Saturday, June 18, 2011

Nutty "great women": Jane Austen, Madame Guyon, Mother Theresa

Ah, Jane Austen! Ah, Madame Guyon!

Okay, okay, it's not always about the women but I'm talking about women today. One of the best biographies I read was Lytton Strachey's bio of Florence Nightingale. Ah, Florence. So perfectly odd, so psychologically perfect for her times.

So Madame Guyon writes an entire autobiography about giving up her selflessness and yet -- Good heavens!-- the book is replete with selfishness. A couple of things in the raised eyebrow department: She goes off and leaves her kids...and when they dislike her she considers this a trial sent from God. Duh? Jeanne? You deserted them and decided it was best to be with God than to rear them!!!! Then there is her terrible calamity: her husband has gout. How she suffers because of this! Really, Jeanne? NEVER once does she even state anything showing she understood his pain or suffering. Her entire book dedicated to being selfless and dying to self has sections and sections where her entire selfisness leaks out. It would be funny but for the fact that folks read her autobiography without really knowing this. We understand that she believes her mother didn't love her and didn't bond with her mother because her mother didn't pay attention to her...but do we go to the balancing part of this life and say, "But hasn't she deserted her children in the very way her mother deserted her?" I kinda hope she had been knowlegeable about her own woundedness and that her love for God was merely a weird deification of being special to a "special" man..Jesus being the ultimate lover...  It's a pitiful and un-self-aware autobiography. Every other second something so weird and selfish peeks out that one cringes. It's like one of the most self-deceived selfish spiritual writings about selflessness. Ah, the human heart is deceitful (and wounded) above all things...and desperately wicked! Who can know it?

Then there is Jane Austen... seen so often as a symbol of feminine strength. Another one with a rejecting nutty mother. So many feminists might say she avoids marriage for some deeplly ultra advanced feminists reasons but the nutty mom, folks! The discarded brother! And what the heck is it with naming perfect characters by her own name? Yes, Jane Austen characters named Jane. WTF?

Ah, not that psychology could have helped these women...people nowadays are as blind to their own emotional wounds and woundings as these folks are.

Hubby used to go to a male retreat at our local convict given by a guy who used to work for Mother Theresa. Let's just say that Mother Theresa was a pretty tough nut. I think also about my former priest who now goes about the world teaching the world about gay theology and love. In person, the guy can hold a grudge like you wouldn't believe! ( I won't mention his name cause he's pretty famous now, but yeah... seeing his talks in the media makes me want to giggle.)

When folks talk to me about St Francis and St Clare, I have to raise my eyebrow. These folks are human. They are holy yes, but there is always something inherently odd and imperfect in human holiness. So yeah, I'm saying St Francis is not perfect and there is definitely some psychological stuff going on there.  I read about the life of Elizabeth Ann Bailey Seton and I just roll my eyes. (No, I don't pick on Catholics alone... those are just the types I can think of right now because they're the ones who are praised as saints... and (because of my own upbringing) I have some issues with religious authority and supposedly perfect saints. I like em, don't get me wrong. But I can see through the weirdness.

Yeah, I know... what will folks say about me when I become famous? I hope I'll be transparent and folks can see through me. I hope I MYSELF can see through my own bullshit.

It's not only religious folks who are this un-self-aware. Other folks who are supposedly enlightened can be a piece of work. I mean Tolstoy was pretty creepy to his bastard son. And it's not to say that the works of these women are imperfect or that Madame Guyon is unholy...but it shows how easily the human soul can deceive itself and how we must be so careful in honoring all humans...even the literary and religious ones.  It doesn't mean we should throw away their works but it makes us see that God is able to work in and through anyone. The only person we can truly honor and worship is Jesus. We can't go getting caught up with praising and worshiping self-deceived humans.

See, this is why I like Peter and Paul. The Bible makes no attempt to perfectionize them. Peter was a schlub before the holy spirit came to him and he remains a schlub after. Even after Jesus changes his name from Simon (a reed) to Peter (a rock), Peter's wimping out and avoiding the Gentiles years later just because "important folks from James in Jerusalem" are visiting. As for Paul, he himself says how weird he is. He does this great theology but it's intermixed with him whining about people not respecting him...and folks seeing him in person and thinking not too highly of him. See, the Bible doesn't want us praising supposedly perfect people. Only Jesus is to be praised. 
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