security blankets

yesterday, in a car trip to martinsburg, i was reading aloud from the book
by madeleine d’engle where she was talking about idols to which we cling.
she was likening it to the way a baby clings to a blanket when it is born
into the relative harshness (cold, pain, fear, chaos, disconnection,
isolation, need, violence) that is life, how it clings to the blanket even
as it shrinks until finally, usually when the child no longer needs it the
blanket is nothing but a shred.

on the way home we turned the radio on to npr and heard a story about the technology of predicting earthquake damage so as to provide help sooner. the variables put into the equations were severity of the quake itself, the population in the locations affected by the earthquake, and the vulnerability of those populations based upon the ability of their structures to withstand stress. coincidentally, on christmas day, while playing a truth or fiction type game i was asked whether a certain technical term for stress resistance (i can’t recall the term) was a psychological condition (it wasn’t, it was a term
measuring the ability of construction to withstand earthquakes).

suddenly, all of these ideas coelesced in my mind. my husband had asked whether people were basically fearful and insecure and that is why we needed to cling to our religions. i thought rather it is perhaps not an inherent
weakness in humanity, but that the world is indeed a frightening place….from the moment we are born into its foreign environment….filled
with earthquakes that measure not the inadequacy of humanity to bear them, but rather are indicative of the chaotic nature of life itself.

you know all of those psychological tests that measure a person’s likelihood to break based upon ‘stressors’. perhaps they are not so much measurements of a person’s weakness or inadequacy as they are unfortunate measurements of the ways we have had to learn to adapt and cope…defenses, ‘healthy’ and
otherwise. (i am reminded of the learnings of military psychiatrists who use their knowledge of the human psyche not to justify ending war but to devise
methods and quantifications to reduce the likelihood of stress…eg number
of continuous days in combat, not isolating the suffering from those they
have bonded with, etc)

anyway, in an instant i realized that perhaps all of our religious constructs (like the construction of buildings to withstand earthquakes) are merely that….constructions of reality that help us to cope with the stress that is life without breaking. and so i cling to my blanket of believing that all is of god, that all is beauty, that this god that i love so desparately is present within the whole of life…even that which i cannot understand, so that i can find a way to love it, because it is the only way that i can survive this thing called life intact.  and others cling to their own blankets of hope, or salvation, or building the kingdom of god, or that god needs us to give birth to love or keep love alive, or that life is illusion, or a test to get into heaven, or whatever it takes to cope.

and we each are convinced that our version reality is the true one. we must or our construction will crumble and we will be subject to the intensity of the earthquake. and so we cling to it and we cannot allow for a moment that the other’s version of reality is what also keeps them from coming undone or
else we begin to glimpse how flimsy is our own and we are left again
standing in the midst of chaos….

,,,and we assault them for merely surviving, for having constructed meaning,  when perhaps we should have compassion for them for finding a way to stay alive….

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