Friday, September 08, 2006

The world gets brighter

Oh, man. Thank you, A.R. I went to see Rose the wondrous bodyworker again yesterday, courtesy of one of my best and oldest friends in the world, and Rose has given me a new right arm.

There was so much toxicity built up in the old one that by the time I went to bed yesterday evening I was cramping all over (it is not seemly to thwack yourself compulsively in the butt during a community dinner party), and had to keep climbing up and down the stairs in the middle of the night, as my system went into 'rapid flush' mode.

The amazing thing was that Rose did not go into the monster knots and whale on them, the way I would have done. She hooked onto the fascia in my shoulder and stretched them, one layer at a time. There was one point that I felt my arm getting longer and longer, and knew for a certainty that it could become infinitely long, that there was never going to come a point when it would go no further.

Oh man, I needed that.

This week I read a book which I now wish to recommend to everyone in the world. Our copy of Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found my Faith, by Martha Beck, seems to have vanished along with our erstwhile houseguest, so that I cannot quote the huge excerpts from it that I was intending to. However, if the houseguest DID take it, it could not have gone to a better place, so that's the last I will say about that, except that I hope to God she finishes it.

The reasons I'm tooting this book beyond all others are interlocked and legion. First of all, it's hilarious. Her writing style is reminiscent of that of yours truly, at my most puckish and urbane, and her material is, to say the least, flamboyant. Those Mormons--well, let's just say that if I had made up a religion, complete with elaborate rituals, at the age of six, and documented it thoroughly, it would have looked a lot like Mormonism. Weird-ass fundamentalism has got to be a natural developmental stage of the human psyche. But even at the age of six, I wouldn't have taken it nearly so seriously.

Anyway, if it was just funny, I wouldn't be bothering. What really impressed me was both her masterful descriptions of 'the peace that passeth all understanding,' that infinite joy that cannot be evoked in words, and her profoundly wise integration of justice and forgiveness.

There seems to be a pervasive notion in human culture, on all sides of political fences, that 'forgiveness' equals 'saying it's okay.' We see it in right-wing ideologies that equate 'compassion and understanding' with 'flopping over and playing dead while the criminal element tramples civilization.' We see it equally in left-wing ideologies that equate 'peace and forgiveness' with 'denying our wounds and playing dead while the patriarchy molests us and silences our voices.' Nobody seems very hip on forgiveness, unless they're ordering someone else to shut up and play nice.

This book makes it clear, in the most compelling way I've ever encountered, that true peace can only be attained through truth, justice, clarity, and then an understanding and compassion that encompasses both the abused and the abuser. You do not obtain peace, or even a lasting social stability, by sweeping ugliness under the carpet. Neither do you obtain justice by signing up for a lasting inner rage which obviates trust, compassion, and redemption.

I was going to go on and on, but this morning, in peace and clarity, I find myself completely unable to do so. You just have to read the book.


Chris Rywalt said...

The best thing I ever read about the Church of Latter-Day Saints was -- I can't even remember the author. I think it was Joe Queenan, maybe. He wrote about going to this Mormon museum place where you can go from room to room learning about the history of the religion. It begins with Joseph Smith having visions and being given these golden tablets with the Word of God carved into them.

At the end of the tour, he came to this room with the golden tablets. The author was beside himself: God's angel gave Smith golden tablets, and here they were! How is that everyone didn't know about this?

Then he was told that Smith had actually sort of lost the original plates, and these were just reproductions of the plates.

The author kind of gave up on the Mormons at that point.

serena said...

Oh, Chris, that's just the tip of the iceberg. Just wait until you read about the ancient Egyptian papyri, giving Joseph Smith's wife explicit directions to stop whining about polygamy.

And the undergarments. Just think, all those people are wearing the exact same underwear.

Chris Rywalt said...

The same underwear? I hadn't heard that.

Wow. I think I might convert.