Eyes that See

Who are you, a face on the other side of the wire?

A single sided story woven out of strands of history, projected into a future none would wish to inhabit.

Who are you, a child with a bloated belly, are you not more that your past, than the legacy of poverty attached to your picture?

A history of division, a color by number map of the world that fails to see our common humanity.

Who are you, a young man with a gun, no more than a child. You love your family, you love your country, you love.

Fear has encroached upon our ability to love; we see with veiled eyes, blind to the ways in which we become that which we fear.

Who are you, my neighbour, you live just next door.

We take the same bus, walk the same streets, yet never speak. I sit alone in my basement suite, you in yours. What keeps us apart?

Who are you, woman on the other side of the world? Your veil speaks of difference that threatens to separate, but your smile invites.

Our lenses create a reality that is upside down and outside in. Trapped in fear, we have become our own worst enemies. Who is our enemy if it is not fear itself?

I want to lay down these glasses, remove these eyes that see from the outside in. I admit my partiality, confess my blindness. Will you help me to see?

See what lies beneath our histories, beneath our stuggle for survival. See what lies beyond the veil, the book, the politics. See inside a people, see the heart that beats just like mine. What causes your heart to beat, is it love, is it justice? Is it fear?

May the ground upon which we tread be uprooted until the faulty foundations that we have learned to walk upon are changed. And we are given new eyes.

Eyes that see.

Written by Lana McGuire in response to a workshop exploring ideas of “the other”, and the danger of a single story.

This poem is an honest reflection on some of my experiences in looking upon and interacting with a fragmented world. Edward Said terms it as “orientalism”, examining the way in which we look at others; particularly those from “the Orient” or the region of the Middle East. It is essentially a question of perception, and what I was attempting to convey in my poem is the reality that we see others through our own set of lenses, be that on a political, national, or personal level. Said speaks of ways in which the media, film, imagery, and language contribute to a negative portrayal of the Middle East, a broad sweeping umbrella under which many distinct nations are clumped.

A single story, as was expounded upon by Chimamanda Adichie, is something that allows these terribly inaccurate misconceptions to be fostered in our hearts and minds, and eventually be woven into a national and international consciousness. This workshop evoked within me an urgent desire to truly meet my neighbour, globally and locally, and to learn to see them without the veils of a single story. It is time for a restoration of a world fragmented in its every fibre, a restoration of connection between people, our environments, and our history. Only when we truly see the big picture and understand that we are not each other’s enemies can we move forward into a new future, one in which we can admit our blindness and turn the other way, we will learn to see.

Posted on http://blogs.ubc.ca/ethicsofisl/ for Heso 449B, The University of British Columbia, March 10, 2011

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Faulty Towers

I am learning that the process of learning often begins with a sharp slap in the face as I recognize the many ways in which I have illusions- illusions about myself, about others, and about the workings of the world. Of late, I have found myself in a constant quandry about my place in the world- perhaps it is the subject matter I am studying, but it seemed as if one question led to another, and suddenly, my entire world view, one that advocated international service, has been nearly eroded.  Hmm.  This has left me in a bit of a pickle, and yet, the farther into the questions, the more dis-illusioned I am becoming. 

That which is built on faulty foundations will not stand.  Obvious, yet the very structures that sustain the world today seem to have missed this point.  In contrast, the psalms describe a king and His throne, one whose foundations are righteousness and justice, a throne that will endure forever, one that will not be shaken.  In fact, to receive the kingdom of God, (another thing that doesnt make sense at all according to this world, a camel entering through the eye of a needle, becoming a child, becoming born again), is to receive a kingdom that is unshakeable, that when everything in the world that can be shaken has been shaken, the kingdom, whose very foundations are all that is right, and all that is just, will remain. This is our inheritance.

Studying a world whose foundations seem to be as unstable and unequitable as can be threatens to either bring me to a point of dismay at the hopelessness of it all, or bring me to a sense of incredible joy that this world is passing, and a new world is on its way.  A kingdom that is built on justice, a king who lifts the poor out of the dust, and the needy out of the ashes, who is the advocate for those who are oppressed. I am left in the chasm of asking, what does “international service” look like in the dynamic tension between the ushering out of a world who in essence, is not sustainable, and the coming of a kingdom in which all is as it should be?