Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Risk of Being Vulnerable


So I have presented in two parts the text of Young JJ's "State of the World Address" from September 1990. I have reflected a bit on how Old JJ might talk about the "State of Now" September 2015. It seems a bit overwhelming at this point in my life to issue manifestos like this.

The theme of power, however, is one that I return to often enough in my own reflections. "Power and responsibility" is perhaps one of the defining challenges of the emerging epoch. There is much to say about it, but let me see if I can make a start:

"How can we shape the use of our vast technological power so that it serves the good of the human person, families, communities, society, the environment entrusted to us? I see this question everywhere. Of course we need Jesus, but He will not give us cheap answers. He deepens the question in us, because in Him human persons and all of creation become more dear to us, and we become more "vulnerable" to their suffering. He calls us to live in that vulnerability -- to take the risks of loving those entrusted to us in our lives, those whose needs and anguish cry out to us. He even calls us to seek them out, accompany them, suffer with them, while placing all our hope in Him."
. . . . 

Wait. Stop. Hold it!

That sounds good in words. But honestly, I don't understand what I'm talking about. Or perhaps there is a very small, very fragile place inside me that has begun to understand a little bit. A really, really tiny little bit.

But who am I kidding? I don't really "live love." I live an aesthetic appreciation of the idea of love. Okay, maybe there is a little love in me, but it's nearly always mixed together with self-admiration and fakery. Ah yes, "the ambivalence" of human beings. "Man is an insoluble dilemma to himself," says Young JJ.

Twenty five years later, Old JJ says, "I am ambivalent. I am an insoluble dilemma to myself!"

Am I willing to become more vulnerable, more tender toward others, more honest (really), more willing to "take the risks of loving...?" Risks? Seriously, me take risks? RUN! HIDE!

Dear friends, I am terrified of taking risks. I am afraid to love.

Yes, friends, I am afraid of you.

And so I'm always hiding from you: hiding behind my intelligence, hiding behind humor, hiding behind my illnesses, hiding behind a thousand fibs, hiding behind sentimentality, hiding behind my reputation, hiding behind my writing, hiding and protecting places in myself even as I try to have real empathy and share my life with you.

I'm so sorry. I wish so much to be more, to be courageous, to be honest. I wish with an aching desire but I remain in this bottle of fear. I'm so sorry, friends. I'm struggling and trying, I think, but sometimes it comes out so awkwardly. Forgive me.

Eileen, kids, Mom, Dad, Walter... I'm afraid.... I'm sorry. Forgive me. I'm a poor human being. Poor in love.

So what, then, is this "very small, very fragile place," this "really, really tiny little bit" of understanding and desire in me?

Theologian JJ would like to intervene here and say, "That is God's work in you; the work of His grace. That is the hope that is beginning to transform you, the place from which you pray, the light of His love that leads you and in which you see the faces of others."

But Old JJ replies, "Why, then, is it so small?" Why, O God, is it so small?

And no one has any more words. There are already far too many words.

What I have is silence. And solitude. Sometimes it feels like loneliness, but underneath all of that there is the solitude. And there is the wanting that burns and burns and burns, and bursts through beyond all that I know.

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