This week has been full and rich with opportunities that allow me a glimpse into how the world looks through other eyes. Monday through Wednesday we spent in various aspects of celebration with our Ecuadorean “family”, i.e. Nina, who is our god-daughter, her sister Saiwa and their parents whose names I will not list. Monday was Saiwa’s moving-up ceremony from 8th grade to High School, (the same high school that I graduated from). Tuesday was the “Cultural Celebration” part of Inti Raymi. Wednesday was the major feast and celebration of Inti Raymi with dancing, marvelous food and the giving away of fruit and money in preparation for next year.
When David, one of our sons, and I were in Ecuador, we were there for the celebration of “San Juan”, as Inti Rymi is also called. That is, the Inca festival celebrating the Winter Solstice (in the Southern Hemisphere) is held at the same time as the Christian feast of the St. John the Baptist.
(As an indication of how easily we assume that the rest of the world sees things as we do; I only just realized that Inti Raymi is not a celebration the Summer Solstice. We are doing that here, but not in the Southern Hemisphere.)
Since that first Inti Raymi in Ecuador and a powerful experience of being caught up in the dancing that goes on all night, I have been to 4 or 5 Seattle Inti Raymi celebrations.
I have to wonder if any one who has not been to Ecuador for Inti Raymi can grasp how amazing it is that this group of 30-40 people living several thousand miles away from Ecuador, manages to pull off this three-day long celebration year after year.
It is not at all an entirely comfortable celebration to be part of for someone who is not from Ecuador and knows all too well how socially awkward she is in the terms of Ecuadorean/ Quichua ways of being together. So, I keep going each year that I am in town and hope that I will learn from this, what I have come to call, “fruitful discomfort.”
I will return later on to more comments about Inti Raymi, but first I want to link it to today’s experience at the Pow Wow etiquette Workshop and Veteran’s Pow Wow at Muckelshoot, White River Amphitheater.
The “fruitful discomfort” is the connector between these many experiences:
Maybe all relationships include “fruitful discomfort”. And, perhaps I only notice it here because I know that I will probably never get much beyond that in some ways in both of these settings. Nevertheless, these discomforts are both real and genuinely fruitful. It is worth the awkwardness.
The number of words that I would need to use in order to even begin to describe the discomfort is beyond the patience of most readers. And, I am not sure that even if I could find some language to adequately describe what goes into that “fruitful discomfort”, I am not sure the description would be of any use to anyone who did not have a similar experience.
The very short version of a reflection and commentary on the experiences of Inti Raymi and the Pow Wow Day is to say that it is a Grace to see that all of God’s people do not do things in the same way. And as uncomfortable as it is to come to an awareness that my people’s way of doing things is not necessarily respectful or comfortable for some other peoples, I need to know this. I want to know this.
Seeing how gracious my Ecuadorean friends are when they arrive at a gathering and go around the room to greet every single person there by name, and with a hand shake, and then do that all in reverse when they leave, always allows me to see myself as socially backward. At least in that context, I am socially backward. I am trying to learn this, and am making some progress and it is still not entirely comfortable.
This morning’s Pow Wow Etiquette Workshop, where we contrasted how many First Nations Peoples and Anglo people see each other, with no small amount of ,”Aha!” and “Ouch!” , is a related experience of learning and growth. In both cases, several years of learning how to be present at celebrations of Inti Raymi and the Talking Circle invite me into a kind of space that I do not otherwise experience in my life. (I don’t know if it is there I simply don’t notice it, or if it really is not there. I suspect that it is there and these experiences are helping me to pay deeper attention to my own culture as well as that of others.) That rare space is marked by the following:
An inclusion of everyone in the room
Yes, of course this is a “construct”. I know that. I can see that. People are people. And yet, this is a “construct” that seems to me to be a rather good idea. How amazing, this notion that we all might sit in a circle where everyone has a voice, where everyone “counts”, even if we are “pretending.” Let’s pretend. This is a “pretense” I can live with, at least some of the time. It is some how both humbling and profoundly nurturing to sit in such a circle or to dance at Inti Raymi.
Time, almost coming to a stand-still
All of these events call for a LOT of waiting, of just sitting around and waiting for things to happen. And when they finally do happen, it is on some kind of time/ schedule that is never efficient or prompt. And as uncomfortable as that waiting may be, at first, I have a theory that it is the waiting that has so much to do with the fruitfulness. The waiting is some kind of time machine whereby we make this transition from the speedy, multitasking hyper-efficient world of 24/7 postmodernity into another realm of time, one that appears, at least from the outside, to be more gracious and humane.
Generosity that cannot be balanced out
When we attempt to even the score by giving back immediately following the receipt of a gift, so that we are not “in debt” to someone else, we miss the opportunity to experience simple gratitude and to rest in that gratitude knowing full well that we cannot, at this very moment, do anything to measure up to the graciousness being extended towards us. (I think this is training for receiving the love of God. It is not a comfortable experience, because the gap is glaring!)
However, all of the above is temporary; these steps along the way to fruitful discomfort. There will be a time for me to be that generous. There will be a time for me to honor and welcome everyone, no matter what. And, there will be, if I can learn to pay attention to those amazing slow-motion-days, where God is calling out in every drop of the most simple moments of Life.
For now, the really difficult question is: what do I do now that I see how our worlds differ? I am moved, opened, challenged, even transformed by my glimpse into these worlds through these eyes of people I love. Seeing and knowing that there are these other ways still leaves me with this huge question.
What do I do with what I have seen?
Yes, there are things to learn from this listening and watching, There are small ways in which I can choose to change how I behave and look at the world. But that small change does not yet help me figure out what to do with the ways of “my people”. One option, and it is one that more than a few Anglos take, is to try to abandon the ways of “my people” as rude, barbaric and unjust and to do what I can to become part of another people.E.g. the Native American “wanna be” . Some how, I know that is not what I am called to do.
I am not going to go any further with an answer today. The question is still very large and loud and I don’t yet have anything close to a wise answer. For tonight, I want to give the deepest possible thanksgiving to my Ecuadorean family and to my First Nations sisters and brothers, (Ted, Karleen, Elsie, Becky, Rachel and Daren) for what you are helping me to learn. I am still learning and will continue this reflection, once there is a bit more light. Amen.
I did come up with an interim “something” that people can do who are moved by their learning about First Nations injustices: this Thursday, July 1st, at our house at 7 pm there will be a small gathering to use the cloth that I was given at the Internalized Racism Workshop from the week before to make book marks to be given away at the Native Ministries Consortium at VST later on in July. Let me know if you are interested or would like to do something like this at your place.
thank you kathryn. “fruitful discomfort” … that is a wonderful phrase … I think it is easy to focus on the discomfort (and that is what our culture teaches us to do), but what comes after is most important…and interesting.
Thank you for reading and commenting.
I keep hoping that what Mieke is going through now will be just this…a “fruitful discomfort”… that will lead her into that interesting stuff.
And, I know that it is always a hard thing to do!
Kathryn: I too was touched by the term fruitful discomfort as it names my cancer journey better than any words I have been able to use. I also love your thoughts on generosity that cannot be balanced out as this whole process of receiving for so many months has been a great challenge.