By Dolores J. Nurss

Volume IV: Braided Paths

Chapter 25




I had dreamed often of ethnic divisions increasing in Vanikke, and so I wrote the first scene to convey this and fit it in with the Lyanfa scenes.

I dreamed of the polluted desks.  I figured that cleaning them up would be a fine way to bring the Headmaster up to speed, and so made up that part. 

Rosebud was also, in this waking world, the name of a crazy young woman, an activist and an anarchist who broke into a university chancellor's home in Berkeley, allegedly with murderous intent, whom the police subsequently shot and killed.  I have strong anarchist sympathies, but in the context of Christian Anarchy—the intent to cause law to atrophy by inspiring conscience.  The version I follow doesn't involve murder.

But what is law, ultimately, if not the enforcement of a set of values onto someone who doesn't want to follow them?  A community can decide, together, to enforce values necessary for their survival onto any who dwell among them who might be inclined to go against the common good, and that has a certain validity.  But this woman in Berkeley tried, unilaterally, to force her values onto someone else in the crudest way possible, becoming the precise opposite of what she espoused.  And that is what happens when you refuse to admit that you have a Shadow side, that for everything you develop in yourself you have an equal and opposite potential: everything that you suppress and deny builds up within, out of your line of sight and out of your control, till it can rise up and overpower you.

In my dreams of her, Rosebud becomes someone who lost her innocence violently through grief, changing rapidly from virgin to bride to widow and ultimately to self-destructive homicidal nymphomaniac, and she also goes from political rebel to a defender of oppression.  Her dishevelment marks her as deteriorating in her changes, not advancing—this is no healthy celebration of sexuality, nor a validation of a political transition—she has broken.  Deirdre makes this concrete.

Perhaps she represents hard, brittle values, that cannot bend and so must break under pressure.  She herself is not Shadow, but rather the wreckage left after a Shadow backlash.  And a warning that I could develop a sizeable backlash of my own if I didn't adopt a little flexibility into my life.

Dreams challenged me to question the absoluteness of everything that I had previously held as sacrosanct.  I retained, in the long-run, the overall structure of my beliefs and mores, but allowed for some disagreement with doctrine as seemed reasonable.

I feel better for it.  God is not so flimsy that He can't stand up to examination, nor does He lack eloquence to respond convincingly when questioned.  But some rumors about His will don't fare so well.

I notice, in reexamining this, Rosebud's obsession with Bijal's beard.  It represents his maturity, scarred by a traumatic event that led to him questioning himself; it doesn't grow back in all places.  My maturity, also, has grown unevenly, stunted in places by traumas that cause me, at times, to doubt myself.

Yet we need some degree of self-doubt.  A study of incompetence in many fields show that the one unifying factor was unquestioning self-confidence, which leaves the incompetent unaware of mistakes in time to rectifying them.  Because the overconfident shove their doubts into Shadow, they waste energy on denying imperfection rather than fixing it.  These are the same rigid people who succumb to the most violent eruptions of Shadow backlash.

Only this past year have I learned enough about narcissism to realize that my family was riddled with it.  I realize now that much that traumatized me also saved me.  Others in the family got a classic narcissistic upbringing, being told that they were born special and superior, but also ripped to shreds for any sign of imperfection.  But it's hard to inflate the family scapegoat.  I got labeled "damaged goods", that could have been special except...well, something went wrong, there.  I got ripped into more than the others, but escaped the graver and more insidious danger of having excuses made for me to keep up their illusions.

This helped me learn something essential.  The dominant society has confused resources with results.  Neither the resources that one acquires at birth (intelligence, beauty, talent, a healthy constitution, psi, imagination) nor the ones that one earns (knowledge, skill, wealth, strength, wisdom, creativity, fame, position) are virtues of themselves, but only tools which the virtuous might use in service to God, Humanity, and Earth, or which the villainous equally might use towards selfish or wicked goals.  They don't make anyone special by themselves.  Some have done much with little, while others have squandered their advantages or used them wrongfully.  The only superiority that matters is in acts of love, and that quality waxes and wanes from moment to moment, being nobody's permanent possession.

I still suffered from perfectionism, though, despising my every flaw and wanting to die all the time because my failures seemed unbearable.  In my youth I felt needy and desperate for constant approval; it poured into me like water into a cracked vessel, so that I always thirsted for more, never entirely convinced of my right to live.

A song saved me, a new tune and translation of an older hymn, resurrected by the Jesus Freak movement: The Prayer of St. Francis.  In it the bridge-verse says,


            "Oh master grant that I may never seek

            So much to be consoled as to console,

            To be understood as to understand,

            To be loved as to love with all my soul!"


I hated that song when first I heard it!  I wanted to be consoled, understood, and loved more than anything in the world.  But I also knew that I needed the gift that this prayer offered.  I submitted to it, singing it, meaning it—and it brought me immeasurable happiness!

Because real love doesn't care about "What does he think of me?" nearly as much as "What is he feeling?  What does he need?"  And when you give that kind of love, the real thing, you often get it back.  And even when you don't, even when nobody knows what you do for another, you can experience this flood of pure joy from realizing, yourself, that you had a hand in making the world a little bit better.  And for the Christian you have, in addition, the tremendous fulfillment of St. Veronica wiping the face of Christ, for every good deed is done also to Him.

Today I live a much happier life than any narcissist in my family has ever known.  I have discovered what real love is like, without conditions or manipulations.  I have learned to appreciate achievements on any scale, and learned to not let failings crush me, but to thank them for their lessons and to grow from them.  I have learned the peace of being good enough.

I dreamed of being Deirdre looking for Bijal.  And I'm pretty sure I dreamed of being Bijal, frightened and immobile, in the chair.  I think I made up the rest.  Or maybe not.  I think I did dream of breaking Rosebud's wrists, and shattering her cracked vessel—an admission that her way is broken.  In any case, I needed to find my maturity, flawed though it is, and rescue it from the family madness.  Indeed, Bijal is ultimately made stronger by the trauma that showed him that he can fail, he can misjudge, making him consider more carefully in the future.  (And he is one of the few Egalitarians that I've dreamed who actually has a future.)

But regardless of what I did or didn't dream, I do know that Lyanfa is an evil place.  I get a sense of desecrated, once-sacred ground, stained with an ancient massacre of the peaceable and trusting, and never redressed.  And don't we desecrate whatever we hold most sacred, when we take it to its extreme, which rapidly becomes its opposite?

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