The Silences of Job
Evolution of Satan
First Lesson --Intro
Fifth--To the End
Putting it Together
Putting it Together II
SONG of SOLOMON
The Lovers--ch. 5
Lovers VI--ch. 8
Sex and Rape in the Song of Solomon VI
Bill Long 12/26/08
Dissociating from the Event and Learning from It
How does she react to the brutality of the attack on her by the watchers of the city? 5:8 tells us:
"I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
if you find my beloved,
tell him this:
I am faint with love."
In a word, and in the language of 21st century psychology, she is "dissociating." As we in our time have become aware of the prevalence of child abuse and rape and other expressions of violent victimization of people, we also have learned about the 'coping strategies' or methods people use to deal with the trauma that has been visited on them. As this web site says,
"Dissociation is the disconnection from full awareness of self, time, and/or external circumstances. It is a complex neuropsychological process. Dissociation exists along a continuum from normal everyday experiences to disorders that interfere with everyday functioning.."
Thus, there can be "normal" dissociation, such as "losing oneself" in a book or movie or other experiences that help one "escape" from the realities at hand, to severe dissociation, called "Poly-fragmented Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)," which was formerly known as "Multiple Personality Disorder." In the latter case, people disconnect from reality as a result of "sadistic abuse by multiple perpetrators over an extended period of time."
In any case, you get the picture. We use the language of "dissociation" today in psychology to describe a spectrum of withdrawal or "unreal" reactions to abuse. If we look at the Lover's words in the context of this mode of thinking, we have an almost perfect match. She has been abused and raped; her garment has been taken from her. A "normal" reaction would be to call the equivalent of 9-1-1 (but maybe the sentinels were the Hebrew equivalent of 9-1-1) but here she just calls upon the daughters of Jerusalem to tell her Beloved, if they should see him, that she is "faint with love." In fact, she is faint with loss of blood, or she is faint because of her beatings or she is faint because of the trauma visited upon her. She needs a rape kit and a trauma team and not to jump into bed with her Beloved at this moment. Rather than crying to the daughters of Jerusalem for directions to her Beloved, she should, if she were in her "right" mind, be calling on God for vengeance against her attackers or, at least, for healing to her wounded body and spirit. But perhaps the attack was too fresh; she hasn't yet had its fullness "sink in" to her; so she just "dissociates" and thinks that she wants to see her Beloved. If he sees her, however, his first reaction would be: "We need to get you to a doctor.."
Rounding It All Out: Song of Solomon 8:3-4
If the last thoughts on this encounter were those in 5:8, the text would be sad indeed. We would take it perhaps as just a terrible vignette in the "plaid" garments of life. But my contention in general and, specifically after studying further, is that pain in life is usually redeemable in some way. It is redeemed by wisdom or insight, or an ability to help other people or greater understanding. Thus, I was "looking" in a sense to see if this terrible situation is in any way "redeemed" by the end of the book.
There are many exciting and beautiful poetic passages after 5:8, and they are not necessarily related to what precedes or what follows, but the most exciting one for me in connection with what I have been discussing is the brief poetic fragment in 8:3-4. I went there because here is also another exhortation to the "daughters of Jerusalem" to do something. Thus, a natural "bridge" to 5:8 is created. Our text runs:
"8:3 O that his left hand were under my head,
and that his right hand embraced me!
4 I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
do not stir up or awaken love until it is ready!"
Two things are important for this passage. First, note the placement of the hands of the Beloved. Then, note the adjuration given by the Lover to the "daughters of Jerusalem." In contrast to 5:4, where his hand went to the "opening," here his left hand is (as she imagines) under her head, and his right hand embraces her. They are not engaged in the lustful, out of control bodily exploration of 5:2ff. Despite the fact that feelings are just as strong (you can't read the poetry in chs. 6 and 7 without being convinced of that), they have learned now to deal with the feelings in a different way. Rather than building up the lust for a quick explosion, which was followed by the awful and painful encounter the Lover had with the watchmen of the city, we now have a "gentler" kind of love, a love that is no less sincere but one that puts its hands in different places. Now, it is the neck and shoulders that are important..touch them, embrace them.
Second, the Lover's dissociative reaction in 5:8 is "redeemed" by her later reaction in 8:4. Instead of being "faint with love," which in fact she was probably faint through loss of energy or blood, here she has wisdom to teach. Instead, therefore, of being vulnerable and open to all kinds of bad things to enter her life, she is in a "teaching" mode. What does she have to teach all lovers? That you don't excite love "until it is ready." When it it "ready?" Well, we could probably come up with a number of scenarios, from marriage to a fully committed and understanding relationship--a relationship which understands that the man's role is not just to "get his" and then walk away but that she needs, also, the kind of attention that he requires. She has learned the hard way, but now she wants to use the pain of her learning to instruct others who come within earshot.
I think one has to go through a lot to "hear" her message. One first of all has to take the Song of Solomon seriously as love poetry. To rush quickly to allegory or to an interpretive principle that doesn't seem obviously to rise out of the text is, it seems to me, an escape rather than an encounter with text--a kind of "theological dissociation." But then, once you see this as love poetry, you face the additional hurdle of the interpretation of shadowy phrases and the constraints of religious tradition in doing so. Then, third, you have to be willing to see the various parts of the Song of Solomon as speaking to each other, like antiphonal responses between preacher and congregation. When you go through all of these hurdles, you might just come up with something very valuable but very difficult to attain: patient waiting in sexual matters. That is probably the best advice that can be given to young people today, even if it comes from someone who was raped before she learned the lesson she teaches all of us.
Copyright © 2004-2009 William R. Long