Monday, December 31, 2007

Making space and keeping it

Jane has called attention to Doris Lessing's Nobel Prize acceptance speech, which I, for one, lost sight of in the midst of daily episodes of As the Anglican World Turns. There's a lot of food for thought in it, but I'm struck by this snippet:
And we, the old ones, want to whisper into those innocent ears: "Have you still got your space? Your soul, your own and necessary place where your own voices may speak to you, you alone, where you may dream. Oh, hold on to it, don't let it go."
Lessing is known for many works, including The Golden Notebook (acclaimed by feminists but for which the author refused to be a banner bearer ["What the feminists want of me is something they haven't examined because it comes from religion. They want me to bear witness." Doris Lessing]. In her acceptance speech, she spoke in part to the space that writers need, but, at the same time, advocated for the kind of space that all humans need to thrive.

Lessing's kind of space is strikingly different from the kind Pope Benedict recently spoke of:
The family "founded on the indivisible union between a man and a woman" is the "privileged space in which human life is received and protected from its beginning to its natural end," the pontiff said.
(courtesy of Mad Priest). Had Doris Lessing stayed in that space, with her alcoholic father and her long-suffering mother, or perhaps even her family with her first husband, all bound up in the constricted space of colonial Rhodesia, the world would have been far poorer, I think. While physically leaving families, marriages, and homelands is not always necessary or desirable, space for one's humanity (and, I would add, those glimpses of divinity that we struggle to help God let shine through) and that of others requires something far different than being walled into a man-woman marriage and the family relations that surround it. Stability, comfort, love, and loyalty may, in fact, thrive in such structures but so, too, can their opposites. It is the space within that matters and the ways in which we can help create it for others not so blessed with the means to find it.

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