icons of

deconstruction

 

For me, it has always been especially comforting to find a song, a work of art, a confession, or a friend who puts words to what I'm experiencing. Sometimes it takes another to fully express what we cannot ourselves. Maybe, just maybe, these icons will be something that gives you a sense of comfort in knowing while your process IS yours alone, it isn't always foreign to others. The Icons of Deconstruction Series is an exploration of both my design "world" converging with my writing. Images and words, for me, work in tandem to help me process themes and ideas. The icons below represent my own considerations of the deconstruction process. However, I would never hold to a specific progression, step by step, or even that each of these aspects will be present in your own deconstruction. But they might be markers that help give voice to your experience. 

 
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BOUNDLESS

Unmanageable & Uncontrolled

The contemplative tradition echoes the idea that through great love and great loss we are changed. It's in the way our life is this bundle of beauty–too much to even wrap our minds around; and loss–this deep and devastating heartbreak. It is in both moments (and often everything in between) that we are acutely aware that we cannot control everything. We see how boundless life can be–how utterly unmanageable and uncontrollable are our days.

What is your experience of the boundlessness of life? Overwhelming beauty? Devastating heartbreak? Finding that life is uncontrollable is no small revelation. It's like holding an octopus that changes shape and appearance with no consistency or warning.

If you felt like you were the only one who cannot 'keep it all together'– just know, you are not alone.


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THE LOSS OF CERTAINTY

No Longer Rescued from Doubt

To truly live is to face things that don't have answers. We often naturally want things to be like simple mathematics–formulas and steps that, if followed–result in a way that is guaranteed.

Nope.

That is not the life many of us (if we are honest, all of us) are facing. Whether your faith tradition, or even, your certainty of the failings of religion have woven certainty as a main thread in understanding life–at some point–you will face a time when the voices of doubt, the vantage point of others, the limited scope of your own (well established) views crumble. It is in the midst of such loss that we can become quite anxious and angry. Loss of certainty can mean we double down on our beliefs–no matter what they are. It is our attempt to fight violently against the doubt that "haunts" us.

But what if the doubt could be a movement toward compassion? toward kindness? toward making room for "other"? What doubts have lingered for you? What might those doubts speak about your own desire to live a life of love and compassion? Could embracing such uncertainty be a way of softening your life?

Embracing doubt just might be a movement toward love.


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LISTEN TO YOUR LIFE

Navigating Below the Surface

I am using the latin, "Semper Introspiciens" for the language of "Always Deconstructing" but at it's most literal form–it might be always introspective.  Rather than thinking of introspection as always this brooding melancholy (although I do often lean into this)–it could more accurately seen as listening to your life. Deconstructing is a sensory approach to life: listening, seeing, feeling, considering, and processing. We can so easily float along the surface of things, never considering meaning, or imagining future trajectory, or reflecting on past experiences. I am not encouraging you to make everything complex, but it is also not reducing everything to the same kind of simplicity either. Can we live with a "simplexity" (as Leonard Sweet puts it so well) that holds the two together in our lives?

What are you experiencing that seems to feel more like a maze of complication? What are you avoiding in order to "not go there" that might mean you face some emotions and meaning that isn't something you want to see? Navigating below the surface is often a mine-field--but find a trusted friend to process some of this out loud. Living in your head only becomes an exercise in isolation. 


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DISORIENTATION

What Made Sense No Longer Does

One day we will turn down a road we've been on a hundred times before–and our surroundings will no longer look familiar; nothing will seem quite right; and we will feel lost in a land we've always known. This is disorienting. This is life.

What in your life no longer makes sense (that once did)? When is a time that you felt like your compass no longer pointed north accurately? We can live in this new unfamiliar land--but it is not comfortable, at all. It may not be a matter of remapping things more accurately--it might actually be that the process of rethinking is an okay place to stay.


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LAMENT

The Vulnerability of Feeling Deeply

I'm drawn to vulnerability as a quality and value I hope to embrace in my life. There is something about honesty and authenticity–but those often seem to be co-opted by arrogance and manipulation. We say, "Let me be honest with you . . ." and what follows is some statement that we then just say "deal with it." We say, "this is me, take it or leave it." While these qualities always have their place– vulnerability carries with it something different. In vulnerability we are honest, we are authentic–but we are also willing to listen and be hurt (or encouraged). Vulnerability brings with it an amount of risk that few are willing to, well, RISK.

In the work of deconstruction, we embrace the risk of vulnerability. We write songs of mourning. We enter into liturgies of lament. We are honest and authentic about our struggles. We give voice to our pain and our uncertainty. And it is in our vulnerability that we might absolutely be eaten alive by others who don't understand, by friends that no longer look like ones, by lovers who just cannot go there. 

When have you last been vulnerable? What would it meant to lay down cynicism or protection and feel deeply? This is such a brutal process--and don't be fooled, the wolves will come. You will be hurt, offended, and misunderstood. But you may also find a new way of being--that some will echo and draw nearer to in your vulnerable places. Beware and be aware.

 


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LIMINAL SPACE

The Vertigo of In-Between-Ness

Vertigo is the worst. I mean, actual mind altering, stomach swirling, world spinning, vertigo–if you've had it–you know it is utterly perplexing to the point of puking your guts up. You know that the world around you isn't spinning–and yet, there is no amount of internal convincing that stops the upside-down-ness.

The language of 'liminal space' refers to the in-between-ness in life. The term references being in the threshold of a doorway. It's no longer being in the room you once occupied, but it is also not quite in the room ahead. We don't want to be nowhere–we want to be somewhere. Somewhere we can name. Somewhere we can map.

But liminal space isn't found on our maps. Google cannot locate us. And we cannot readily identify the "where we are" for ourselves or anyone else. Nothing stops the vertigo–you certainly cannot choose to avoid it. Instead, liminal space, needs to be acknowledged as we dwell in the vertigo.

Is there a time when you feel like you haven't arrived anywhere? Can you recognize a time where you felt very much in-between? Maybe being present in our life is about recognizing the in-between-ness. Rather than transporting ourselves to the "one day" dream or the "back when" memory--we just encounter what is--as it is. This isn't easy, isn't optimistic or pessimistic--but it also isn't without hope. It's finding something to the reality of our in-between-ness as it is.


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WrestLinG

Being Present to Doubts

The juxtaposition of faith and doubt has alienated way too many of us from the conversation with our spiritual roots (if we have them). Doubt has been a label given to people who aren’t “really committed” to their faith. Doubt has been that scary darkness that you dare not step into. Doubt has been that thing that we just push down deep enough — hoping it won’t resurface.

Have you recognized doubt in your own life of faith? I think the two go hand-in-hand. If we believe, we will also doubt. Doubt gives us the possibility to grow, to become, to transform. Doubt gives us the ability to be passionate and truly wrestle with that which does not seem to set right in our gut. Maybe the wrestler is a meaningful image because it means there is a process taking place. It’s not a foregone conclusion — but the undergoing of a tangled mess of give and take, stress and strain, that makes the wrestler the person they are becoming. What do you find that you are wrestling with lately? Has doubt been a place you have tried your best to overcome? What if doubt was a place you don't get beyond, but sit within?


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The dark night

The Journey of a Jarring Silence

Silence.

Pause.

No response.

The quiet is miserable at times (maybe all the time). The term 'The Dark Night' is more than a batman reference. Long before the caped crusader, there was a dark night spoken of by St. John of the Cross. It is a term referring to the jarring silence that contrasts where there once was feedback. It is a dropped call. It is a room that's gone dark. It's the smell of the candle flame that has extinguished into smoke.

Prayers. No feedback.

Pleas. No response.

Comfort, the way we used to know it. Gone.

Please hear me when I say this isn't a silence you "deserve" (I've hear that); or a silence you "made happen" by your own faults and failures (again, something I've heard before). It is also not a silence that is gone by morning. While it may well be a season of silence for you, I tend to think that this dark night is something we need to let our eyes adjust to–something we might get ready to get used to.


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LIMITED PERSPECTIVE

Seeing the Many Facets of Beauty

Among all the crisis and uncertainty that comes within deconstruction, I would fail here if I didn't speak to the beauty in the chaos. Finding our world turned upside down can be quite altering to our perspective. We will see things differently. We will see beauty where we never noticed it before. Is it a "lesson we are supposed to learn"? I would not use that kind of language. Instead, I would just say it is a very natural response to our unhinged moments. 

This is about more than seeing beauty. Our own deconstruction opens the door to a realization of more reality. We are hearing stories different from our own. We are seeing from vantage points we never even knew existed. I think our perceptions of reality often resembles the faucet of a diamond.  I see it one way, and you, with a different history and alternate experience, see reality through another facet of that diamond. Can we see similar things? Yes. Can we see different things? Yes. Can I begin to see also the way you do? Only if I listen. Only if I am open to it. Only if I acknowledge that my reality is not the only one.


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REBUILDING AGAIN

Knowing Tides Will Come

If you are a beachgoer you know that sand castles are built by the shore. The combination of dry sand and wet is essential to forming the kind of structure you are imagining. You also well know that anything you build today won’t make it through the night. You build knowing that while some lumps of sand might remain, some dug out places might not get fully filled back in, but for the most part, the tide will overtake all that was built.

The life of faith, for me, has become a building with the tide in mind. I know things will change. I know things won’t always be the same. But my response isn’t to never build again because of the tides. It’s to build knowing the permanence of it all isn’t dictated by me.

I will build. I will build again. I won’t abandon the beach. I will, however, leave the notion that if I build my sandcastle well enough, it will withstand the tide.