By SARAH WU, MEL ARTHUR, and GABBY AVENA
I advocated for this theme within small circles of conversation partly because I know what it is like to feel reverence so profoundly, it becomes part of everyday existence. In reverence lies the essence of awe, of wonder, and as the dictionary adds, of respect. But existing within reverence to me means-meant cradling every laugh that scraped past my ribs to escape out a sometimes an unwilling mouth; gnawing on every delicious lie; breathing in and exhaling in a way that reaches beyond; and of course, touch. Touching a wound, an ache, a soft blue, on and on. The reverence that I hold-held so dearly, sits in what Toni Morrison writes as a “secondhand lonely,” handed to me by someone else alongside “circles and circles and circles of sorrow.” My reverence, mad envious, does-did not allow me to seek any other to color its definition. Not till Sarah, once again the person who inspired me with Bridges, spoke about what lies behind reverence. She asked, in much simpler terms, about what lurks at the edges of its intensive force and what builds reverence’s borders. I thought about that for some time and attempted to fall in a way that prioritized a gentle witnessing into what else it could possibly mean. Here I say; I revere the lily Ross Gay wrote about as a delight because of the way it reached out of the page and kissed-kisses at my fingertips. I revere the way i cannot escape writing about the body in space, sometimes in blue, and always in the ache. I revere the way my piece feels scary to me with all its semi-circularity–terrifying in a way I can’t explain except to chokingly gasp at the please, and this is all I can write-ness of it all. I revere insufferable-delicate conversations that never reach the point about where softness lies. I awe at, I aw at my wondrous friends. I revere-, I revere the touch that shows I am living, that I remember. I revere mourning as an act of rebirth. I revere healing that is improper. And. I and I sit at this crossroads, an in-between of forward motions and backward descending. I and I, to you, to me somewhere here nor there, onwards.
My Latin coursework compels me to state that the word reverence, meaning deep respect, derives from the prefix re-, expressing intensive force, in conjunction with the infinitive vereri, meaning “to fear.” Reverence, then, can be read as a fear felt with such intensive force that it sublimates into a kind of admiration. It recalls the words of Donna Tartt, who wrote that “whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it.” Reverence to me balances upon this razor’s edge between beauty and terror––it expresses the boundlessness of both; it is the gnawing awe of annhiliation; it is not unlike the sublime, the splendid which stupefies the mind. It is the kind of love that costs. It is spoken best through trembling.
It thus feels more appropriate to say that one can be in “reverence of” or have “reverence for” an object than to say that an object can hold “reverence in” it. I like to imagine reverence as a slippery kind of substance, like air, always seeping out of slits. What a task, then, to ask people to write to this theme, to ask them to try to contain the uncontainable in a less than 1,000 word piece. Perhaps that is why more pieces this semester used the medium of poetry, to “give name to the nameless so that it can be thought,” in the words of Audre Lorde. There is a way in which, like the word reverence itself, these pieces gesture towards something we cannot ever fully hold.
Between these pages, I hope you catch a glimpse of it––the way reverence blurs in the shutter’s eye, how it tranfixes us like art in a museum, how it resounds in the warning rap of a parent’s knuckles, how it breathes in a soft sigh. This issue of The Indicator does not demand your reverence––in that it does not require you to venerate its every tale. But it does demand that you be reverent––in that it places you within the airsea of that unspeakable emotion, trembling.
Hold a small fire in the process of burning. Gently do so, cup it in your palms. Feel it breathe against your skin. It whispers dry secrets and promises, and you cradle it with such softness that a wick jumps to life. It glows with an intensity found nowhere else, tiny and quiet and, so so hungry. Burn, fire, burn. It tickles against your fingertips, nipping and biting. Burnt flesh singes against your nose. You clutch the fire close to your heart—you, the owner, so reverent—as your willing flesh smolders and decays to the ever-so-bright insides of the flame.
Reverent is a fire that burns without any visible tinder. Only remnants of promises and care seep out to fuel your desires. You revere your parents; your parents have raised you for so long that they have become an imprint into your soul // you revere your God; your God has borne your existence and allowed you to live // you revere your lover; your lover ignites something that makes you believe you can do anything for them. Reverence is derived from a love that is softly intense, often meshed with existence and meaning, and religious conviction.
But what does faith mean in a world that emphasizes the importance of rational logic and reasoning? I think, especially in the age of rational reason, the concept of reverence holds a lot of doubt—fear even. How can one measure a type of love that often implies irrationality, impracticality, insanity? The loss of control to an emotional reverence brings upon a curious sense of twisted anxiety. This is what would like you to focus on. Religion, family, and desire: all easily manipulated, burnt, and set in flames. I would like you to lean into this fear, this instinctual feeling of anxiety that comes with the thought of blind trust. I would like to ask you to write a story of lovely, fearful, burning flesh.