Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Living Dead Girl

I have a copy of the Life of Saint Andrew the Holy Fool in English! *happy dance* And more reasons to love Memphis's Orthodox community!

First, zombie maidens! This alone is knocking the Life of Saint Andrew into the category of one of the best things I have read recently.

Second, I'm getting the feeling that the Byzantine Christians were not in love with their Ethiopian brethren. Betting on a conflict of hierarchies. And wikipedia is indicating a heresy of semantics -- well, okay, whether Christ had a human nature and a divine nature, or one unified human and divine nature, might be a little more than semantics.

Third, reading this saint's life in conjunction with Theodore Jennings, The Man Jesus Loved, is produces some interesting directions in interpretations. *grins devilishly*

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Nothing New Under the Sun

It always frustrated me when I was little that their weren't character with my name, or anything akin to it, in stories. My little sister had a picture book -- Bread and Jam for Frances. Andrew is a very common name -- and in my house, if you had a name from a Biblical narrative you were set. Try finding Demetria in a children's story book. (Or on name bracelets.) I remember being very excited when the movie Anastasia came out. Dmitri is close enough. And yes, in a class discussing The Brothers Karamazov, I did jump every time the name Dmitri was mentioned.

The point being -- I feel like I've always had some trouble finding myself in the narratives I was handed. Trouble that extended beyond just having a strange name. Tomboyish, hard-headed Laura Ingalls (of the books, I've never seen the TV show) was close between second and fifth grade. But the narratives that I was supposed to be using for models (i.e. Bible narratives), I was having a bit of trouble with those. I loved the story of David and Goliath, but I wasn't supposed to identify with David, or Peter (I have soft spots for characters who continually open their mouths and see just how far they can jam their feet down their throat). Frankly, I'm not sure who I was supposed to be identifying with -- let's face it, you've got to do a bit of looking to find strong female characters, and they were emphasizing that Mary of Bethany repented, not that she was blatantly transgressing gender roles by sitting with the men instead of helping in the kitchen -- oh, and this chick has an attitude and didn't seem shy of taking J.C. to task over letting Lazarus die. (Let's not count how many Marys I just conflated into one.) There is a reason why Martha has a place in the patriarchy described in The Handmaid's Tale, while sister Mary has been forgotten.

I've been thinking on narrative, folklore, and story-telling for some time now. Early Christian hagiography has become my pet subject. "Weirdos", of course, transvestite and transgendered saints last round -- holy fools this time around. (Incidentally, it's easier to dig up English translations of the lives of holy transvestites than it is to dig up english translations of lives of holy fools.)

It's hardly an original point, but storytelling really is inseparable from how we construct, or make some sense out of, ourselves. And without a narrative -- a metaphor for yourself, a name that other people recognize -- it's difficult to feel confident and solid in who you are. Reading the life of Mary of Egypt, and hearing her praised as worthy and good, was like a license to just be who I am. Rereading the material surrounding Mary of Bethany and finding her transgression and her contrary attitude accepted, and even lauded -- where was this when I was little?

Hiding underneath the dominant narrative. The narrative that said if you have a uterus, shut up and save thyself through childbearing and submission to your husband. The idea that there is one script. Or two scripts, rather. Take the one we assigned you, and that'll be that.

But somehow, and I feel that this is the miracle of miracles, the dominant narratives never quite manage to completely crush and completely hide the other narratives. They're there, waiting for someone who needs them enough to go and to look for them and to befriend them and if necessary to fight for them.