Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | October 22, 2010

Seeking the Other

If ever there were a great mystery in ignorance, certainly part of it lies in the election to remain ignorant of certain things. There is only so much time. The excuse that truth may lie elsewhere is no excuse to misunderstand our brothers and sisters.

And so expectations are often disappointed. So often in the past, we have indeed looked for these others to present us with something so truly different from ourselves that we might in fact see how we’ve been remiss, that we have in fact been bereft and bankrupt. So often the rhetoric in fact has run this way, and rightly so.

Yet sadly, so often all our other brothers and sisters want in truth is to be like us, to think like us, and to live like us.

How much more wonderful when they don’t. What a thrill to learn from each other what we don’t know, haven’t felt, and may never. And yet we have our limits. We aren’t generally ready or broad enough to incorporate them into our lives, nor necessarily are they ready and broad enough to incorporate us into theirs. We could both be wonderfully changed… so there would not necessarily be a loss but a gain, but instead we fall short. And somehow it is no one’s fault. Nor need anyone be faulted if for a moment we think we want to be like them, or they think they want to be like us… and then each come to their senses.

Change is hard. And changing ourselves… may risk changes our beloved, known, and non-wild others won’t accept.

But there is a secret part of us that wants to be as mysterious, unknown, misunderstood and wild as we imagine the other in these encounters. And maybe it is the death of this image that disappoints us. Maybe what we really want and need is precisely the challenge from outside of someone who is truly “the other” to confront us, to challenge us, and to help us to see that in fact we really aren’t the center of the universe and have our limits.

Have not all these motivations stimulated in some part our encounters with racism? with sexism? with communism? with capitalism? with secularism? with materialism? and all their people? Perhaps, yet each encounter has failed to change us. We may have come to see each other eye to eye as one of another, but have we ever really stepped outside of ourselves? Really? Seems so often we haven’t had to.

And perhaps all this business about being open to Islam, about encountering the other within it… or within same-sex attraction or whatever we see as “out there” of today… perhaps this is what lies underneath. Maybe these new “isms” will in fact lead where the others haven’t. Maybe for some, or at least for a time, that may be the case… for a while. But forever? How does this search for confrontation differ from the search for everlasting love we sought as teenagers, continued to seek as adults, and still seek every day? Does it and can it really have the same draw, the same promise and life changing effect? And can a people uniformly unable to commit to those who know and love us really commit to an “other” who knows and feels nothing of the sort towards us?

The fact is there is one and only one Truth and one confrontation, and all the rest are mere shadows. Can there be a life changing confrontation that doesn’t involve this seeking out of love? And by this, understand that this is not to take away from the others, but to address the shortcoming in ourselves. These others may indeed have a glimmer, but they just do not seem to endure or call us to change – or at least change out of love for one another, nor do they have the wildness of the absolute other we would like to think we celebrate… as does our Lord Jesus Christ who already knows and loves us… though we haven’t begun to return the favor of such promise. There is nothing, no one, and no truth like the real thing. Others have an excuse… they may not know this. But what do we do and what excuse do we have? In fear, do we turn to the Lord, or turn away?

Lord have mercy!


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