Monday, February 28, 2011

Once more into the breach

When I was a kid, The Sword in the Tree -- a book about a young boy in King Arthur's time -- was one of my favorite books.  I suspect that like all children I struggled with feelings of powerlessness, and dreamed of being able to pull off feats that adults could not.  We don't tend to lose that longing as we age; even when I graduated to King Arthur, my favorite part was always the moment when he pulled the sword from the stone.  Excalibur, wasn't it?

A quick glance at the Wiki tells me the origin of the word Excalibur is Celtic, a blend of "battle" and "breach" (in the sense of cut or gap).  So that carries me to Shakespeare's Henry V, and his famous rallying cry, "Once more into the breach, dear friends."  And doesn't that just make you picture him charging forward with his sword raised over his head, encouraging his troops to follow him into battle?

I think all this is rising up because of something I read this morning in The Dove in the Stone, when author Alice Howell speaks of "the necessity to yoke the opposites of dualities rather than to choose one side over the other, to hold on to both of them consciously and heal the splits apparent in the world within our own individual psyches, no matter how deep or how awful the pain of it.  This is the nature of the Opus, the Work.  Only in this way can we hope to love and heal our world:  through working on our own stuff."

Reading this -- in the context of knowing I am still curious about what my own particular Opus might be -- I feel the words resonating with lots of pieces of me: the urge I always felt to reconcile the differences between my artist mother and engineer father; the fact that I then became an artist myself -- and married an engineer.  Was I somehow battling the gap?  Or just experiencing it within myself -- the left brain always so active and organized and responsible; the right so playful and reverent and creative...

A conversation I had with the Bishop in my final interview for my job as his communications director, when he asked, "Why do you want (or was it "feel called?") to do this?" and I responded that as the only child of two such different parents I always found myself bridging communication gaps; that that impulse had led me into the field of hi-tech marketing, where my role always seemed to be explaining something engineers had created to people who didn't speak that language.

And then as I spoke I remember noticing that I was standing with both arms straight out from my sides, as if to demonstrate the pull from one parent or audience to another.  "Hmm.  I remember saying.  And does this image look familiar?  Nobody ever said it would be easy!"  Because, of course, in that position, I resembled Jesus on the cross...

But now, having spent the last two months first developing a talk about Contemplative Photography as an Act of Faith for Seattle U (see link on right) and then writing a paper about metaphors used to describe photography, I am beginning to understand that even though what I'm doing now seems very different from other careers I've had over the course of my life, the impulse is the same: it's really about reconciliation, in the sense of closing the gap; bringing opposites together; about removing or reconstituting or re-visioning that which separates and often wounds.

And yet we all know -- especially we women -- that it is out of that wound, that cleft, that breach that new life emerges; the new life that is somehow the co-mingling of opposites.  And isn't that part of the wonder of our children -- that we see in them how characteristics we thought might prove irreconcilable find a new union, a new expression in their joining?

Hmm.  Lots to ponder here...

1 comment:

Maureen said...

Such an arresting image! It looks to me like a great stone face broken and on its side, struggling to speak.