Tag Archives: care

Doing not dreaming…beyond the "Self" trap

“Women’s theology from the Third World, like all feminist theology, puts great emphasis on doing theology. It is theology as an activity, as an ongoing process rooted in praxis, interdependent with and compassionately committed to life, justice, and freedom from oppression. It is not theology as a reified, academic subject with watertight categories, clear boundaries and sharp intellectual definitions totally separate from people’s experience” (Ursula King, 1993, 16-17)

I looked at the lectionary, but I think we both still need some time apart.

Instead how shall I DO theology this week? That’s a sensible question because I prefer to dream and intellecualise rather than do. What can I do that will make life have meaning? What will I do that brings Godde into my life, incarnates Godde?

Where are the places to care? Where are the places to resist? Where are the places to show-up? Where are the places to look after my own small family and even my own needs? How do I get past my insomnia and my waking nightmares, my heavy chest and tingling fingers and toes? Another anxiety attack and where is Godde?

Godde may be in the third world where people are less privileged than me. Godde may wish to hold the hand of the person who can’t leave the house for fear of racism (past and potential). Godde may be hiding in a wombat burrow while flames rage overhead. Godde might be in the small child I was that nearly killed herself for self-hate and loneliness. Godde may be on the page I wrote and sent to my supervisor or in my supervisor’s tendency to chat to me as equals not just boss me around. Godde might be in the overly picky colleague who was right after all, in the lentils I defrost for lunch, in a stack of notes to be signed for my son’s year 12. Godde might be hiding around the corner waiting for me to get off facebook and run to meet her. Godde might be travelling with the person I wish I was with. Godde might buy me a coffee and advocate for me to get work. Godde might demand I answer emails. I might be hiding from Godde because my anxiety is playing up. I might miss her…but surely she won’t allow that.

Reading on in the book edited by King, there’s a chapter by Asian feminist theologian Kwok Pui-lan and she seems to be speaking (writing?) into my recent passion for decolonisation. She talks about religious pluralism as an antidote to patriarchy and white supremacy and it seems to me to be an antidote also to the rationalist, liberal-democratic capitalist perspectives that make us all individuals…it calls to mind an opinion piece I read that speaks also into the research I am doing on early childhood educator and carer wellbeing. We are not sparkling intelligences each in an individual space where we create the world through our own autonomous and authoritative will. I reflect back on Grosz which I read last year. Humans are not just will and intellect, the body not just an inconvenient encumbrance to be pushed off onto women-kind, abandoned, neglected or overcome.

The body-soul mobius is deeply connected to earth and connected to otherness. We need to rediscover our own othered dimensions to help us de-other others including animals, plants and perhaps ultimately minerals too. Eating mindfully (which I do not do enough) might be part of this. I eat to feed my will but also to make it wait while I touch something present. Food has scent and texture and flavour it is not just fuel. I need to slow down when I eat this may reduce my incessant appetite that comes out as consumption- the drive to buy and own and even the drive to give.

(What did she mean by she needs to keep working so she won’t think?)

The tragedy of humanity (or one of them) is how often compassion is powerless. What can I do for Kopika and her family? What can I do for my casualised friends who suffer with me but perhaps worse? What can I do for a battery hen or a dairy cow? What can I do for a burnt koala? What can I do to keep my own children safe into a future I (the dazzling will and intellect) do not own. I am mortal, I am limited. Sometimes we seek to hide from this by exploiting and consuming everything around us. Sometimes we are too beaten down to want to truly live.

In that moment the Wisdom in which I still believe (a faith statement I did not expect to find in myself) says “come, slow-down, smell the rain, open your windows to coolness, breathe, taste me, be”. The church has grown a rigid shell (wills and intellects and patriarchal fear of not controlling) and is sick but will not admit it or ask for help. I can refuse to believe as an act of faith. I can believe as an act of uncertainty. I can love what I don’t agree with and reject what I used to think was all. I collapse with laughter seeing in my words still the desire to be a knowing, willing, sparkling SELF.

I will go and smell the basil if the possums have left me any and see what the teenager wants to do today. I will try to come off my intellectual high horse but even these games we play…all of it…is prayer.

Thanks be to beautiful Wisdom.

Kindness is subversive

This week has been overly busy with some progress on the job front, my son’s 21st and a couple of celebrations of International Women’s Day. My one “study day” was spent mainly networking rather than writing which o an introvert like me would have seemed like a nightmare if I had planned for just how busy and social I would be this week. But it was fine (partly because the only people I had to mix with were ones I genuinely like). So I haven’t written a reflection on the next part of the mass, though I have thought a lot about the next one of those I will write (hopefully in the coming week).

I have also thought a lot about pink-collared work and about glass ceilings, especially the self-righteous kind of glass ceiling the patriarchal churches all have one way or another. I have thought about how I have a huge university debt but am paid like I just need to buy the odd pretty frock, not as though I am the one and only “bread winner” (so there has been less to go with the overpriced gluten-free bread this week). I’ve thought about the hard physical, mental and emotional labour that gets dismissed as the ultimately feminine “caring” for the youngest, oldest and most vulnerable members of society. For me caring almost becomes a dirty word, when it becomes a label trivialising hard work as just part of my nature. In this way it is steeped in the reek of exploitation.

I want to not care, I want to be tough and shiny and competitive- the minute I walk through the door into a room full of toddlers whose faces light up to see me and who ask “where are your special books to read to me” or demand a cuddle I know that as hard as I work my emotions are tangled with these exceptional people and that we do all “care” for each other after all. This knowledge is highlighted the minute one of my colleagues notices I have not had my ten-minute break or asks to swap places with me as I have been out in the sun too long, or takes over a boring cleaning task so I can do an activity with the children. Their treatment of me reminds me to watch out for who needs back-up or breathing space or just a kind word. A storm is coming so the boss sends home anyone who can be spared in the order of who has to travel on public transport longest. She says it “doesn’t count” as leaving early because she is genuinely concerned for their safety. Those who have to stay longer as parents are having trouble getting there on time. Noone complains, noone is charged for the time.

Because this is the fact of being human, like it or not we do care. There is something there that can’t be quantified and given a price tag and I feel sick with worry about that in a world where increasingly people are treated as disposable rubbish. Noone “cares” about the carers. You are supposed to be a “lifter” or an “entrepreneur”. Leaners and those leaned on have less and less value to the ones who like to stack the odds in their own favour.

But at uni this week, at a collective supervision meeting one of the students outlined her plans for her thesis. I swallowed my envy at how articulate and with-it she is and how many steps ahead of me after a shorter time and listened because I could tell she was going to be interesting. And she started with a provocative statement: “Care is subversive, kindness is activism”. She went on to talk about the neoliberal vision for the university (for the world), about the fearfulness of people to speak out and though she did not quote Freire the “banking model” of education was behind what she was criticising.

It’s a bleak view when you look at the patterns of power in the world but she has chosen to focus on activists and what makes a person one, and she seems to believe from the beginning that caring and kindness have a lot to do with it and are the loose cannon on the deck of the organised and self-interested capitalist world. It’s a romantic sort of a thought, a “love conquers all” sort of a gauntlet to throw down but I guess if I am to have any faith in God whatsoever then that is the right sort of grounding for it, and for hope.

So happy International women’s day to the carers and the sharers, the kind ones and the unselfish ones. To the ones who wipe the face of sorrow and the ones who bind wounds or teach little hearts to sing. To the unsung heroines, the weary and under-appreciated subversives, to the older women who encourage the younger women and the sisters who are stronger together.Our caring will conquer economic rationalism, our kindness is laced with a growl of righteous anger for our children. Every meal we cook, every word we write, every selfie we are laughed at for taking. We will care for ourselves, each other and the world. Our values belong to ourselves and we will not let fear and self-interest find a permanent home in our hearts.