Answering the Call to Life
by Brendan Kottenstette
This entry, I address to you, Mark. The question that I am left with at the end of it all is how do you do it? Or actually, why do you do it? Why have all of the scores of people I got to know in The Book of Mev given their lives in the pursuit of social justice? I donâ€™t mean why in the sense of what is their cause or their motivation, because that is clear to me. Suffering inspires compassion, and personal connection pushes that compassion to sacrifice. I mean why donâ€™t they give up? What gives them the courage to subvert corrupt authority? How do they face death and allow hope to flourish? What is it in a person that allows them to see humanity even at the core of the darkest evils and drive onward under the banner of justice?
Solidarity is the answer to all the most difficult questions that face someone who would struggle in the cause for justice. To ask for an end to injustice, not just with your voice, but with your whole person, is an invitation to share in the desolation that that suffering has caused. At the core of the struggle for social justice is humanity, and so to not be present to those afflicted is to be an empty warrior. Solidarity is not only the goal in social justice work, it is the means unto itself.
I kept asking myself what your book is about. It took me until about page 150 to even have a clue. While I know the ending, at the time of writing this reflection I have not yet read it, but know from readings in class that the subject is the same while the tone only changes slightly.
The Book of Mev is about life; life inspiring hope in the face of suffering and hope uniting us in a common cause. This is not just about the life of Mev, or of â€œMark C. Pueloâ€, but about the people who form the intricate web of human connection. It is about the web. It is not what you do or what legacy you leave to the world or even how you will be remembered. Life is about the people you touch while you are living. That is why I am convinced that the people presented in The Book of Mev are not honored crusaders in the cause of Justice, but rather are simply examples of people answering the call to live. Live is not only an invitation to live, though, it is a charge and a responsibility which we have been given from our first breath.
To live means risking human contact, which has the power to change you indefinitely because if you truly let others into your life, with their pleasures and their sufferings, then you cannot help but be changed forever because of the imprint that they have left on your soul. Their experiences, once shared with you, become a part of your experiences, and a part of the whole of human experience. This sharing of lives is what human existence is about. For what other purpose are our words?
Here are a few examples of answering the call to life that I have found in The Book of Mev: kissering, Japanese style teatime, camera lenses as mirrors to the soul, bearing witness, accompaniment, embracing the finite, Chomskyâ€™s reply, gratitudes, tithing time, liberation janitors, spiritual warriors, the riches of poverty, community, whacking pillows, powerlessness, breathing in and most importantly â€œthe human form divine.â€
The beauty of The Book of Mev is that it makes a parallel between living life and pursuing justice. They are one in the same in this book. There is no choice between a life of happiness and love or of meaningful sacrifice. I am convinced now, Mark, that the only life to live is social justice. As the aboriginal saying goes, â€œyour liberation is bound with mine.â€ And as Jon Sobrino believes, â€œwe find liberation in the poor.â€
Brendan is a junior at SLU, took Social Justice in the fall of 2006, and works with SLU Solidarity with Palestine. His language studies include Spanish, Latin, Italian, and Arabic.