Was all geared up for the day’s writing prompt from “The Writer’s Book of Days.”
Open to the page and March 8 prompt. Night.
Feel like I’ve done that one to death! No word play intended. Death – darkness – night.
So I’m gonna pass, which I rarely do on prompts, and write on a subject that’s near but not dear to my heart.
Slavery. More precisely, breaking the bonds of slavery.
I am a slave and was enslaved, from a very young tender age, by a father who was tyrannical, authoritative, cruel, brutal, oppressive, suppressive and domineering. It was his way or no way; the only in-betweens were World War IIIs.
He had his very good side, definitely. He was very intelligent, observant, witty, original in thought, perceptive, non-conforming and especially creative.
Whether it was a paint brush, wood carving tool or landscaping implement in his hand, he was a genius. He crafted everything to stunning perfection or very nearly so. He was an artist and artisan with incredible and rare attention to detail. (People generally don’t care about quality any longer.) He was a precisionist. In those aspects particularly, my father and I are two peas in a pod.
I love my father to death.
And am the first to acknowledge that he was not an easy man or an easy person. He intimidated everyone. Most adult neighbors didn’t like him and/or feared him. Friends of mine and my sister’s mostly refused to come to our house to play because they too feared him.
Growing up under his thumb was hell. Is hell. The branding marks remain on the inside, where no one sees them.
Slavery. These are deep and complicated issues that I’m not gonna write about, for many reasons. Instead, I wish to focus on breaking the shackles of slavery.
* * *
How is it done? I do not know.
Humankind has had slaves since before Christ. I’m not a Biblical or religious person — AT ALL! At all.
I’m the first to admit that my Bible knowledge is about zilch. Years ago, however, prompted by my own Valley of Darkness (speaking of the “night” prompt) in Washington state, I did plod my way through the Old Testament.
It was slow going and not really enjoyable. But by plodding onward (interspersed admittedly with plenty of skimming), I came to learn of the Egyptians’ oppression and enslavement of the Jews and their eventual release by Moses.
It is a historical tale of tremendous importance in meaning, symbolism, metaphor and actuality for mankind. For me as well (though, as I wrote, not in any Christian, religious or faith-based perspective.) I leave it to scholars and others with far more knowledge and understanding of history than I to dissect the most widely-read book in the world.
I do like how this particular person captured it here:
“Finally, in order to truly identify with the exodus from Egypt, we must understand how we have been (and continue to be) freed. The Jewish redemption from slavery meant the ability to serve God instead of Pharaoh. Our freedom from slavery does not mean freedom from acting on behalf others, but rather it means the ability to choose how we will serve others.”
* * *
The only God I’ve known is my father. He was God in the House (in both my childhood and adulthood). His force was the force of God. His anger and rage. His dictates were never to be questioned or challenged. Not without penalty and severe consequences. His thumb upon everyone in the home (not just me by any means!) was real. Forceful. Mighty. Unyielding. Controlling. He was more than a tyrant. He was the Pharaoh of Egypt. He was God.
We were a family with no religion or secular faith. I’ve no problem with that. I’m not conventional or a sheep or a follower. I question and I challenge and I think and I arrive at my own conclusions. I’m rebellious and defiant and abhor authority.
My father, last I heard, was an atheist. My mother may’ve had belief in God. If she did, she certainly didn’t draw from it or display it in any way in terms of protecting me. (She was not a good mother or well woman; I shall leave it at that.)
She briefly gave “religion” a go by taking me and my sister to the Unitarian church (dad stayed home). Which, as you should know if you don’t already, is about as non-churchy and non-religious as it gets!
That so-called church-going didn’t stick. No loss.
Outside my father, I’ve no concept of God. Not really. I’ve had innumerable moments, experiences (including life-threatening) and encounters that can be understood and explained only as revelations of a greater force and power. A Divine Intelligence. An Intelligent Universe. (Note that I said an intelligent universe, NOT an intelligent people!)
Life itself suggests a creative power and source that some would call God. My father, despite his authority as God, did not create this world. That may seem obvious but in fact is not to a child under an oppressive dictates and thumb of an other.
Circling back to slavery and breaking the bonds.
Moses has not stepped into my life to open the gates and lead me away from the torments and imprisonments under the Egyptians. I’d be a fool to wait around for him to appear!
What I lack is obvious to me. A trust in life being good. Because it hasn’t been, rather, more precisely, was not from newborn infancy. A trust in people being good. Because they have not been. A trust in a greater power that is not only benign (a huge leap itself) but one that sees each of us individually and cares. I’ve no sense of that; my childhood imparted none of that.
I have no faith. I did not just arrive at that in a day. Life experience taught me.
In short, the “f-word” to me is not the bad word. My f-word is “faith.”
* * *
I’m sitting here trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life.
I do not mean every moment for the next 20-30 years or whatever I’ve got left. My father is gone, to the Other Side, that is, and not that long ago. I struggle and grapple with it as any true human being would. I am forever changed by the loss of my significant parent.
Yet his markings — his brandings by the Iron Fist — remain. They’re not scars yet. They’re wounds. Hurts and pains raw and bloody still, nowhere close to being scabbed over.
Too often I continue to think like that slave that he made me be and the slavery forced upon me.
Too often I continue to be confined and defined by his brutalities and limitations imposed upon me, nee forced down my soulful throat.
Too often I think of the punishments and hardships that await me rather than the dreams that might release me from Darkness.
Too often I think of Death as my relief and release rather than of the Light in my own soul. I think of his intelligence rather than my own. His enormous creativity rather than my own. His pains rather than my own. His nightmarish childhood rather than my own. His dictates rather than my own inner compass of deep morality, integrity and honesty.
It’s that that I surrounded into an invisible acquiescent nobody. If my father is the Pharaoh, then I am/was his tempestuous and rebellious slave.
I fought him and his dictates tooth and nail. I fought him to preserve my life. I fought him with all the force my little stature and big intelligent mind could muster.
But I always lost. Always. He was bigger than I. A fucking lot stronger than I. Had greater force than I. He held the controls. The authority. The power. The whip. He WAS God. I stood up and pushed back more than anyone else in the family (including a shitty mother who supposedly protects and loves her child) and I paid dearly.
* * *
I’m not sure why this is being written today. Perhaps it’s partly because I’ve got a birthday in a week (ditto my sister). We’re getting up there in the years. Aging’s got a way of challenging and altering one’s perceptions and viewpoints in life.
There’s more to it than just the impending birthdays. What to do with my life without my dad’s imposing unyielding God dictates is up for discussion. How to break the enslavement is a massive question.
And since I am unconvinced that God exists, or cares, to whom do I turn for guidance?
To whom do I pray for higher knowledge, wisdom and guidance at this challenging time?
My dad “bashed me” in the head and shoved his will down my throat time. Who hears my voice? Who can hear my heart? Who will listen? Does anyone listen? Is anyone there?
* * *
“Night” was today’s writing prompt.
Turns out this post, without intent, is aligned after all.
As a nocturnal creature, I favor and know more about night than day. Too, I know more about Darkness than Light. Slavery than Freedom. I know more about an other’s will imposed upon me than my own, free to be, free to live.
In closing, I circle back to the above excerpt: “The Jewish redemption from slavery meant the ability to serve God instead of Pharaoh.”
Remove “Jewish” from that statement — ethnocentricity is unnecessary and limiting; slavery is a human matter — and I’d concur.
At this time of my life and on the cusp of a birthday closer to death than birth, I’ve much to contemplate. I’ve much to learn about how it is that one — that I — break the chains and bondages of slavery … when there may or may not be a God.