I've been reading this book, "The Terrorist's Son" by Zak Ebrahim. Zak writes his story about growing up as the son of a convicted terrorist, locked away for murdering a Jewish rabbi and helping to plan the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
He talks about learning to question and overcome the bigotry and dogma that he was raised with...."They all sounded like facts. Who was I to differentiate? I was made to fear people who were different and kept away for my own "protection". Bigotry is such a maddeningly perfect circle-I never got close enough to find out if I should fear them in the first place." The funny thing is that he finds freedom working a summer job at Busch Gardens.
"The flood of people, people, and people in my life is intoxicating. I walk around Busch Gardens with my head literally held higher because I know people who are not like me. I've got incontrovertible truth that my father raised me on lies. Bigotry is stupid. It only works if you never walk out your front door."
I love that statement, "people who are not like me" because I think it's so easy to get caught in a cycle of isolation of sameness. I grew up in a Christian culture that defined who you were by what you did or didn't do. You could tell who the "Real Christians" were because there was a prescribed set of rules that you either followed or didn't. If you followed all the rules, you were a good Christian. And if you didn't, then you were a bad one. And I was a really good one.
We built ivory towers and looked out the windows, pointing our fingers at the ones who were doing it wrong. We spent a lot of time pointing our fingers at people who followed differently than we did. I guess there is some safety in that. I mean, if you know the rules, and follow them, then you can feel like you're ok. The problem occurs when you ever bump into someone who has a different, or (gasp!) smaller set of rules than you do. Then, you have to either stretch your mind to let them into your space, or shut them out, because they are not like you. It's much easier to hang out with people who are the same. Then you can validate each other and no one is rocking the boat with some controversial idea. Then you can all be safe and right together, because obviously, everyone else is doing it wrong.
The only problem with that, is just about everything. Fear that someone different might make you worse of a person, that they might rub off on you like a communicable disease, keeps compassion away and love bottled up in a tiny, tiny jar. Fear rarely brings you to a better place. It just seatbelts you in and careens around the corners, out of control, taking you to places that you never wanted to go. It's easy enough to love your neighbor when your neighbor is just like you, it gets quite a bit more complicated when they are not.
I don't want to live like that. But in order to really live, you have to be vulnerable, because as we walk around in our clay vessels, sometimes we bump into each other, and we crack. And it hurts. You have to be willing to be broken, to not have all the answers, and to love people because we share the same skin of humanity. Beauty and ashes come from the same place.
I want to live in my broken vessel, wildly, with love and light pouring through the cracks like water. Some days I do it fine, and other days, I think I crawl back into my ivory tower. Some days I'm wide with Grace, and other days Mercy is a notion in my mind that never reaches my fingertips. Some days I'm so busy being right, that I don't Love. But then, I guess that's part of being broken, knowing that no matter how I hard I want do it perfectly, I still can't. And in that way, we are all just exactly the same.