< Back to News & Events Highlights

Scott’s Column: Light in the Dark

Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones
January 31 2019

“We are all wounded, but we can connect through the wound that’s alienated us from others,” so writes Gloria Anzaldua in her book Light in the Dark.  

Anzaldua was an American scholar of Chicana cultural theory, feminist theory, and queer theory.  Light in the Dark is a fascinating discussion of how we put ourselves together again after we’ve been broken apart by trauma.

Last summer our “Holy Resilience” worship series explored the themes of trauma and resilience.  The above statement from Anzaldua resonated with the reading I did for that sermon series, particularly Shelly Rambo’s Resurrecting Wounds: Living in the Afterlife of Trauma which also discusses the significance of wounds and the ways we can relate to one another through them.

Anzaldua discusses this wounding and healing under the concept of the “Coyolxauhqui imperative” which draws upon an Aztec myth of the dismembering and restoration of the moon goddess.  “The Coyolxauhqui imperative is the act of calling back those pieces of the self/soul that have been dispersed or lost, the act of mourning the losses that haunt us.”

She continues,

The Coyolxauhqui imperative is to heal and achieve integration.  When fragmentations occur, you fall apart and feel as though you’ve been expelled from paradise.  Coyolxauhqui is my symbol for the necessary process of dismemberment and fragmentation, of seeing that self or the situations you’re embroiled in differently.  Coyolxauhqui is also my symbol for reconstruction and reframing, one that allows for putting the pieces together in a new way.  The Coyolxauhqui imperative is an ongoing process of making and unmaking.  There is never any resolution, just the process of healing.

That last sentence rings true and quite important for us to grasp.

For Anzaldua, after wounding we enter an in-between space.  We’ve been unmade and haven’t yet remade ourselves.  She calls this in-between space nepantla from a Nahuatl word.  It is the site of imagination and the possibility of transformation, for, she writes, “We can transform our world by imagining it differently.”

In nepantla we get in touch with our shadow sides.  “Our collective shadow–made up of the destructive aspects, psychic wounds, and splits in our own culture–is aroused, and we are forced to confront it.  In trying to make sense of what’s happening, some of us come into deep awareness (conocimiento) of political and spiritual situations and the unconscious mechanisms that abet hate, intolerance, and discord.”

Conocimiento is a “searching, inquiring, and healing” that lead to spiritual activism.  And the people who guide us through nepantla–those who assist transformation and the creation of the new world–are artists and activists whom she calls “nepantleras.”

I find these concepts quite intriguing.  At the same time I was reading this, I finished Maryse Conde’s Tree of Life and began Octavia Butler’s The Parable of the Talents.  Both novels have aspects that fit Anzaldua’s worldview, of guiding across liminal spaces by those in touch with their wounds.

May we all be people who have learned from our experiences of trauma and who turn those experiences into the creative powers necessary to lead others into a new and better world.