The Dark Intervals Pt II
the difference between vulnerability and performing spectacle
Tolkien coined the phrase for the happy endings of fairy tales eucatastrophe. These happy endings do not, despite the prejudices against them, deny or dismiss the sorrow and suffering that (always) precedes them; they are, for Tolkien, as for so many among us, “poignant as grief."
Whenever I come across the aftermath of violence, which is everywhere, and something we face daily in recovery - I feel a pain in the core of my being —an emotional echoing chamber, as it were. I feel the need to treat both the wound and the wounded, but I also feel regret for having arrived too late, when it seems there is nothing to do but grieve.
When I lack a forum in which to mourn death, loss, and tragedy, I can find myself numbing or dissociating, not just from the pain - but from my very life.
Some of us have been affected by violence so often that we wake up post-traumatic on default. Some carry more trauma than others, as certain forms of suffering are denied and dismissed in fundamental and systematic ways.
I had to learn (as a necessity for my continued survival) to look away from the spectacle of the violence, from horror itself - and directly into my response and action.
There’s a universe of difference between bearing witness to violence and reproducing its spectacle. My allegiance is, and always will be to those who have been harmed and exploited. Something I didn’t learn until my 30′s is that when we focus on the harm itself—when we describe every bruise and gash in stomach-churning detail—we aren’t practicing vulnerability; we’re producing spectacle. It does nothing to address the trauma; in-fact, it re-traumatizes.
I think that we have to learn how to hold one another’s pain and trauma in ways that are uncomfortable, yet beneficial to all of us, where we recognize, navigate, and treat it simultaneously. Therapy started transforming my life the moment I allowed it to start changing me.
I believe that when we shift our idea of what justice and healing look like, for instance: justice feeling like joy, we can create opportunities for healing and transformation.
A new definition of justice means we address not only the harm but also the structural inequities that made that harm possible in the first place. Working toward one another’s mutual joy is such a radical and profound act of resistance that’s healed and transformed me past anything I could have ever imagined.
It has made the darkest parts - useful.
Grace is doing the rest.