Saturday, November 18, 2006
Edited 1.20pm Saturday Nov 18...
Apologies for any incoherence or bad grammar-- there has been much wine. Plus, it is 4.00 am.
I was blessed to be engaged in two separate amazing conversations today. Well, no, three. The first was a text message exchange with a new friend, who shares my love of comics -- his blog is now listed at left. (Hi Ryan!) That was fun, even if he was texting during class (bad, bad, bad. But forgivable, since it amused me.)
After "Theories of Autonomy class," I went out for coffee with two folks from my program, one of whom is a died-in-the-wool atheist & ardent feminist, and the other raised pretty strongly Protestant, who's a little more conservative. The latter is a good friend of mine, and the former someone I like very much, though we're not yet close. We ended up having a great conversation about religion, the way it works, and the way it plays out in the public sphere. I felt like I kind of played a bridging role between the two, having been agnostic for so many years, yet also seeing the way in which recognizing my relationship to God starts changing my way of perceiving the world.
The main thing that became apparent during this conversation was that, though we were all three of us operating on very different principles and understandings, we were able to discourse together and move forward. We talked about religion vs. secularism, and how that opposition was ridiculous, because really, insofar as we all had hope for a better future, we were all somehow united.
Somehow, we still believe in this crazy species. Bizarre, eh?
The second conversation was with a Jesuit scholastic whom I'm slowly growing to like, through I'm still hesitant to call him a friend. With friends, I want to be totally open about my hopes & fears, and while I can be friends with people who don't share my political, social & religious beliefs, there still needs to be a basic comfort level there. And trust. And love (in a broad sense). Whereas with this person, I worry about us not ever really being able to see eye to eye.
Fittingly, we had an entire conversation was about how he & I pretty much had opposite upbringings -- him American, me Canadian; him homeschooled, me public schooled; him one of 8 children, me an only child; him Catholic, me raised agnostic/atheist; him not ever really knowing non-Catholics, me having Muslim, Hindu & Jewish girls in my Brownie & Girl Guide groups (I have a vague memory from Girl Guides of having to make sure that there were pork hot dogs for the Hindu brownies and beef hot dogs for the Muslim and Jewish brownies... I guess at the time veggie dogs were less popular?); he and his whole family are pro-life, me & my family - not so much. I was definitely raised firmly pro-choice.
Now, I know my Canadian friends are probably rolling your eyes at this description of my Jesuit acquaintance. But I will mention that he was also raised regularly visiting prisons, working with the poor, and is concerned that Jesuit missions in Latin America not be colonialist, but rather encourage the people to fight off poverty and oppression (he had criticisms of Protestant missions for being too pro-America, giving out TV's in exchange for acquiescing to Jesus). So don't write off his politics prima facie. It doesn't work quite that simply.
More to the point, we were able to have this conversation in a friendly and jovial way, and we were able to move past it onto other things. We do have a lot in common. And while a t-shirt he once wore rubbed me the wrong way (it had a slogan that made me very uncomfortable), he's a good guy.
So, here's the question. It's not just the US that's pretty divided by the so-called 'culture wars.' It's the whole world. The Anglican church might undergo schism over gay marriage, women bishops & gay bishops. Europe doesn't know how to integrate Muslim identities into its sense of itself beyond bare 'tolerance' -- it doesn't know if it can incorporate Muslim insights into a positively transformed Europe. No one knows how to integrate religion in general, whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish, whatever, into the public sphere (I'm not up, at the moment, on the current status of the BJP in India, but last I checked, there were issues there too).
Without giving up on fundamental commitments that we hold dear, no matter who we are (progressives don't get a 'pass' just 'cause we're progressive... that just doesn't hold up to scrutiny) -- how can we negotiate all this? Because on one level we're talking across incommensurable differences -- utter abysses of fundamental grounding principles.
But on the other level, we're all human, and we are able to love each other.
It's 4.16 am, and I'm a little inebriated, and I don't have any great insight here. I'm just saying that I've often been in situations that I've been conscious of conversations happening across seemingly unbridgeable divides. So -- guess what -- they're obviously not unbridgeable.
There's still fucking hope for us all.
Love you all.
jane 4:06 AM [+]