“It’s the P$#k Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!”
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Monthly Archives: September 2014
“It’s the P$#k Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!”
From Katie Rose Guest Pryal’s September 25 post in her Chronicle Vitae series on psychiatric disability:
People who call you brave for disclosing a disability often feel “inspired” by you as well. Like this: “Your bravery in sharing your psychiatric disability with the world is so inspiring.” (That’s not an actual quotation from a message I received. Not exactly.) “Brave” plus “Inspiration” is a double-whammy of terrible. As the brilliant Stella Young has so nicely put it, “We’re not here for your inspiration.”
How does the notion of “bravery” affect the dialogue surrounding breast cancer? Here is one example:
Mark Epstein on saying what is true and pleasant:
Questioned some years after his enlightenment by a local prince about his penchant for delivering bad news, Buddha said that he could no longer abide by the traditional Sanskrit principle of saying only what was true and pleasant. He marched to a different drum, he maintained, and would speak of what was “true and beneficial even if it was disagreeable.” To illustrate his point, he pointed to a baby on the prince’s lap. What if the infant put a stick or a pebble in his mouth? Wouldn’t the prince pull it out even if doing so were likely to cause the baby some distress? Wasn’t that what a doctor sometimes had to do? Not to mention a mother? But he added one caveat. He would speak the beneficial, if disagreeable, truth only if he “knew the time to say it.” As is the case with good therapists today, tact was a major concern of the Buddha. If someone was not ready to acknowledge his or her trauma, he would not force the issue. Each individual had to liberate him- or herself, after all. The best a teacher, even a Buddha, can do is to show them how.
Epstein, Mark (2013-08-15). The Trauma of Everyday Life (p. 13). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.
I have just listened to Mary Hynes’s interview with Barbara Brown Taylor, “Let There Be Dark,” on CBC radio’s fine program Tapestry. Highly recommended. She talks about the pressure she felt as a preacher to be unfailingly sunny and describes her own religious practice as “lunar,” as distinguished from the “solar” tendencies of many communities. This syncs up with my feelings about pink, about the efforts to dress up a painful experience with brightness. Any encounter with a kindred spirit who does not demand constant cheeriness makes me—cheery. I’m still not pink though.
. . . a kind of spirituality that deals with darkness by denying its existence or at least depriving it of any meaningful attention. I call it “full solar spirituality,” since it focuses on staying in the light of God around the clock, both absorbing and reflecting the sunny side of faith. You can usually recognize a full solar church by its emphasis on the benefits of faith, which include a sure sense of God’s presence, certainty of belief, divine guidance in all things, and reliable answers to prayer. Members strive to be positive in attitude, firm in conviction, helpful in relationship, and unwavering in faith. This sounds like heaven on earth. Who would not like to dwell in God’s light 24/7?
If you have ever belonged to such a community, however, you may have discovered that the trouble starts when darkness falls on your life, which can happen in any number of unsurprising ways: you lose your job, your marriage falls apart, your child acts out in some attention-getting way, you pray hard for something that does not happen, you begin to doubt some of the things you have been taught about what the Bible says. The first time you speak of these things in a full solar church, you can usually get a hearing. Continue to speak of them and you may be reminded that God will not let you be tested beyond your strength. All that is required of you is to have faith. If you still do not get the message, sooner or later it will be made explicit for you: the darkness is your own fault, because you do not have enough faith.