I am not one to bust out a Bible story to make my point. I am more likely to turn to Greek mythology, literature, movies or even unproven anecdotes to prove my position. However sometimes an Old Testament story (or myth, depending on your take on the good book) is just the ticket. The other night He-weasel was watching a Discovery or History Channel show (which ever channel it is that has tons of shows about airplanes, WW2, Hitler and sharks) and they were talking about the story of Lot and his wife and how when they were told to relocate out of the city and into the burbs Mrs. Lot was not at all happy with her lot in life. As soon as I heard the story I couldn’t help but see some personal parallels with this salty sister.
Mrs. Lot wanted to stay in the city. She liked Chicago or Sodom and Gomorrah or whatever city it was that the Lots lived and it had taken her a very long time to find the perfect condo with a northern exposure and a view of the Red Sea—- and it had taken even longer to decorate it (it takes forever to get fabrics imported from Egypt). Mrs. Lot liked having access to the R.T.C.S., the Rapid Transit Chariot System. She liked the good restaurants that were just a short camel ride away from and then there was the great theater( they had just purchased season tickets to see the new works of Aristophanes). And there were all the cultural opportunities for the girls: museums, scarf dancing lessons and great schools with the latest technology including the I-abacus pads. It had taken them forever to make new friends as S&G; was not a town that was kind to strangers and after a lot of effort they finally had made some friends they could have over for hookah and hummus or who they could watch the Monday Night Camel Races with or even play a rousing game of Trivial Pursuit: The Old Testament Edition.
Mrs. Lot was sick and tired of the nomadic life of her wandering Jew of a husband. Just as soon as the Lots got settled in Gomorrah, Mr. Lot got news that he was being transferred by his boss, Mr. G. And Mr. G would not take no for an answer. Seriously, if he had said no it would have not just been the death of Mr. Lot’s career—it would have been a literal death. That didn’t stop Mrs. Lot from pitching a holy fit. Out of desperation she suggested they consider a commuter marriage. He could go back to being a road warrior and with all the frequent flier points that he would earn on his travels they could take romantic getaways to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and/or meet-up for romantic weekends at Bed and Breakfasts in Bethlehem. Mr. Lot wouldn’t hear of it. So they packed up the dromedary U-haul and headed toward the suburbs. When they were just about to leave the city gates Mr. Lot warned his despondent wife to not look back at their old home town. He had seen a Dr Phil special on “How to survive the stress of moving” and Phil had told the audience filled with the seven tribes of Abraham that the only way to endure a 40-year road trip is not to turn back, he also advised not hording delicious carbs that fell from the sky but that is another story. Mrs. Lot knew Dr. Phil was right and yet she couldn’t help herself. And so she did it.
If you listen to the Bible’s take on all this Mrs. Lot was punished for her relocation reluctance by turning into a salt sculpture. It is my argument, for this revisionist history, that Mrs. Lot was symbolically reified by her action in a metaphorical way. She lost her mobility by looking back. She was stuck in her mental and emotional state and she lost her fluidity and ability to move. I feel like I have a lot in common with Mrs. Lot. I didn’t want to leave Lake Bluff. I kept looking back. I thought, that at some level, that the looking back was wrong and even self-injurious—-but I see now how important the backward gaze to my lost home has served me. Sure it made me frozen and inactive for a while, but I am a believer that even frozen and inactive can be purposeful.
C.G. Jung said this about the subject: Looking back slowly becomes a habit, no matter how much you detest and try to suppress it….The backwards look will not fail to show you sides and aspects of yourself long forgotten and other ways of life you have missed or avoided before. The more your actual life becomes routine and habit, the less it will be satisfactory. If one has nothing to look forward to except the habitual things, life cannot renew itself any more. It gets stale, it congeals and petrifies, like Lot’s wife who could not detach her eyes from the things hitherto valued. Yet these insipid fantasies may also contain germs of real new possibilities or of new goals worthy of attainment. There are always things ahead, and despite all the overwhelming power of the historical pattern they are never quite the same.
In my fantasy of Mrs. Lot there will come a day for her when those who love her see the value of her salton nature ( Salt was VERY important back then. Salt preserved. Salt was more valuable than gold. Most major cities are where they are because there was salt there. So there has to be symbolic and/or literal value to being turned into salt). And I believe that Mrs. Lot will see what she has learned from her time of immobility. By really facing her grief for the life she left behind in S and G and not turning away from her feelings prematurely is what will ultimately liberate her from her frozen state. The tears that come with grief will soften her stance and movement will once again be possible. With that softening she will begin to look forward and see what possibilities and potential lie ahead of her in her new home at the Land of Milk and Honey Master-planned Community in which she and her family now live.
Like Mrs. Lot, I still look back to Lake Bluff and there are days when I still cry for the life I left behind. However, I find myself looking back less and less. Most days I am looking forward—even though I am not at all sure where I’m going.