On the silence of some women, at least on some things

To what extent are we silenced, and how much do women silence ourselves, or just prefer to remain silent?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this as I’m engaged in a group study of Thomas Merton, the famous Trappist monk and author.  I kind of knew… that he’d had a lover, but not that he’d fathered a child when he was a young man and again fell in love with a very young woman just before his death when he was in his mid-50’s.   The mother and Merton’s son died in a shelter in London during the Blitz, and the 19-year-old married someone else, leaving the famous monk to mourn evidently until his early death.

He doesn’t talk about it and his biographers don’t talk about it much, and these two women weren’t talking as far as we know, but what do we know?  They seem totally without a voice.

When I wrote this about Vida, I’m also thinking of all the silences in my own life, far less than women of previous generations certainly, and now with the “Me Too” movement startling so many women we ask “You too?”shocking men who had no idea something like that had happened to their friends, wives, mothers…

So yes, there’s this deafening silence:

“… It is just that no one knows how she felt, and perhaps she herself doesn’t know now, and in any case she’s not the kind of woman to go on about it.  That’s all.”

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Thanks to the Franciscans

Working through a text with the Franciscan group Canticles Campus, I’m led back to the work of Duns Scotus, and his concept of  an unknowable “true self” that Thomas Merton took up.  (See The Franciscan Heart of Thomas Merton, by Daniel Horan, pp. 101-105)  There is certainly a problem here in my method of investigation.  I’m attracted to a philosophical concept developed by one man (Scotus), taken up for another (Merton), explained by a third (Horan).

And what does this have to do with Kenny?  Probably nothing.  Kenny’s big point is not about death, that has no long-term meaning for him (and maybe not for us – think reincarnation, “born again”, “life everlasting”,  if not Kenny, or Scotus).  His complaint is about dying – that if “fucking hurts”.  That’s the main point: dying has meaning, but death? not so much.

Of course, I need to go back to the original sources, but before I do that (and it might take me years) let me just say that the attraction here for me is the claim that we cannot know our true selves, set out in  formal logical terms by Scotus and in poetry by Merton.  That seems intuitively correct, whereas up to now I’ve only approached it phenomenologically (i.e. as with our ‘felt-world’).

It is in the experience itself that we find meaning, and that is what we cannot know:  To the things themselves!  was Husserl’s call, away from logic and he was a master of logic, no slouch on that score.  We make this encounter with anything, even death, in the experience and only after in reflection, performing the “phenomenological reduction” – a term that just now finally makes sense to me because I do finally see it as reduced.  However, we can’t encounter that which is making the encounter.  We will always be strangers to ourselves then, and then also God will always be a stranger as we are the image, but there is the word. We can know that much.

(Here, try this:  we might consider phenomenology as God’s own method, at least one method.  Some have seen God’s eternal perfection in numbers, so beautiful the way they always and necessarily work. It is an eternal truth that two plus two always equals four.  But life isn’t about necessary truths; it’s an experience.  In the logic of life, could God experience God-ness as a dynamic image – and a stagnant image is mere idolatry –  experience life as lived until God became the created as well as the creator?  Sorry if this is obvious to everyone, and has been answered satisfactorily, and I’m just catching up here…)

To throw in yet another author (and metaphor), James Finley:  “Here methods, techniques, ideas, and spiritualities of themselves are of little use.  We must not stand in the burning house with a dictionary thinking we are safe because we are frantically looking up the definition for a fire distinguisher!” (Horan, 114)

True, but I don’t see the urgency.  Try the metaphor of contemplating a flame or a campfire that will burn itself out in time.

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