a. It's via Facebook where I've been able to connect with my former college roommate from Japan, who lives now in Tokyo with his family. Likewise, face to face, I've been able to meet with each of the Japanese students here in ESL programs I work with on a U.S. university campus. The horror of the earthquake and the humanity of those trying to help the affected is very touching. My buddy in Tokyo, for example, and his family are reaching out to others, offering money and even room in their home for anybody who needs and might use it.
b. Then there's this strange statement by a blogger friend, Peter Kirk, whose post today is entitled, "Why I am ignoring Japan." Peter states: "as Christians we should not let ourselves be distracted by giving excessive attention to natural disasters, which are bound to come, but should keep our focus on the work of building God’s kingdom." Before I respond with a couple of questions or three, you may want to know I've been reading Viktor Frankl's book Man's Search for Meaning, and I'm at the point where he's asking and answering the inevitable question "about the psychological make-up of the [horrific concentration] camp guards." Frankl answers to suggest there's ignorance. Frankl points out the sociopathic guards; but then he discusses those others who were dulled, who were willfully ignoring the pathologies of their fellows (the "sadists") and the unspeakable sufferings these then inflicted on the prisoners because of racist and sexist divisions, divisions of mind and of heart. There were natural disasters in the camp too, also ignored. I've read an old blogpost of Peter Kirk's that he himself links to today, and I've read through all of the comments others left for him and also his responses. I'm struggling now to see the point of his willful ignoring of the people suffering now in Japan (and suffering by being away from their loved ones in Japan). So here are my questions for myself first and then for Peter: 1. Can there ever be excessive focus on the work of building God’s kingdom? 2. Why the willful binary between the work of building God’s kingdom, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the work of giving attention to natural disasters? 3. When Jesus spoke of God's kingdom was he really speaking to "Christians" per se (or it is that Peter's pathos-less binary Christian construct is somehow anachronistic or even preferentially, exclusivistically futuristic, favoring his own construct of us-vs-them Christianity)?
c.d. To my knowledge, Ruth Behar although an anthropologist is not a Christian. She is a Jew (like Jesus) and is also a Cuban born American with bilingual facility (which Jesus also seemed to have). She's a wonderful poet as well, which her website shows. I only have time to re-post something that she wrote as somewhat of a plea for passion after one of her colleagues had died; maybe you'll figure out how it is that Bible reading for me now after reading Behar is one of those things that breaks my heart, that as translation must break your heart:
Yet the shift toward intersubjective, Self-Self relation challenges the boundaries of anthropological discourse and raises some crucial questions: Is this turn toward identification going to lead us to ever more insular forms of anthropology? Even to anthropology’s demise? On the other hand, on a less apocalyptic note, couldn’t we say that the new focus on the possibilities and limits of identification is making anthropology finally and truly possible by leading us toward greater depth of understanding, greater depth of feeling about those whom we write about?....
Daring to speak of his sorrow, of his loss, his rage, daring, yes, to privilege sentiments, he dares to be ‘feminine’—that is, feminine in the terms of our cultural logic and the way we ascribe genders to our writing. And immediately the sons come along to chastise him for not being macho enough.
“... but I say that anthropology that doesn’t break your heart just isn’t worth doing anymore.”
And I mean it. Really mean it. Because my heart is broken. Because the one person I wish had heard me sing this lament for him isn’t here. Can’t be here.
“Anthropology That Breaks Your Heart”
The Vulnerable Observer: Anthropology That Breaks Your Heart
If the catastrophe in Japan breaks your heart, there may be something you can do to help.