Some friends from church and I recently read an essay by Christian theologian Henri Nouwen called “Moving from Solitude to Community to Ministry.” (It’s a really good piece if you’re the Christian type. Though I will say that Nouwen always breaks my heart because of how he considered his faith and his queerness to be sources of conflict and struggle.)
Anyway, in it, he talks about how spiritual discipline isn’t supposed to be about control but about making space for God to do the unexpected. And he goes on to say that this discipline or space-making begins with solitude. Not loneliness. But clearing out one’s mind, heart, spirit, life to allow for more centeredness and communion with God.
I’ve really been struggling with making space this past year. I’ve fought to do the work I do while maintaining my self-care. I’ve tried to be who I am for others, while still maintaining the identity I hold for myself and my Creator. I have by no means figured it all out. Nor do I expect to, really. But I do feel like this season is a good time for me to really strip away some things to make space for God’s presence and unexpectedness in my life.
So, I’ll be taking a step back for a while to engage in some spiritual solitude. You won’t find me on Twitter or on my blog. (But if you’re ever in my area and want to get together in person, I’ll always be game for that!) I’m not sure how long I’ll be gone. Probably until the end of the year. We’ll just see where God takes me.
I’m very grateful to have all of you in my life. And I wish you the very best this winter season has to offer. Take good care of yourselves.
Sitting quietly and still until the dust settles
Until the roaring and thundering fades
Peering into the gentle waves, I can see the bottom so clearly
Straining my ears to the sudden quiet, I hear the whisper of the still, small voice
All that dust, all that noise
Comes directly from me;
I stir up the tempest with my fears, anxieties
With my desperate attempts to scratch my way to truth beneath the surface
With my desperate attempts to scream my way to a perfectly pitched calling
It is I who obscures
When all You ask is that I be still
And know You
I’m at an archival tour for a health sciences special collection at an institution that will be unnamed, and I am extremely uncomfortable.
My group and I have been shown patient records for children and senior citizens and immigrants and transgender and intersex people from as recent the 1980s. Some of these people are still alive. I may have passed them on the street on my way in.
My group has heard a lot about how HIPAA is not being violated and how legal counsel has okayed this practice and that practice. We’ve been shown some signed forms. But I still feel incredibly gross about all this. It’s exploitative and wrong. It may be legal, but it’s certainly unethical.
Did these patients understand how their personal materials would be used? Did they know that in 2017, a group of scholars would be pawing through their procedure images and notes and photos? Are they okay with that? I don’t know the answer. I don’t think anyone knows. And that’s the problem.
I’ve talked about this before and others have talked about this, but I just had to share. I don’t have anything else to add really; just the same thing I’ve been repeating over and over:
WHAT IS LEGAL IS NOT WHAT IS ETHICAL AND VICE VERSA.
Please, fellow library and archive folks, let’s be more thoughtful, more critical about our work.
One of the only records I felt comfortable seeing and sharing. An autopsy report from 1918 during the flu epidemic.