Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

"All you need is love, love, love is all you need."

I was reading fiction, which should be noted, because it doesn’t happen all too often. J.D. Salinger’s Nine Stories is really quite good, but quite odd. The characters are brilliantly developed in limited time and often seem to be crazy. The last short story of the book, Teddy, centers on Teddy (appropriately), a young man who struggles dealing with his family as he develops his personal philosophy, which seems to be rather pantheistic. This quote struck me:

“’You love God, don’t you?’ Nicholson asked, with a little excess of quietness.

‘Yes, sure, I love Him. But I don’t love Him sentimentally. He never said anybody had to love Him sentimentally,’ Teddy said. ‘If I were God, I certainly wouldn’t want people to love me sentimentally. It’s too unreliable.’”

I was taken aback by Teddy’s response because it reminded me of myself. If someone asked me if I love God, I would say yes. If they probed a little more by asking how I love God, I would probably suggest that I love God by loving other people. Frankly, the only way I can conceive of how to love God is by showing love to God’s creation. I won’t go into everything that is loaded into ‘God’s creation’, but loving God’s creation primarily means showing love, care, and concern to human beings.

The notion of loving God in a sentimental manner doesn’t make sense to Teddy or myself. God commanded us to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. There is no command to love God sentimentally. Honestly, I am not in love with God. And I am definitely not “head-over-heels” in love with God. There’s something to be said about that being unreliable, and too particular to each individual. Sentimental love is dependent on how an individual feels at any given moment.

I can’t make sense of loving something that isn’t perceptible. In order for me to express love to something, it must be tangible. Therefore, I can love people. Why can I love people? I can love people because of the love of God. God is love. I am created in God’s image and thus am a representative of God, and am thus called to display the love of God to all peoples.

It seems to me that there is something pretty significant regarding Jesus in all of this. God sent Jesus to save our sins, right, I’ve heard that. But maybe there should be more emphasis on the idea that God sent his Son, Jesus, to display God’s love in human form. Without Jesus, God’s love for his creation wouldn’t be as pronounced, or as profound. Without Jesus, God’s love for God’s creation gets glossed over as impalpability, God’s love gets lost in ethereal confusion. Yet through Jesus, God’s love of God’s creation was demonstrated to be real, it became tangible.

Jesus loved people.

Loving people the only way I know how to love God.

I’m not head-over-heels in love with God but each day I try to become more infatuated with loving people the way Jesus did.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Mi Hermano

I think it's appropriate that my brother, John, stars in the debut post of my blog. I want to tell a little story about John, as recounted to me by my dad.

John and my parents often take trips to Placer High School, my former school, to run laps around the track. I think John gets stir-crazy from all time spent watching videos, reading books, and looking at packages (think several dozen books,videos, and images wrapped in clear plastic). John is the most routine-oriented person I know and this manifests itself in many, many ways. When John runs around the track, he either carries a book, video, or package (predictable, I know). These jogging episodes may last anywhere from 2-8 laps, depending on John's energy or mood, what have you.

This week, Dad took John out to the PHS track to jog. Usually my dad sits in the bleachers while John run/walks around the track, this outing must not have been any different. As John entered the bend of the track before the straightaway where my Dad stood, John looked back. Behind him was a man who had been running for quite awhile, at least long enough to work up a good sweat. As John saw the runner gaining on him, John took off. He gripped his book tightly and ran, he ran hard. With his legs kicking out in awkward arcs, his back hunched over, his face parallel to the ground, and his head bobbing with pronounced effect, John sprinted as best he could. Dad told me he could hear John saying something to himself. John has been known to engage in self-talk to convince himself of certain things.

As John came down the straightaway, he had clearly gained some ground on the man who was unaware of his participation in the race he was about to lose. John neared the finish line and Dad could hear him saying to himself, "I'm gonna beat this guy." When John was even with my dad, he stopped, as if crossing the finish line. And if I know John, he probably said something like, "All done, let's go home."

The man jogging passed Dad and John, unaware of what had happened. A separate jogger was passing by my brother and father as they sat on the bleachers and said to John, "Hey man, I saw you beat that guy, that was pretty impressive." John, with his head naturally pointed towards the ground, probably looked up at the man, and maybe he offered a simple "thank you."

Something about that story strikes me as very profound. I think about the fact that society sees the disabled as something less than human. I think this transfers into seeing the disabled as helpless. If someone is disabled and helpless, they surely can't be competitive. John's competitive nature that shines through in this story makes me smile. He just wanted to succeed, he wanted to be victorious. He doesn't get the chance to do that too often. I think the Special Olympics probably exist so the disabled can feel a sense of accomplishment and success because there certainly aren't too many outlets for the disabled to succeed in our society.

The second things that strikes me about this story is the observing jogger who spoke to John. I imagine the man noticed the peculiar way which John carried himself as he jogged around the track. As John raced to the finish line, the man probably noticed John's awkward gait. But more than that, the man noticed John's determination. He noticed how fast John ran.

God, teach us how to acknowledge and affirm that John is created in your image. Teach us to foster community for John, and for all those that live with disability. May we each recognize our own disabilities, as big or small as they may seem. But primarily, let us remember that we are one. We are one creation, each created particularly, in your image.