On the AML blog yesterday, Theric Jepson asks if we "have art that responds to Recent Events." He is, not, I suspect, talking about the unfortunate elimination of Ecuador from the world cup--devastating though that may be to many. He is talking instead about the recent excommunication of Kate Kelly and the extended discussion swirling around it.
For many, the moment is uncomfortable, uncertain, and painful. As Eric Samuelsen and others have pointed out, that's true whether you were most uncomfortable with Kelly's rhetorical strategies or with the actions taken in response. This is the sort of discussion in which virtually all participants have been put on the defensive by someone. And unfortunately, the things most of us say while feeling defensive work to make someone else somewhere feel threatened as well.
Theric sees direct, emotional online discussion as a normal response to shared discomfort and pain, but also as sort of a psychic rut. He doesn't want people to just forget what they're feeling or walk away from problems, but he does hope we can rise above the cycle of mutual venting/defending/offending to engage the underlying questions about why it's so hard to be a human living among other humans.
And Theric thinks literature could be a part of that. Literature, which is almost never just about what it claims to be about, might help us escape our own defensiveness. It might give us a bridge from a moment's pain to a broader insight.
And maybe that's a pipe dream. Maybe it's just what Theric and I, as writers, get paid to say.
Or maybe literature really can get us thinking in broader ways. Maybe good works of Mormon Literature, selected more or less at random, can speak in some sideways and rut-evading way to the tensions many people are feeling right now.
In that spirit, I've made a list the Mormon Lit Blitz finalists published so far, indexed by sentiments I've seen people express. See which quote you identify with, and--in the spirit of experiment--see if the corresponding piece speaks to that feeling somehow.*
"I feel rejected and hurt."
"It shouldn't be this hard to go to Church."
"We make a serious mistake when we think of service and power in the same terms."
"Don't try to explain to me yet how this all makes sense if you look at the big picture. Right now I just need a safe place to cry."
"I can't put my finger on it, but I feel like something important is slipping away."
"I see my faith and community in a different way now than I once did."
"I don't know who to talk to about what I'm feeling. I don't expect everyone to understand, but it would be nice to find someone who can get where I am and who I can trust enough to get fresh perspective from."
"I can't afford for the feeling of sisterhood to fall victim to political differences."
"These kind of debates make me feel like a tiny little person being crushed between big forces I can't control. I want to get back to the basics."
"I don't have strong feelings about this issue, but all the bad feelings around it bother me. I wish I could just hop on a curelom and get away from it all."
*Disclaimers: No refunds of time or mental energy will be given to those who don't appreciate the story they choose. The index quotes have been generated without consultation with the authors and may not represent their personal reactions to said events in any way. Some stories may related to the index quotes in perverse or tongue-in-cheek ways. No animals were harmed in the writing of this post, but evidence suggests that animals may be harmed by excessive levels of online reading. Media outlets should not that these publications do not represent the Mormon Church, which doesn't like being called the Mormon Church, in any official capacity. Some stories contain violence, may remind the reader of specific swear words (though without actually saying them), and can involve immodestly dressed characters if the reader happens to use his/her imagination to mentally create them dressed immodestly. Some of these stories may take readers down the proverbial rabbit hole, and management is not responsible for any proverbial rabbit droppings reading may encounter along their way.