Saturday, November 9, 2013

My favorite author of the moment

I am loving this murder mystery series I'm reading by Louise Penny. Not that I'm particularly a fan of that genre, it's just a framework for someone to write within. I started with "The Beautiful Mystery" which is actually Book 8 in a series, about a murder in a silent order of monks, listening on an audiobook, and fell in love.

Here is a link to the author:

The audio recording reminded me that the French pronunciation for one of the main characters, Jean Guy Beauvoir (these are French Canadians), is Jhongui Boh-vouah (soft J and rolled together). So hard to describe something phonetically in English from another language!

I am currently reading book #3, having backtracked to the beginning of the series and finished the first two. This one is called "The Cruelest Month." A reference to T.S. Eliot's line of verse that April is the cruelest month. I love the literary references!

But here is what I mainly love about the author: she is never afraid to speak of spiritual matters openly, be they ghosts or angels, or trees with souls, or haunted houses. She has unexplained encounters in each book that leave plenty of room for interpretation. Several of her characters have encountered angels, in the form of people, who tell them things the people couldn't possibly know. (So far, most of the characters have carried through all the books.) In Book 3, someone dies of fright (and is helped along) during a seance in a haunted house that is truly frightening.

This book features a Wiccan, and this character's religious beliefs and her "second sight," as well as her ostracism from the community, are treated with respect and sensitivity. The murders also have a spiritual dimension, both for the victim and the killer, that overshadows the earthly dimension. All this is in line with my own beliefs.

There are marvelous psychological insights into people, as well. The characteristics of the author's characters, so to speak, are so real. Here's yet another brilliant psychological concept she introduces in this book: The Near Enemy. As in two very similar looking emotional conditions that are actually opposites.

It takes a while to unpack this concept, but here goes. The examples she gives are these, spoken through Myrna, a huge black woman full of love and laughter who was a psychologist and now is a bookseller in a small village in Quebec province, Canada. Noble emotions to left, their near enemies to the right:

Compassion -- Pity
Love -- Attachment
Equanimity -- Indifference

I love all of these opposites, especially because how could anyone really know which emotion they are feeling?? You could be cleverly tricking yourself into thinking you were experiencing, and acting out, only the nobler emotions. But believe me, we carry the others as well. We all do. Everything goes in pairs. With the light, the shadow comes. If you can't see your shadow, then you are not ready to face the reality of who you are, and even your light is diminished.

Compassion and pity should be the easiest opposites to picture, and I believe they are nearly always paired. Pity is the near enemy because it ranks oneself higher in importance than the other, and objectifies the other. Compassion is a feeling of caring and concern among equals, a sense that the other person is in your place and you can also experience what they do (empathy). There but for the grace of God go I, says compassion. A truer statement was never said. I have experienced this truth in my own life a number of times, and every day I thank God for the grace that rescued me. Why others have not been rescued ----

Attachment is the near enemy of love because it is unhealthy clinging to a loved one, the refusal to really let that person be their own selves or to grow or change, the domination or bending of the other to meet one's own needs. Whereas love lets the other go and be, even if it results in suffering for the one who loves. Attachment also means you trap the other person in the box that is your opinion of them. Even with our closest loved ones, this happens. Ever have a, "There he/she goes again" moment with a loved one? How hard it is to allow others to change, and to see that change as a real part of them when you have your own preconceived ideas of who they are. Or as Myrna says, "Love wants the best for others. Attachment takes hostages."

In a murder case, the especially relevant twin emotions are equanimity and indifference. Equanimity, my Enneagram Type 4 virtue (what I should strive for), is the balancing of emotions and the resilience to rise above tragedy. Whereas indifference is demonstrated by psychopaths. On the surface, though, the emotional reaction is indistinguishable.

Pray for the people of the Philippines after the devastating super-typhoon.

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