I created this blog as a way to process and record my experience as a seminary student. I also hope it will provide a platform for my friends and family to participate in the journey. Some of the entries are kind of long, but what can I say--I was in graduate school, they made us do that...


Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Interior Castle

What is the soul? Is it separate from the body? I am an embodied creature, I can't understand anything outside of my gut, limbs, thoughts and vision. I can look in mirrors, but I will never look myself straight in the eye. I must depend on others for that experience. I can look at the face of another and be looked at by another, but I cannot look upon the face of myself. I can cross my eyes and see my nose, but where does that leave me besides dizzy?

The seminary experience is intense. I am forced daily to look both inward and out, to decide what the big questions are and to struggle towards answering them. I have come to the conclusion that the big questions will never be answered. The big questions are by definition, (in my mind anyway) unanswerable. But the wrestling, that's where the work is done. So I don't believe in a God that speaks or watches or cares. So what. I do believe in the mystery and holiness of life. I believe in the mystery and holiness of prayer. I believe in the mystery and holiness of relationship. I believe in the mystery and holiness of nature, of roots and oceans.

Who am I praying to? I guess I'm not praying to anything. I'm simply expressing the deepest groans of my heart. I'm adding these groans to the collective groans building up in the air that surrounds me. I'm breathing in and out. I'm choosing life, even though I know death is coming.

I was utterly humiliated last week. I'm writing about my relationship with my mother and my draft was discussed in my class workshop. At the end I started sobbing. The wounds and demons of the relationship were too big, too raw to deal with in the detached mode one needs to remain in while in a critique situation. I left the room. I never wanted to go back. I am not a person who shows weakness. I am strong and I need people to know it.

In my Bible: Violence and Nonviolence class we've been reading the book of Judges. Chapter 19 is awful. Chapter 11 is awful. I've been struggling with them for a year now. How am I supposed to carry the pain of these stories within me, within my soul. I am a person who feels pain. The pain of animals taken to slaughter. The pain of the women I worked with at the Hearth in Spokane. The pain of poverty and racism I witnessed in North Lawndale in Chicago. The pain of the women in the book of Judges. My own pain over my failed relationship with my mother. Where do I put it? Where do I hold it?

I'm reading The Interior Castle by Teresa of Avila. I'm painting the seven dwelling places of the soul that she outlines. I'm giving a presentation about them to my History of Christianity class. I'm trying to understand them. I'm trying to follow her, even though my language of the holy is different than hers. I'm trying to understand how to find my soul. How to see it, how to feel it.


Ally said...

You are strong, Summer, and breaking down and showing your tender spirit through tears is really not a sign of weakness except as assigned by this hardened commercial society of ours. Think back to the women of old, who tore their clothes and wailed openly in the streets. That is power, and strength, and to me, that is who you are, too.

Christina said...