The liberation of saying ‘No’

It may be that vice, depravity, and crime are nearly always, or perhaps even always, in their essence, attempts to eat beauty, to eat what we should only look at.

Thus Simone Weil in Waiting for God. Quoting Weil in an interview with The Other Journal, Barbara Brown Taylor comments:

To learn to look at things instead of devouring them is to discover how quickly the feeling of deprivation can turn to liberation instead. Every time I say no – to more stuff, more speed, more activity, more food – this great big space opens up in my life. … If the church is meant to embody an alternative way of life, then what better witness could there be than a community that decided to live on less in order to live more richly? That sounds like the kind of truth that could make people free.

Myriad petty little unsexy ways

The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. … The alternative is unconsciousness …

David Foster Wallace, This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life

The last of the human freedoms

Reflecting on his experiences in Auschwitz, Victor Frankl remembers that

the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread … offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

Victor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy

Not obliged to submit

Some further thoughts from Barbara Glasson’s A Spirituality of Survival: Enabling a Response to Trauma and Abuse:

Relationships should never be traps; they should hold and not bind. […] abuse is about the misuse of power and to ‘sur vivre‘ is to emerge from underneath the story of oppression.

We are most likely to ‘sur vivre‘ if we know that someone is searching for us, that there is a longing for us to re-surface among those who realize we are missing.

Abuse is not just a blip in an otherwise normal life, it is a total disruption of normality. What is perceived to be normal is in fact destructive.

However, the problem is that a woman suffering abuse:

believes that her experience is ‘just how it is’ and so fails to speak out for fear of destruction on the one hand and ridicule on the other.

In many ways a victim of … abuse does not have choices. Abuse happens to them, they are trapped, silenced, damaged … by others who have taken away any sense of their autonomy or self-worth, they are made into objects.

Those … whose lives have been violated, subsumed and stolen … are called to find freedom, safe enough space in which to claim life and flourish. They are not obliged to submit to repressive, self-denying demands but to find strength and authenticity through the bringing to light of the truth.

No longer

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

Thus Galatians 3:28. As Ulrich Duchrow notes, in his foreword to Antonio González Fernández’s God’s Reign and the End of Empires, ‘this is a new creation without domination, oppression and violence’.