Dear Sor Juana,
I have discovered that gossip and scandal, lampooning and scuttle buck are ways revenge takes shape in my language and conversation – from a subtle put down here to a full blown personal attack there. Words laced with vengeance have a capacity to rise up from a from a well deep inside I had thought was dry. The words echo from this dark chamber and make a lot of noise.
I can see why you might have chosen silence as a way of monitoring your own behaviour. Silence need not still the thoughts and from time to time they eek out through my mouth and become audible. I had one of those times this past week. Revenge is one of the dark sides of the desire for control. I am indebted to Hugh Mackay who unintentionally helped me join those dots this week while I was reading his book “What Makes Us Tick“? And reminded me once again of the difference between justice and revenge; “one civilised and measured, the other brutish and primitive”.
Control issues are inherent in my personality and the quest for integration is a balance of leadership and power and surrendering to vulnerability. I noticed my anger and vengeful self having a day out this week. Sor Juana your uneasy relationship with power and authority perhaps propelled you through the courts using your intellect to control others and within the container of the convent able to find balance in community and prayer, subjecting yourself to the rule of religious life.
The search for equilibrium is universal and in our western world phrases like “work-life balance” abound. An on / off switch regulating my working hours makes no sense to me. This is becoming easier as work practices are more dynamic and technologically supported; but it is also becoming easier as personal reflection is an integrated practice. There is no work-life divide – just as there wasn’t for you in the convent – it is vocation to be who you are (warts and all). I have written about this previously and been encouraged by David Whyte’s work in his book The Three Marriages. This constant conversation is with all the elements and when the conversation is undertaken in whole heartedness, insights emerge healing and inviting us to our deeper selves. In the case of revenge, it may lead to forgiveness.
Forgiveness begins in the shadows of fear, betrayal, anger and breaches of trust. Finding the light, brings humility and is restorative. As a pilgrim, I accept “We are each a river with a particular abiding character, but we show radically different aspects of our self according to the territory through which we travel” (David Whyte, The Three Marriages). The river flows through rocky rapids and other times takes up a foetal position in a cul de sac nudging the muddy banks. The invitation to get inside what revenge is all about has been an act of restorative justice. It is self restoration, a coming home to myself from darkness to light and appropriately so in this Holy Week Easter season.
As the embrace of the earth
Welcomes all we call death,
Taking deep into itself
The tight solitude of a seed,
Allowing it time
To shed the grip of former form
And give way to a deeper generosity
That will one day send it forth,
A tree into springtime,
May all that holds you
Fall from its hungry ledge
Into the fecund surge of your heart.