The events in Israel and Palestine over the last week have prompted me to think about nuance and the lack of black-and-white in the modern world. And, of course, Brigid’s relationship to nuance. I’ve written about Brigid and Liminality before, but I want to focus on nuance for now. And no, I meant what I said. I will be neither condemning or exonerating anyone, except for this: any death in this world that is premature is a heart breaking event. The death of children is particularly heart breaking, because of their lack of a chance to lead a life. All that potential is lost.
Death is never something to take lightly and what I am writing about in the following paragraphs is not, as I said, condemnation or exoneration of anyone. Aside from condemning absolutely the deaths of children and innocents. Whatever side of whatever fence those deaths occurred.
What is nuance?
Looking up the dictionary definition of “nuance” was less fun than you might expect. But here we go…
a subtle difference or distinction in expression, meaning, response, etc.
a very slight difference or variation in color or tone.https://www.dictionary.com/browse/nuance
Of course, in general conversation, we use the term “nuance” in a slightly looser meaning. Usually, we use it to mean that, in a given situation, a binary isn’t really evident.
What do I mean by this? Well I’m going to look to my own country first here.
I think most people reading this blog know of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Not to mention the history of colonialism on this island. If not, well, over at Lora O’Brien’s blog, the wonderful Pat Booker has written a short explainer. And even there, Pat adds in the following:
So there you go. You may be annoyed that this simplified and sometimes flippant account has not done justice to the thousands of murder victims, nor to the grief and fear suffered by our society as whole. Some of you will be mad that this account is too biased or not biased enough.Pat Booker, “Northern Ireland 101”
The Troubles were horrific with thousands dead and missing before their time. Colonialism in this country started back in the 12th century, with Diarmuid Mc Murrough’s wife, Devorgilla, divorcing him. (I’m being flippant now, but seriously, sometimes you have to be) and escalated for there. English plans for conquest really kicked into gear in the late 16th and early 17th century, especially after the Flight of the Earls in 1607, signaling the end of Gaelic Ireland.
The people of Ireland rebelled on numerous occasions both. before and after the Flight of the Earls. Padraig Pearse read the ‘Proclamation of the Republic’ in front of the General Post Office in Dublin at 12.45 pm on Easter Monday, 24th April 1916 and in it, says:
In every generation the Irish people have asserted their right to national freedom and sovereignty; six times during the past three hundred years they have asserted it in arms.Gov.ie
We know our history in this country. Our schools teach of our heroes. And let’s be serious – I’m coming at this from the point of view that Ireland should be re-united and I hope to see it happen through peaceful means.
However, as much as I condemn the violence in the North and as much as the loss of life horrifies me, I can also see that without the violence, without the horrific bloodshed, the role of Catholics in the North would still be as bad as it was back in the 1960’s.
OK, Brigid and nuance, then Orlagh?
Fair question. I’ve linked to my post on liminality above. But nuance is linked to liminality in my opinion. Well sort of. Liminality is a state of transition, where something is neither one thing or the next, but a blending or a shading of the two. A grey space, if you will.
Nuance is more about understanding context, reasons, as well as current situation. Take Northern Ireland above. The actions taken in the Troubles, by all sides, are condemnable. For every Bloody Sunday, there’s a Canary Wharf to match it. (Well, maybe not match it, but certainly all sides have blood on their hands).
Brigid was a poet, and in certain texts, a law giver. She had to understand nuance. Whenever I see a court room drama, nuance in the law is usually the basis of it. (Or maybe that’s my limited understanding of the law).
Understanding nuance in any context means understanding the context. Know the history. And not just from one side. For all that Irish people to this day curse Cromwell’s name, there are those (not in Ireland usually!!) who say his Model Army was better than what had come before. (I can’t bring myself to accept that mind, but perhaps those with better understanding of historical warfare can explain it).
Look at Brigid’s life. She is linked with grief, with death, with sacrifice. Those things all come with nuance. She is linked with understanding the difference between a fair accounting for a man and for a woman. Another understanding of nuance (and equity). She is a healer, not just of the body, but of the soul. And we all know, that souls are all nuance.
What am I inviting you to do here?
Before jumping to judgements and conclusions, think of nuance. Learn the history, the context. Or, leave the judgements to those who are better able to support them. We can all condemn killing – and I do, just to reiterate! No loss of life is to be accepted with equanimity.
But think of times in your own life when you have been involved in conflict. It is rarely black and white. Even Jesus said:
Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.John, 8:7 (Bible, in case anyone was wondering)
We are all guilty of jumping to supporting one side or another in any conflict. “Yes, but” becomes our default. I suggest trying to think in a “Yes, and” way as an alternative.
There’s none of us perfect. And it can be difficult to empathise with people when we see a group committing what is viewed as an atrocity. (Although I can’t see a situation where the murder of multiples children and innocents isn’t an atrocity) So, take a deep breath. Think of Brigid, ask her for help. And try a “yes, and” approach, instead of a “yes, but” approach. Two things can be true at once.
I’ve gotten some feedback that my stance on the situation in Palestine isn’t clear. So let me try and elucidate. Brig Ambue is one of the Brigs I work with. That means I support the oppressed. That means I support the movement within Palestine for freedom from oppression. That means I recognise violence is going to be used there because no oppressor ever hands over power without a fight.
That still doesn’t mean I can’t mourn innocent lives lost. There are very few people in this world I would willingly see dead before their time and I think it’s perfectly possible to mourn those lost lives while also supporting freedom from oppression.
And yes, it is entirely possible to be oppressed in one sphere while being privileged in another. It’s also possible to be oppressed during one time period while being privileged in another. Look at the history of Christianity in Europe for that changeabout, if you’re interested. But I hope this makes my position clear.