mad in pursuit memoir notebook

DISPATCHED FROM THE intersection of yesterday and forever

Continuing on Red-Zone Anger: the Nun

Continuing on from yesterday... I'm wondering if any of my "red-zone" angers got resolved through nonviolent means (assuming I know what that means).

I'm thinking about the people I've been angriest with over the years. A nun in high school, a professor in college, an advisor in graduate school, the head of an organization I worked for in job A, my boss in job B, my boss in job C.

The nun. Sister Virginia never did anything but good for me, as she guided brainy working class girls toward college. And yet she was manipulative and demanding in ways my parents never thought to be. She forbade me to take art classes. She browbeat me into taking Chinese classes, which I really hated, even though it did earn me a free summer at Yale. And she squashed my longing to go to the University of Chicago because the fix was in for me to get a scholarship to the college run by her Order. If you've ever seen The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969), Sr. Virginia in 1963-67 had that same resentment-breeding haughtiness, dressed in a nun's habit and without the sex.

When I got to college, the Sixties struck me and my guide became the saintly Sr. Terese Avila, head of the Spanish department. She despised anything that smacked of elitism. Her heros were Cesar Chavez and Che Guevara. Her influence gave me permission to "engage" with Sr. Virginia. I wrote her a long letter. Here was the moment in life when I realized that my best writing occurred when I was angry.

I can't remember what I wrote. I don't think I expressed any appreciation for the fact that I wouldn't be in college on a scholarship if it hadn't been for her. Instead, I launched into a diatribe about my elitist education. (At a Catholic girls high school in the central west end of St Louis? Gosh I was naive.)

She responded with a long chatty letter that didn't address my bill of particulars. She was clueless. Maybe it was her own attempt at nonviolent response (she was a nun after all) — puncturing my puffery with quasi-friendliness. It only made me angrier.

We exchanged letters a couple more times, then I gave up. It was pointless. She was old. She'd never get it.

So where does this leave me on the mayhem scale? Our relationship was never salvaged. Enemies were not made friends. But that anger in me was formative, I suppose. I don't think I can analyze it any more than that this morning... Except to say that Sr. Virginia was probably the one who understood non-violence.


(Continued thoughts about non-violence)