11 10 / 2014
"If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also"
This specifically refers to a hand striking the side of a person’s face, tells quite a different story when placed in it’s proper historical context. In Jesus’s time, striking someone of a lower class ( a servant) with the back of the hand was used to assert authority and dominance. If the persecuted person “turned the other cheek,” the discipliner was faced with a dilemma. The left hand was used for unclean purposes, so a back-hand strike on the opposite cheek would not be performed. Another alternative would be a slap with the open hand as a challenge or to punch the person, but this was seen as a statement of equality. Thus, by turning the other cheek the persecuted was in effect putting an end to the behavior or if the slapping continued the person would lawfully be deemed equal and have to be released as a servant/slave.
THAT makes a lot more sense, now, thank you.
I can attest to the original poster’s comments. A few years back I took an intensive seminar on faith-based progressive activism, and we spent an entire unit discussing how many of Jesus’ instructions and stories were performative protests designed to shed light on and ridicule the oppressions of that time period as a way to emphasize the absurdity of the social hierarchy and give people the will and motivation to make changes for a more free and equal society.
For example, the next verse (Matthew 5:40) states “And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.” In that time period, men traditionally wore a shirt and a coat-like garment as their daily wear. To sue someone for their shirt was to put them in their place - suing was generally only performed to take care of outstanding debts, and to be sued for one’s shirt meant that the person was so destitute the only valuable thing they could repay with was their own clothing. However, many cultures at that time (including Hebrew peoples) had prohibitions bordering on taboo against public nudity, so for a sued man to surrender both his shirt and his coat was to turn the system on its head and symbolically state, in a very public forum, that “I have no money with which to repay this person, but they are so insistent on taking advantage of my poverty that I am leaving this hearing buck-ass naked. His greed is the cause of a shameful public spectacle.”
All of a sudden an action of power (suing someone for their shirt) becomes a powerful symbol of subversion and mockery, as the suing patron either accepts the coat (and therefore full responsibility as the cause of the other man’s shameful display) or desperately chases the protester around trying to return his clothes to him, making a fool of himself in front of his peers and the entire gathered community.
Additionally, the next verse (Matthew 5:41; “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.”) was a big middle finger to the Romans who had taken over Judea and were not seen as legitimate authority by the majority of the population there. Roman law stated that a centurion on the march could require a Jew (and possibly other civilians as well, although I don’t remember explicitly) to carry his pack at any time and for any reason for one mile along the road (and because of the importance of the Roman highway system in maintaining rule over the expansive empire, the roads tended to be very well ordered and marked), however hecould not require any service beyond the next mile marker. For a Jewish civilian to carry a centurion’s pack for an entire second mile was a way to subvert the authority of the occupying forces. If the civilian wouldn’t give the pack back at the end of the first mile, the centurion would either have to forcibly take it back or report the civilian to his commanding officer (both of which would result in discipline being taken against the soldier for breaking Roman law) or wait until the civilian volunteered to return the pack, giving the Judean native implicit power over the occupying Roman and completely subverting the power structure of the Empire. Can you imagine how demoralizing that must have been for the highly ordered Roman armies that patrolled the region?
Jesus was a pacifist, but his teachings were in no way passive. There’s a reason he was practically considered a terrorist by the reigning powers, and it wasn’t because he healed the sick and fed the hungry.
In other words, Jesus was executed by the State because he challenged the State’s power.
10 9 / 2014
All promising starts end
With walls, headphones-
& All Too Well.
30 8 / 2014
What are we, but victims of games our own minds create for us?
I don’t understand how people get so trapped in the idea of fitting into society. What cut or brand of jeans they should buy or where to get what tattoo put - why would you be concerned about everyone else’s approval for this? Where does this need to please others come from? Why put total strangers opinions before your own?
29 8 / 2014
"And at the word ‘alone,’ Will felt a great wave of rage and despair moving outward from a place deep within him, as if his mind were an ocean some profound convulsion had disturbed. All his life he’d been alone, and now he must be alone again, and this infinitely precious blessing that had come to him must be taken away almost at once. He felt the wave build higher and steeper to darken the sky, he felt the crest tremble and begin to spill, he felt the great mass crashing down with the whole weight of the ocean behind it against the iron-bound coast of what had to be. And he found himself gasping and shaking and crying aloud with more anger and pain that he had ever felt in his life, and he found Lyra just as helpless in his arms."
24 8 / 2014
me: hi, can i have a large—
starbucks employee: you mean a venti?
me: can we not do this
23 8 / 2014
"Night time is really the best time to work. All the ideas are yours because everyone else is asleep."
23 8 / 2014
Three years ago, I was driving home and had to pull the over.
After abruptly leaving my first semester of college, I had spent months in an unrelenting and vicious depression. The world was only accessible through a dense layer of packing peanuts.
But as I drove, I felt as though my head were breaking through the surface of water. Everything was suddenly real: louder, brighter, and closer. I ran my fingers over and over the steering wheel as though I had never touched it before — had I really touched this before? The texture seemed so new.
But when people ask me when things got from very bad to tolerable bad, I tell them about driving home. (They actually ask “when did things get better?” — a question I despise because it insinuates that things are now better and your life is now on a permanent upswing— “so you’re happy now? great! you’re all better!”)
I just felt different for no particular reason. And I kept feeling different for no particular reason.
I experienced a similar event about two weeks ago.
My best friend April, when I asked her how to alleviate break up pain, told me, “You have to want to let go. I’m not saying everything is sunshine and rainbows after that, but you have to decide that you don’t want to hold on to that anymore. That’s not the same as letting go, but you do have to at least want to let it go.”
And I had no idea what she was talking about until a week later. I was driving. And though I had just spent hours face down in the dark, I suddenly felt okay. After a week of being totally unable to do anything — Epiphany: Things will be okay. You will be okay. You do not need people who abuse you. You are good enough. You will be okay.
My struggle at the moment is to not to doubt that light.
When you don’t often experience happiness, it becomes scary as hell. The logic? Surely, happiness will end. Then you will be worse off than you were before, in your packing peanuts, not admitting that you wanted it to begin with. You will realize afresh how miserable you are when the happiness gets taken away. And then the crippling strength of that realization will make you wish you weren’t happy to begin with. You will wish you never believed in the bullshit idea that things could get better. You will hate yourself for becoming soft: for doubting your worldview that Life is Awful and Then You Die. The voice in your head snarls, “Don’t think that you are on some upward trend. Your happiness could be taken away from you in a second.”
It’s difficult to suspend narrative formation. I want to be saved by another Random Moment Where Things Got Better. I’m writing about it as such, as another Moment Everything Changed. But I don’t know that everything has changed. What if the sadness, the ache, the despair that makes me want to die, comes back tomorrow?
I’m trying to be brave. Depression flares up and tries to kill you, but sometimes it lets you breathe. I can breathe right now, tonight. I am breathing.
I wanted to write about this tentative, scared-as-hell, maybe-fleeting-maybe-lasting hopefulness. And hope that some of you are feeling it, too.
Leaving a note for myself: hope hope hope hope hope.