|After first of three sessions.|This last year, during my chaplain residency / clinical pastoral experience, one thing I've been mulling over has been the meaning of the olive branch that the dove found in Noah's story. When I was younger, and I got the third portion of my head tattoo with the last of ten birds -- golden eagle, peregrine falcon, albatross; crow, raven, hummingbird; bald eagle, wren, loon, and dove. I asked the artist to put the dove right in front with the sunrise (and autonomically cried through the whole inking), but felt it was not appropriate at the time to have an olive branch in its beak, so left a little space to ink it in later, when the time was more appropriate. I had a lot of work left to do.
During my CPE, it came to my attention that the olive branch was a symbol for divine power. I've learned a lot about power this last year. I've learned the difference between power over (forcing somebody to work on the agenda of the more powerful person), power alongside (assessing complementary skills and working collaboratively), and power under (providing strength and opportunity for another to more completely follow their own volitional path). Given the US culture I was raised in, I had mainly only paid attention to the first kind of power, the power of battle, oppression, and suppression, in which the stronger is the victor and the weaker is the victim. I felt freed when I learned of the second as a good pastoral stance, and I made up the third myself, because balanced-ternary is the way I roll, and because there are some people in the world with way too much power who rarely put it to good use themselves, and might actually like to give much of it away, thereby freeing themselves.
Now, here I am, taking a break from assembling my MFC packet, and taking in this interview with Phil Anselmo of Pantera. I haven't been keeping up with his more recent projects, and while my musical tastes have changed, I still enjoy their older songs. And while his personality is arrestingly unique, I've met at least two others with similar qualities during my time here.
In any case, at the end of the interview in Part 4 at 12 minutes, 30 seconds, he says,
"I'm not afraid to make friends, and I'm not afraid to extend my hand, first. To walk up to people, extend an olive branch even…"
This, to me, is the meaning of my missing olive branch. I haven't been ready to trust until maybe now.
The question foremost in my mind at this point is, "What kind of person extends an olive branch when most everybody else stands (at least partially unknowingly) with their swords drawn?" I've been open and honest before, and have been through an emotional evisceration as people -- not understanding the context and framework I approached in -- applied their own, leaving me decontextualized.
In other words, am I actually returning from a hero's journey after finding dry land (peace and security) or have I found the ingredients for their formation? Or am I just saying "peace, peace" when there is no peace? And to help make this concrete (considering Joseph Campbell's diagram in the previous link) how have I atoned, and what was that atonement for anyway?
Moving beyond the narrative from within the narrative, like the hummingbird (which stands for Joy) in this story, I will just take control of myself, and do what I can.
Labels: angels, angry at organized religions, birds, inter-faith, interconnected web, peace, personal growth, personal religion, tattoos, theological sources