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Quotes: On the symbolism of scars

"Most of my body lives,
But the scars are dead like the grooving of a frown,
Cannot be changed, and ceaselessly record
How much of me is already written down."
- William Dickey, Memoranda, Of the Festivity, 1959

"I have heard the [Native American] tradition said in this way: When you die, you meet the Old Hag, and she eats your scars. If you have no scars, she will eat your eyeballs, and you will be blind in the next world."
- Robert Bly. Iron John: A Book About Men. New York: Vintage Books, Random House, 1992 (originally 1990). p 216. Also quoted as "Carved on a bus bench on Hawthorne" from http://devrandom.net/~aidan/sphere.html Accessed August 31, 2003

"Although a man has the scars of healed wounds, when he appears before God they do not deface but ennoble him."
- Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, Long Text, Chap. 39. Trans. E. Spearing (Harmondwsworth, UK: Penguin Books, 1998), p. 96. Quoted in Martin Laird, O.S.A. Into the Silent Land: A Guide to the Christian Practice of Contemplation. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. p. 132.

"Undergoing unnecessary surgical operations—"unnecessary," that is, from the point of view of pathophysiology—often fulfils this function. The patient here plays the illness game and seeks validation of the sick role from the expert. The surgeon who consents to operate in such cases performs a psychologically and socially "useful" function, albeit his usefulness cannot be justified on surgical grounds. His action consists essentially of legitimizing the patient's claim to the sick role. By operating, then, he enables the patient to "win." The surgical scar is official proof of illness. It is the diploma, the trophy, the prize that goes to the winner!"
- Thomas S. Szasz. The Myth of Mental Illness: Foundations of a Theory of Personal Conduct. New York: Delta, 1961. p. 257.

"So you're on this journey with Jesus. You've hit a moment. What are you going to do with it? How are you going to change? What need to change? And what will you carry with you—maybe even as a scar—as you go forward?"
- Dick Foth. Quoted by David Kuo. Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction. New York: Free Press, 2006. p. 94.

"The universal incidence of puberty rites suggests that they are archetypal — a fundamental requirement of the soul. It is little wonder, then, that adolescents in secular Western society, who are deprived of official rites, unconsciously seek authentic initiation through drink, drugs, sex, rock ’n’ roll. They long to get out of themselves, get out of their heads; they positively need fear and pain and privation to know if they can stand it, to know if they are men and women, know who they are. They want scarification — scars, tattoos, piercings — to show off. Some even commit crimes specifically to incur punishment — the initiation of prison — only to be given ‘counseling’ instead.

For all its admirable compassion and humaneness, modern Western liberalism has a horror of that fear and pain which seem to be essential components of initiation. Still, happily or unhappily, there is always enough fear and pain to go round. Whether we like it or not, we suffer sickness, bereavement, betrayal and anguish enough. The secret is to use these experiences for self-initiation. Instead, we are usually encouraged to seek a cure for them, rather than to take advantage of them for self-transformation. It is, on the whole, a mistake to medicalize suffering and even death because they are primarily matters of soul and only secondarily of the body."
- Patrick Harpur. The Philosopher's Secret Fire: A History of the Imagination (2002). Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2003. pp. 90-91.

"I've learned I can't save myself with the fire

of my own hands. I've scarred my chest, gouged eyes,

scorched my tongue. I've destroyed my life to live it.

If something else now could bow me to

its brutal divinity, I would drop like a beggar.

That's no good bet, either. Like all gods,

we've gotten older, our power's in doubt. The mother's

long banished to apocrypha. We sought mercy

in the cold arms of statues. but how else might we

have worshipped a world we tried so hard to love?"
- 
Gaylord Brewer, from "Moving the Stone," Eclipse, Vol 11, No. 1, Fall 2000

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