Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Clothed and in his right mind: Dostoevsky, Camus and Teddy

RL comes by to work on his rehearsal and recording studio. Ready for his next installment of Dusty Withers. Jamie wants to make sure that he understands the uncertainties ahead so I walk down the street to his office for a conversation. Help explain the big picture. He’s been a good friend of West-Park. Need to make sure he's informed and protected.  Just to make sure everything's clear, we’ll make a memo of understanding. 
I return awhile later. After talking about everything from watering John Lennon’s pianos to how I’ve got the same eye doctor that did Lennon’s glasses  to phenomenology of friendship and the ontology of love. RL can do that. And he is a romantic at heart.
Time to run home and make the boys dinner before Bible Study. 
Tonight we explore the fifth chapter of Mark, the Gerasene demoniac, one of my favorites. The wild and strong man who lives among the tombs. As always, there’s so much here:
  • John R acknowledges as to how there’s more here than  we can understand and believes in the real  possibility of demonic possession
  • Luisa surprises me. She went to a conference where the speaker referenced Franz Fanon and the Wretched of the Earth (which she ultimately read in Spanish translation.) How colonial oppression can lead to serious mental illness, even self-injury.
  • Someone else has a child who cuts themselves
  • I remember being part of the counseling center at the University of Bridgeport. How the minorities counselor rejected the idea that our job was to help students cope. That sometimes their feelings were appropriate and the situation was crazy. Our job was to help them develop strategies of resistance and liberation, not coping. 
  • Teddy explores his thought that since the madman identifies himself as legion, as in Roman legion, he may be an occupying  soldier driven mad by what he has done. Like Vietnam. Afghanistan. Iraq.  
  • We compare this story to the previous exorcism  story in chapter 1 which took place in a synagogue. One in Jewish territory in the heart of establishment religion. The other  in Gentile territory under Roman military occupation. 
  • Junia notes the strangeness of Jesus, a stranger as it were, engaging in this work in ethnically different territory. Like an Italian trying to organize el barrio.
  • I point out that legion does refer primarily to Roman legions. That the word for herd is the same word used for a company of recruits and the word used to describe their charging  over the hill commonly used with army charges. And as they plunge into the water, everyone thinks of Pharoah’s army. 
  • Unclean and all, everyone is sympathetic with the swineherd. All that lost meat. What a waste.
  • That terrifying moment when the madman appears clothed and in his right mind. That’s what frightens people...the healing, not the madness. Throughout Mark, here, when Jesus stills the storm, the empty makes people afraid....And we talk about how families have a hard time adjusting when someone returns from prison. The family narrative, structure has to be rewritten or return to prison will be imminent.  And how addiction, especially alcohol can be like possession.  I become not me. But, though I  may not be responsible, but I am accountable. 
  • Teddy says that the swine rushing over the cliff made him think of lemmings and I told him that that’s what Dostoevsky thought when he wrote his play the Possessed (or the Demons, or the Devils...) describing pre-Revolutionary Russia about to go over the edge of the political cliff plunging into the abyss. And how Camus used this very passage to open his dramatization of Dostoevsky’s novel. Told Teddy he was in good company. Dostoevsky, Camus and Teddy. 
  • As for why the former madman couldn’t come with Jesus on the boat, perhaps because he wasn’t ready yet to launch a multi ethnic, multicultural liberation movement. Or perhaps as Junia said, he needed propaganda. (My Latin American friends understand the need for this in way the rest of us don’t....and they’re right...) 
Philip used to tell me that in the Black church, it was common to pray to thank God for getting us up clothed and in our right minds...not a bad place to start. 

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