Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Re-thinking, Re-Designing the Conceptions of the World and My Place in it.

Today truly was one of those amazing, life changing days.

  Today, I was challenged to re-conceptualize my understanding and knowledge of the world and its constructions. For much of my life I have had a basic understanding of the various ways that ancient civilizations have come to be and to pass. Particularly the rise and fall of the Ancient Egyptian Civilization. I have always held these views, taught to me through such things as my public school education as well as movies like "The Mummy" and the cartoon "Moses" and like a lot of people believed this time period to be extremely removed from any modern reality or truth. As my history books taught me, the people looked a certain way and behaved in ways that were far different than our more modern, our more "civilized" society.

  Was I fact while wandering through the vast corridors of the Egyptian Museum today I couldn't help be reflect on all of the things in life that I have been taught that seem to be misleading. Today, I was reminded of the ever lasting human condition that plagues all people every where, in any given time period.  While yes I knew that these Pharoh's shared in many of our fine tastes of luxury and high society, too, they had a thriving culture that seems eerily familiar to our "modern" world.  To have associations and feasts, parties, friends, etc, etc...all things that still matter today.

  What struck me the MOST however, was also recognizing the inconsistencies between what existed today in that museum and the textbooks of my childhood, and that was the obvious negation of various forms of diversity and entire group's intellectual and cultural capacity that seems somehow to be so easily dismissed in contemporary literature. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to the thoughts and theories of Carol Gibbs today who acknowledges the strange absence of black people from our historical conceptions of all places Egypt, and more so, their contributions and thriving societies that they had built for themselves in the "ancient" world. Not only did it have to deal with race, but the interconnectivity that was obviously displayed throughout the museum to the rest of the world.  I never knew the intimate connections that were shared between the roman empire and the Egyptian civilization at the time. To the point where I saw people of roman dissent buried in coffins that were made for Pharaoh's. There seemed to be a shared world, one with riches from every corner of the globe.

 The capacity of this great culture astounded me and forced me to acknowledge the obvious subjugation over time of particular peoples and their way of life. How over time, we have failed to recognize whole heartedly the great achievements of this empire. I realized that what cultures tend to do as a form of power and dominance is to erase history itself. To alter it in such a way that it seems so foreign and dissimilar to anything that we as a people could ever have conceptualized. As the Romans began to dominate the world, the Egyptians slowly tapered off and with their Roman power, these Cesar's, these popes, these politicians altered the truth of history to fit their contemporary belief systems. To uphold their values, while at the same time completely erasing another's. I was reminded of the early mid-evil era when the church deliberately turned pagan Gods into Christian deities in order to slowly coalesce their fellow country men to go along with their plots to dominate and over power the world. Indulgences anyone?

 Well today I learned that the all to arbitrary truth is here in Cairo as well. And I am so thankful to have had my eyes opened even wider to the shameful practices of the world where we adjust the reality of the world to meet our needs and formulate speculation, assumption and stereotypes of a place we've never been, a people we've never met that separate them entirely from who we are.  This can be found even today and is something that must be considered in our path forward as GLOBAL citizens.

  Tonight was an even greater reminder of that as we headed out to the local Shish bar to watch a futbol match between two of Cairo's top teams for the quarter final. We were there with some new local friends and through the power of discussion, the "world's game", and some belly aching laughs I affirmed once more within my heart the greater capacities of human beings to love, to care and to connect on levels that stem far beyond the differences that divide us from time to time.

  And of course, as we were driven home to our hostel, we connected even more through our shared love of music...another language of the world.

   Today I was reminded of what has been done to billions of people around the world in all different ways that negate their holistic experience on this earth.

  Tonight, I was reminded of just how important and beautiful it is to discover, value, understand and appreciate the greater world around us and the people in it. To never take it for granted, and to always seek out the true origins of who a person is, and who a people are.

~ namaste ~

Meditation on my upcoming journey to East Africa.

There are a lot of things going through my mind as I prepare to leave for my 10 week service learning project in Nairobi, Kenya this summer. I am scared, nervous, excited, anxious and all around just in awe of the experience that is about to unfold before me.

   One thing that still looms in the back of my mind is the idea of meaning and purpose of what I am about to embark on. I know that many have been concerned for my safety while others have questioned the basic premise for why I would put myself in such a certain position. Why not something more...mainstream.

  There is a part of me that says and agrees that this is not the most traditional route to follow, nor is it an issue that is popular around the world. I could say I am traveling to the west Nile to combat environmentalism, or to Ghana to combat malnutrition, or even to South america to provide medical support for the debilitated, and most would, way to go.

   So in a traditional sense I understand, while at the same time I can't help but want to underscore just how important I believe that the work I am about to embark on  is to the general peace and stability of the world. I think it says a lot that the world isn't talking as much about these issues. Africa is becoming progressively more and more a hotbed of homophobia that is being fueled by religious extremists from the west.

  In a way the social issues of the west have made visible in other parts of the world these vulnerable populations and have sparked much more violent responses from local communities who either do not understand or who see these influences as Western culture rather than human dignity and worth.

  Thus I believe strongly that not only is it the right thing to do by working on gender and sexuality issues abroad, but I believe in a way that it is my responsibility to lend in whatever way I can the resources at my disposal to assist my fellow person around the world who are facing similar hostilities that I have once faced, or who through because of my own countries visibility now face persecution in their own ways in their native lands.

  At the end of the day for me, this experience is and never will be about homosexuality or the connotations surrounding this minority population. It is about the greater dignity of the human being that exists within every single person on this earth, even in those individuals who are cast aside most by their society.  It is about the inherent worth that exists in every person that I believe ought to be respected because we could just as easily have been that minority person. In another time, in another place, we may have been that castaway.

  Homosexuality itself makes up a much larger picture when we take a moment to step back and recognize the greater picture that it plays within the greater world. This is not about sex, this is about the right to love fully and unconditionally another human being. This is about the capacity to care and to have concern for the worth of another and to honor those connections in every way possible. What does it mean when two people can fall hopelessly in love with one another, to care for each other for all the right reasons and to be able to connect on such deep and intimate levels? What does this mean for humanity itself when we instill in our children that to love another person who is like you or similar to you is wrong? How does embracing the possibility of love impact the greater attitudes we have for the rest of the world?

 It's just a thought.  But one I've put a lot of time and energy into. I care about this not because I'm so centered in identity politics, particularly those of the LGBT community, but rather the greater humanity that I have discovered through the love I have felt for my fellow person. I am here because of Ubuntu, because if I take away your right to fall in love with the person you deeply connect with the most, then I deny myself that same ability.

 So off to Kenya!