Humanity/Divinity, Part II

As a tutor/instructor, I had this tendency not to wait. Not to pause. It might be because of my age. It might be because of my excitement over the knowledge. With all the bigger, stronger, faster kids, there was not the quickness that I expected. Because I had been separated from the slow kids, in the early stages of Advanced Placement, I had an expectation of quickness in a student. But one one day I discovered the Living God in the pauses, as a tutor — in all the vacant looks — this slowly evolving God who had to be discovered by the next generation. And since I was running out of time, I wanted to share all of my knowledge so fast. And there was the conflict. With a sixth grader.

The student who said she did not like to answer my questions. She did not like my method to discover what she did not know. I saw she was naked. And she wanted my knowledge, if not my help. There was a barrier if I could not question her to diagnose her missing knowledge, but she did not want my Plan of Action to get well. And she already was in college. I could see that she was headed for failure, with her idea that people should keep helping her – by supplying her with the answers. As a college freshman. As an exploited college freshman, by the system.

A prophet in his native land. As if you are entitled to have this protected status, carrying a name, as a descendant of the Prophet Abraham? Yes, over time a prophet becomes unwanted, like the presence of Ishmael was an unwanted intrusion, in his native land. There is the realness of raw emotions after a son seemingly lost if not his father, a closeness to his father. Like both Ishmael and Isaac, did, in the story of The Akedah. For a while. And did you note how the son really ends up saving the father …or, in the case of Ismael, the mother? In a collective memory of forgiveness of others in the name of a forgiving God, on issues of inheritance and birth right — note the discovery of forgiveness through the son, in all the Abrahamic religions — with all the eye-popping tension in the story between those who were not good enough with those who seemed to be too good, there is this indescribable pain which creates memory in a culture, in questions about an imitation of attachment, directed at union. After Abram, in The Call, gave up his homeland.

Advanced Placement.  The ‘Better than the rest?’ theology misconstrues everything about creation. That we – in my tribe – are better than the rest? Above them? So there was this sixth grader today who could not subtract.  What had happened?

I did not expect this. I told him to come back next week when I had three hours and not three minutes to spend with him – he had to get home for dinner. I had felt my own unease over his schooling. His teacher must have to contend with a certain amount of ease and unease every day in a school, with all of the discomfort in waiting for the right answer, over the First Command, to KNOW. When a sixth grader had all of this time, and at my age I did not.

No one with all of the public accommodation in public education is allowed to ask about a child’s spiritual development, in a world that now separates Church and State, as prayer becomes much more private.  One of the distinctive tradition in public ministry, in connecting private life – from a Jesuit education – has been teaching while using the available means of persuasion – in writing, in speech, in film, through music and dance, in the curriculum – about how to present myself quietly in public. To feel mostly connected, in public, to Creation.

Just as God is revealed to me in worship, from my worship … oh so gradually, I came to see things in the outside world… the revelation is this waiting, out of my own vacancy. For greater faith.

In the beginning, faith does not seem to be much. But over time, with action, faith does grow. And one day you wake up with more faith, having comprehended the displays if not the mystery of the wonders of Creation. From out of my own emptiness. 

Persuasion. With a holiness, in waiting.  For private individual growth. So what is this spirit within every human? How is this spirit developed? What are the principles at work concerning spiritual muscles? Exercised? So at what age spiritual development? The spirit ached after a while when it had no muscle. 

To name. To give someone an identity.  The challenge of the ethereal involves form and formation.  The same but different.  The variations on a theme.  The ‘Spiritual, not religious’ seemed reluctant to give the Creator a name. Why? Does the God question involve identity? Is there an excitement connected to the point when you really KNEW someone? Do I carry a spirit with my personality? And there is this silence connected to spirit.

How about the spiritual part – the part of me that I felt when there were no photos, no mirrors to look at – which constitutes spiritual identity? Who was I? Who am I? If the “to KNOW God?” part of faith ever reaches a part of what is called religion, if I choose to gather with a community? Does the “to KNOW” part of the identity of God, developing slowly into the identity of me, connecting, with an understanding about the forces within, which tethers any faith to the world? Shared belief is all that we have left in what comes from a faith, in the lingering presence after an ancestor is gone. With a wound in belonging, it was good that we were there to absorb, after using the available means of persuasion – with Spirit alone –in reaching acceptance. To plea so very little, not for more, in a world with so many who live on so very less. To listen is a prayer of persuasion, with the holiness in waiting.

With a beauty in the invisibility, the ‘God question’ should involve identity.  Many had difficulty with the absolute awe that there was a God without trying to figure out why. There was enough difficulty in the life of a being, any being, as with any love, to answer the question of why about themselves, without having to figure out the reason for God. It was hard enough one day to match up my identity living in the free world with the identity of God. And for a student who did not like to answer question, there would always be a need for help. Love is not a science … nor is God. When a student really knew so little, and English was her second language. And I could not help but to compare her to the sixth grader who had been passed along his entire life. Until he no longer belonged there — in the sixth grade. This college student was willing to be passed along, because she expected the world to keep helping her … with her “better than the rest” theology, maybe because she would have this college degree.

Yeah as a tutor/instructor, I had this tendency, from my questioning, not to wait — not to want to wait — for the answer. So I did a poor job with that college student by proof-reading her essay due in ninety minutes. In an essay she attempted to compare the Native American, an indigenous population with a higher suicide rate, with increasing violence within the indigenous community, to a lack of caring by the dominant culture. And she asked me to write her conclusion, after I spent close to sixty minutes proof-reading her paper that discussed how historically the native-born had been isolated on reserved lands, with their native language stolen, and the practice of their own religion prohibited. So I had collaborated in the process of cheating in correcting the errors that no paper should have at the college level, in a comparative essay about jobs in casinos to well-paying summer jobs that white kids got, which continued a process of power-keeping. When the conclusion should have been about what happened when people kept being just passed along, in an impersonal system, with so little understanding about the ways of coming to belong, with an emotional attachment to something or Someone you had come slowly to know, with a developed quickness over time in the real world. What she never interpreted from the reading material was how even women like her — she did wear a head scarf — can get isolated from people from their place of origin, with no one to turn to. And the elders did not know what to do, in this society, as the American Indian got weaker and weaken, threatened further with extinction. And with no one to question about their new experience, the entire tribe felt oh so vulnerable. The young woman was unable to express her own ideas, about the New World that she had entered — about how much she identified with the people here first who had their old world taken away, like her native land had been removed from her every day life. And she carried so little interest about the reasons that her new country is the way that it is. And for now, she did not want to answer my questions but hold onto her own isolation.

It can take some time to distinguish the difference between charity and a “just” charity, when a human gives their time to people in need of help. Why is there that need and what can I do to change the existence of the social problem/economic problem/moral problem? Like at a university, in one PLACE, what is a good commitment to true justice, in the relationship wedded together, of the human and the divine? Charity is good – addressing needs, like a mid-term paper that was due by the end of the session in thirty minutes, with a twenty minute commute to get to class, with no time for the pauses – but what is justice? Why is there that need, and what can I do to change the existence of the social problem/economic problem/moral problem, without just collaborating with my own kind of privileged knowledge? At one PLACE, there is this knowledge committed, at least from where I have come, to the relationship wedded together, of faith and justice…. of the human with the divine. For those still trying to reach some conclusion, in a world with so many problems and with students facing deadlines, the twenty minute documentary by Nico Sandi seems sure to lift up your heart.

English as a Second Language at Saint Paul College. Creighton University, Faith that does justice, Larry Gillick.


2 comments so far

  1. paperlessworld on

    System substitutions again. Note the circumcision, by Abraham, only after he went and fathered a child through his wife’s handmaid. So in the science of consequences, his first born son was a slave. If you did Algebra I.

    You should probably read ….

    Faith that does justice.

    Saving our public libraries in a paperless world

  2. paperlessworld on

    The first words read, Dennis Hamm writes, that Jesus speaks in this gospel are: “What are you looking for?”

    The Fourth Gospel is written in very simple sentences, straightforward in structure. In an exchange apparently so ordinary, until you have heard or read the whole Hebrew Bible and then this New Testament, Dennis Hamm, SJ, writes, you comes to realize that the simple language is much deeper than it sounds at first. This really is a quite profound exchange which usually escapes the first-time reader.

    How do you, right now, answer the identity question which is tied to place and time? Look at the answer in the exchange in one of the deepest open-ended questions a person can ask another, and discover the importance of PLACE in the reply:

    In the exchange in one of the deepest open-ended questions a person can ask another, and discover the importance of PLACE in the reply: “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “WHERE are you staying?”

    He said to them, “Come and you will see.”

    So do you hear here the question G*d asked Adam immediately after he had eaten the apple – “Where art thou, Adam?” Or had Adam been addressed even by name, in a question about PLACE …. Or in a question about lost place, or in the process of the PLACE lost?

    Dennis Hamm, SJ, of Creighton University writes: “To paraphrase, menein, the word translated ‘stay,’ means something deeper than what is your current address …. this word refer to a person’s source of being and ultimate purpose.” The ‘Come and discover’ invitation is about the importance of PLACE – the foundation of PLACE – in the source of your life. And did you note the same openness in the reply as was part of the open-ended question?

    Dennis Hamm, SJ, of Creighton University writes: “So who—really, down deep—are you?” In this conversation with strangers, in your open “public” life – the ‘From where do you come, Master?’ question asked – is “What—really, down deep—are you seeking as your life?” Power? Wealth? Relief from pain, hunger? Relief from loneliness? Knowledge? Love? Pleasure? Openness? Truth? Or landscapes of power, wealth, knowledge?

    And so the Readings on a Sunday after the archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis announced their seeking protection under the laws of bankruptcy.

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