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  • Abigail Wilson

Mystery made material: on loving despicable things



How do we love despicable things?


The fly that brings disease, the soiled hand, the rotting heap.


Disgust can be a survival mechanism, developed over eons as a useful form of discernment: Do not eat. Do not touch. Even aversion to the amoral shapes our collective survival, separating from us the visible forms of spiritual illness.


Is it right, then, to swat the fly? To exile the offender, to wash the rot down the river?


As primitive mammals those instincts preserved us. As the universe awakens within us, they become artifacts of our brutalism. Echoing instincts of violence and otherness.

Now we grapple with the knowledge that all things have purpose. We sense, but often cannot see, the why of what is in front of us. If we are to be stewards - of a home, a hill, a planet, a cosmos - we must learn to welcome and support all necessary purposes.

The vulture is grotesque because it spends its day burying its face in grotesqueness. It dines on rot and death. Shall we end these birds, smite them for their ugliness and appetites?

In so doing we would doom ourselves. The magic of vulture is to take the harm out of death, to tend to death and guard the bridge between what has gone and what is yet to be. Any disgust is not inherent in the act, but laid upon it by our cultural values.


Even those whose actions we do not understand, and would condemn, have purpose. This awareness does not heal the hurts, nor excuse the harm. But it does give us the chance to ask: what is this person showing about the way we live? How can we deepen into compassion? Harm is not dealt to the victim alone, and both are deserving of healing.


Angels wear strange wings, here where mystery becomes material. Archetypes - like vulture - are a doorway between the crudeness of form and the fineness of spirit. When we see the divine in the despicable, we have found the key.

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