I have been thinking it's high time I posted a fresh reflection here but have lately been keeping my mind busy with other things; namely news and novels, personal journaling and one-on-one communications. I have decided to take advantage of an instance of the latter, an e-mail correspondence with good friend from Kentucky, a man I consider to be a mentor, in which I articulated some of the dominating thoughts that have been rambling about my brain of late. I am only including my response to what he wrote in response to my first message as I don't feel comfortable making a message he wrote to me personally, public. I hope having this appear out of context doesn't make it completely incomprehensible:
Yes, I didn’t expect you to be enthused about the Catholicism considerations. For the most part only my Catholic associations and some other folks who have long been straddling the fence are optimistic that I will set my cap on that institution. The view of it as an institution (which would appear so glaringly obvious to the more logical pursuant)is the little detail that continues to put a spoke in my wheel. There is much about the Church that is not appealing to me–much of what is contained in your message–and I find myself wondering if it is possible to take on what I do love (namely, the sacraments, the sense of community, the philosophy of some of the great writers and thinkers and doers) and leave aside what I don’t. The problem with taking on a label though (e.g. “Catholic”) is that you begin to represent the whole of it and not just the parts you favor (this is why for so long I avoided calling myself “vegetarian” and would only say, “I am just not eating meat right now.” The former sets in assumptions and indicates categories, the latter invites questions and illustrates choices). It is something I continue to wrestle with. For a time I tried to settle in as a woman detached from the idea of God, but I find that belief in this Being is so integrally a part of my identity that abandoning religion doesn’t satisfy me; it doesn’t feel true either intellectually or emotionally. Nevertheless, my understanding of God is one of mystery and for any person or institution to try to iron out the details seems a false step to me. So that is an issue too. I suppose the hope would be not to emulate the history of the Catholic tradition but to learn from it and work toward refining it whilst benefiting from some of the practices and theology that I do find edifying as well from the sense of being rooted and connected as I continue to grow and explore. Enough about that for now.
As for Haiti, of course I realize that there is a chasm tremendously wide and deep between my own experience of voluntary fasting and the suffering that is experienced there. I think that is part of what made the connection so poignant, this knowledge that while I could at any point choose to eat, a majority of the people there (even before this earthquake, as you noted) do not have that option. The connection was not a sense that we are the same, but a pointed reminder of my extreme privilege. A privilege I felt too as I laid in bed and fended off the chill in my body by wrapping it in blankets all the while safely within four walls and beneath a strong roof; yet another gift so often taken for granted. I don’t know what to make of all this except that it intensifies my sense of responsibility, not just in being mindful of how I live my life (avoiding waste and damage to the environment and others, being loving towards those I encounter, etc) but also being mindful of how others live and how I might take advantage of my excess and use it as an opportunity to propel myself into a position where I can work toward lessening another’s deprivation. That said, I have thought about going to Haiti and seeing things for myself, but in what capacity, I don’t know. One of the things that weighs on me most is, as you mentioned, the lack of any stable infrastructure or system of governance that would allow for the present aid being offered to lead toward sustainable change and benefit for the country. But, much as I increasingly recognize the importance of politics, I don’t believe that I’ve a real capacity for being particularly helpful in that arena. I have loved the learning that’s been happening for me here with this group of activists and idealists, but I hope to take the challenges and inspiration they’ve offered and translate it into something more relevant to my intrinsic gifts. If only I had a keener sense of what that means! Perhaps that would amount to something I could bring with me to Haiti to offer in return for the life-education I would doubtless receive there. I do remember you talking about your own experience in Haiti. Do you have any thoughts on what a person like me might be able to bring if I did decide to go?
Sorry, I didn’t mean for this to get so lengthy. These just happen to be the two topics that have been most on my mind, and both so full of nuances and contradictions and hopes and frustrations.
What sort of volunteering are you looking into?
Love & Peace,