In sharp contrast

I recall two poet-friends:

One a public high school teacher, quite prolific as both excellent poet and gallery-exhibited photographer, did most of his work during the busy school year rather than the summer; he could never quite figure out why the pattern was exactly opposite of what people would expect.

The other, having all the time in the world to write, could produce only disconnected flashes – nothing sustained or full but wild all the same.

They were buddies.

From a Jungian interpretation of the Holy Grail myth

So I lost the source, this still applies: “One of the first characteristics of a mood [the author distinguishes feeling, emotions, and moods] is that it robs us of all sense of meaning. Relatedness is necessary if we are to have a sense of meaning or fulfillment. If something is wrong with one’s ability to relate, the meaning in life is gone. So depression is another term for mood. … So a mood is a little madness, a slight psychosis that overtakes one.”

Also: “A woman is much more in control of her moods. She can use them. She tries them on and sees which one she is going to wear. A man doesn’t have as much control over his moods; in fact, he has almost no control. Many women are masters of the whole feeling department as few men ever are. Much difficulty arises because a woman presumes that a man has the same kind of control over his mood that she has over hers, but he doesn’t. She must understand and give him time, or help him a little bit. …

“There is a fine but important difference between mood and enthusiasm. The word enthusiasm is a beautiful word. In Greek it means ‘to be filled with God.’ . . . If one is filled with God, a great creativity will flow, and there will be a stability about it. If one is filled with the anima [a man’s shadow side, his feminine aspects; in a woman, it’s the animus, her male qualities] one may also feel creativity, but it will probably be gone before nightfall. One must be wise enough to know the difference between God and the anima; most men aren’t. … Laughter is positive and creative, unless it comes from a mood.”

Among the points the writer in question raises in that section is one noting the danger of a feminist stance pushing women into their animus side, which gives men no refuge. “In some respects this is necessary, but in some other respects it could be nearly fatal. Each [man and woman] should serve the other. This is the ideal. We can’t do without it. One cannot live without the service, without the love, without the nurturing and service of the other. Parsifal understands this …”

No wonder I’ve been going out of my gourd!

The Achilles heel in Quaker culture  

When the Quaker movement swept through the English-speaking world and a bit more in the mid-1600s, it saw itself as primitive Christianity restored from before the time apostasy set upon the church – that is, sometime before the Nicene Council of 325 CE.

In theory, nothing could have been simpler or more welcoming than what they presented, an alternative Christianity for all, though in practice what emerged was often more difficult than many could follow, even before the disciplined rules of conduct set in.

I could lay out many of the obstacles to continuing the faith over the generations, even admitting that I wouldn’t have survived the lifestyle restrictions during much of that time, but more recently I’ve been seeing the most insidious impact was in the curtailment of emotion.

Yes, Friends were often seen as gentle and kind, but it came at a price. The Quaker culture that evolved, quite simply, suppressed any expression of anger – which was usually seen as leading to violence, which Friends abhorred – but only in recent decades has there been an acknowledgment that emotions don’t go away, and suppressing the expression of one curtails an open experience of the others. Burying anger, in fact, festers as depression, which can be glimpsed in the memorial minutes of many of the “weighty Quakes” of the past.

While moderation in daily life and meekness were encouraged, they could be performed thoughtfully or habitually without being deeply felt.

I’ve heard instances of old Friends’ reluctance to show emotion.

Greeting a son returned from wartime service with a handshake rather than a hug, for instance. My own family, several generations removed from its Quaker and Dunker (Brethren) roots, was similarly restrained. And, as has been said, the Hodsons didn’t know how to have fun. (When students at one Quaker school asked to have a fun activity, the elders had to withdraw to ponder the peculiar request and then came back with a proposal to paint a widow’s barn. An old Brethren, asked what he did for fun as a child, was perplexed by the very notion and finally replied he guessed it was bringing the cows in each evening.)

Then there’s the sly comment that passed among young Friends in the 1970s, asking if we knew why the old Quakers were so opposed to handholding. The answer? It might lead to premarital intercourse, not meaning sex but rather conversation.

There are also stories, usually told within families, of the individual who would never, ever, express anger only to have an offense fester, leading to deeply hurtful reactions in convolutions much later. You can guess, the baffling ex-mother-in-law, after the divorce, that sort of thing.

Not all birthright Friends, I should add, are so conflicted. Many I’ve known have been among the most loving individuals in my acquaintance.

But in looking at the decline of the faith over its history, I feel an awareness of the psychological undertow needs to be acknowledged, especially as we face the future.

Religion, as I see it, always has work to do to bring each person to a fuller experience of life.

On that day

The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the LORD, and the neediest people shall exult in the Holy One of Israel,

For the tyrant shall be no more, and the scoffer shall cease to be; and all those alert to do evil shall be cut off – those who cause a person to lose a lawsuit, who set a trap for the arbiter in the gate, and without grounds deny justice to the one in the right. …

And those who err in spirit will come to understanding, and those who grumble will accept instruction.

Isaiah 29:19-21, 29 (NRSV)