Thursday, December 5, 2013
Rain. Come Stay for a While. Being a misfit.
Our Latin Patriarch in Jerusalem asked us to pray for rain at Masses last weekend. Our prayers worked. This is the third day of rain. I think that bodes well for the Christmas play we are putting on at the Concord Cinema.
Cars drive so slowly in the rain. For that reason, I wish it would rain every day. The roads get slick with a build up of oil and toxins throughout the year and they begin to wash away when the rains come. The roads bubble up with white soapy foam.
Christmas is here in Amman. Many stores began selling their Christmas decorations and goods two weeks before Thanksgiving. It seems like it has really built up from the past year. Because of the play, I have not been to the malls or hotels to see how they are decorated.
One day last week as I was driving to ArSweifiyah with a staff member from the Jesuit Center, we embarked on an enterprise of indiscriminately waving to people on the street. The reactions were tremendous. Faces beamed as they curiously looked to see who was this American who was greeting them. The smiles were worth it.
I really am a misfit in this land. I am an egalitarian type of man and priest and I like to spread the work, responsibility, and credit, but it is not the way that people do things here. Some want me to be the authoritarian priest because that is the only model they know. Egalitarian people get stepped on and abused. I have to vacillate between the two models, while favoring the egalitarian way. People do like it but they have to learn new ways of behaving and interacting.
I often wonder whether I should have hope or despair for the people here. The default answer is "this is the type of people we are. The bible says so." There is no personal responsibility to change even though everyone knows the system is wrong and harmful to progress of society. They want change but the societal pressures are too large. It makes my work more complicated because I have always believed that all we can do is our little bit of good within our little corner of the world and it will spread. Our goodness will change society for the better because people see a way they trust is right.
Many in the Middle East do not see lying as dishonorable. It is simply a way of life. People will lie to your face and feel no guilt or shame. I have to wonder about its corrosive effect though.
It makes me question how love is regarded here. There are, of course, many wealthier, cultured Middle Easterners who make decisions based on love, but for the far majority of people, duty seems to win out. Everyone protects and cares for their family because it is their duty to do so, but you don't get the sense that love takes root in so many places. Many marriages are based on property and inheritance rights or family decisions. Many marriages work out well because everyone knows they are indissoluble. People learn to care for one another and love can grow out of it, yet treating people with love and kindness is an odd thing here. It leaves with me lots of questions as I grapple with the idea of love taking root here.
This is an area of the world that has never known peace with its neighbors in its history in their own right. Conquering nations have imposed peace terms, but it seems like peace has not been achieved on their own. It cannot be desired if it is never an idea in one's consciousness. Peace seems to be something in which an oppressed group now attains power and is able to oppress the formerly-oppressing agent. Oh, my mind struggles to put this all together.
The words of Jesus were revolutionary for this region. The concepts we have in the west are not the same realities in this part of the world. Words and phrases have different connotations. The words of Paul are challenging and the words of Jesus create seismic shifts. Understandings of words are subtle but the implications are large.
O.K. A different subject. Many kid goats are being born these days. It is fun to watch them frolic. Some baby camels are seen as well. I have learned that camels will close their eyes in driving sandstorms but they can still see where they are going because their eyelids are opaque. That is so cool.
Still a different subject. I have notice quite a shift in ways of relating on the internet. I've had more requests for Skype and I've noticed fewer emails are being received. The way of relating is changing. I've had a sizable increase of Facebook messages and especially WhatsApp. Every morning, I have at least 150 messages to read. Whoa! This online world is changing fast. Emails are considered official business correspondence.
The parish needs much more catechesis. I wished everyone a happy new year because of Advent and they are shouting Merry Christmas. I want to spend time after Mass with lectures and discussions to help people understand more about their faith because they will enjoy it so much when they become acquainted with our tradition.
The banging for renovations at the Jesuit Center has been very loud this week, which is the week I need quiet and rest because of the demands of the play. It is not going to happen because people do not know how to plan well.
Time to enjoy the rain. Time to rehearse my lines and songs for the play. I'm missing my painting classes, but I'm having fun. Happy Advent.