OK, so the neighbor's rolls, brought by for comparison after dinner, were actually better in some technical sense, though I did sneak a taste this morning again to confirm my preference for the old familiar.
The family grouping was of individuals, each a conscious self. The dinner capped several days obsessing about the recalcitrant sister, still standing by her man, confronted just the day before on his way to court by angry betrayed neighbors, as related to us by one of them (no family member can bear the torsion to stand by her standing by him). Resolved is the question of where the victimized daughter belongs. Resolved are any doubts about where each of the rest of us stands. Still, hanging bizarrely over the entire family tangle is the pall of his inevitable persistence among the living branches of our tree.
This is the man who raped his daughter and told her the same outrageous stories a cheating husband might tell his mistress, but deepened apparently by leveragings about unanswerable urges and alternative targets more disruptive to the family integrity. Prostitutes. Other young friends. This is the man who quoted the Bible, and relished his conviction that he'd already been saved by grace and apparently liberated to commit any and all sorts of outrage.
So, by my sister's staying by him, it becomes clear that at least my niece is spared any further confusion. The true and actual grace of God was her removal from that horrid swamp. She speaks of it as a coming smack up against reality. She has no desire to return.
Meanwhile, it should be no surprise that in the neighborhood of that swamp are apparently many who have suffered or known in close proximity such incest. It becomes undeniable that there is a connection between the strong father and Biblically formulaic rule-based belief systems and the prevalence of this particular sin. Whether the sin itself leaves only God's grace for its relief, or whether living within this cultish belief system actually and actively encourages such sinning by construing the family relations in its direction; the distinction seems one without a difference.
This man, so called, started life with a truly horrible deficit. He was himself prostituted and learned to focus his attentions and energies toward illicit pleasures; their provision to others as a means of their acquisition for himself as well. It all pathetically started with, so he says, an accidental housefire which was attributed to his murderous intentions toward a younger brother.
So, was it already there in the context for his self's formation? This envy turned insanely toward eradication of any other object for affection? Is there such a thing as family so constrained in love that even the children are objects for envy every time they get something eternally denied the parents? Such that children are punished for their very need to be loved? And if there are such families, does that preserve the heart of this horrid man as the proper object for my sister's love, and gracious God's rehabilitation?
Or is the man himself devoid of anything at his center which could recognize actual love, so as to become its giver or receiver? Does it matter? He seems human. My sister seems to feel love for him. None of the rest of my family has the wherewithal to cast him out (we surely would if we could), though we will certainly never again welcome him into our own homes or hearts, though who can tell what the years might bring? I can not imagine touching my wet lips to many things more savory than this rotting crud, and yet I have trained my appetite for cheeses and stews once thought to stink.
Still, though the line between food and waste may be more fluid for adults than for children, there does remain an absolute distinction. And growth results from making that distinction; from the act of discernment itself, which diverted rather more, last night, into the waste bin (more properly here in Seattle the recycling bin) than normal in the absolute interests of better flavor. The only sin yesterday would have been to cast away directly any actually savory morsels.
I do give thanks that my wayward sister still struggles toward love. There must be some horrid envy at the root of our family, if not all of humanity. Some stinking primal sin which did indeed require God's grace to redeem. Though I do know that my dear and sweet sister is deserving of a better love than what she claims as her own. I would that she did disown this part of her family now so clearly revealed as stinking gangrene. Perhaps she will yet. Meanwhile it must be enough to give thanks for love itself, enacted always in the striving for its accomplishment and never by some static constellation among relations.
At our own cosmic beginnings, I do maintain that it matters not at all whether conscious being was prior to or concurrent with the very first perceptual object. Mind must be that reductive quality of matter which allows persistence in the inward modeling of what, perceptually, is beyond its boundary. Such modeling becomes memory, and its outering the Word, as precisely distinct from the thing itself. And the feeling toward a future connection between that self and some recognized other is what love very basically Is.
So at least this much is knowable and known; that at the very beginning if it makes sense to talk about that at all (which I clearly think it doesn't) was an impulse toward what we have become. And no envy whatsoever about that which we are not. Brothers in law and in deed, in word and in spirit and never false even down to the very least among us, some of whom do, however, belong apart behind bars and separate for their own heart's truing as much as to prevent the warping of ours by such passionate distortions as must be excited by certain acts however originated, however coldly or hotly carried out.
I have not been so very adept at recognizing evil, I am saddened to say. But at least my tummy does recognize love.
Happy Thanksgiving, one and all!