Friday, January 23, 2009

Self conscious

I have been thinking about something that happens to women (and perhaps also to men, but I haven't heard any speak about this problem): After an occasion where we speak in a group setting (or even occasionally when we are only speaking with one other person), especially if we speak at length, authoritatively, or with passion, a terrible sense of vertigo sets in. We wonder whether we were clear, whether others understood what we were trying to say, whether we appeared conceited or silly or plain stupid. We wonder whether we might have said something unkind or catty...

When it happens to me, I often think that I talk too much; then I resolve to speak less.

My Thursday morning School of Community is often all women, and so sometimes this phenomenon comes into play. After School of Community, someone will ask me, "Did I speak too much?" or "Did I make any sense?" or "Was that mean, what I said?"

Then there are those who don't speak because they want to avoid speaking too much, or not making sense, or saying something that could be taken as unkind. Or, sometimes we even worry that we aren't as Christian as the others, not as insightful or smart.

So, I have been wondering about this whole phenomenon and thinking that it seems pretty clear that it poses an extraordinary distraction to living an awareness of the Mystery (if we're so worried about what we say or seem or are, how can we look outside ourselves and recognize Something at work, generating us and all that surrounds us?). What is particularly challenging about trying to find a way to address this problem is that drawing attention to it generally makes the problem worse, not better!

School of Community needs to be a place where we encounter the love of Christ, a love that does not measure the other person, doesn't get bored, annoyed or distracted by the other, where both speech and silence occur within the embrace of God's mercy. Otherwise, it isn't the locus of the Christian fact, but rather just another group or club organized in a desperate attempt to combat our existential loneliness. It seems to me that the only way that School of Community can be a place where we encounter the love of Christ is if there is something that comes before (see Something That Comes First, Notes by Luigi Giussani from the Assembly of CL Responsibles [January 1993] ). In our case, that "something" is the witness of Fr. Giussani -- a witness that touches all of us within Communion and Liberation, and which is renewed and strengthened when we come together, as we did during the National Diakonia in New Jersey.


Dcn Scott Dodge said...

I can speak from my own experience and say the phenomenon you describe is something that affects men, too. At least it does me. Yet. too, I agree that SofC needs to be a place where this is not a preoccupation, but where we are and feel free to relate. It is also important to recognize that because we are dealing with the Mystery, our words fall short of the reality we experience, but this, again, should be no impediment to sharing.

I like what you write about the love of Christ being the factor that makes SofC different.

Suzanne said...

Thanks, Scott. Very much.

Marie said...

I've always experienced this as a part of the process of digging the spade into my heart, or my thoughts, and trying to pull it up. For myself, the question "was that clear" isn't so much one of embarrassment about what I've said or how much I've said, but more like, "There's something in this dirt, something I need to get out, but I've not seen it yet. Do you see anything in what I dug out that seems to fit with any kind of human need, maybe mine?" Most of the time it is probably a futile question, in terms of anyone else's ability to answer whether my need is met or whether my leg hurts or not (to use Carron's example). But I think at least it is an expression that there *is* something to be found, but I'm not there yet. Like a groaning set to words.

kabloona said...

I also am afflicted by the phenomena you describe. It is simple neurotic behavior, that's all. But in SoC, I am getting over it.

the booklady said...

Reading this was extremely helpful, Suzanne, as I frequently have similiar reactions after posting on Benedict's Book Club. It's not the same in that I can't see my audience, but I still experience many of the same thoughts and feelings. Most days, I have no problem turning everything over to the Holy Spirit. But sometimes, I confess, that awful feeling of self-consciousness hits me. I try the "it's not about you!" therapy, with varying degrees of success.

Anyway thanks, it's good to read my personal fears acknowledged by someone else!


Dumbstruck by the Mystery

...our temptation is always to impose our prejudices or our measure on reality -- except when we are faced with a fact that leaves us dumbstruck, and instead of dominating the fact ourselves, we are dominated, overcome by it. If there were no moments of this kind, the Mystery could do anything, but in the end, we would reduce everything to the usual explanation. But not even a Nobel Prize winner can stop himself from being dumbstruck before an absolutely gratuitous gesture. If there were not these moments, we would find answers, explanations, and interpretations to avoid being struck by anything. It is good that some things happen that we cannot dominate, then we have to take them seriously, and this is the great question of philosophy. If the conditions for the possibility of knowledge (see Kant) impose themselves on reality or if there is something that is so powerfully disproportionate that it does not let itself be "grasped" by the conditions of possibility, then the horizon opens. If this were not the case, then we could dominate everything and be in peace, or at least without drama. Instead, not even the intelligence of a Nobel Prize winner could prevent him from coming face-to-face with a fact that made him dumbstruck -- instead of dominating, it was he who was dominated. Here begins the drama, because I am called to answer. It is the drama that unfolds between us and the Mystery, through certain facts, certain moments, in which the Mystery imposes itself with this evidence. These are facts that we cannot put in our pocket, which we cannot reduce to antecedent factors.
-- Julian Carron in "Friends, that is, Witnesses."