Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Love Opens All Doors

Back when I was a graduate student, I took a great course on policy making which focused on systems of understanding, the lenses we put on when we view a problem and those we may never remove that may prevent us from seeing solutions.  One of her best quotes that stayed with me was a cautionary reminder to all who live around DC, not to allow the political lens to dominate, because it would mean we would never trust the motivation of anyone; we would devalue all decisions as calculated self interest chess moves.  She did not want a class full of cynics who knew the meaning of everything and the value of nothing. 

I also took a class on Epistimologies, required of all students.  It articulated the concept that there were "Ways of knowing," unique to the shared experiences of cultural/historical/physical groups: white and African American, male and female, hetero-sexual, homosexual, and that how one integrated the responses of the world around one, was filtered through this "Way of Knowing."  This class troubled me greatly because of the subsequent premise I will now put forth: If there are ways of knowing that one cannot access because one cannot be part of a set --one cannot change race, and at the time, one could not change gender, then there are "Ways of Ignorance" so to speak. 

The whole construct of a way of knowing indicates that this sort of knowledge is insular, secretive, and unknowable by those not in the protected class.  Ergo, the ignorance of others of that way of knowing is not born of malice, but of an unreachable reality, and the chipping away at it can only happen if 1) the non member comes to believe there is a way of knowing that he/she is incapable of comprehending 2) then acknowledges the legitimacy of the unknowable reality and 3) acquiesces to whatever truths thus revealed as being truth that cannot be known except in an incidental and secondary manner.  Suffering, in deed, all of experience becomes unsharable, empathy virtually impossible, sympathy, a pandering attempt to pretend to understand what one cannot by definition comprehend because one hasn't shared the experience. You can only peek through the keyhole of the class, bridging the gap is on a person by person basis and it is never more than partial.  The doors cannot be thrown open to all.

Put together, we have the cautionary tale of not wearing a single lens to view all of life that by definition distrusts all human beings motivations and the secondary premise that knowledge and experience are not truly sharable because language is insufficient to convey the reality; what one person means by something is not what another means by the same words, ergo we cannot actually really reach each other if our worlds are too disparate; my way of knowing cannot be yours.  We cannot really share our stories or connect them beyond the fringe edges.

That may seem to be putting it too strongly, but I did not see that there was a parameter one could not deliberately insert to make one's self more insular.  The ways of knowing the world are not limited by one's gender and race, there's faith, politics, background, level of education, age, marital status, income, I could think of countless ways to dissect and parse reality to make one's own life less accessible to others; to make reality more singular and unsharable.

Additionally, the arguments put forth in this class did not seem to consider access to new ways of knowledge to be something one could aspire to having, we could only understand the patterns and lens as articulated from an internal member.  Creating insurmountable mental walls around classes seemed to me a short hop skip and a jump from creating insurmountable mental walls around individuals, so that we could become unreachable frozen in our hurt and own private hell. 

In this day and age, there is a great temptation to presume that whatever our situation, our pain, our cross, our cares, whatever our personal baggage is, that it is somehow singular and therefore unique; that no one can actually heal whatever it is because no one other than us, fully comprehends the nature of our suffering and it is unfixable. It is part of the consequence of having a culture that cherishes and promotes a belief in epistimologies, and these dictate our experiences are unsharable, unconnected and alien to each other, and that all truth that we hold transcends our own experience is fiction developed by our own epistemological blind spots. The culture of the world gambles on our embracing in our egoistic manner, the uniqueness of our understanding of our suffering, and likewise sinful blindness to others as proof of our incapacity to comprehend anything beyond our own experience. It is designed to drive us both into insatiable wrath at a world that cannot understand us, and ultimate despair because our own world is so injured and irreparable.  It is a small wonder that we now are a Prozac nation, seeking a pill to make all the pain we think no one else is experiencing, go away so we can be normal and non suffering like all the other people out there in the world.  Why if it is our nature to be like no one else, do we cry out desperately to  be like everyone else?  Answer, we are not aliens.  We are not other.  We are everybody else and ourselves, and our experiences however diverse in nature, are not that diverse in feeling.

The truth is that the world is suffering, big and little, global and singular, for the 1 and the 99% and the pain of it is inescapable by any means but grace.  It is filled with papercuts and snarky comments, pains that are physical and ones that preoccupy one's whole mind all day for weeks on end. Dullness and desire for wanting for those who never know want and want that drives one to dullness if want is all one knows. There are wolves everywhere that rip at our spirits, and winds that cut fingers and faces when we just wish for once, it would be easier.   It would be easier if we believed we weren't the only ones being stalked by the wolves, houdned by fear or pain, if we recognized that everything that is and isn't, comes with a choice of how we respond, and that the choices we face today and now are not so different from those faced 1000 or 4000 years ago, or from those 1000 or 4000 years from now; to love or not, to forgive, or not, to help or not, to do or not, to add to the beauty or curse the ugliness, these are our choices, not fight or flight, but create feast or stay starving.  Rest or stay running ragged.  Pray or stay anxious. 

For Catholics, the Catholic lens is supposed to be in place of our eyes, so that we see with the eyes of Christ first, rather than through a political lens or a capitalist or American or feminist or what have you. For Catholics, the lens is that Our God understands all, and loves us all, understanding intimately the all that is us, even our sin, even our private sufferings, and that the only true way of knowing is a way of loving. It is the only way that opens all doors.

Editor's Note: Not sure why I needed to write all of this but it hounded me all morning and now I can let it go. 

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