Mary, who was no one’s.

I came across this article by a friend of a friend, and wanted to share. Her perspective is challenging, thought-provoking, and crucial to how we look at mercy and justice in the world today. It’s the Christmas story told another way. The story is still alive. It will move you.

The Rule and the Raven

While I was in Europe at a conference recently, I found myself witness to something most terrible. A witness to violence.

I walked down a cobbled street on a gray morning, and three people ahead of me were screaming at each other. A man and a woman yelled until their voices cracked, and a second woman stood with them. The verbal combat spiraled furiously between the two who shouted, and I approached as the man pressed himself close to the woman, forcing her backward as all those hidden instincts to express power through physical space played themselves out between them.

They screamed in French. Their voices were too broken for me to understand exactly what they said.

I walked directly between them, coldly breaking the invisible field of combat, and I glared straight into the man’s anger-darkened face. I tried to fill my eyes with every ounce of contempt that…

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So I got in a car wreck yesterday.

As I sped toward catastrophe, completely unable to prevent the collision, I didn’t have any major breakthroughs. I didn’t see my life flash before my eyes. I didn’t meet God. My thoughts were oh shit, oh shit, and oh shit, and it wasn’t until I had pulled off the road into a parking lot that I even took stock of the damage– the fate of the possibly injured other driver and the state of my own crumpled car (which will cost more to repair than it’s even worth).

I didn’t cry and I didn’t tremble. The other driver called the cops, I called my insurance and my dad. And then I got out and leaned against my car and I felt the afternoon. I felt the sun on my face and the asphalt beneath my feet and the tree branches waving in the breeze like they were my own arms. I stared through the hedgerow beside me at the busy street. I didn’t process anything other than the fact that the world was moving, full of sound and energy and soft yellow light.

Can panic and peace coexist? Maybe so.

Then the cop came, and by the grace of God he was one of the nicest men I’ve ever encountered. In a place where I was at fault and feeling unmoored, I was met with a kindness so deep I am certain I didn’t deserve it.

My head still hurts a little and I spent a lot of today resting. It kind of shocks you, to realize that sometimes you just can’t react fast enough to prevent something that was already set in motion. In that moment, I lost everything I could control. I lost every ounce of power over what was about to happen to me. I didn’t even remember to pray until after it happened.

But I am fine. Repeat: I lost any and all control over my life for a few eternal moments, and I am fine.

I don’t know why I was protected that day, when so many other people have lost their lives in almost identical situations. It’s a question I can’t answer. But I do know, now more than ever, that my life does not belong to me. It’s a wild and beautiful vitality born long before me, already spinning into a far distant future I will never see.

An Icelandic artist named Bjork once said that all is full of love. She said that we’ll be taken care of, that it might not come from the sources we would expect, but that we have to trust it all the same.

It’s been my experience that I am pretty damn limited in my ability to see and understand these sources. I know several people who don’t feel able to see or believe in them at all. I don’t think it changes the fact that all is full of love. We will be taken care of.

The Night Walk

There are a few things you learn during a walk in the nighttime. You learn that living among the clouds isn’t a fairytale, and you’re not a princess, and there isn’t a castle. It’s actually just fog. And it swirls around and curls your hair with the humid disappointment of just-missed desire.

Orange, usually, as the steam thwarts streetlights with thick vapor determined to undo identity. Even a known name as basic as color is too much, too nice, too today…it belongs to the sun world where shadow people sleep and bide awhile, waiting, for the fog that removes both why you walked and where you are going.

It might be different if you didn’t walk alone. But you’ll never know, because if you had a companion you wouldn’t be seeking the night walk in the first place. You wouldn’t be trying to find the point, the corner, the exact number of steps at which your missed ship becomes just another droplet in the hanging vapor, where the ship that never came in blends into the millions of molecules sent to earth for the night as punishment. Solitary confinement for clouds.

You learn to keep company with the misbehaved cumulonimbus forced to listen to gravity in the same way that you’ll never free your feet from the ground. You may fly for awhile, in a plane, or in a man’s arms, if you’re lucky, but eventually you’ll realize you won’t find the way to stay afloat. At least not now, and especially not on the night walk.

When you return, which you will have to do, you may face any number of things.  Sorrow, or someone saying sorry. And all of a sudden your resolution will be gone. You will feel the moment of resistance tantalize you for a heartbeat, maybe two, before it passes you by, on the way to rejoin its stronger-willed brothers in the march toward dawn.

An apology is like a paycheck. A dividend, a refund for wrongs, even if the crime wasn’t financial and the damage is actually a deep, deep crevice in the rock face where your spirit hides when it stops trying to climb. Sorry tumbles down the side of a cliff.

Maybe it’s the human condition, maybe it’s money. But you are conditioned to accept cash or check and you will. Even if it’s trading love for a line of bad credit, apologetic.

A walk in the nighttime doesn’t bring you what you want or what you needed. And yet some small part of your pain gets stolen by the fog.

It dissipates, just like rain.

20 Awesomely Untranslatable Words From Around the World

Read Me: 20 awesomely untranslatable words from around the world | Matador Network.

life and language

It’s been awhile, but CLASH is back in action for the spring semester. I thought we’d kick things off with an exploration of language, which is, in its purest manifestation, an expression of what it means to be human and to desire connection with one another.

I remember my first experience with new words in Spanish. As native English speakers, we’re used to one word meaning one thing, and to words that (usually) maintain quite literal meanings in context. In Spanish, language doesn’t work this way. My favorite of all Spanish words is “desahogarse.” In reality, it means to tell a friend about all your problems, to share your struggles and your triumphs with somebody else…an unburdening, if you will.

But literally? “Desahogarse” means ‘to undrown oneself.’ Because that’s really what language does. It allows us to invite other people into our existence, into the poignancy of pain and beauty that lets us know we are truly alive. When we share our stories, we start swimming toward the surface of our silent, solitary sea.

These words have been classified as untranslatable. Some are funny, some are sad. But all of them rang true for me in their emotional and situational sincerity. My guess is that they’ll ring true for you, too, regardless of where you’re from or what language you speak.

To me, that is the ultimate translation.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

LEARN a new language

TRAVEL around the world

TALK to people from other countries

RESEARCH current events and crises

READ translations from other languages

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