From the titles, at least, they seem like they might be appropriate for this group.
At first, Ruddick's list of maternal practices went over my head. While I believed there is truth to it, I did not consciously relate to the world in that way. Maybe, though, that is part of being a woman: I just do some of those things, rather than think about them.
When I look at the list and then examine my life, I can see a lot of #4. That is why I blog: to tell my story, in the hopes it will encourage other women. I am learning to add men into my worldview as an afterthought, but when I think about the hearts I most want to touch with my blogging, I automatically think of women. I think about men being touched by my story only as much as a man might fall in love with me via my writing...and, of course, he would have to be single. :-)
I have practiced "Attentive Love" with males as an act of desperation--if I love him despite his faults, he will be touched and will learn to do the same for me--but with women as an act of knowing and celebrating the real person.
I prefer concrete thinking, but I think of that as a "masculine" trait, not a feminine one. I have always associated concrete thinking with engineering (my chosen profession for this time of my life), and I usually associate engineering with males, as it is a male-dominated field. Furthermore, Ruddick's definition of concrete thinking includes being open to ambiguity, something that was definitely NOT present in my relationships with women when I was a child. My mother, her mother, and the other adult women in my family and church were always very black and white about everything, particularly about how I ought to think and feel and be. Ambiguity was not allowed. Individuality was not allowed. So it is difficult for me to think of "concrete thinking" as one which allows ambiguity and is inherently maternal.
As for #1...I don't have an opinion on it, and for me to try to form one, I would have to stretch more than my brain is able, at the moment. :-)
"Women tend to know in a way and to a degree that many men do not, both the history and the cost of human flesh."
Thank you for your patience through delays in my scheduling. Perhaps with the subject matter, what is lost in the momentum of a slow pace is made up for in time to absorb deep portraits of these women.
I invite you to begin reading about Clare of Assisi in the following days, as you are able. I will soon begin posting about her chapter. Before discussing her, though, I'd like to address one last important issue from the introduction.
On pages 7 and 8, Flinders summarizes Sara Ruddick's "maternal practics" construct - certain elements of the physical mothering experience that may influence many (though certainly not all) women's ways of being in the world. Flinders finds these patterns present in the lives of the mystics she will share with us, and so she highlights them in their original form here. To summarize even more briefly than she does:
1. Mothers are required to hold close and at the same time welcome change.
2. Maternal practice gives rise to a preference for concrete rather than abstract thinking.
3. "Attentive love" is a practice mothers teach themselves and one another to cultivate. If I understand attentive love, it may be described as an intertwining of the events of being known and being loved.
4. Women strengthen themselves and one another by telling their own stories.
Personally, my response to this construct is a rather deep affinity. They each exist in various forms in feminist theology, and shape an understanding of God that is relational and nurturing. I actually returned to this list as a resource to understand my own confusion a few pages into Clare's chapter... I must confess, I don't know how these maternal practices will be reconciled with the ascetism that these faithful women lived by (and which is usually the largest obstacle I have to feeling affinity for them). I am especially fond of the words from Ruddick that I used to open this post, and of these that she quotes from Schreiner, "No woman who is a woman says of a human body, 'it is nothing.'"
These practices of mothering, while attractive, are in many ways abstract for me, though, as I have not had many models for motherhood in my life that I would wish to emulate.
I ask you: what is your response to Ruddick's maternal practices? What about the forceful description of womanhood from Schreiner? What parts ring true? Which feel false to you? For those of you who have children, how has your experience of motherhood shaped your response to the experiences described in Ruddick's list?
In her opening entry, blessed_harlot asked, How is hunger manifesting in your life these days? In what ways do you trust your desires?
There is a lot of hunger in my life right now -- in part because I am allowing myself to hunger for the first time in a long time. I'm allowing myself to enjoy my hunger for deeper connection and intimacy, and for lots of intense and fun sex. I'm allowing myself to hunger for a better job and to take the risks that are necessary to assuage that hunger.
I'm also hungering to come a new place in my spiritual life. I'm in all kinds of transitions right now -- actually, I'm finally seeming to come to a place of fruition after a long chrysalis period (please forgive my mixed metaphor). My spiritual life has upheld me during this transition, but the old forms aren't working for me. However, I'm on a twisting path spiritually, so this doesn't frighten me. It's part of my pattern. I need to embrace the freefall and be open to the whispers and subtle new hungers that will lead me into new forms and practices.
I have virtually always trusted my hungers. I have believed that my desires were indications of my authentic nature, and I have honored that. Too often I've indulged greed instead of imposing gentle discipline on myself, instead of practicing discernment on my desires. These last few years have been uncharacteristic in that regard, but becoming a mother and getting divorced had a powerful impact.
My hunger for security and for the ability to take care of my daughter and not be dependent on ex-husband or on father reduced the little tolerance for risk I've had, so I've stifled my hungers for 'more' at work, and kept my head down and told myself how lucky I've been to have the job I've had. My heart-pain numbed my heart-hungers, and I told myself that was okay. I didn't need romantic love, intimacy, shared sexuality, partnership.
It's good to hunger again.
It's good to hunger and to have some of those hungers satisfied.
[x-posted to my personal journal]
It is a continual source of both amusement and disquiet to me how many topics are perceived as being "remote" from religion, and raise eyebrows when paired with it. Flinders spends much time dwelling on the connection between food and religion, or actually: about our hungers. What do we hunger for? What do we long to find and ingest to make ourselves feel "full" and complete and secure?
This is not a new connection. "Taste and see that the Lord is good," is an ancient scripture. (Psalms, I think.) And "Hunger and thirst after righteousness." More recently there has been the growing awareness about the connection between the emotional hungers of the heart and how a person relates to food. Some believe we have a "God shaped hole" in our inner selves, an open place that only God can fill, without which we hunger and feel incomplete.
In my own personal and academic background, I have startled people by pairing theater and religion (although their ancient roots are intertwined) and sexuality and religion (thankfully, a pairing which causes less surprise over time). While sexuality has an important component that is only about one's self, it is also about the connection to the Other -- and God is the ultimate Other, as well as the only one who can truly know us and be with us from within.
The hunger of the mystics to know and ingest God is familiar to me, in my own less-single-minded way. The story of my life is very much the story of my relationship with God, from earliest childhood through today. Even the times of my atheism have been defined as my mourning for God, and my ongoing hunger for God.
( A couple of places where I am in tension with FlindersCollapse )
Flinders, for all her feminist background, still seems to be caught very much in the patriarchal models of spirituality: dualistic, hierarchical, and either Masculine or Abstract visions of God. I look forward to taking this journey with her, but suspect that her perspective may be a bit narrow at times for me.
You have all earned my heartiest gratitude - and not just for being patient with me these weeks! This book looks wonderful, and I feel deep joy when I anticipate our time spent together reading it.
Welcome to our first journey - Enduring Grace: Living Portraits of Seven Women Mystics. It would seem so far that we are a group already acquainted with one another. If we find our group expanding later, we may feel the need for more of an introduction with each other. For now, let's leap into the text!
As I began the book this evening, I realize just how quickly the author moves into rich territory. So I'd like to spend just a bit of time on the preface and introduction this week. Behind the cut below are a few thoughts I had about the content of the preface. I hope you find something that resonates with you, rubs you the wrong way, or otherwise gets juices flowing.
The role of discussion starter can rotate through our group. For the preliminary chapters, and for the first chapter on a mystic - St. Claire of Assisi - I will take the initiative to offer up food for thought on the reading. If anyone is led to take this role for other chapters - notably for Mechtild, our second mystic - please speak up.
( The Preface: Women and HungerCollapse )
Blessings, all. Well, I should have my book SOON *sigh*! In the meantime I have two topics to bring to the table:
1) We currently have an intimate number of folks in our group, who are all already acquainted with each other, I believe. Would we prefer such intimacy, or shall we advertise for more members? If we stay a small group, do we want to take volunteers to be a "discussion starter" for each chapter, to encourage discussion?
2) I've got an idea for a format; tell me what you think. From the table of contents (thank you amazon) it would appear that there are about 30 pages on each mystic. What if we set a chunk of time per chapter, and post whatever strikes us as we read? This will make room for various schedules and reading styles... if you read it all at once, you can post whole impressions of the woman. If you have a practice of reading a little each night, you can post what you take away or what sticks with you. I would find a period of two weeks quite lovely to absorb each chapter... is this too long for you? Just right?
Ok, I just thought of a third. How is next week, September 17th, for a start date? We could use the last two weeks of September to discuss the introduction and the first chapter - on St. Claire - should we choose.
This is a test post.