Wednesday, April 09, 2008
Monsters R Us
I hesitate to do this, but before any of this will make sense, you have to go visit this website.
My hesitation is based on the fact that I really don't want to encourage cowards who post things anonymously - especially scathing things like this. That being said, you have to promise me that, after your visit, you will leave a comment telling him (and, I have no doubt this is the male variety of coward), exactly what you think of his cowardice and violence.
Our anonymous coward from the Hills of North Georgia who, by the way, is NOT an Episcopalian, is writing his opinion about the recent action by the Presiding Bishop to depose former bishop of Quincy, David Mac Burney, who has already made it known that he has left the Episcopal Church.
He's allowed his own opinion. Absolutely. His opinion, however, is that the actions of our Presiding Bishop are, in his words, "monstrous." His description of her is one befitting that of a hideous monster.
Here is my response in a reflection on monsters.
I have always been fascinated with words. The one thing that always shows up, year after year, on my Christmas Wish List is a complete multi-volume set of the OED, the Old English Dictionary. (How long, O Lord, how long?)
I suppose this should come as no real surprise. English is not my mother tongue. Indeed, I was part of the new wave of the children of Portuguese immigrants in the city of my birth, and, since we could not afford the RC school in our parish where we might find some temporary sanctuary until we learned to become bilingual, we were sent to the public school system which was, unfortunately, simply not ready for us.
The first three months of my academic career were spent in the Special Needs class - with the children whose IQ's were borderline, or they had what we now know as 'learning disabilities'.
Never mind. Mrs. Kelliher was our teacher. She knew the score. She worked with me privately in class and after school and, within three months I was mainstreamed into the regular classes. She loved me into my new language and I, in turn, loved her and my new language. I ran to it as a baby turtle pushes through egg and sand and runs ecstatically to the water, my new home, never to return to the shell and grit of my origin.
I understand the power of language. I know its ability to shape images and imagination, thought and feeling. I know how language can hurt and harm - even unintentionally.
As a young Roman Catholic child, I found the word "monstrance" fascinating. This is the word used to describe the receptacle into which the consecrated host is placed for adoration. I discovered that the word comes from the Latin, of course, monstrare = to show.
But why, I wondered, did this word also find its root in the word 'monster' - that which is so hideously ugly as to make children cry, women flee, and grown men pick up clubs to kill? Certainly, this was not a proper term to describe something which held the precious Body of Our Lord.
On further investigation, I discovered that the word monster has its derivative in the Latin monstrum = a portent or a warning. As I grew older, my study of language naturally led to being a life-long student of human behavior, which is so often shaped by language.
And, I began to understand.
Monsters are only hideous because they are a warning. They show something about us, about our human nature, which we keep in the shadows of our lives - deep in the murky, ancient waters of the human soul. Or perhaps, if you will, hidden away in the Bell Towers of the church like the Hunch Back of Notre Dame.
We choose to see the epiphany or 'showing' in the monstrance. We choose to see the warning in the monster.
The warning the monster gives us tells us less about that being and more about what lurks in our own souls. These are the themes which were explored by great wordsmiths and storytellers like Victor Hugo and Mary Shelly. It calls us to remember the story of the Titans in the mythology of Prometheus.
Monsters are fashioned from the depths of our own psyche, deep in the dark corners where anxiety and fear lurk. They reveal more about the frailty of our own humanity than the creature on whom we cast our terror and need to punish or enslave or kill.
In this way, monsters are, in their own way, a monstrance, an epiphany or a showing.
And, it has ever been thus:
There are none so blind (or blinded by fear or anxiety) as those who refuse to see.