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starving for God
Why do we think it’s a good thing when humans deprive themselves to the point of self harm for God? Like, I don’t just mean giving up a thing for Lent. And I don’t mean doing the Ramadan things. I mean, starving. Y’know like Simone Weil did. It ultimately killed her. She slowly killed herself because she didn’t feel entitled to live fully the life God chose to give her because of suffering in the world. She thought imposing suffering on herself would somehow bring some kind of universal balance maybe, idk.
How does that work? That’s quite the cognitive distortion which told Simone Weil that killing herself would be in service to God. That’s what she did—a slow self-inflicted death. How does taking one’s own life, how does reducing one’s own capacity to carry out life purpose—how does this serve and honour God. Who’s will did Simone Weil worship + serve? Her intellectual vision of goodness? Well, isn’t that self worship?
Yeah, it’s a mind fcuk that the woman who changed the world by inspiring the Second Vatican Council starved + neglected herself to death as some kind of extreme worship to God. In recovering from TB, Weil disregarded medical instructions to eat well and rest, choosing to reduce her food intake to what she believed German-occupied France was eating. She died at the age of 34 after a period of what many call self-starvation. Imagine the things she could have done with her great mind had she chosen to do God’s will rather than her own.
What if God intended her as an answer to a prayer and her early death prevented that from happening? How do we upset the balance of the universe when we pull stupid horsesh1t like this? How did Simone Weil dying at the age of 34 from starvation-induced heart failure help alleviate the suffering of the people of German-occupied France?
I’m writing about this because I recently discovered that Scrupulosity was an obsessive-compulsive disorder—during one of his weekly teachings Lee Weissman talked about it in the context of the Gates of the Heart. I remembered my mum’s only sister, a TB survivor who, like Simone Weil, lived a life of severe self-denial. My aunt weighed 85 pounds and barely ate and lived the life of a monk, deciding on her own to live a vow of poverty because TB sequelae prevented her from joining the Grey Nuns like she wanted. Aunty thought taking the cab from her apartment to the Tache Centre a waste, it would have been less that $10 and the walk was about 40 minutes and she did it in the cold Winnipeg January days too. We all admired her self denial.
We all thought it was so Godly to deny physical needs and inflict unnecessary hardship. My aunt never suffered abuse, she abused herself. My aunt never mothered, never had a romantic relationship. My mother mothered, God created her for this purpose and she fulfilled it, she lived as one of a partnership, she knew that was her calling and she lived it. Mum suffered abuse and she sought comfort and that was seen as selfish, my mother’s vulnerability and human response to her life was seen by my aunt, who never split for anyone the way mum did, and did judge mum from a place of moral superiority that I didn’t see until I started to process what Scrupulosity means.
My mother’s death has been an unrelenting seeing familiar things with fresh eyes. Like this—like this spiritual bypass, fake piety which is really self worship pretending to be Godcentric. The highest form of worship is what my mum did—give life and nurture it. I don’t think my aunt was ever in a position to judge the woman who served tea and was polite to the woman who had a hand in stealing her daughters from her, while I watched, having just come home from school at the age of 5 or 6. Yeah, that’s my mother’s story, who loved and was love despite having her children stolen from her and then having those children alienated from her.
It sure was easy for aunty and the rest of the church people who watched my mother go through that to judge her response to that horror. If you are a mother, think about having your 4 and 9 year old daughters taken from you by the man who tried to kill you. Think about how your 16 year old son had to save your life. Think about being that young mum with nothing and having to begin again. I was born to my mother after all that happened.
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The more I live the more amazed I am that the most selfish and egocentric people have somehow convinced us all that the truly humble and worthy are wretched and bad … what a projection this world of humans is … how can I be the change I wish to see? I feel small and powerless in the face of it. That’s the wrong answer, I tell myself, It’s not about me, it’s about how I can serve, it’s about how I can use whatever comes my way in life to move forward compassionately. How can I be the change I wish to see? That’s the eternal question I ask daily. How can I serve, not what do I need? It’s very difficult to live that mindset when you are scaling the basic foundations of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. I guess that’s when faith comes in useful, helps to make the hardships worth it, helps to cultivate a mindset that increases capacity and resilience. Because through service needs get met, faith is the vehicle that makes that happen.
I have thought about this space and building and thinking about my coaching brand has kept me from writing here. I think what anyone who reads me likes is the connection I create with my readers. So, maybe this might seem like Roseanne from the 90s is writing a substack for a while, my life is weird and challenging and assholes are everywhere, including me. So, I’ll show up here regularly and write what I write.
Times are tough, please support independent writers. If not me, someone you read today please.
Adventures of Bad Hijabi is a reader-supported publication. Help us by catnip + snacks, consider becoming a paid subscriber.