Imagining the Other

20140530-043633-16593534.jpg  Good Morning,

I am often amazed at the body’s ability to rejuvenate itself. By the time I went to sleep last night, I think I was both brain-dead and physically exhausted. I did not wake up the entire night and I think it was around 12:30 or 1:00 a.m. , but I woke at 5:20 and I was up and on the road before 6:00. I am sitting at the Bloomsburg Diner counter on the “group w” stool (for those who get the reference, awesome).

It was an interesting week, but a good one. I have made it three nights without a fever. That is only the second time since the middle of May. It astounds me how our perspective on what matters and what can make us happy changes as our life situation changes. As I have gotten to know my Dominican family, and they have so graciously included me in their family, I have learned some valuable things by observing and listening to them. It is very interesting to see how families interact and manage their lives (and that includes their individual actions as well as their corporate actions). Both from having Melissa as a summer guest and from listening to each of them, I have learned how another family, and in this case (and I do believe it is both) another culture communicates. It was last night that a number of pieces seemed to fall into place in my mind.

Earlier this week, their version of “the family meeting” occurred at Martin’s Acre. While it might not have held a candle as far as duration, I do believe it was as productive as one occurring on Peace Street. I just realized another irony as I noted the street name. Hmmmmm. After my last posting, and while some of it related in a singular manner, more of it was about my frailties or habits, the conversation that ensued was perhaps one of the more productive to which I have ever been a party. The consequence was a renewed faith in what two people can accomplish if there is honest and open communication. A second consequence was a significantly lowered stress level.

I did not plan to be gone last night, but the remainder of the weekend should be pretty low key. I actually appreciate that quietness and that is certainly a difference from earlier in my life. On the other hand, the coming week will be anything, but quiet. Between birthdays, a really long day of driving Tuesday and a trip to the Philadelphia airport on Friday, the beginning of two very hectic weeks is upon me. I still want to go to Spain and I am not sure how to manage that. However, it does appear that a trip to the Dominican Republic in August is beginning to become more likely. Though a small conversation with Jordan and his mother causes me some pause because I feel badly about a larger more significant issue. Sometimes not knowing enough gets us in trouble; on the other hand, knowing too much can also be troublesome. I am still working studiously on my Spanish, but I feel like I am not progressing as quickly as I was. I want to listen and comprehend, but I feel like a pain if I ask for clarification. I just wish I knew more yesterday. There is my struggle with patience. Today, I need to just do some significant time with Rosetta Stone and with vocabulary cards. I think that is a way to manage the drive on Tuesday also. I think I will be keeping Jordan busy as he navigates.

It is now 24 hours later; I am still writing. I began the morning by cleaning up the kitchen, which I actually left unfinished last night. That is not typical, but I was tired. This morning I am cleaning and stripping beds and painting and mopping and all the other things needed. I actually enjoy most of it because I feel better when it is all completed. I am amazed how dusty things can get in only a day or two. I also have some things to pick up and get managed before I have people in the house this week. Melissa has been scanning almost 40 years worth the photographs for me to digitize them. I have also realized I have another project for her along the same line, but I have to go back to Wisconsin to get it all. I think that could keep her busy for the entire next year she is here, that is assuming she will want to do it.

The last three days or maybe four, I have felt pretty good. I am learning to appreciate those times, and I know I cannot take anything for granted, not that any of us really can. When I was in graduate school I took a class called “Rhetoric of Alterity”. It was a wonderful class taught by Dieter Adolphs and it considered the group of intellectuals that left Germany in the 20s and 30s as Germany was reeling under the weight of the war reparations and as Hitler came to power. As I was writing my dissertation on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, this made a lot of sense to me and it was profoundly interesting. While this might be a stretch for some of you to see how I get from that to what comes next, please bear with me. I wonder if when we are fighting within our bodies with an auto-immune syndrome if we are in someways similar to the refugees who chose to leave Germany in the 30s and struggled to understand who they were or where they belonged. When our body becomes the other, who are we? Where do we belong? These earthy shells in which we reside are amazing, complex, and miraculous, but they are merely a shell. As I noted a few posts ago, I have been doing some reading and I have also done some listening. I am sad I had other engagements and missed an event last night that would have addressed some of this again. I am still not comfortable with the idea that we are inside God. I think it sets up a situation where we have the ability to blame or shirk responsibility for that which we do, not necessarily  to the other person, but certainly to God. I believe if we are all deities, we have merely taken on a different form of pantheism and that is a problem for me. There is, of course, the other extreme that there is no God and then we are merely walking about in our temporal way until we become compost. Perhaps, in reference to my last post, that would be safer. When I was speaking with Melissa’s father about his next event, he showed me a few of his slides. He noted that God is experimenting. He asked me what I thought about such a statement, and I asked what he meant by “experimenting”? He said Melissa needed to be around to help with translation. That will have to be another event in an of itself because my immediate reaction to being experimented upon is not a positive one, and if it is God doing it, I am really not happy. Again, my immediate response is this makes “God capricious”. I want no part of such a God, but it would certainly make present circumstances easier to explain. Where in the midst of God experimenting does free will fit, and is it really free or merely a guise of freedom? If we are inside God, as argued, then are we merely in a bubble like a hamster? I do not write this to be smug or simplistic, but if God is not outside of us, there is no real compass or direction in which we are actually aware or required to go, it is all temporal. It really does not matter in the big picture. There is no “other”.  It reminds me of another one of Melissa’s writing characteristics. First let me say that she (and Jordan) are outstanding writers. Much better than most any student I have ever met, but she, almost always, writes “God” with a lower-case “g”. I am wondering now if this is intentional and part of her religious position or belief? Hmmmmm. As you can see my brain is spinning around inside my head as if often does. So am I spinning around inside or outside of God? This is my question and the thought of being inside of God still is not something I find easily digestible. Of course, with my Crohn’s there are lots of things I do not digest well.

Thanks for reading.

Michael

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