7.12.2011

bodily interruptions

Living with 80 people for two weeks is a special kind of hell for introverts: loud voices singing Rebecca Black's "Friday" every morning in the echoing dorm hallways, buffet food lines that beg for you to over eat, cranky mid-afternoon coffee runs, and late night attempts to save the world through conversation and milkshakes.  I served as a mentor at the Duke Youth Academy, a companion along the path of the students. We lived together, ate together, learned together, worshiped together. During our meals and small group time, students asked difficult questions and my fellow mentors and I attempted to answer often with more questions and sometimes with piercing silence.

Between the lack of true rest, the over-stimulation, and the profound nature of the work we did as a community, I braced myself for a breakdown or at least the kind of total body exhaustion where words get lost on their way from your brain to your tongue and turn into gobbledigook. By the mid-way point, I had trouble putting my feet over the edge of the bed and convincing them to reach for the ground. Would this be the day that I would look at another person with crazy eyes and say something I didn't mean? Would this be the day that another person would do likewise to me? I forced myself to face the day and each day came with surprises. I didn't yell, I didn't hide, my body sustained a level of energy, sometimes it even increased as the day grew long.

One evening nearing the end of our time together, we sat in our evening small group, exhausted from a pilgrimage through Durham, wearied from the realities facing us. We dug into the subtleties of racism in our cultural norms and the gravity of the message that we consume every day that some people are more valuable and more beautiful than others because of their skin color, their body shape, their ability to conform to gender norms, and the fact that they were born in one geographic location rather than another. The evening preacher stood in front of us and told us point blank that we will not solve the problems of this world. We are not Creators, we are not Makers, we are not Redeemers. We are doers, the workers of the kingdom called to use our bodies to interrupt the maddening hatred and the paralyzing sadness that surrounds us. Our bodily interruption is made possible because our lives have already been interrupted by the incarnation, death, and resurrection of the Christ.

As one of us cried out in wrenching lament about how the world judges viciously and solely on the color of skin, we sat in silence. Later, one student in our group took hold of the preacher's message and reminded us that we are not Redeemers, that work is done, that we are doers called to interruption. The preacher may have said it first, but it is her voice that has wandered around in my mind, coming up in conversations and riding beside me around town. I've always considered my mind the agent of interruption that I am most equipped to use, but she challenged me to an interruption that steps out of my mind and into the world around me, out of my independence and into the ecology of relationships: their hope and their pain, their messiness and their joy.

This is a very unfriendly challenge to an introvert. Yet, as sits with me, bikes with me, drinks coffee with me, I find it irresistible. Staying in my mind, I am tempted to think of the world only as I observe it and only as it touches me. Moving my body into places of pain and places of joy, seeing it with my eyes and touching it with my fingers, I am further convinced that I am not a Creator, independently making good in quantities beyond imagination. I am doer, participating in what has been created, joining with my fellow created and seeking a way to remind creation that it is beautiful. The call to go beyond what I know is still shaking my body, mind and soul.

It's a welcome and redemptive interruption.

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This post was written as a part of friendly synchroblog on the topic "Independence." Please check out the writing and art of my fellow bloggers.

iwritetoberidofthings, fear itself
Karma's Fool, Truly Local 
art, et cetera, interbeing 
muddleddreamer, Co-dependence
nightsbrightdays, Hypothetically Speaking
Plow and Rain, a thing is itself
The Rebel I, Independence
Wordshepherd, Escape Velocity, Part III

2 comments:

megan e b jones said...

I really love the language of using our bodies to interrupt the world with the reality of God's Creative life. I have always cringed when people try to talk to me about art being "co-creation." That not only tastes like blasphemy on my tongue but also doesn't do anything helpful to name the work that art does (and in this case, the work that our lives do.)
I love this thing you wrote: "I am doer, participating in what has been created, joining with my fellow created and seeking a way to remind creation that it is beautiful." I think that is one of the most convicting and downright awesome mantras I've heard in quite some time. We must be about the work of remembrance, because as you rightly remind us here: the Work is already done… we have got to live into and DO that reality with our souls, minds, and especially our bodies.

Preach it sister. Amen.

Alaina said...

Thanks, Megan. One of the things that I loved about DYA is their willingness to embrace the connectedness between art and theology, creative work and the Creator. As I think back on it, "co-creation" was not the language used surrounding the arts, but participation, connection, prayer, and praise.