Archive for the ‘My Neighbour’ Category


A wise old Electrician once told me, discover what you love, then if you can find a way to make a living at it. Or at the very least make enough to live while you enjoy your passion. It wasn’t empty talk, that electrician was my Dad. Him and my Mum (the Candy Lady at our Co-Op) ensured that both their kids could pursue their interests, wherever the muse may take them. For I believe they knew in pursuit, was discovery that in this world, we are all the same, as well, in the pursuit and discovery you not only find yourself, you find what fills your soul and can keep you going even in the darkest nights of the soul. In one of the acknowledgements in a book of mine I wrote a thank you to my Dad for taking me to all the different writing groups and courses in my life growing up, even if they were only able to be found in spots that if my Mum had seen them would’ve caused her a heart attack. Writing is one place I have found belonging. Growing up, I also enjoyed law, politics, was apart of Junior Achievement, Future Entrepreneurs of Canada, took the Dale Carnegie Course, and could openly pursue my inquisitive nature into spirituality. Also, my geeked out moments around movies and comics. My folks did not set limits on us based on any assumed societal label, I still have the copy of King Arthur and his Knights my Dad scoured the city for when I was in grade 3, because I had come home sad after my school informed me I was not smart enough to read it.

It is lived experience that has led me to ask the questions in this title in my life building outreaches, ministries and programs. In working integration work alongside individuals leaving institutional life. They can be hard questions to answer. I have found we have  a tendency to over program. Even working with youth from across socio-cultural-religious spectrums, some of the answers I would get started with “My parents registered me for…” not a “well I enjoy doing…”

I look to my own children. I know we are judged by some because our children are not overly programmed. They have hobbies and interests. They have personality, and we figure out how to support that. My daughter loves art, writing, math, Harry Potter, animals and gaming. My son loves animals, his dog, reading, and movies. Can you guess the labels society has placed on them by how they answer the questions in the title? Good. Why should that matter.

Belonging is about discovering what brings us together, fills us up, and makes a better home, community and world. Inclusion, accessibility and welcome is ensuring the spaces with the proper understanding, physical accessibility and individual supports exist for that to happen. When authentic belonging happens, and is replaced by rampant programming we see and live in the 21st century the result.

Out of hurt, anger and burn out comes isolation, hatred, anger. Barriers imposed and created by whatever labels can be thrown out. Common ground is scorched and salted like a raised village in a war myth of old. Hence the rise of neo-nazism, terrorism, extremism, fundamentalism, entrenchment, ableism, barbarism, addiction (pick your destroyer that seeks to fill the void of not belonging, yet uses the language of belonging–the snake oil sold to the mass).  For it is seen in the now, where the algorithm chooses your knowledge that:

Better to destroy before I risk the loss and hurt and joy and love of belonging.

                For what happens if I honestly seek to answer what is my Hobby?

                I may meet my neighbour as a whole person, not a separating label.

Worse yet, one I may have always avoided may become, My FRIEND.

There is no longer Jew or Gentile,o slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.

-Apostle/Saint Paul, one who used to live into the labels discovering and sharing the freedom of belonging

-Galatians 3:28 (New Living Translation)


Vulcan, AB. A small prairie town that a few decades ago realized the greatest tourist option ever— the birthplace of Spock. For a Trekkie a great place, they have an information star base with souveniers and once every few years we go by and I pick up a few new things. One year my Dad’s day gift the kids got me a preaching hoody “Keep Khan and Klingon”. This year my daughter who wants to be a veterinarian got herself a doctor t-shirt; and my son got a shirt with a Spock head made from a famous McCoyism “are you out of your Vulcan Mind?”

One of the t-shirts from the 50th celebration sums up though the small minded ableism/elitism of the world, and how I feel in the fray. A caricature of McCoy with a word bubble, “50 years, Damn it Jim I am tired.”

Why you ask?

Because I see my son as a miracle worker, things he was not supposed to be able to do due to his blessings of life (tri-spastic CP, Epilepsy, ADHD, Global Delay)–well to quote Brad Paisley’s song– he’s been crushin’ it and breaking glass-kicking ass. Beside where my daughter got her t-shirt that looks like an original series medical/science uniform…they had an engineering one.

scottyThe fabled and joked in pop culture Red Shirt. My son, who I see as Scotty what a perfect gift, yet I didn’t. Why? Simple, I let the elitist ass hats get in my brain and stop me. Years ago my son so loved Superman that he wanted to be him for Halloween. He got the suit, and was so happy with his cape trailing after his wheel chair. And… adults ruined it for him in their nastiness.

“How could he mock Christopher Reeve so?”

“What a hateful costume?”

Really? A child (in a wheelchair) wanted to be Superman and you caused him to cry.

ac3Now another time to celebrate him, and I let these haters get in my head… I did not buy it because I did not need the negative “you know the red shirts always die first” crap. Not seeing beyond the scope and picture. Uhura was a red shirt. Scotty was a red shirt. The ones that beat the odds.

So yes, I am tired that they finally wore me down. I am tired that I let people like the Halloween haters win. The hateful families that had pushed us out of churches. The Minister that raged at my son from the pulpit. I am tired that in a moment I let them win.

I am tired, but I think another road trip to Vulcan is do.

Why?

Damn it Jim, the idjits aren’t going to beat us.


Ok I admit I do love an incendiary editorial title. It grips you, but it also should get you to question accepted norms. We are an entrenching and/or entrenched ideological society. In 21st Century Canada with the accumulated human wisdom and knowledge literally available on your smart phone, that is sad. The algorithms do not allow you to have your own held beliefs challenged which allows for more tribalism than before exploration.

Which is also why in the 21st century we are still wasting time dickering over the believability of the science of climate change (formerly global warming). Yes, the climate of the earth is constantly changing (anyone who holds to old earth theory—you know actual science not creationism-literalism) knows there are cycles. What has been observed and recorded since the Industrial Revolution is that our actions as humans is speeding up the process. It may not become a problem until my great grandkids, but something needs to change. One cannot continually consume without their own body getting ill (hence old Roman Empire Vomitorium’s) and the same it is for ol’ Mother Nature. Indigenous peoples have held the wisdom to look at decisions as they affect 7 generations down the road, got advice to heed as we look at caring for Mother Earth and Father Sky.

And before those of the Abrahamic-Sarah Covenantal religions (Judaism-Christianities-Islam and all that encompasses) by-pass me as some science not spirit individual. Nope. In the creation stories, God gave creation to Adam & Eve as caretakers, much like each new generation entrusts their lives, and the lives of their grandkids to their kids (reading the ancients stories through a psycho-social lifespan development is quite enlightening). But I digress.

The latest call to arms is banning plastics for the harm it is doing. This months United Church Observer is all over it, the British PM at G7 is attempting to get that group on board, and locally Councillor Druh Farrell is talking about it as well. Great sound bites, sounds all fine and good. But it is much like the old prohibition days (remember under SoCreds when liquor service had to stop in Alberta air space? Moose Jaw, SK know where those tunnels came from? {and yes I realize one set was a human atrocity against Chinese slave-labour brought over to build our railroad, I am speaking to the Capone one’s)}. It was a short-sighted solution for a societal ill that failed. It looked at the symptom not the cause, and that is where the current environmentalist fever is.

Plastics are a symptom. It is not the cause, any elder of the war years knows recycling and re-use better than anyone. Any one from Gen X or younger was inundated with the 3R’s: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. We know it, but it is not wisdom, like what is available on your smart phone. It is paid lip service, and we do our due diligence with the blue and green bins, but are we doing more than treating the latest open sore from the bar room brawl?

Have we invested properly in STEM to look at better ways of converting existing (currently in Calgary, encased in concrete sarcophagus,) waste into cleaner forms of energy and matter? Explored how to recycle more of what we use more expertly? How do we create something out of once use plastics?

But better yet. How do we tackle a true western world disease of over consumption? I used the term classist in my by-line because we are chastised for needing to reduce consumption quite a bit, and it is usually targeted to the working classes, where the wealthier get opt outs, or ways around or the tried and true, well they have money so of course. Want to know the last time I bought a new cell phone? Well mine is still a flip phone. Last television? Christmas 2017-as the flat screen I inherited died after 9 years, before that? 2001 with my first cheque for being a pastor, others before that were used or passed down. New vehicle? Uhm my family has had 3 mini-vans, all older, all kept going until they needed to go to the recyclers… clothes, worn and donated, and yes I know they don’t end up in the landfill because I am usually also one of the ones giving them out (though it was funny when someone thanked me for finally becoming charitable and giving).

The wrong classes are being targeted with the reduce message, but it will not change under a system created to sell products where things have to be upgraded constantly to keep economies floating. A message that your value is not in who you are, but in what new toy you are able to get. Where there is no international standards, so laws used in some countries whole companies can go elsewhere and create worse pollution scenarios by having their products made their and shipped back.

It speaks to a system that has to admit, it takes all jobs to make an economy work, and there is no shameful work. That the classist system is the highest consumers, and discarders of product are the ones that need to be targeted, not the lowest consumers.  That we need to invest in our STEM future and find ways to reclaim polluted waterways, soils and air…as well as cleanse and reuse the already buried wastes. That is useful environmentalism.

City planners that allow city growth to outstrip resourcing for healthy public services-including transit, shoppes, and schools so you are forced into a driver commuter scenario, extra monetary burdens come as work is never within your own area either. Municipalities need to take responsibility for feeding the consumption dragon by not setting appropriate limits, and ensuring key infrastructure for citizens on those areas can be reached via more than one modality (i.e. not just by driving the country mile urbanly– yes City of Calgary I am speaking to you).

Yet I also touched upon the word ABLEIST. What is that? Simple, discrimination against persons with disabilities. In darker forms, it is eugenics. The breeding practices of live stock brought to creating the perfect human being through selective breeding, abortion, and homicide (passive or active) to remove the weak from the gene pool. And yes, in the more social media ends of the world from any movements extreme this still exists (left or right, ya both raise idjits).

And I see signs of ableism within the neo-environmentalist movement. There is an assumption everyone can use public transit (does not take into account ruralism); or walk/bike (does not take into account clear pathways and connecting points for ones mobility devices). Does not take into account that something needs to be figured out for medical waste, and that includes incontinent products. BUT…

And this one is not going to make me friends. The single use straw, the current “evil” to be banned. Well, hate to burst the progressive or conservative, it is a useful tool for a person with disabilities to get liquids. As one twitter convo pointed out to me, the paper ones can create choking hazards. Reusable ones become breeding grounds for bacteria (have you ever tried to truly get one sanitary and clean?); and metal/stainless steel? C’mon does that sound like a safe thing in the cold or with a hot bevvie?

What continually seeking the greatest soundbite reminder has done in the movement is create a constant chase of symptoms. It has not encouraged growth, respect, understanding, inclusion or belonging for all those in the human family with the creation we share. That is where neo-environmentalism is failing. I yearn for a movement that moves beyond the simple, to truly attack at the core issue of the crisis… over consumption, and anything for a profit mentality over the sanctity of life.

We are the caretakers of creation for our children, and six generations on. Can it survive our consumption? Are we willing to get production slowed so all can come along safely? Are we willing to call out the over-consumer? Are we willing to not shame the one who needs something for a life aid?

Are we willing to be one another’s neighbour and not adversary?


There are many Empty Tomb or resurrection narratives found within the Canonical Gospels, never mind the ones in the pseudepigraph (apocrypha-gnostic—the ones Constantine’s Scholars did not want). There is scenes we are familiar with of Doubting St. Thomas putting his fingers in Brother Jesus’ wounds; talking with disciples on the road; eating fish with them.

BUT-

The oldest text ending we have was what is believed by tradition to originally been recited to John Mark (his folks owned the Upper Room, yeah that one, he was there at the arrest and ran away naked, and he journeyed a bit with Paul) by Peter (the one that Jesus called Satan in one moment, and in another was being called the foundation stone of the Christianities, and Brother Jesus entrusting him with the keys if you will).

This was the original “ending-beginning” (original Sonrise):

 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they could go and anoint Jesus’ dead body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they came to the tomb. They were saying to each other, “Who’s going to roll the stone away from the entrance for us?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away. (And it was a very large stone!) Going into the tomb, they saw a young man in a white robe seated on the right side; and they were startled. But he said to them, “Don’t be alarmed! You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.[a] He has been raised. He isn’t here. Look, here’s the place where they laid him. Go, tell his disciples, especially Peter, that he is going ahead of you into Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you.” Overcome with terror and dread, they fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

-Mark 16:1-8 (Common English Bible)

Fear? Seems an apt human response to finding your friend’s body missing. Even with the message, these women had heard the rumblings of the authorities, or of other factions on what to do with the body to break the back of the movement.

Yet the message went to three strong women. It was the true community message time. In ancient world customs took 2 women to equal one man in testimony. Yet here you had a Trinity. Much like a mirror reflection of the Trinity of God (Creator), Jesus (master teacher/way shower) and the promised Holy Spirit (community empowerer). The women were Mary, Mother of James (who was Jesus’ brother)—the co-creator of the life of Jesus; Salome (Herod’s niece who was manipulated in killing John, reborn within the movement, a new child mentored by the women); and Mary Magdalene (once written off as a sex worker in a derogatory manner, now history showing that she was the major sustainer of the community, through her monies keeping things going, and very possibly the wife of Brother Jesus).

An earthly feminist trinity receiving the truth. That even the plans of evil, power, Empire and Religious Controllers were undone. They had heard the message (the Gospel proclaimed of the new Kingdom to come) and they had seen the signs…yet in the midst of the reality. Truly having their society’s meta-narrative shattered, the caste system of religion, economics and colonialism blown away…the fear of change gripped them and they rolled through it as they ran.

Who would do any different in the midst of such drastic change?

With each change in life no matter how minuscule, our emotional intelligence goes through the journey of grief. That is what this group was going through, later accounts tried to alleviate that understanding. This earliest account allows you to enter into it.

Not only enter into it, but after the fear rolls through and you are left with the acknowledgement of what just happened.

Flowing into that moment of new reality. That moment when one realizes nothing can stop radical love. Nobody can stop true belonging. No matter how much “power they have”. For all the powers of the known world attempted to and looked as if they had succeeded in silencing the peasant labourer from Nazareth…and the Holy Mystery and a big Nu-Uh for them as the sun rose on a Sunday.

They may have run in fear…

But what came next is how each of them, and cascading into each member continued to write their own Gospel story.

Empires and religious controllers to come may have tried to set and seal the Christian Testament, but they too missed the moment of fear of the women. For it was in that moment of fear, that they knew the story was no longer about the life lived of Brother Jesus. It was now about the lives living the way of radical love of Brother Jesus and the transformed world to come.

It was now their Gospel. Their political proclamation of radical love and belonging.

It was their answer to the question, who is my Neighbour?

This Easter Sunday, as the sun rose, and you were confronted with the man in white telling you the tomb was empty…where is your fear taking you?

            What is your Gospel? Your political proclamation of radical love and belonging?

            What is your answer to the question, who is my neighbour?


Scattered. Unsure. Confused. Scared. Not knowing what comes next. Nothing written in stone as to how to act out in the darkness awaiting.

Vigil Saturday is a hard concept for the modern Christianities.

Why?

We already want to move beyond Good Friday and jump right into Easter Sunday and the resurrection. How can we understand the waiting? We speak of the journey, but we hold in our hearts the outcome so it is a false journey.

It is much like the concept of a prequel. How can the viewer/reader truly enter the story, knowing the next step? Take the Star Trek spin-off Enterprise. This was its living conundrum for the writers. How do you present the early days of the Federation when everyone already knows things as laid out by Kirk, Picard, Sisko and Janeway?

Yet it was also the sequel to Star Trek 8: First Contact. For those who have not seen, this movie was a sequel to the Star Trek: The Next Generation cliff hangar, Best of Both Worlds. Where the Borg are tired of attempting to assimilate earth in the 24th century, they travel back in time to before First Contact. That is before Zephram Cochrane took the first warp flight into space and the Vulcans contacted humanity…which spawned the Star Trek Universe.

Enterprise begins after this. As humanity works with the Vulcans who appear to be holding them back. A Klingon turns up in a farmer’s field and needs to be taken home. Captain Archer (and his beagle), Sub-Commander T’Pal, Trip, Yoshi, Reed to name but a few of the characters take the NX-01 Enterprise (this is even before the Federation) into space on a mission of mercy. Once out there, this short lived 4 season series enters the awe of space exploration.

A series where the writers were in tension of what was known, what could be used, what needed to be held off on, how to use time travel, and how to use the idea of lost logs to cover continuity gaps for they needed the familiar, yet the challenge of it being new and would this survive. How do you get from a ship of humans with two other species (a Vulcan, and a Denobulan Doctor (Chief Medical Officer)—never mind the challenge to the idea of human based binary marriage Dr. Phlox’s people brought). Also, what happens with a crew of experts that begin to let themselves be more than simply individuals? As interdependence grows? As community blossoms? As their sense of belonging breaks beyond their own attested to or implied labels to something beyond themselves.

As Captain Archer in one of the early episodes phrased it, and summed up where the series was at in Trek Lore:

One day there may be a prime directive of some kind to follow, but for now all we have is our own compass on what is right.

For the modern Christianities this is what makes Vigil Saturday so hard, much like the Trekkie’s mind during Enterprise. We want to skip to the end of the story. We want to cling to our institutions, our doctrines our creeds and our completed and shiny Bibles…so we cannot understand the fleeing, the hiding…the venturing forth, the open questioning and challenging.

When in the midst of the chaos…there was no hard and fast what was to happen, there was a question on how to belong, and how to act towards each other: Who is my neighbour? But had it truly sunk in as the darkness descended and the awaiting began.  Was it there, when the women took the first steps out in the darkness bravely towards the rising son.

Or as a ship launched on a mission to return a lost soul not knowing what awaited beyond the sun…

Vigil Saturday is about letting go of what we know, and where we are comfortable.

It is sitting in the dark.

Not knowing what will be there if or when the sun rises.

Or our next First Contact?

Or knowing the form our neighbour will take…

Can you wait… and be present?


Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is one of those shows. Moving aside from what you believe about the controversy around it appearing as Babylon 5 (uber-geeks like me get it) or the Avery Brooks could not have a shaved head for a few seasons out of fear fans would see him only as Hawk (Spenser for Hire). It is a show that should be contemplated during Holy Week (and Lent) or really can be used to create a youth group exploration of faith/religion/spirituality/ethics across labels.

How did this happen? trials-and-tribble-ations-07

It is set on a space station that was once used as a key of an occupying species (Cardassians) over an entire planet and species (Bajoran). When the occupation ends, the Federation comes in to aid the Bajorans in rebuilding, claiming the symbol of occupation and re-igniting it as one of hope. There is an intricate religious system on Bajor that sustained the resistance, it is based around the Roman Catholic catechism is you watch closely, but is quite universal. A wormhole opens to a new quadrant, it is seen by believers as a Celestial Temple, with the “wormhole aliens/shape shifters” that exist within seen as Prophets. The Bajoran religion grew out of pantheistic roots to the belief in the tangible Prophets and Pa Wraith demons that were active before the occupation, and are active again. ds93

Commander Benjamin Sisko’s first contact with the Prophets brings him to the intersection of Star Fleet Prime Directive and those he is aiding’s religious beliefs as Sisko becomes The Emissary.

That is enough of an ethical discourse. Throughout though the show looks at race relations; in one episode of time travel it looks at the battle for equality within 20th century America. There is another when as Emissary, Sisko is left on the cusp of death, and his son, Jake, must wrestle through the ethical challenges of medically assisted death outside and inclusive of the ethical foundations he knows as a Federation citizen and the role/beliefs his father had been developing around his life as Emissary.

What is using God’s name in vein? For too long we have said its using God’s name as a swear, this is pure bullocks… it is using God’s name to justify your actions that are wrong (contrary to Love) or it is using God’s name/blessings in your life for your own personal gain instead of just being in awe of the love that has come.
This confirmation lesson was brought to you by the letter L for Love like Jesus, and the number 19 (cause 12 close men, and 7 close women=19, Jesus original inner circle).

-Facebook thought circa 2010

 

There is also the touch on genetic (eugenic) engineering, with Dr. Bashir and the illegal enhancements his parents put him through. But also the quandary that because he could “pass” he was allowed a life. While those that could not were institutionalized. A great allegory to the debate/historic throwback/current existence of persons with disabilities.

The underlying story of transformation of the Ferengi Family and Rules of Acquisition in Quark, Rom and Nog as they become more involved with the Federation. The guard of the “other” being let down. But the tiny ripple effect as the curve ball of the misogynistic capitalist species becomes shook to its core when their Mother decides she should wear clothes, and… make her own money.ds9

Worf coming to grips with being a father, and that his son, needs to be affirmed for who he is, not chase who his father thinks he should be to save his life during the Dominion War.

Love—in all its forms. From Garrick’s (Cardassian tailor/Obsidian order trained killer) fawning love of afar from Bashir. To Worf and Dax (a Trill, with many lifetimes lived), to Kira (a Bajoran survivor) and her love for Odo (a shapeshifter alien) and his love for her. To the argument of what is life, with Vic the hologram becoming sentient. To Sisko working through the grief of losing his wife at Wolf 359 (when Picard was a Borg), and finding love a new. To the unlikely friendship of Nog and Jake that shows being best friends can transcend any barriers. To the Orb journey and did Kira’s mother love Gul Dukat (the lead Cardassian of the occupation?)

The Dominion War story arc that creates the ethical debate of war, invasion, how far will you go, what are ethics in war, blindly following an ideology, why the young are first drafted, fear, death, loss, grief, how allies are chosen…but also the role religion and belief play in the outplay…also in the increasing rise of the story line through their final season to the conclusion that was the ultimate story of redemption, where the answer of the whole occupation of, where were the Prophets? Is finally answered.

If you have seen the series, you may seen the bread crumbs I have laid out. If you have not, I do not want to provide spoilers, but it is well worth exploring. At the least for great writing, characters and science fiction. At most, it is a useful tool for discourse, exploration and growth.

For the show truly challenges the answer to the question:

Who is My neighbour?

Is truly universal…

(Star Trek Deep Space Nine, available for purchase on DVD, Blu-Ray, borrow from a public library, or stream on Netflix)


I have been on a journey…quite a lifetime of a journey…on creating space for persons to belong. It is why some have read previous posts and have blatantly stated that I do not believe in inclusion, accessibility and/or affirming ministries.

WRONG!!!

I am a 21st century Canadian. I believe this is where we should be resonating and existing at as community already. Accessibility is a need, but is a physical transformation of space, that can be forgiven if there is a plan to move forward, or allowances and aids to help. Inclusion means that the circle has been drawn wide enough so that regardless of label there is a space for you, and affirming is the simple act that you deserve to exist with the same dignity, rights and privileges as everyone else, because, well you are a human being. The fact we allow ourselves to backslide back into these old debates is astoundingly annoying, hurtful and a waste of time.

Where the conversation, and behaviour needs to happen in community, but especially within the Christianities is within belonging. Belonging is messy, because the first three are the starting point so it is no longer the person’s label at play. We seek to understand how they experience the world, and what is needed for their full vocational fulfillment within our world.  It is the calling Brother Jesus laid on our hearts/souls/beings with his teachings out of the Shema (the great love commandments of God, Neighbour and Self) that he then reflected in the Parable of the Good Samaritan in answer to the legalist (read we will keep arguing inclusion, accessibility and affirming just because we are scared of change and sharing power) who asked him “who is my neighbour?”.

The risk of knowing neighbour, and of belonging as written of earlier is that we risk missing the person or being missed. BUT…there is more.

When one truly belongs. One takes ownership of the 5 W’s and H of the belonging. You will hear phrases of “This is my home” or “This is my community” or “My crew/group/residents/patients/clients/customers/students” or “my team” or “my church”. Why? Because they are resonating in belonging to something they were meant to be a part of. It is not about prestige, titles, or money (or anything else to feed ego). It is truly doing what one is meant to do. Being where one is meant to be.

Notice the words: being, be… B-E-L-O-N-G.

Take time in your life, what do you take ownership of authentically?

Why do you take that ownership?

What does this say about what your values are?

If the legalist came to you and asked, “who is my neighbour?” what is your story of ownership? Of Being? Of belonging?

 


Please note: like with other resources I have pointed out the population touched upon can be transitioned to any group seeking belonging, for this article and from my reflections it is persons with disabilities. But it can be the experience of anyone physically or linguistically included, but not belonging.

On March 13, 2018 news broke that Stephen Hawking had passed away. What his passing on the surface revealed is the shallowness of inclusion/affirming culture as the tripe and trout statements for a person with disabilities who had passed were drawn out. “he is finally free of his wheelchair” was one “winning comment”. Showing ableism at its finest. accessibleIt is the type of world where it is okay to still see those who are differently abled as less than; allows the Calgary Board of Education to scape goat children with disabilities for their institutions inability to manage money or tell parents from administrators that there is only stress because you chose to bring THAT life into the world. It is the world where Christianities and other religions easily peddle ideas of “wholeness in heaven” or “if only you believed harder there would be healing”.

These are ideas in inclusive (read—you are welcome, if you do not challenge our notions) and accessible (that is there is adequate close parking, ramps and bars as coded by law) communities. Ones that still allow for the idea that persons with disabilities do not speak; or how wonderful it will be to see them in “heaven/paradise” (pick your form of afterlife) so they will be whole, able to talk, and run freely and really see who they truly are.

This is not belonging. As written about in Risk of Belonging and Risk of Belonging 2 it is about moving beyond these spaces that allow for bullying, allow for entrenchment of us and them. Moving to an understanding that each and everyone of us is different, and as such to fully participate within community as we are called/created to be, means that we need different supports/encouragement/aides. It is belonging by putting value on what the person brings to the community by being there, being apart of, their intrinsic worth and goodness as a person (personhood if you will), and the riskiest of all…that when they are not there…they will be missed.

Missed is the part that creates messiness and awkwardness for human beings. It can be as simple as someone leaving community to join another, moving, or transitioning. When they are an older person struggling with health and a transition to the next life or a new facility happens it is hard, but reconcilable in the lifespan.  Still we are called to allow for humane treatment, and belonging to still exist (something our world needs to work on, check out further thoughts section at the end).

The missing person is grieving the change of their world and what is known, whether our abled world and coding systems state they comprehend or not. The human spirit enters the grief cycle; whichever one your stead fistedly holds to in your theory of change—Kubler-Ross; U Theory, etc. there is a presence on the journey of new and different we have felt the need to quantify. It is hard enough to do when you are adulting. But it becomes even messier when we move into the broader spectrum of family (chosen or blood).

But this is going to hit hard and personal for those families seeking belonging where their child with medical complexities/disabilities/differently-abled is accepted for being a kid. When you have finally found that blessed place. The dramas of driving out the child before belonging because inclusion was enough of a risk… why is belonging riskier? Because you may miss.

How do I know there is a fear of being missed that stops belonging? Simple. To belong, means that individual will be missed. With someone who may not live past toddler years, pre-school, elementary or adolescences it challenges a community’s concept of justice, rightness. It challenges our entire societies basis of quantity of life over quality. It also challenges the ideal that quality comes from being life everyone else in what is termed “typical”.

Even more in our entrenched world it removes the ability for the community to have “the answer” or “the truth” about what happened. For the Christianism (or other forms there of), “well God needed them more than you.” Is going to be vocally called out as “BULL SHIT” whether it is by the family grieving leaving, or fighting back.

Belonging is messy because we risk missing the person who becomes part of our world. That risk of missing means we must be comfortable with having aspects of our world that cannot be explained. We must be comfortable with understanding persons for persons and labels not as defining personality and personhood but rather explaining how the experience the world and what is needed for a strong quality of life. And the greatest fear for those who are spiritual or religious we are confronted with something that conceptually does not make sense, and no one should be able to provide an answer for.

What is the risk of missing?

It is risking being human. It is risking being able to accept tears heal. It is being able to accept that all will morn the empty space in the community regardless of the missing persons age, because damn it, they were part of us.

      AND IT IS BEING OKAY with being in the pain of the unknown.

To risk belonging is hard, because we must risk missing and being missed by one another.

 

Further thoughts from others:

John Swinton interview with United Church Observer

The Solution is Assisted Life

Sharing a Story about Bullying


A person is a person, because he recognizes others as persons.

-Desmond Tutu

The risk of belonging is that it is using the space now open to all through physical, linguistic, theological—inclusionary lens and accessible building…to move beyond simple existence. It is recognizing one another as persons, with intrinsic value, worth, goodness and blessedness.

This is a risk, because opening one self up then you cannot create an shouting match of hatred. There is no threat to you because of rules governing public space to allow all to exist, for they all are included. Now it is at the more personal level, to be able to engage one another as simply persons. This is the grand risk.

Why?

Simple.

No longer the other. But neighbour.

Once neighbour there is the risk of becoming friend. Then that runs the risk of becoming chosen family.

All three of these risks carry with it the greatest risk of all:

You or the neighbour will be missed (grieved) when you are no longer there.

Children are a wonderful gift. They have an extraordinary capacity to see into the heart of things and to expose sham and humbug for what they are.

-Desmond Tutu

This is why children are so wonderful in seeing beyond our worldly imposed bull shit. They see each other, and everyone already simply as they are.

And you know what happens when we take the risk of stepping outside our own boundaries? What happens when we acknowledge the included as persons? When we acknowledge them as neighbour? Perhaps become friends or chosen family?

We belong.

And it is in belonging…that is the greatest risk.

Are you ready for the greatest risk taken in your community? Home? Self?

Are you ready to open yourself up to belong?

For others to belong?

For with the risk of belonging comes a deeper risk.

The risk of being grieved.

Are you willing to open yourself up to the circle of life?

The circle of belonging?


Be curious.

-Stephen Hawking (1942-2018)

We live in a world that has paused at the simplest steps of life. I know reading that spongwill infuriate more people of all ideologies, but it is true. The simplest steps of life are inclusion/accessibility/affirming. They are physical transformations of space, or nods to language change or nods that a person can exist, well because of birth. These are the simple steps, and yes we do struggle, because to be crass some human beings are obstinate dumb asses or easily led down the garden path of hate.

Yet if we can move beyond that fear of the unknown, there is more to examine within our own selves and our communities. I state the fear of the unknown that is created through labels. Yes, communities can use these to identify themselves, but then they become points of segregation, an us and them motif. This is wrong.

I’m not comfortable with the idea of setting people apart, because when you set them apart as holy innocence, what you’re really doing is creating another level of difference, another level of segregation. It’s just another way of pushing people to the margins.

John Swinton

But it is about moving beyond the simple choices, the acts of language or money. As much as we make noise about these being so difficult. Why is this noise existing? If this noise exists, the true risk does not need to be assessed. It is why with those who are differently abled, or struggling, we hold to the healing miracles. We miss the setting in history where the only way belonging would be allowed in the ancient mind scape is if everyone was the same. For that is the truth of the tales, whether Jesus is spitting in eyes, or casting out demons or cleansing lepers. It was about removing barriers for INCLUSION, but it did not mean the newly healed belonged, only they could attend (I will not go on a long discourse here, as there is many on this thread in other areas of my site).

           To include people in society is just to have them there. All we have to do is make the church accessible, have the right political structures, make sure people have a cup of tea at the end of the service or whatever. There is a big difference between inclusion and belonging. 

John Swinton

The risk of the heart is belonging.

It involves two parties. The one wanting to belong, the newcomer or the one who has been “included” and the other, the community or other individual/family (add any grouping). There is risk of inclusion in space and number, but exclusion in every other way. Humans need connection.

Belonging is risky because you have to open yourself up to someone else, and see nothing more than who they are in all there blessed goodness.

           Risky?

Yes.

Why?

            To risk, as Swinton and others have pointed out, is to risk being missed and missing when they are no longer there. It is not simply the story of aging in place, and dying well as was discoursed with aging leaders in community, most famously discussed with the passing of Pope John Paul II. For true belonging comes without age, especially in a world where 1 in 3 Canadian children will be born with or acquire a disability.

The greatest risk?

The challenge to community to answer why when a child’s seat who belongs, is filled one time, and empty the next.

Let that sink in as you begin the journey to true belonging.

How does your community understand death?

What trite phrases are thrown out that will do more harm than good? That will shatter belonging for those who grieve deep in the soul?

The risk of belonging, is the risk of re-examining the stock answers for the reality of now.

This is the beginning of a discussion for any group or person that says they include or affirm. These are true statements, and true steps on the journey.

But do they open up to belonging?

            If they are open to belonging?

Are they open to grieving the loss without an answer?