Tales From Abroad: JAM Summer 2015 Sep22

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Tales From Abroad: JAM Summer 2015

In his book Love Does, Bob Goff starts each chapter with short quip about how something that he once thought to be true has changed. Each statement follows the format “I used to think this, but now I think this,” and in these two refrains reflects with beautiful simplicity how really seeing and learning and acting in the world can challenge what you know to be true for the better. When I reflect on the Justice Along the Meridian experience as a whole, a statement of change of my own comes to mind.
IMG_5845The Justice Along the Meridian trip came at a pivotal time in both my academic career and personal life. I was neck deep in questions about the world and myself, and while I knew I had a deep passion for justice, I felt a bit out to sea in the midst of all of it. It’s funny how sometimes it takes experiencing a worldview very different from our own to help us understand these personal moments more clearly. unnamedTheologian and author Barbra Brown Taylor suggests that the most qualified person to spring you from the prison of yourself is the person who is deeply “other” from you. I don’t suppose I really knew what this meant until I sat in meeting rooms and mosques and cathedrals with people who were literally a world apart from me and practiced paying disciplined attention to them. Paying disciplined attention required that I suspend my notions and judgments and allow myself to be shown the world from behind somone else’s eyes without imposing my own interpretation or understanding on it. It required that I begin to consider that this other was not someone to fear or compete with but rather someone with whom I could achieve a more complete understanding about what is really Real and what is really Good. In truly seeing and hearing another, I began to love that other, and suddenly my world expanded to include more than just my narrative of self.IMG_5870

Through this practice of attention I began to see complexities as well as beauties to the world that I could not have imagined before. This is why I now think the task of justice has to be couched in understanding. It is to sell ourselves and the people we are trying to help short to only consider the world from behind our own eyes. When you begin to expand your vision, however, you can suddenly build bridges of understanding across former voids. You may even begin to question the way things have always been done or ask if the people you had previously labeled as deviant, evil, or outsider really deserve that title, or if they too are a product of a time and place like you are. Is this not the depth of the task of justice? Now that I have tried it for myself, I cannot escape the notion that in order to do justice we must first understand, and to understand, first we must go with open eyes and an open heart.