Deconstruction: A Quick and Unpoetic Introduction
Deconstruction has been like falling.
Or, like flying.
I am yet to decide which.
It started with a whisper. A recognition — or revelation, if you like — that something wasn’t quite right in the narrative I had been taught to believe. The whisper compelled me to ask questions, not just of my community and what I had swallowed as true; but of myself, too.
As I searched, read, wondered, and examined — the whisper (and look, honestly, the research that is available and accessible) showed me the gaps, the cracks, and the pieces that don’t belong anymore. I began to recognise that the worldview I had held for so long was like an old jigsaw we are trying to force together for sentimentalities sake, some things just shouldn’t be taught anymore, some things just shouldn’t be forced together.
I wonder if this is why the church — and any other institution of power — is so afraid of our questions, scared of us “stepping out of line”.
I wonder if we aren’t all trying to protect narratives we inherited. Narratives we have never been given permission to let go of, to examine, to question, to reinvent. Narratives we could join, but not face.
I wonder if we aren’t all afraid of the cracks in the story.
It’s easier to hold this fear than to face it. I mean, it’s easy to pretend everything’s okay, if you ignore the fact that everything is on fire. So long as you are persistent in ignoring the flames that threaten to swallow you whole.
Easier said than done. For me, anyway.
That’s where deconstruction came in for me. I chose to face the flames. I chose to ask the questions. I chose to listen to the whisper and seek not just the understanding I had inherited.
And if you’ve never been told it’s okay to ask questions, let me say this now — here is your permission slip.
Deconstruction is about examining, critiquing, and understanding.
Although if you ask most of the people I used to know, the word probably coincides with “sells-soul-to-the-devil-and-eats-puppies-for-breakfast”. I know it should go without saying, but neither of those things need to be present when deconstructing.
Instead, it’s about taking apart the structures that have existed as safe wholes for too long, and studying the pieces that we hold in our hands.
What are they made up of? What do these walls stand on? Why is this the foundation? Why do they make this claim? Where does it come from, though? Why is this phrase considered truth when it doesn’t appear anywhere in the text you’re reading from? Why am I swallowing this whole — is it to feel better, or because it’s true? How do I know it is true?
You get the idea.
For me, it started as a light in the corner of the room. It was bright, but small. It seemed like I was the only one seeing it.
It started to cast a light on one word: context.
I was watching the Sunday teachings and I was researching theology and the texts and my god my heart was burning in my chest as I realised the two things were not the same.
You know, like recognising that the texts we were basing our entire 21st century capitalist lives on were art pieces created in a specific context, a specific time and place, and with a specific purpose and meaning for a specific individual or group of individuals. Yet, still watching people “copy and paste” texts to apply for a context it was never meant for. It broke my heart.
As the light grew, and it cast shadows across the room I’d dubbed ‘home’, I looked around wildly. Does no one else see it? Suuuuurely there is someone else who is seeing this? So I’d ask people, under my breath, making myself small as possible — “are you sure this is the way it is supposed to be?”
Are you sure the only answer is to pray, and let god manage something I can use my hands for? Are you sure that we are meant to expect miracles, when that doesn’t seem to be recorded anywhere? Are you sure we are meant to believe that men are the higher gender and thats not been taken out of context? Are you sure that as a woman I can’t be present in my body, because my body is sinful inherently? Are you sure this sin you talk about it actually what you think it is? Are you sure we shouldn’t leave a toxic and awful relationship just because your god says divorce is bad? Are you sure we should have more Christian friends than non-Christians? Are you sure we can’t vote greens in politics? Why can’t I read a Rob Bell book? Why the fuck is an ethics class in university talking about the bible as the absolute location of ethics when it was never intended that way?
Again, you get the idea.
The answer would be a questioning gaze, narrowed eyes — scrutinising me. I was the problem, now. Not the fire that was steadily growing. Me. *Sigh. So I would quickly laugh it off and jump to reassembling the version of myself they wanted. The girl who pretended and performed and was literally taught how to pretend and perform in the right way to fit in in that environment.
Honestly, the worst was when no one saw the light, but when I asked them “are you sure?” they answered, with tear filled eyes — “No, not at all.”
My god, I wanted to be wrong. I wanted to leave the questions and the seeking and ignore it all. It was so much easier to pretend the building wasn’t burning to the ground. But once I had seen, I had become responsible. I knew I couldn’t stop.
I couldn’t, I can’t, be that girl anymore. It is a betrayal to all I am, all I have survived, and all I have fought to be.
I have been following that whisper for the last three years. Following research, seeking out understanding, and choosing to examine my worldview, instead of blindly following.
I don’t want to be blind.
My body has the delightful ability to see, to think, to reason, to rationalise, to understand, to examine, to seek, to dance, to wonder — and I plan to utilise her mind and all she is in all her fullness as I continue on in this journey.
Why are we content to ignore the questions?
All these words to say, perhaps there’s a little too much stigma around Deconstruction as a concept. What does it gain for us to ignore the questions, to let our fear win? What does it gain for us to be blind, leading the blind?
Maybe it is worthwhile to take the time to question our worldview. Whatever that means for you. Maybe it is safe, and exciting, and wonderful, to examine the beliefs we hold.
Maybe its more important that we continue to lean in to curiosity. Not just towards people, or worldviews, or belief systems. But to lean in with curiosity towards ourselves.
We don’t need a world where we all pretend we aren’t afraid and questioning. We don’t need a community who pretends and ignores their fear.
We have moved well past that era.
We need a world and a community and individuals who embrace the vulnerability of questions. Who embrace the magic of “not-having-our-shit-together” and “not-pretending-otherwise”.
That’s the kind of person I want to be.
Even if it means I can’t inhabit a familiar, safe, comfortable, burning building. Even if it means I have to do the work to examine my worldview.
Even if it means no more pretending.
I know I said this would be unpoetic, but I decided I’d rather end this with a poem — I wrote it in the early stages of my own deconstructing, and it was originally published on my website.
your legs come out from underneath you
and when you try to stop yourself from falling
arms behind you, back arching
there is no ground left
to catch you.
so you either
sink in to the fall
or you struggle against it —
pretend that you are not falling
that which you considered solid
has, in fact,
or perhaps it was never there?
maybe its best to let the fall take you,
to lean in and embrace
what’s next, what’s here
rather than keeping on pretending
because my god all I’ve ever done for these people is pretend.