Skip to main content

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 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


Popular posts from this blog

Castration at the Battle of Adwa (1896)

On March 1, 1896, the Battle of Adwa "cast doubt upon an unshakable certainty of the age – that sooner or later Africans would fall under the rule of Europeans." In this battle, Ethiopians beat back the invading Italians and forced them to retreat permanently. It was not until 1922 that Benito Mussolini would again initiate designs against Ethiopia; despite Ethiopia's defeat in 1936, the nation ultimately retained its independence. "Adwa opened a breach that would lead, in the aftermath of world war fifty years later, to the rollback of European rule in Africa. It was," Raymond Jonas wrote, "an event that determined the color of Africa." (p. 1) It was also significant because it upheld the power of Ethiopia's Christian monarchy that controlled an ethnically diverse nation (p. 333), a nation in which, in the late 19th century, the Christian Emperor Yohannes had tried to force Muslims to convert to Christianity. (p. 36) The Victorian English spelli

Review of Cliff Sims' 'Team of Vipers' (2019)

After he resigned his position, Cliff Sims spent two months in Fall 2018 writing Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House . Many stories are told, some already well known to the public, some not. One buys this book, most likely, to gape at the colossal flameout spectacle that is Donald Trump, as with most things with Trump's name. Sims exposes the thoughtlessness, the chaos, the lack of empathy among his fellow insiders in the campaign and later in the White House, but he does not at all acknowledge the real consequences for ordinary Americans — there might as well be no world outside the Trump insider bubble, for all this narrative concerns itself with — and therefore falls far short of fully grappling with the ethical implications of his complicity. Previously, Sims was a journalist. "I had written tough stories, including some that helped take down a once-popular Republican governor in my home state," he says. "I had done my best to be

The ‘prostitute with a gun’ was a middle-class high school girl

On May 19, 1992, Amy Fisher, a 17-year-old high school student in Long Island, N.Y., rang the bell at the home of 37-year-old Mary Jo Buttafuoco. Buttafuoco stepped onto her front porch and had a brief conversation with the girl, whom she had never met before. Fisher then shot her in the face and fled the scene. Neighbors heard the shot and rushed to Buttafuoco's aid. She regained consciousness the next day in a hospital and was able to recall the conversation with her attacker. This information helped police to promptly identify and arrest Fisher. Fisher's explanation of her action shocked the nation. She claimed that she had been lovers with her victim's husband, Joey Buttafuoco, 36, since the previous summer when she was still only 16. While those who knew Buttafuoco believed him to be a pillar of the community, Fisher said he perpetrated auto theft scams. She claimed he introduced her to a life of prostitution, such that she wore a beeper to her high school classes an