vision.

3 comments:

Sandy said...

There is so much in the word with regards to mourning. It is a season which we all go through many times in our lives if we are blessed with long life.

jane said...

I am always, when I have time to reflect, overwhelmed with the richness of the world and all there is to see and to think about. How does one learn to focus, to choose which of the infinite points of light to focus one's attention on? I know you will forgive me for not speaking to the topic of your remarks in this particular posting, because you will know that I am struck by your words and images and by knowing, in some small measure, where they are coming from. This summer gift of unstructured time is both a gift and a burden, and I greet you with thanks for your example of the ability to focus. (And for mourning, on this day we in this country are commanded to honor our fathers, I mourn for my father and my brother, also a father, and both gone from this life.) Love and blessings to you, and thank you.

kirie said...

Laura! I found you! I was reading the very small print in Poets and Writers today, and I saw you received a North Carolina arts grant! Wow! I usually look for people I know so I can be jealous of them. In this case, I was so excited because your writing is truly brilliant. The last time I saw you was for Ivan Held and Patricia's wedding? Before that in LA? I'm so glad to see you're still writing! As am I! xoxoxoxox