Being an Observer

I was walking to work and saw on an upcoming corner a tall man wearing a sign. The kind of sign I’ve seen on workers who are striking. Or the signs that people wear to market a business. The sign the man on the corner wore said OBSERVER.

As I walked toward him to pass, I noticed his eyes were closed. The smaller print on his sign–I think they’re called sandwich boards–explained that he was part of a carpentry project. He was there, on the corner, identified as an observer, and his eyes wore closed. He was facing the sun, looking toward it or toward a project I couldn’t see.

It was ironic that he was an observer and that his eyes were closed. Not tight. Not shut. Not clenched. Just closed. I imagined he was observing something behind those eyes.

By the time I was passed him and turned to look again, he was walking down the block. I was about to cross, and the observer was on the move.

He taught me something. He taught me that observers can see when they’re not looking. He taught me that observers can close they’re eyes and enjoy the rising sun. He taught me to observe inside, on the other sides of my eyes. Thanks to the observer from this morning.

Embedded and Inscribed Processes

Students are typically not taught about the complex nature of interpretation and the assumptions embedded in and power imprinted on all knowledge. Many political and educational leaders deem such profoundly important dimensions of learning unimportant. Indeed, many power wielders view such insights as downright frightening, as critical teachers begin to uncover the slippery base on which school knowledge rests. Knowledge production and curriculum development are always and forever historically embedded and culturally inscribed processes.

From Critical Pedagogy

Healing Comes With Pain

It takes restraint to heal and it takes restraint to help. That means that healing and helping come with pain–for somebody. Somebody will always feel pain during the process of getting or being healed.

And helping a person pursue healing takes surrender to a process that looks miserable. Any empathic person wants healing to happen right away.

You want your wounds to close, scab over, and for those scabs to fall. You want the skin to recover it’s brightness and blend into the rest of you. You want to forget. And you want all that healing now.

But healing rarely acts like that. And it rarely comes without its own hurts, bruises, and pains.

For the persons being healed:

  • You won’t get the plan of care you want.
  • You have to do things that you wouldn’t choose to do.
  • Something you disagree with is required.
  • The best thing for you feels terrible for a while.
  • Nobody understands your pain.

For the persons helping:

  • Time slows all the way down.
  • You doubt your effectiveness.
  • The person you care for gets worse.
  • Your own pains come alive in a new way.

You get the picture.

It helps me to reframe the pain. It helps me to describe the pain as a part of the process. I’m sure this has been said better by many, but it’s the pain of recovery, the pain of returning, which is not the pain of the injury or the sickness. The former hurts but somehow it feels better than the latter.


Wisdom, Major Deaths & Transformation

I was reading Fr. Rohr’s meditation the other day. I should say that when I read it, I was thinking about grief already, thinking about loss. It was the week prior to my final goodbye at New Community where I served for a touch over eleven years. Even though I made the change for good reasons, it was still a change.

That change was laced with loss and that loss meant grief. I am grieving that loss, grieving that change. Of course, there are other changes and losses, too. I, like you, am grieving more than one thing at a time. I try to stay in some touch with those losses to respect them, to hear them, and to learn from them.

Fr. Rohr was discussing Walter Brueggemann’s observation that the Torah, the Prophets, and the Wisdom Literature (three scriptural categories in the first testament of the Christian scriptures and the three parts of revelation making up the Hebrew Bible) represent the development of human consciousness. These three parts of biblical witness present what it means for humans to be, to become. Fr. Rohr was underlining the importance of these three types of witness in life.

We need to be reminded of our original createdness in God’s community (Torah is our instruction in that very truth). We need to live close to those voices that help us look beyond ourselves, our egos, and our small commitments (Prophets do that). We require for living well criticality that helps us see honestly how to live toward the self and others (Wisdom offers those guides).

It was in this brief reflection that Fr. Rohr said,

Wisdom literature reveals an ability to be patient with mystery and contradictions—and the soul itself. Wise people have always passed through a major death to their egocentricity. This is the core meaning of transformation.

I find it taxing, staying true to transformation. It’s hard to be faithful to transformation because in being faithful to that change, I’m signing up for continued self-noticing and continued self-growth. I’m setting myself in places where I plan to notice others and plan to grow others. I plan not to die in one sense. In another sense, this is absolute death. This is surrender. It’s scary. It’s major.

If you’re feeling your own grief, passing through a death (whether it’s minor or major to you), name it as a part of your transformation. The contradictions that scar your soul, the mystery that leaves your heart hungry for more than what’s in front of you, name them as sources of revelation about not only your death but your life. Your steps, your paths, and your journey are leading somewhere, and it’s called transformation.

Try your best to trust. Even the attempt is a death. It is also the emergence of life.