Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Living with deep intimacy

"I want to live with deep intimacy
every day of my life.
I am guided, sometimes driven,
by an ache to take the necessary risks
that will let me live close to
what is within and around me." (Oriah Mountain Dreamer)

Over the years my thinking has evolved. When I was a child I thought like child and walked different roads now I walk new roads with new sign posts. Not only is the universe evolving but so are we. At the heart of it all is the fact that within each of us is the God seed that cries out to be allowed to bloom to its full potential. 2000 years ago a man walked this earth so that we could have life and have it to its fullness. This is what we attempt to do to each other today. Draw each one to realise their full potential so that each one can truly engage the question ‘who am I?’ and lead others to live that question for themselves.

The problem lies not in finding the answer but in having the will to ask the question, enter its uncertainty and feel its searing heat. But in this ‘quickaholic age’ where everything is instant we too often rush to find the quick solutions curbing our ability to live with the question.

I believe today each of us is inevitably involved in deciphering who we actually are. There are no manuals for the construction of the individual each of us would like to become. It’s about allowing the hard questions to arise, it’s about battling with uncertainty, risking the unknown, for it is by walking roads not yet trod that we discover new ways. Creativity flourishes not in certainty but in questions. Engaging with these questions is such a wonderful privilege and such an exciting adventure. To grow into the person that our deepest longing desires is a great blessing. The gift of life is given to us not only for ourselves but also to bring peace, courage and compassion to others.

Only in realising who I truly am can I become inextricably involved in the life and rhythm of another. In Southern Africa they call it Ubuntu. I am because you are. So if someone in Zambia has HIV, someone in Darfur experiences hunger and violence, someone in Haiti suffers the brunt of an unforgiving earthquake then so do you and I. For are we not all part of the same elements that formed the entire universe and all of humanity? I need to realise and believe in this connectedness if I am even remotely going to become actively involved in the issues that impact the earth and all peoples. I need to believe that we all came into existence from that singular flaring forth of intense energy from a point smaller than a grain of sand some 13.7 billion years ago. That God seed is in you and me; is you and me! In this I move and live and find my being.

To this I invite you with the words of the Sufi poet Rumi...

If you put your hands on this oar with me,
they will never harm another, and they will come to find
they hold everything you want.

If you put your hands on this oar with me,
they would no longer lift anything to your
mouth that might wound your precious land –
that sacred earth that is your body.

If you put your soul against this oar with me,
the power that made the universe will enter your sinew
from a source not outside your limbs,
but from a holy realm that lives in us.

Exuberant is existence, time a husk.
When the moment cracks open, ecstasy leaps out and devours space;
love goes mad with the blessings, like my words give.

Why lay yourself on the torturer’s rack of the past and the future?
The mind that tries to shape tomorrow beyond its capacities
will find no rest.

Be kind to yourself,
Forget any sounds or touch you knew that did not help you dance.
You will come to see that all evolves us.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


‘Every meeting of persons is an exchange of gifts’ so it has been with my Yumba encounters. Yumba’ the name of the school for people with mental disabilities literally means ‘Love them ‘. It is at this site from the word go I felt so powerless, vulnerable and gifted all at the same time. Daily I leave the community around 07:00 AM to find means of transport to go the outskirts of Tamale to my God meeting place.
I am always dumbfounded by the children’s gesture and attitude which happens daily. Upon arrival they take time embracing one another with a hug, a kiss, a hand shake and those not opened up fully, you can’t go without a Smile and ‘Dasiba’. This is such an unusual and surprising mind-set to find in these people. Despite the fact that it sounds filthy’ students go together in the bush for toilet and chat out and ensure the friends have finished and walk back to class with a procession.
In contrast to these concerned and embracing students, the school is also blessed with distressing students ranging from stone throwers-(who gave a welcome the first day by stoning me and it is his tradition to beat/stone someone as long as he is awake, my brother Sunday and other teachers are not exempt from this stone greeting), the crying with cause known to self only, Urinating on themselves and toileting in class, those who produce saliva and mucus.
Generally the Special school put up with the mild, moderate and profound- and worse the majority seems to have multiple problems raging from mental, physical, social and psychological challenges. The culture which most families are attached to so much is not friendly to the people with all sorts of challenges as they link all these problems to be a curse, witchcraft, offending spirits and failed ancestors. For these reasons they endure greater social alienation, discrimination, stigma, denial and insecurity, and hope asks where God is.
I am spending most of my time with what is called the vocation class. The class is so annoying especially when you introduce anything intellectual, but you cannot believe how proficient and talented these people are in handiwork. As I write I am working closely with students and another teacher in sharing my little ideas in tie & dye. Other lessons offered include drawing, home economics, door mat weaving, handkerchief sewing, sharing of stories and moral talks. Thanks are to God in the next 2 weeks tie-dye uniforms will be produced by these gifted students.
Mystified by these encounters I ask myself the “WHY” questions and other questions I have concerning my relationship with self, the other and what these experiences might be saying to me, the church and the entire globe. As I try to be Christ like, this is a chance for me to analyze my capacity for loving. How do I relate and express my Love? What do I see in people with mental disabilities and after meeting them are they any better? How can I live the discovered commandment “Do unto others what you wish them to do to you?” Why am I not comfortable to meet people who provoke, challenge, question my culture and belief or to meet a person whose presence reveals my limitations? How free am I from the sin of stigmatizing of individuals not only with disabilities but even those with a different thought?
In response to this experience, human relationship and the fact that each human person is created equally in the image of the God of Jesus Christ, is loved equally and unconditionally by that God, not just as an individual but also as a part of a developing single human community, one family of God, which is destined for the final reign of God. The human equality and divinity I believe have been confirmed, renewed and transformed in the incarnation -in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
As a follower of Christ and Edmund I feel called to ensure that each person is treated as a member of the divine family and not subjected to stigmatization, discrimination, exploitation or exclusion, either directly by individuals or indirectly through social structures and processes. Building upon my analysis of this reflection some of the specific recommendations for actions that can be taken in reaction to the challenges and concerns that stir up, I put them in line with my commitment to advocacy for greater social justice for all in our society, especially for the poor and suffering:
-I am called on to become the living presence of Jesus’ very body ‘I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me: insofar as I now live in flesh, I live by faith in the son of God who has loved me …”(Gal 2:20)
-All humanity to promote greater justice for people who are mentally disadvantaged by attacking/questioning structures that continue to disempower and decimate our brothers and sisters.
-I, the Brothers, the church and other people valuing life should sharply condemn and root out any stigma and discrimination relating to persons living with disabilities.

Celebrating Otieno's Birthday

On Friday 19 Feb we gathered to celebrate our lives and Otieno’s whose birthday it was on the previous day. It was a fantastic experience. Our first such gathering since we began our three month community experience. May God bless us all in our perpetual search for God and God’s wish for humanity and the entire universe.