Sunday, November 22, 2009

Merlinda Bobis writes of small stories and big stories.
small: personal, familial, local
big: master narratives of nation, empire, history, global
how do we keep the small stories from being eaten by the big story?
how do we write our small stories so that they can subvert the big story?

what if the small story carries the weight of the big story or lives in its shadow unconsciously?
can the small story be redeemed? can we rewrite the story?

i think of these questions as i grapple with the meaning of death and our stories about death.
what do we tell each other about the meaning of someone's life as this life passes through death's door.

what do we tell ourselves about death itself?

as i have been around death lately, i find myself entrained by the invitation of the deep well to go beyond cultural and religious beliefs. i am conditioned by civilization to fear death and to keep it at bay. this is why we have developed a health care industry that treats the body as a machine to be fixed. we treat the soul as something that departs and goes to heaven when the body dies. what if we cared for the soul as much as we care about our bodies? as in 'soulful bodies' -- how different would our stories be?

the days of witnessing the rituals of grieving touches on my own sense of mortality and my own fear of dying. i have new lessons to learn. i feel the need to go to the deep well often to pull my mind out of its conditioned thoughts, to honor and thank my body, to learn what my own small story is and to see it in the light of the big stories that cast long and dark shadows. when i can shift from fear to no-fear, i feel the shift in my mood, i sense the body relax, i feel the breath unloading grief, worry, fear, anger, agitation.

sometimes i imagine what my babaylan ancestors might have done for the community when a member is dying. i imagine that fear had no role in their rituals. i imagine the ritual that entwines the spirit world with the physical one. in their dance, the spirits join in, their sorrow and joy indistinguishable because it is all sacred energy.

this is what i need to learn. how do we create a container for our grief/s so that we may mourn in community? how do we honor death and welcome it as part of the sacred order? how do we help each other undo the damage of a culture/civilization that is based on fear and escape from fear?

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