Pointed question to me in spiritual direction today: “Is pain required?”
My immediate answer: Yes. And explained, in the work for justice, especially as white folk we have to risk being hurt; too much “non-violent action” by white folk is really designed to protect our white selves from getting hurt. So for the work to really mean anything, we have to risk getting hurt. Have to risk pain. We have to understand that our action may be non-violent, but that doesn’t mean we won’t get hurt. My director understands this and knows I think this way…but she was making me say it, you know what I mean?
So then there was this question: “Then is refusing to heal required?”
All this is in reference to the fact that I’m about to start chiropractic treatments twice a week for the next 5 weeks in hopes to “fix” or heal or at least feel better from the pain I have had now for over 3 years from the arrest. At my exam last week, the chiropractor found essentially the same problems the physical therapist did three years ago. Oh man.
I don’t talk about it much, that I still hurt. It has been a struggle over these years to know what to think of it all. I did acupuncture for about 6 months last year which took the edge of but even she said I needed something…stronger.
I know I have learned a lot from the pain. What it means to be hurt so by the empire, to carry that in my body, a constant reminder of what happens to you when you step out of your given place. Something I only understood intellectually before Oct 6, 2007, and now understand in a very different way, understand in my body. And what I understand is only a tiny fraction of what historically oppressed communities who are constantly violated over generations know.
(Yes, as a lesbian woman I too am an historically oppressed community, but somehow I think my whiteness also protects me in certain kinds of ways from even understanding my own oppression.)
Anyway, the pain. I want to hold on to what I have learned from it. What my director was trying to get at was if holding on to what I’ve learned necessarily means holding on to the physical pain itself, especially if I can get relief from it.
Have I learned what I needed to learn? Is the physical pain just getting in the way of what needs to come? I think maybe yes. Did you catch this section in my last “collar” poem?
the prayer we read claims
that hope overcomes despair,
and my head nods
but my body, still hurting
in those same places,
what the body knows.
My body doesn’t know that hope overcomes despair, because my body still hurts. Moments of joy cannot overcome the constant pain. And this so clearly reflects my struggle not to be cynical about the world, that change can happen, that our efforts for justice make a difference.
I think my spiritual struggle is connected to the physical one, don’t you? I can’t believe it (hope) because my body doesn’t believe it. It remains to be seen what will happen with all these treatments; I know it will be painful (the irony: healing is painful!) and I am hopeful I will feel better — but I am also aware that this could be a significant moment on my journey.
But this post title says immersion therapy…which is supposed to be about immersing myself in beauty to help find relief after a hard stretch. Indeed, after wrestling with this stuff for several hours today, immersion therapy is what this Friday night has been — thanks to my cielo, and to GreenGirl who asked me who Kiri Te Kanawa is. Thanks to that question I have been listening to YouTube clips for over 2 hours now, starting with the 1982 Rosenkavalier (can you think of a better way of introducing someone to Dame Kiri?), detouring through a new-to-me Geneva Rosenkavalier (Kirschlager and Kiberg), back to Kiri recording West Side Story, and then suddenly, Marietta’s Lied. Oh my god. I had heard it before — it’s in my “favorites” several times — but tonight it is just what I need to hear. Oh, there is beauty and joy to be had in this world. Oh, if I could fill the painful places with these voices and this music instead…
Here are my favorite sopranos singing the aria. And I dedicate them all to my cielo, who, even more than these beautiful singers singing this beautiful aria, reminds me again and again that there is joy in this life.
Joy, that near to me remains,
Come to me, my true love.
Night sinks into the grove
You are my light and day.
Anxiously beats heart on heart
Hope itself soars heavenward.
How true, a sad song.
The song of true love,
that must die.
I know this song.
I often heard it sung
in happier days of yore.
There is yet another stanza –
have I still got it in mind?
Though dismal sorrow is drawing nigh,
move up close beside me, my true love.
Turn your wan face to me
death will not part us.
When the hour of death comes one day,
believe that you will rise again.
Dame Kiri, the one who started it all (in more ways than one):
My current beloved soprano, the Divine Ms. Fleming:
The amazing Leontyne Price:
If mezzos are more to your liking, then here’s Anne Sofie von Otter (which I really like!):
It’s on to Fleming singing Strauss, who could ask for anything better? I may be able to sleep tonight…