I have read books. Listening to books counts as reading books (NaturalReader is a godsend, as is any resource that turns books into PDFs I can feed into NaturalReader). I don’t have to read everything that’s been written on my topic. My experience is a valid source of knowledge. My body is is a valid source of knowledge. I have written words before. I can write words again. I can write GOOD words. I have a formal education — this does not reassure me, so — I have learned outside of the structures of traditioned education (i.e. Aristotle –> Augustine –> Aquinas, etc). That’s OK. I am not a straight white male theologian or member of the clergy. And besides, I have read these thinkers, if incompletely. Incompletely is enough. I continue to expose myself to writers and thinkers inside ‘the canon,’ with a commitment to seek the equal force outside of it. The end of my education and experiences is to integrate intellect, body, spirit and community, for the purpose of growth, service and collective healing. Everything that leads to this is emergent strategy, even if it seems as though I am making the plan. I know how to read poetry. I know how to write poetry. I know how to write about poetry. I know and am learning a lot about how to write about theology. My project has value, because at the heart of an investigation into constructions of otherness within the (Western) Christian imagination — and how these constructions find expression in the poetry of Paula Meehan, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin and Colette Bryce — is a yearning for justice. I haven’t always had this yearning, or, it was buried under my own pain for a long time. Blessed be the process that exposed the pain, so I could begin to uncover that yearning for justice, which was, finally, inextricable from a longing for (self-and-community-)love. My project helps unearth this yearning further, trains it, focuses it. Therefore, it is a good project, with both fierce and tender implications for the aim of collective healing. This project cannot do ALL of the work of collective healing. It can probably do only a very small part of the work, but this small part is not nothing. This project is an exercise in understanding boundaries, including the boundaries of the project. There is so much of worth that will always exist outside the boundaries of this form (academic discourse, the form of the dissertation); as long as I never forget this, it is possible, and necessary to do as much as I can with what this form can do, since I am here anyway. I am fortunate to have a supportive supervisor who has the courage to engage consciously with power. Friends and colleagues are willing to read my work. I have committed to seeing this through. I am enough.
by Paula Meehan
I am the blind woman finding her way home by a map of tune.
When the song that is in me is the song I hear from the world
I’ll be home. It’s not written down and I don’t remember the words.
I know when I hear it I’ll have made it myself. I’ll be home.
P.S. One of the human resources that continues to spark joy and hope for me first helped me reorient my priorities with this post.