Joan Chittister: ‘We Have A Spiritual Obligation to Accept Reality’

living-in-the-present

“Surrender is what cleans off the barnacles that have been clinging to the soul. It is the final act of human openness. Without it I am doomed to live inside a stagnant world called the self. The problem is that the self is a product of my own making. I myself shape the self. I construct it one experience, one attitude, one effort at a time till the person I become — rich in reality or starved for it — is finished. I shape me, great or small, wizened or insulated, out of the tiny little measures of newness that I allow to penetrate the depths of my darkness one dollop at a time. What I do not let into my world can never stretch my world, can never give it new color, can never fill it with a new kind of air, can never touch the parts of me that I never knew were there. What I once imagined must forever be, what I relived in memory for years, is no more. Openness saves me from the boundaries of the self and surrender to the moment is the essence of openness.

Surrender does not simply mean that I quit grieving what I do not have. It means that I surrender to new meanings and new circumstances, that I begin to think differently and to live somewhere that is totally elsewhere. I surrender to meanings I never cared to hear — or heard, maybe, but was not willing to understand. Try as I might to read more into someone’s words than they ever really meant, I must surrender to the final truths: She did not love me. They did not want me. What I want is not possible.

And, hardest to bear of all, all arguments to the contrary are useless. I surrender to the fact that what I lived for without thought of leaving, I have now lost. Try as I might to turn back the clock, to relive a period of my life with old friends, in long-gone places, out of common memories, through old understandings and theologies of the past, I come to admit that such attempts are the myth of a mind in search of safer days. The way we were is over. They are in fact, laughable to many, resented by some, essentially different in intimation to each of us.

Surrender is the crossover point of life. It distinguishes who I was from who I have become. Life as I had fantasized is over. What is left is the spiritual obligation to accept reality so that the spiritual life can really happen to me.–Joan Chittister, OSB

An excerpt from Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope by Joan Chittister (Eerdmans)

Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go Back to High School: “Jennifer’s Body”

jennifers-bodyJennifer’s Body (“She’s evil … and not just high school evil.”) is a new horror/slasher flick written by Diablo Cody (Juno and The United States of Tara — who also happens to be Catholic). It’s got all the blood, gore, cannibalism, revenge on teenage hormones, that we’ve come to expect from the genre. But don’t take that as a recommendation.

If you are a closet fan of American horror/thriller films and what they uncover about our social psyche, I suggest reading Jennifer’s Body and Why I Like Buffy’s Body Better by W. Scott Poole. He’s an associate professor in history at the College of Charleston and has written several books dealing with American religion, race, and popular culture. His latest is Satan in America: The Devil We Know.

According to to Poole, the dialogue in Jennifer’s Body is slick and ironic, but falls short of overturning the tables of misogyny in the genre. Even though writer Cody says she wanted to subvert the genre by inserting a sort of feminist “Trojan Horse” into the script. (See NYT‘s review by Michelle Orange.) However, J’s B is nothing compared to Joss Whedon’s 7-season TV hit Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (I’m a huge fan. See my article Damnation Will Not Be Televised.)

I’m always glad to find smart interpretations of Buffy’s mythic themes, feminism, and deep religious narrative. Here’s an excerpt from Poole’s review comparing Buffy with Jennifer’s Body:

Religion often goes to the horror movies, taking with it a raft of cultural baggage. In 1968, Rosemary’s Baby incorporated the Devil, anxieties over feminism, and the controversy over birth control. A few years later, The Exorcist served up an unsettling combination of religious conservatism, the perceived dangers of single-parent families, and the power of adolescent sexuality. Jennifer’s Body is the latest offering in this genre. …

I prefer to see powerful religious and cultural paradigms more thoroughly subverted than this. Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer—in which another high school cheerleader is revealed as “the Chosen One” who slays monsters rather than becoming one—provides a good example.

Buffy’s seven seasons did more than simply reverse the formula that makes women the predators rather than the prey. Whedon and his writers and directors created a truly nuanced and complex hero, an archetypal figure in the same sense that Beowulf and Achilles represents the heroic. Rather than perform a parody of female identity (or simple revenge fantasy), Buffy instead embodied both the limitations of human ability and the struggles against darkness that are the price of transcendence.