Thursday, January 15, 2015

Thoughts emerging out of mysticism on a Gradual Disintegration of Integrity, A Sign of Hope

Driving around on the last day of 2014 I found myself reflecting on moments in time when life beckoned me to its elusive quality.   I was reminded of my hopes and dreams, imaginings, desires and agenda’s which fade as the elusiveness of life calls what I now consider constructions into question.   Particularly as a Black Transgender Woman (another construct) I have come to experience these constructions, i.e. the social and cultural constructions of the binary gender system of heteronormativity, race, sexuality and economics for example as a means to take life captive, giving our experiences on earth some type of meaning.    These constructions, however well meaning in the beginning eventually become a preferred and I might add perverted tool of the oppressor for the survival of those constructions and the making of capital.  The consequences of maintaining these constructions in the pursuit of the elusive even mystical quality of life have been wars, empires of various exploitations and a rampant systemic dehumanization of humanity as a whole.  Now, encountering the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical weekly publication for their freedom of expression regarding Islam and the Prophet Muhammad after massive protest against police brutality here in the U.S. becomes one more reason for me to question those constructions which seek to take life captive. 

After a recent discussion on race held at my church we interrogated the social and cultural construction of race and the issues of economics and power differentials embodied in race and its purpose within the U.S. context with particular regard to the lived lifes of Black people and people of color.   Upon leaving the discussion the one word that remained with me was “integrity.”   I believe integrity, i.e. the soundness; rightness or completeness of the construction cannot be divorced or separated from the vision which it pertains to.  That said, integrity is connected to ideas and notions of stability which necessarily support the vision as established by the founder or developer, in line with certain assumptions, in the case of the U.S. the founding fathers, i.e. privileged white men of landed gentry, slaveholders, and religious radicals of the time compelled to leave Europe.[1]   Cognizant of the vision and the people who developed the vision I experience the political, economic and racial structures to be a means by which to maintain particular integrity with that vision and its assumptions emerging out of 17th through 19th century Europe (1650-1800), i.e., the European Enlightenment period. 

Writing bluntly, the economic systems and structures which support the vision of the Democratic-Republic, now considered by some as an empire in its own right, are grounded in that which has become obsolete and therefore are to a large extent archaic and unable to adequately address the many concerns within the human evolutionary experience.  The experience then of race and I would add gender and sexuality are constructed for outmoded and archaic purposes of power, economy and racial superiority and are not “divine, natural or organic” at all but are for the maintenance of a particular vision and its assumptions and therefore indeed problematic for a Democratic-Republic, however dysfunctional at times, in the 21st century.   In this sense I believe that one of the most important discussions today is this matter of a gradual disintegration of integrity with an outmoded vision and its assumptions.    That said, I believe the various protest around the U.S. by people of diverse races and ethnicities in solidarity make this clear, bestowing flesh and blood on the need to (1) counter the vision and its assumptions and (2) to change and transform the vision, and its assumptions and its structures into a more just and free space where all people are experienced as human and therefore sacred, where difference denotes life giving, affirming and holy.   I believe that a framework which transcends an outmoded vision and its assumptions make real the many possibilities of liberation from archaic notions of identity and economy possible.

Transcendence designates a relation with a reality infinitely distant from my own reality, yet without this distance destroying this relation and without this relation destroying this distance.
 Emmanuel Levinas[2]  

In light of the words of Levinas I believe that the gathering of disparate groups of a teaming humanity through social media, considered by this writer a space of transcendence which makes present the infinite, becomes what might be considered here in mystical terms as a space of which avails itself toward liberation.  The implications of a movement grounded in mysticism are a people who no longer live in fear of each other, some type of retribution such as guns, bullets and bombs or even hunger or poverty but their reality is in the embrace of God and a divine mystery, and in this hope and the holy light of liberation.   The reality of the mystic and the underlying philosophy of a movement towards liberation is that the measure of life is their relationship with God, the divine cosmic mystery and not man and his vision and assumptions bathed in the darkness of consumption as first learned at the feet of the European Enlightenment.  A movement grounded in mysticism then encounters the practical and the measurable as a means of oppression inflicted by the Great Beast.[3]  I believe mysticism, as an unmediated union with God and mystery, to be a way towards change and transformation because it denies the hegemony of white supremacy and capitalism which have come to define desire and embraces the supremacy and power of the mystery in all things.  Mysticism must be the ground of any movement which seeks to change or transform the comfortable yet antiquated visions and their assumptions.  In this sense a movement toward liberation must engage with a painful yet listening ear and the tortured heart of God as it embraces the mystery of the transcendent, i.e., that which lies beyond ordinary perception or beyond an archaic vision and its assumptions. 
Throw your burden upon the LORD, and he will sustain you. He will never allow the godly to be upended.     Psalm 55:22 (NET) 
The transcendent presents a sacred invitation, a direct appeal, to engage in solidarity and the hope solidarity might bring as a response to the unfortunate situation.  Cyber Space, i.e. the internet, considered a 21st century space of the transcendent, becomes a necessary tool in the realization of a longed for hope.  To engage, in an enthusiastic and charismatic means, the oppressions inflicted by the powers that be, a necessary work of galvanizing people to work towards the eradication of the many injustices requires multiple interconnected levels of communication within a framework of solidarity.   Movements such as the African American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s, the South American Liberation Movements of the 1960’s and 1970’s, the Arab Spring 2010-2014 started by Mohamed Bouazizi's self immolation[4], all emerge out of an initial prophetic spark of mysticism.   I suggest here that this prophetic spark of mysticism occurs as the oppressed remember who they are and whose they are.  They are no longer defined or characterized by the systems and the systemics of the oppressor but by their God and this without waver.  It is at this point that they transcend the schemes of those principalities and their regimes which advocate for antiquated visions and assumptions at the expense of the oppressed.  In this sense they become reflections of the Christ, the Buddha, and the Prophet Muhammad, actualizing their particular incarnation of the divine.  No longer images, desires and tools of capital and globalization they are now liberated to engage and encounter new and different capacities of imagination. 

[1] How the Cradle of Freedom became a Slave Owning Nation by Susan DeFord accessed January 15, 2015.
[2] Mayra Rivera, The Touch of Transcendence, A Postcolonial Theology of God (Louisville, KY:  Westminster John Knox Press, 2007) 62.
[3] Simone Weil
[4]Arab Spring a Research and Study Guide at accessed January 15, 2015