Mary Daly, RIP

Mary Daly is dead.

I first read her in 1989.  She was fun and exhilarating, even though I rejected her absolutist understanding of gender.   Her fundamental sense of joy and her description for a transgressive, destabilizing laughter continues to appeal to me.  And I think she was right that God is more like a verb.

Daly was mistaken about the relationship between technology and feminism: technology has done much to liberate women, allowing them to be economically independent from men.   Her understanding of ancient religion was fanciful, if provocative.   Mythology was a way of concealing violence as much as it was a form of ancient wisdom.  I also think that “patriarchy” is too vague, at some point, to be helpful.

When I was in high school, I was intrigued by her non-response to Audrey Lorde.  I admit, at the time it was proof she was a selective thinker.  But in retrospect, her non-response was done out of respect for her sister, an awareness that the public sphere was not the location for such a fight.

On the Manifestation

The Epiphany is also called the “manifestation.” the light, represented by Jesus, was shown to the world: the wise men, or the kings. The light, who is represented by Christ, was thus disseminated.

Some may think we are to be like the kings. We bring gifts, show this little baby some magnanimity, and praise the light. It’s like walking down a lane without any flashlight, until you get to the beacon that got you safely there. Maybe you stick around for a while happy that the light exists. You look up at it, like a moth of sorts, just hanging out, perhaps opening your back pack and eating one of the sandwiches you’ve stored for the journey.

But then you’ve got to keep on going. The light still shows you the way, but that’s not what you’re there for.

I think that for many faithful people, the most important part is the light itself. When people assert their religious faith most fervently, they are busy praising the flashlight, the beacon, or whatever tool it is that makes them see. “I believe in Jesus Christ” is like holding up the flashlight and saying, “hey! I’ve got it!”

But that’s only going half way. What good is a flashlight if you aren’t looking around? Maybe asserting one’s faith isn’t as important as just knowing what you see – or how you see.

The story we tell is a way of seeing. One way of seeing: I believe that when we are most vulnerable, is when we might have the greatest opportunity. When we are magnanimous, we will have the greatest reward. In the midst of scarcity, is an opportunity to return to the sources of true abundance.

There are many ways of looking at the world. It’s full of rivalry, envy, fear and loneliness. There is no hope worth having in the world, and we are all doomed to die alone.

But there is another way of seeing. The manifestation that affirms that whatever life we have is worth living, that even in our bare-knuckled, hardscrabble moments of alienation and misery, down the road just a little bit farther, is Easter.

We may not see it now, but at least we’ve got a flashlight. Our job is to keep moving.