Today I am going to ramble a bit … be prepared.
This week I am journeying with paradox. A great word ‘paradox’. The online dictionary defines it in part like this: ‘An assertion that is essentially self-contradictory, though based on a valid deduction from acceptable premises’. What is most interesting about paradox is that it makes no sense unless you see it, perceive it or live it. It is nonsensical until you live into the nonsensicalness. It’s hard to describe without concrete examples. Paradoxically, paradox cannot be definitively defined. Or can it?
We had an interesting (though controversial) talk yesterday by Professor Herbert Vilakazi on Culture and Religion, the need for cross-pollination of religion and culture, a synthesising of the two. He spoke of the Church needing to get back into rural communities to do the work of mission where mission is most needed, but without the restricting ‘religious talk’ which accompanies us on those missions – mission without ‘mission speak’. Made sense to me. He spoke about how so many of our activists come from educated, urban environments, but that the real work of innovation happens when urban meets rural and results in new ways of being which benefit both with the input of both. We are living in revolutionary times, the world is changing rapidly and that’s where I am struggling. I have access to the internet, to bright thinkers and world changers who are describing the new world into which we are moving, and yet when I look around at life here, I hardly recognise this as the same rapidly advancing world. But of course, it is and I know it is, it just feels so far removed and blurry and dare I say it, stagnant? As I chatted with my flatmate this morning, I expressed my confusion, what to do, remain frustrated and confused between the reality of my surroundings, with the reality of what I am reading? Real these two worlds may equally be, but the same, they are most definitely not.
Do I stop reading I asked her? I find it so frustrating that these two worlds are so far apart from one another. But, she reminded me, this is the tension I need to live with, the paradox of being a minister in a certain context at a certain time with a differing world view to the one I am being exposed to/have been exposed to. We talk so much about unity and oneness, but how do we live unity and oneness in an increasingly diverse world? Do we mesh and merge all our boundaries and defining characteristics or do we protect our uniqueness and learn to accept one another as is. The latter makes more sense of course, and it’s great IN theory, GRRreat! Extremely difficult to live out authentically.
Part of me wants to say: stop the world I want to get off, I want to crawl back into comforting sameness and just live simply, the way the monastics did, but is that the answer?
Deep down I know the answer, live with the paradox, live simply with the diversity of where you are, because it will hold you in good stead when you step into yet another kind of reality beyond these institutional walls. (‘Urban’ meets ‘rural’ as metaphor and back again for social change) But YOH! It’s not easy. I know I am living and growing and learning, but holding all the thoughts of what is, with what will be, what can be, what God is ‘maybe’ calling us to is exhausting. And all this is being done from the stationary position of my small little seminary life.