Yesterday I participated in the funeral of a person whose life was driven by her Christian faith, and difficult circumstance had taught her selflessness. Her selflessness, though, was precisely what caused her death, and disabled her friends and church community in their care for her. Her recent life, and even more recent death, highlights the chaos and confusion of life: we seek holiness, only to find our virtue is our stumbling point.
Western thought tends to follow a linear approach, which remains valuable while we experience progress and success in life, but falls radically short when we experience breakdown and failure. Hebrew (Biblical), and often African, thought patterns are more circular, and allow for more rich responses when life falls short of our dreams and hopes, and especially when life leaves us broken and destroyed. We need to see both success and failure as growth, and it is only in returning to our starting point that we can truly perceive the value of the journey. A linear approach to thought and life does not allow this, because it expects us to reach a different point, and end point dissimilar to our origin. A more circular approach allows, even creates, space for reflection. It allows, too, for our virtues to find counter-point in our vice, and vice in our virtue; and rather than condemnation, hope for the next journey.
18 June 2006