Oh life, with it’s twists and turns. . .
I’m helping direct the media campaign for Loyal to Justice, a group of students, alumns and supporters of my MA in Social Justice and Community Development degree program at Loyola University Chicago.
We are taking on the administration of Loyola tomorrow at a noon rally at Water Tower Campus in River North, Chicago.
See: Loyal to Justice for details.
The other great news is that while I’ve been preparing packages to send to friends post-Christmas, I’ve been listening to old Regina Spektor bootlegs I hadn’t heard for a long time which remind me of Ukraine (and Christi Anne’s kitchen. . .)
This has transfered my current travel-writing plans to Ukraine now, since EUROMAIDAN and its fresh on the mind. Somehow, the night bus excursions still are important to detail in Ukranian travel.
I took a long long walk today through my neighborhood, up to the market to buy Polish and Ukranian candy to mail to friends. FINALLY I remembered that it felt good to live in Chicago. Because Chicago has been WERID and dark lately.
February has got to be better. I got my crazy narcotic-like crush out of the way for the year (an opera singer). I should be good to go to focus on things that do actually matter in non-heroine-like states. . . like Rome and World Refugee Day and that crazy Polish website. . . oh and, the fact that I was abruptly transfered from the Communications department to Strategic Planning and Reporting at my Illinois quasi-governmental job. . . frankly, it’s a fine move. I get the whole nepotism thing now too. . .
I had a dream with James Martin in it, last night, which is a bit weird. OR an amazing sign of getting published in America. . . we shall see.
Feburary, lets walk toward sanity and sunshine together.
Singer of folk songs I taught to Polish high school children in classrooms facing low-lit rolling hills of flowery babushkas and cows.
Farewell Pete, favorite singer of favorite friend, Miss Molly. I think of her bamboo-tatoo of your banjo. And others who appreciated you, and all the broken hearts you’ve touched.
Listening to American folk music abroad will always be central to me. Will always help feel like the best parts of home, of friends, adventure. Of connecting with someone once in awhile in our solitary journeys. It helps to remember that it is all romantic. . . that maybe you will buy those boots of Spanish leather.
And here, I remember skipping around in circles, the lyrics of Oh Susanna written in chalk.
Because Nina always sounds like Europe, and it’s a good time to note that Ukraine continues to explode–protestors are being shot and journalists are being beaten and photos of Kiev look like a war zone. I heard that a priest from YKY was taken from his home last night, and it feels even more real.
And South Sudan. . .
And our master’s program . . .
Oh the darkness. How DO the Russians do this winter. How do CHICAGOANS do this winter?
I was told that the first time I yelled at one of those Green Peace guys asking for money on Michigan Avenue I was a true Chicagoan. But it’s not true. Only winter will earn the Chicagoan stripes.
I should embrace it’s similarities to Eastern Europe. I felt a little Poland today, I wore the gray thick sweater I bought there a few years ago, and had a conversation about finding a sauna.
The sauna in Ukraine, that one was the best.
Chicago, post-Christmas break
The noises coming out of my radiators tonight are truly incredible. More incredible, in fact, than the cold steam coming through my bathroom window. They are incessant tonight, which is abnormal.
Usually, there is a 15 to 20 minute break between this hissing, banging, gurgling sounds of my radiators in the winter. At least enough of a break to get some sleep (as I write after 2am.) They’ve now heated my apartment so fully that my friend’s comment earlier on my complaint of the severe cold in Chicago does seem correct,
“Well at least you’re apartment is 10,000 degrees.”
I opened my shades to let in a little air. There’s ice on the inside of the window. I turned on my fan. Everything can be managed by a good fan.
It is, really though, great to be back in Chicago. Christmas break, despite my first two buses back to Chicago getting canceled, despite being de-friended on facebook by someone who days earlier gave me earrings–was restful, and filled with friends, family and love. It was hard to leave Nebraska, to realize I was going back to a lot of hard work and many very busy days.
The adjustment reminded me of my days of travel, the days of absolute torturous loneliness and sadness when I left home or friends or family. Transition always broke open new possibilities though, and I don’t think it’s possible to grow without it. I always hate saying goodbye to Peter and Rooney and the Mollys, and I always will. And I’m painfully lucky to get to experience those kind of familial bonds of love.
My last night in Omaha, after two haphazard nights sleeping on my brother’s futon after canceled buses, I got to spend several wonderful hours with my mom, shopping and then eating French food and drinking wine. Then, we met my best friends one more time–friends with whom I’ve never felt more fully like myself, more content in the moment.
Before 10p.m., Mom and I sped off and then waited for nearly an hour and a half for Megabus to finally arrive. It was enough time to befriend a fellow Nebraska-to-Chicagoan who was game for drinking on the night bus. The two things I discovered from this adventure were 1: don’t buy Sangria-flavored red wine even if it is the only twist-off bottle in the store and 2: I finally found someone who has a boat! (and offered to let me ride on it!)
I have been back, alone and content, in my apartment in Uptown for a few days now. I’ve been given time to organize this semester’s classes madness and to think a little bit about the break, about relationships and friendships and various holiday packages I still need to send around the world.
I’ve been reading a lot too, which has been a comforting reminder of how I feel so much more human when I’m reading works by James Martin or Murakami or whoever. The more I read the more I want to write and the more I write the better I feel.
My best friend in Chicago, Nina, called 2013 the “Year of Sophie” but I’d like to continue it on into 2014. New plans, new friends, new love and adventure.
And hopefully, by the end of this winter, a tolerance to my miserable fucking radiators.
New year, resolved intentions, Woody Guthrie/Bridget Jones style for 2014:
#1 Graduate with MA
#2 Create great media project for DEON.pl
#3 Go back to Poland this summer (and Balkans. . .)
#4 Find fabulous job in Chi or abroad
#5 Be in beach shape by March
#6 Start Jesuit examen et. James Martin
#7 Make deliberate, sober, honest men decisions
#8 Write more letters
#9 Visit Rachael in Indy
#10 Start travel writing again/keep up blog/edit old travel stories
#11 Work on feet calluses before they become unmanageable
#12 Create new recipes with lentils and other legumes
#13 Try harder at work, patience. . .
#14 Work on photography skills and learn video editing
#15 Read more non-school or news
#16 Avoid beer
#17 Spend less money on booze in general
#18 Grow out hair a bit
#19 Find a church and time that are attainable to attend
#20 Thoughtfully be a part of MASJCD battle
#21 Send package to Australians
#22 Write regularly in new journal
#23 Plan trips more than days in advance so as to avoid repeated Megabus disasters of 2013
#24 Don’t let the 4:30pm darkness of Chicago winter get me down
#25 Sleep earlier and more
#26 WAKE UP AND FIGHT
Compliments of IPS 610, I share one of my weekly assignments for our required publishing of a blog. This week’s topic is “Catholic Social Teachings.”
“Millions of families cannot live in dignity because they lack the conditions worthy of human life.”
What an evocative statement made by the US Council of Bishops in its 2012 reflection “A Place at the Table.”
Even though I have been learning about and working within Catholic Social Justice since I started undergrad, realizing that it is the Catholics saying all of these beautiful, just, inclusive statements is always still a lovely surprise *(I come from a particularly conservative, backward-thinking diocese.)
Through every reading this week, in the back of my mind I have the question:
How can I communicate this to others? How can the pendulum swing from believing Catholic teachings are more in line with the Republican party, nationalism and capitalism to systems meant for the common good? And which of these systems can do the most good for the most people? Is there one? I appreciate the reflection made in the video on the papal Encyclical written in 1891 by Pope Leo XIII, Rarum Novarum, “Marx asked the right questions, but he didn’t have the right answers.”
Rerum Novarum says that the role of the state is to promote social justice, economy must serve the people, people are more important than goods, and that labor is more important than capitol. Economy must serve the people. This means that making money is not a good in itself. This is a big deal. It is a societal belief that is not easy to crack. Jesus was a revolutionary.
Though we may not have all of the answers, the first step toward social justice on a personal, spiritual level is to admit that there are dire inequalities that have been caused through the structural sins of many forms of discrimination. As the 2008 Catholic Charities report “Poverty and Racism” states, while addressing racism in America:
“Racism is not natural. White privilege does not just happen. It is important to stress the human agency behind white privilege for two reasons. First, human agency makes white privilege an ethical reality for which there is moral responsibility and accountability. Second, because human agents created and maintain racial injustice, human agency can also challenge, modify, and dismantle it. This is the basis for our call to action” (15.)”
Humans created inequality, and humans can dismantle it. I think this is the first and most important idea to remember when studying social justice. We can’t ignore the blatant inequalities facing us and must confront the cultural biases that may be keeping the truth from our eyes. First, we have to move away from the mindset that is, as quoted by MLK in the Catholic Charities report, “Uneasy with injustice, but unwilling yet to pay a significant price to eradicate it.” This means that being a part of the system to undo social injustices will cause you to think, challenge, feel uneasy, be upset, and find a way to act.
And that is good. It is good to be upset, to challenge and to wonder why the world is the way it is. God asks us to do this, calls us to examine our world and develop our conscious around reality.
The question always in my mind is why these issues are not always at the forefront of Catholic conversation. I think mainly it is because the Church largely aligned itself with the Republican party because of social issues involving a variety of things, including sexual ethics, which are always delicate. These issues are more easily dealt with in a black and white manner, because it is easier. I’m constantly thrilled at how Pope Francis is handling this, by bringing Catholic social teachings to the forefront of the Catholic conversation and straying away from issues of lesser importance.
I have to constantly speak about how great it feels to read these Catholic social teachings in various forms because it has taken a long time to begin to understand the enormous inequalities of the world and how, as noted in the video on Rarum Novarum, “Social justice is not in opposition to the gospel message, it is the gospel message.”
And a fantastic aspect of Catholic Social Justice is the understanding that the informed conscious is our greatest tool in understanding and acting in the world. When the question arises whether dogma or conscious is the higher form of good to follow, conscious wins. This is pretty power-of-the-people and one of the greatest ways that acting in the common good, and humanizing all, is celebrated within Catholicism.
As Mary Elsbernd and Raymond Bieringer in their book “When Love is not Enough,” note, Rarum Novarum maintained that not all contacts and laws were just. If the laws in which we live by—all laws, by country and world and religions, and Church teachings too—do not align with an informed conscious, than Catholic teachings tell us that we’re bound by conscious. This is an important concept when addressing Social Justice. Just because the law says that making money off other people is “just,” does not mean that it is.
The highest good is a well-informed conscious doing work for the common good of humanity. For me personally, learning about social justice in order to act to improve the state of the world has been the most important aspect in my development. There is so much to learn. I am constantly astounded. I am glad to have found Catholic Social Teachings to guide my way, as I have found it to be the most fulfilling, reasonable, loving approach to deciphering this complex time into which we’ve been born.
Love, good will, community, education, personal responsibility and the freedom to make your own choices. These are the teachings of Catholic Social Justice. All are included.
*For example, girls are not allowed to serve on the altar in the diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska. At a very young age I wrote a letter to the bishop questioning this. He wrote back to me and told me I should not try to be like the boys. I should try to be like the saints.
Today I walked through St. Boniface Cemetery because the trees were turning and it is a bright fall. I was in a fine mood, as I’d had a very successful meeting with my advisor who told me I could graduate in 1 ½ years. And we spoke of travel for the summer and I saw my future like a crystal ball.
I looked up into the trees in the park and heard the Dr. Zhivago music in my soul.
I bless these moments of divine presence in the city.
At least the poetry of the trees is a constant in this funny season. I so wish it would be a real excuse for not doing homework or inexplicably not going to work.
“Where were you? Why didn’t you call?”
“Don’t you know? I was talking to the trees.”
What did I do this month? I re-kindled my romance with cafes and the post office. I danced around a few landmines of love confessions. I tried not to listen to too much Jewel.
I may be sentimental to my detriment, but it sure does make for a fine afternoon now and then.
Every now and then I hear a song that feels like three glasses of wine and looks like nostalgia:
Every day is like new and I’m very present because the stakes are high. I try to see the forest among the essays about inner-city Chicago and graphics of affordable housing stats for the Governor.
There are so many characters these days. New friends, old friends, coffee dates, drinks after class, drinks before class, weekend tea and feelings parties. North side–I stay on the north side on the weekend. Don’t plan to see me unless you’re between Wilson and Devon.
But I miss this:
There have been many fine moments this fall, and now that I’m in my reflection phase of the season my focus has moved back toward my international sensibilities. The thought of moving back, of working toward a job, of living abroad (in Poland) again.
The question always arises. . . why do I want to go again? Why do I think of leaving while I love establishing myself in Chicago, a place near my family, that has plenty of Polish people anyway?
US has folk music, but Poland has the gypsy.