Wednesday, August 24, 2005

stop being perfect

For friends of me (which you can all consider yourselves), there’s been a slight change of plans. I’m no longer leaving the country for Zapatista territory, but may soon be traversing Asia’s good earth. Kelsey and I co-authored an essay about Christian feminist organizational models that’s being published by the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), which will be presented in Thailand at AWID’s international forum in October. Putting meekness aside, I guess you could say we will soon be internationally renowned.

In the meantime, a new acquaintance through my Mexico connections writes for Left Turn Magazine, and I highly highly recommend reading her reflections on their blog. Kristin is studying at the Oventic language school in Chiapas, which I hope to see someday:

“The promotores utilize a variety of educational tools: songs, dance, conversation, movies, walks in the woods, and classes on rocks in the river. They have exceptional knowledge of linguistics that is both poetic and revolutionary. In one of our first classes, we learned that "el 'problema' es masculino, pero la 'solucion' es feminina." When the more advanced class learned the subjunctive verb tense, they discussed a theory that only imperialist languages have subjunctives, which they force on the people they attempt to conquer.”

Sign me up. Although it looks like a strong wind will be carrying me to the East Coast just about the time the leaves begin to turn. Perfection is tossed to the wind as my plans crumble, but I suspect to find a new redemptive force igniting the leaves as they fall, turning them to ash before reaching the ground. Thus I dance through the gales and move delicately onward…

“Deixa a vida me levar (let life lead me)…” -Zeca Pagodinho

Thursday, August 11, 2005

someone is knocking

so i'm spending the week at the open door community in atlanta. man this place is rad. i am guarding against the infatuation that creeps up upon discovering this community...but at the same time, this is the closest embodiment to enacting the beloved community that i have found.

open door is based on the catholic worker model of intentional community, where about half the residents are formerly of privilege (must divest themselves of all financial assets upon joining) and the other half are formerly from the streets, often recovering from addiction or mental illness. catholic worker was founded by dorothy day, a christian anarchist, who is known for her calling to 'comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.'

so, a brief illustration of my time here. besides interaction with the surprising number of ministers and former academics who have found a calling to this place....yesterday i worked the breakfast shift where we feed people (family style though, no lines or rush) and i wore the che tshirt i got at fmln headquarters in san salvador. at first i realized i was wearing that in a house of pacifists and felt a bit self-conscious, but then it got me in a couple of conversations while i was serving. one with george--a mentally ill vet who reminded me it could be an insult to vets who fought communists in vietnam since che helped castro, but he was kind about it. i'm not sure i entirely agree with his logic but i learned some about him anyway.

then another guy, butch, with bloodshot eyes and few teeth, asked me how much i paid for my shirt, mentioning that che shirts can sell for 100 dollars downtown. so ironically, it could be a symbol of my class. i tried to explain that i got the shirt in el salvador....but later we talked again and it turns out he lived in cuba a couple of years, and was from louisville, so we connected over that and had quite a good conversation about the necessity of armed resistance, even talking about the black panthers and malcolm x here.

this experience has once again confirmed that i can be so arrogant. both in my thoughts and my demeanor, as i carry my class in my speech and body language. this morning i helped with showers and found that there are many 'intellectuals' roaming the streets, who follow politics more closely than i do. makes sense i guess, as it so directly affects their everyday existence.

one final word, thanks to the wandering hermit again for thoughts. i struggle with omnipotence--especially here, in a place where god's power may be the only hope many of us can cling to--yet there is still a fragmented beauty through the relationships we form, however hopeless the scene may appear. anyhow, i leave you with a final thought from my friend kristy: perhaps realizing that god lacks omnipotence is not our true fear, but rather the belief that god is indeed omnipotent and yet chooses not to act. why?

today we sang this song, "life is but a melancholy flower..."

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

so the most powerful woman went out

I've decided to avoid news and media coverage for the next month, a sort of self-imposed sabbatical from all that is wrong with the world. Besides my mother being glued to CNN's coverage of the high school flag core's missing blonde member, I've been pretty successful....but was sucked back in this morning noticing a new posting on Forbes.

Forbes' list, the World's 100 Most Powerful Women, features the usual suspects--from Condoleeza and Wu Yi to Oprah (maybe Tiffany's will get the message this time). Of course, what struck me is how power is measured--primarily in dollars, factored in with political power, which is also seemingly measured by dollars. The richest nations'/corporations' leaders make the top of the list, and it plays out from there. Now, besides the LUDICROUS poll that accompanies the article "Does Gender Still Hold Women Back?", a few thoughts have me riled up this morning.

Now, while the list does include eight humanitarians, these women still hold considerable political clout: Queen Rania of Jordan, for example, or Melinda Gates of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (also notably attached to powerful man). Certainly to be an activist one must maintain voice within the political (and economic) systems at play, and not that Forbes is the definitive voice by any means, but this pushes the question--how much does power enable us to do good, while at the same time acknowledging that absolute power corrupts absolutely?

Furthermore, I am a bit disgruntled (although not surprised) that money is the root of power measurements here....while a large source of power for women seems to be ignored. Spirituality. I'm not speaking about the political and economic power held by the pope or within our corporate church institutions, but the historical appeal by women, usually mystics, to a higher power than earthly systems. Calling from God. Listening to the voice of the divine and wielding spiritual vision that allows women to break out of the socialized boundaries placed upon our gender, and accomplish many compassionate works along the way. Granted even some of these women, like Joan of Arc, also ended up influencing politics....but regardless of the end result, such power must not be ignored.

The funny thing is, while I highlight women's right to appeal to God/divine spirit as a source of power, neither am I sure that God is omnipotent as Christian theology asserts. I wrestle with this one, and also the notion of God's authority as greater than human systems, as I hope to deconstruct the need for power and authority altogether (unless such things could be distributed equally, which I admit seems pretty much impossible). Not power over, but power within, to do, to act, to be. I am and we are. But I'm still learning, and if anything, that suggests my need to tap into something greater, to carry on...