Hold It All

Philosophy/Poetics/Politics

Month: April, 2010

Analogies

If past behavior is any guide, Elie Wiesel must be having a fit. I’m not thinking here of the great loss to his Foundation from the audacious and criminal pilfering of Bernie Madoff. No, I am guessing he is outraged by the growing frequency, since late December 2008, of comparisons made between Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza and the Nazi period, specifically the Warsaw Ghetto.

Both intellectual commentators and protesting activists have made linkages between the human horrors of the Warsaw Ghetto and the Gaza Ghetto, as well as between the ghettos’ resistance to their tormenters. On the web and via email a photographic juxtaposition is circulating that documents Nazi oppression of Jews and Israeli oppression of Palestinians. A Vatican official, Cardinal Renato Martino, said that increasingly Gaza resembles a “big concentration camp,” while Israeli officials expressed shock at such an offensive comparison.
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Activist, What Do You See in the Night?/2

During a recent theological conversation with a friend in Louisville, I mentioned several thinkers and writers who had been very influential on me over these years. That exchange led to this concise collage….

1.

For a long time during those frightful years I waited for a great voice to speak up in Rome. I, an unbeliever? Precisely. For I knew that the spirit would be lost if it did not utter a cry of condemnation when faced with force. It seems that the voice did speak up. But I assure you that millions of [men and women] like me did not hear it and that at that time believers and unbelievers alike shared a solitude that continued to spread as the days went by and the executions multiplied.

It has been explained to me since that the condemnation was indeed voiced. But that it was in the style of the encyclicals, which is not at all clear. The condemnation was voiced and it was not understood! Who could fail to feel where the true condemnation lies in this case and to see that this example by itself gives part of the reply, perhaps the whole reply, that you ask of me. What the world expects of Christians is that Christians should speak out, loud and clear, and that they should voice their condemnation in such a way that never a doubt, never the slightest doubt, could arise in the heart of the simplest [man or woman]. That they should get away from abstraction and confront the blood-stained face history has taken on today. The grouping we need is a grouping of [men and women] resolved to speak out clearly and to pay up personally.

Albert Camus

2.

No statement, theological or otherwise, should be made that would not be credible in the presence of burning children.

Irving Greenberg Read the rest of this entry »

Some Questions for My Students and Friends Who Are Making Their Way through The Book of Mev

Mev was really into photography. What is it that you are into?

What are some of your own experiences of being accompanied by others and accompanying others?

Which poems have you loved so much that, at one time or another, you memorized them?

Who is the person in your life who is most consistently present to you?

What do you think is the point of those two chapters entitled, Sitting/1 and Sitting/2?

What do you think of Gustavo’s understanding of the poor person as the “insignificant person, the non-relevant” person?

Have you ever read such a long table of contents?

Most people know of the practice of tithing money; what do you think of “tithing time”?

Could you relate to Mev’s “breakdown” in Brazil?

Is there a priest or theologian whose words really resonated with you?

Mev was devoted to Romance languages: Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian. If you could study any language, which would you pick?

Upon reading an earlier draft of The Book of Mev (then entitled, The Holy Contour of Life), one of my friends, a published author, told me to cut out all those chapters called “Meanwhile, Elsewhere in the World…” I ignored his advice. Why do you think I did?

Do you know the meaning of the word, “Gospel”? Is there anything you find curious about the chapters titled “ The Gospel according to…”?

Is there a particular photo in the book that caught your attention? If so, why?

In our contemporary society, what is the political significance of William Blake’s poem?

If you had a chance to share a few words with an important public figure (like Mev did with Pope John Paul II at World Youth Day, Denver 1993), whom would you want to address and what would you want to say?

Have you ever given a eulogy at a funeral?

If we consider injustice as ugliness, how in a world of such ugliness do you find beauty?

Chipas Child

Annie Boyd: Walking with the Salvadorans

In class we are currently reading Like Grains of Wheat: A Spirituality of Solidarity by Marie Dennis and Margaret Swedish. The authors interview scores of North Americans who had their eyes opened by their relationships with Central Americans since the early 1980s.

Here’s a passage from early in the book:

The stories of solidarity that impacted the lives of thousands of North American people of faith are profound and complex, yet with something quite simply in common. They began often with a small gesture of accompaniment, a decision to walk, for however a short time, with a people, a community, whether in a war zone, a refugee camp, a town under siege, or a village of displaced persons or refugees seeking safety in the United States.

What these stories initiated, however, was a journey far different from anything that had been anticipated, a journey into the real world and its painful reality, a journey into themselves within that world, a journey into a faith that for many had become cut off and isolated, detached from the conditions of real human beings. They discovered this faith vividly alive in the hopes and aspirations of the poor. They found themselves on a journey that stretched them, pulled them, stripped them, and liberated them. [page 21]

I just wish my students could meet Annie Boyd, who recently sent me the following letter.

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