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Jesus Christ Saved My Soul, No Doubt; But Paul Morel Helped Me Too!
Religion is a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because it leaps ahead of the inward life to warn us of consequences from God if we do this or that (keeping society in order); and it is a curse because it removes the active individual from his spiritual roots and soul. How does it do that?
Though religion offers some solace to those within this spiritually collective but mass-minded constituency, for the many among us that probe a greater depth, religion never succeeds to satisfy the spiritual thirst of the inward life, which, ironically, was its original purpose and calling. Like a man found aloof and minuscule against the totalitarian state, religion has put the cart before the horse and brandished the inward man, once again, forcing him to face God alone. And though the inward journey is tougher today, some may say this is good – but is it? Rather, ought not the church redefine its calling for the individual man? After all, was not the individual and Apostle Peter’s faith the "rock" and true meaning of “the church”?
Pure religion alone can never truly help us navigate our inward wasteland by mere “confession” or an outward show of “good works.” The pain is often too great for that. And, since man in his “corporal” nature cannot conceive of a “spiritual” life away from the church, religion alone often leaves the individual weak and mystified when they are confronted with that proverbial “knock” from the unconscious that religion alone cannot give answer. (Why am I this way? How can I change?) Thus, religion is limited like a lighthouse is to a ship in storm, and although it is used to guide or dictate what is good and what is evil in all its material aspects, and warns us always (i.e., about that which is not “seen,” “heard” and “spoken”), if the inward life or psychology of the individual today challenges its authority, the institution being lost to its former convictions, the individual is not likely to find solace. Religion thus has evolved to represent a kaleidoscope of projected emotional matter consisting of archetypes for the mass man alone, and abandoning the individual that, for whatever reason, has become more insignificant than any other time in history, while he is, ironically, crying even louder for his purpose than ever before.
[Jesus Christ spoke for the individual too when He said, ""Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law." (Matt. 10:34-35) (Please think on this quote from scripture as you read on.)]
I do not know about you, the Reader, and what your thoughts are regarding the mass shooters of the last decade, but for me they are a symptom of the great loss of our individual importance in society as a whole; which is why we are more often than not confronted with the characterization of the assailant as a “quiet” and “shy” individual or “loner;” in essence, an introverted soul or person who possesses a self-consciousness and aloofness that is painful to imagine and, if you are one who had difficulties in youth and can recall your own struggles, painful to feel.
It is therefore important to speak to these youth about the fact that how they feel in adolescence, or at any given moment, is not forever. They ought to know too that an introverted personality is not in and of itself abnormal, but that a forced isolation from achieving an understanding of one’s uniqueness is. It is why I believe educators are not doing enough to teach students, and themselves, about how many have gone before who were afflicted with the same emotions and triumphed without resorting to violence, and rarely do educators teach children who those people were, are, or where they can be found.
Before I became ill from a neglected medical condition, I wanted to be a teacher. I was enrolled at a major university in its graduate program and prepared to begin my first semester when I suddenly had to withdraw due to illness. I wanted so much to be a teacher because when I was a teenager, I remember it being one of the most difficult times in my life, and I remember it was one teacher’s small effort to reach out to me that helped me realize what is most important.
She asked to meet after school to work on my grammar (which is better today but still not perfect), and although our meetings only lasted three days, it was in the last two we had a conversation about my personal difficulties that were spoken in strict and cherished confidence. I will not go into all that transpired, but the phrases she used to remedy my predicament were a godsend to me at the time. There was indeed one that I thought came from the Bible (but later found out did not). It was that marvelous, “THIS TOO SHALL PASS” - that when you are young (if you think about it) is so difficult to comprehend, right? (Do you remember when it felt like the end of the world if you just said, did, or even wore, something that was not "cool"?)
When we’re young, days seem to last forever; and the pain of not being accepted for who we are is often too painful to bear. We adults forget how many young minds simply feel powerless to let painful feelings just “roll off the shoulders.” When I was young, I would skip school to avoid feeling it and then depressed and terrified of what would become of me. But what saved me from collapsing under the weight of my pain was that one simple phrase: “This too shall pass.” [Or, could it be, I now ask, that I had a teacher who cared to take notice?]
Thus began my journey to find myself, not as the world expected of me but only as my inward life plunged me on to do. I began to read books to escape the world and its requirements. One of the first books I read was “Sons & Lovers,” a book I chose because of its title and because of it being characterized as a young man’s psychological struggle to find his place in the world. To those who are familiar with this work of fiction, you must also know Paul Morel. Paul Morel is the book’s main character; and D.H. Lawrence, its author, was Paul Morel.
Many consider the book autobiographical, and it is. That is because D.H. Lawrence was also, by witness accounts, an extremely shy and nervous child. He was also a “sickly” child, and in this book Paul Morel describes his “palms sweating” when merely speaking with others. The degree of psychological pain he felt as a young man from a dysfunctional family in matters of sex, life, work, etc., his hopelessness and despair, and his triumph over his inward life is, to me, one of the most remarkable stories of an individual’s triumph over his environment in all of literature.
D.H. Lawrence spoke of the richness of the inward life despite his pain. He was keen to observe man’s inability to see themselves as they truly are. Anyone who reads this work of fiction (which is considered one of the great stories of all time [to me too]) will be mesmerized by the writer’s ability to turn his weaknesses into strengths.
Lawrence summarized the plot in a letter to Edward Garnett on 12 November 1912 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sons_and_Lovers):
It follows this idea: a woman of character and refinement goes into the lower class, and has no satisfaction in her own life. She has had a passion for her husband, so her children are born of passion, and have heaps of vitality. But as her sons grow up she selects them as lovers — first the eldest, then the second. These sons are urged into life by their reciprocal love of their mother — urged on and on. But when they come to manhood, they can't love, because their mother is the strongest power in their lives, and holds them. It's rather like Goethe and his mother and Frau von Stein and Christiana — As soon as the young men come into contact with women, there's a split. William gives his sex to a fribble, and his mother holds his soul. But the split kills him, because he doesn't know where he is. The next son gets a woman who fights for his soul — fights his mother. The son loves his mother — all the sons hate and are jealous of the father. The battle goes on between the mother and the girl, with the son as object. The mother gradually proves stronger, because of the ties of blood. The son decides to leave his soul in his mother's hands, and, like his elder brother go for passion. He gets passion. Then the split begins to tell again. But, almost unconsciously, the mother realizes what is the matter, and begins to die. The son casts off his mistress, attends to his mother dying. He is left in the end naked of everything, with the drift towards death.
Here, D.H. Lawrence is speaking of the “unconscious” self. Paul Morel then is a character who became, as the psychologist Mazlow would term, “self-actualized,” when the elements of attachment to family life become understood, and then shed, and a new self is reborn. The death? The death is the death of his ties to his mother and his child self, his break from her psychological grasp, her hold too on this young man’s “sexual self.” When one gets to the end of the novel, it is the shedding of attachments to mother that, at least to me, put Paul Morel, on an individual path with an inward conviction and confidence he had not previously been conscious. His break from his mother does not diminish his mother in any way, but her love the necessary catalyst by which his greater inward life as an individual could emerge.
(Lest there be doubt as to my rendition, D.H. Lawrence did in fact go on to worldwide acclaim as a poet and short story writer.)
[It ought to have been noted – but it is not - that the “Oedipus Complex,” uniformly credited to Sigmund Freud, is depicted here in the life of Paul Morel 50 years BEFORE Freud even conceived of the theory, which is further proof of the magnificent insight D.H. Lawrence possessed.]
Is it then by coincidence only that the spiritual, the Word of God, is all about the inward life as well? Its chief concern is for the mind, the thoughts and machinations that plague the individual, and if only we could hear His Word is our yolk (our life) made easy, and our guilt erased when we BELIEVE we are forgiven. But the application of biblical exegesis, to life’s bows and arrows, is often ignored by young persons. That is because it is an inherent quality of youth to think in terms of the Bible as a “religion” not relevant to his inward life. But quite the contrary is the truth.
As mankind becomes more concerned with satisfying others’ expectations to be “included” or “accepted,” the individual becomes less and less relevant, and when that happens so too is the respect lost to another’s individuality.
I regret not finishing my education, but I could not. However, if I were an educator today I would make “Sons & Lovers” required reading for every one of my students, man and woman alike. It not only teaches those with an introverted nature that their disposition was worn by so many throughout history who went on to achieve great things, but it is a book that will enlighten other students who are not so introverted by showing them that those whom they exclude from their “groups” might one day in fact be a person whose potential exceeds their own and why everyone is deserving of respect.
I hope the Church of the future can take us down the road of ecumenism of the heart and only the heart. For the spirit of God is not for the world stage, He is for the individual. “He careth for you.” And as we go through life we can supplement our understanding of who we are by examining how others with similar challenges like our own turned their weaknesses into strengths – like D.H. Lawrence did - and this we can do whether we believe in God or not.
It is not relevant for purposes of preserving our individuality in society whether one believes in God or not, for it is the “inward” or introverted life of mankind where our individual purpose lies. We want to be free as individuals and our Will be our own, or we want to be free as individuals and do God's Will, and this is the only difference between us. So can we not we at least equate a humanist view of consequences to those consequences felt by the religious or spiritual man when they are both “knocks” on the door of our individual consciousness? They are our reminders that something greater within is watching our every move and passing judgment, and while we navigate, whether we come face-to-face with our own Grim Reaper, or Jesus Christ, is not worthy of contempt from others. We are first individuals that deserve respect. One is left in life only to navigate between the two extremes from which they either triumph through integration, or perish through self-destruction that we as humanists or believers in Christ can come together and be unified to help stop.
So I guess my point is that what saved my soul can be surmised as first by my love of God and the teachings of His Son, Jesus Christ, and then second, by my love for Paul Morel, who helped me, in conjunction with God, to see my life as an individual, and who showed me I was not alone in how I felt, or insignificant, and that it was okay to be me, even when it hurt so much. And it did not matter that D.H. Lawrence believed in God. What mattered was that his story, his experience and struggle, was so much like my own; and also that he survived and rose above his emotional difficulties meant that with the help of God and faith in Jesus Christ, I would rise above mine as well.
Education does do this kind of thing, you know. It teaches us to navigate using our minds, and increased my understanding in my youth (which hope eludes the young often) of what it means in the Bible when it tells us to "renew" our minds - Romans 12.2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
© 2013 Cynthia Taggart