As I write this post I am mindful and very cognizant that there may be a few readers out there who may not understand or even comprehend what I have written. They will think this posting to complex, longing for the simplistic as the systems of information embraced as pseudo education seldom teach the human being how to think much less comprehend. That said this posting demands that the reader engage the complexity of life beyond simplistic notions they have been taught to embrace.This post seeks to engage two questions. The first question is, “what is a radical?” The second question which is even more significant is, “is the radical relevant?” This based on my reading of “The Relevance of the Radical, Simone Weil 100 Years Later” Rozelle-Stoner and Stone published by Continuum.
“The Relevance of the Radical, Simone Weil 100 Years Later presents a strangely compelling autobiography of sorts that mirrors some of my own experiences as a transgender scholar living in a world that adjudicates the “self” and the “I’ through culture-societal norms, at times becoming violent both rhetorically and physically. It presents the searing question, “am I relevant as a radical?” This question becomes central towards the work of change, transformation and the risk involved which one must be called to. For heaven's sake who wants to be a radical? It also presents a corollary question of survival, “how shall I survive as a radical gender liberationist in a world that despises the radical yet desires the radical as the consummate savior?” (Please pause for a moment for the radical rabbi hung on the cross)So what is a radical? One, who does not, refuses to or cannot conform, in an extraordinary way, to the norms of culture and society.
Am I relevant to this world, to relationships? Do I matter to people not just God? I wonder. This posting is not intended to reveal some defeatist attitude for I live in a hopeful reality longing for the day when my life and actions will become a relevant most meaningful content of the conscious world, even embraced.That said,
I know that I am the arbiter of who I am, of the self. The self as oriented to the divine and not to culture or society. This becomes challenging particularly living among communities of people who see the norms of culture and society as the arbiters, even the god of all things human, that god is embodied in heteronormative culture characterized as a mode of profit, making it the necessary narrative for the mainstream of people in the United States and thus for many sacred. Sarcastically I ask, "what is more sacred than that which yields some type of profit?" Now I find that the “self”, even the “I” is a contested space of struggle. Some well meaning people might say that there is no struggle except that which I create and that this struggle for the liberation of gender is irrelevant to the plight of humanity. That I have what I desire. I find this perspective rather limiting, even juvenile in its scope of analysis particularly as a matter of a shifting ethical ground.
Not being oriented to culture or society can present intense ethical considerations as the trough of systems and their systemic logic dominate and sequesters human existence, experience and movements. The radical can present significant relational challenges considering the narrow view of life a significant number of people embrace. Reality becomes a conjured device to affirm a narrowness of mind considered supremely sacred. The life of the beyond considered a matter for the ungodly, even the heathen, I speak here of the U.S. American Grand Narrative as formulated Marcella Althaus-Reid (1952-2009), a South American Theologian. In contrast, for the radical the expansiveness of life, its cosmic divine origin become the sacred and the holy as God is experienced as the fathomless divine origin, even the origin of life and of light itself of which humanity originates. The radical is not oriented to systems of domination characterized by the interlocking oppressions harnessed for profit but to a liberating God who makes those systems and their interlocking oppressions irrelevant and without power in the broader scheme of cosmic existence. And this becomes the radical’s argument, their struggle even their longing for understanding that life is about the cosmic divine encounter found in relationship to our neighbor and their life and not to those systems and their oppressions. In this Simone Weil would insist.
The orientation of the radical can make them irrelevant. Irrelevance, contextualized in space and time become a consequence of who they are. That said, they are considered to be unworthy of the god of this world, in this Musa Dube and Cornel West would agree. Now as I write this post I am reminded of how much pain the radical experiences for who they are just as much as what they do emerging out of whom they are by divine intent. We must take pause and understand the precarious position of the radical in a world that doesn’t believe in the radical and/or what they stand for. I suppose the radical is in good company as the world has despised many a radical yet embraces their philosophy after they are dead and gone. For a moment I must shift to the radical’s constant and true friend and ally “prayer”. Prayer is about the only sure relationship the radical has and in this the radical becomes the most relevant. Their orientation to the divine keeps them in daily even constant prayer. Prayer becomes a most significant factor in maintaining the relevance of the radical. The radical, like the mystic longs for direct connection to the divine without a negotiation or adjudicatory presence. For the radical the walls between the holy and most holy have been broken and this is an absolute. No Church, Temple, Synagogue, Monastery or any other community has adjudicatory privilege between the divine and the radical.
In a so called enlightened American society where the Church and even God have been discredited the radical seeks an awakening of the sleepless, slumbering soul and with this to be revealed as the seed of a new consciousness, a new civilization.