"The glory of God is man fully alive, and the life of man is the vision of God." -St Irenaeus of Lyon

The Forgotten Question

I have been hanging out with a friend of mine who connected me with another fantastic song.  It is worth listening to in its own right before viewing the video.

Albertine, by Brooke Fraser, spotlights a very important truth to our shared existence as person: “Now that I have seen, I am responsible.”  In particular she leverages this claim against the backdrop of human suffering in Rwanda, which is made manifest by the video.

I would like to propose a different way of thinking about our responsibilities… namely to describe them as response-abilities.  How does what we see affect our response?  How do we honor our own humanity when encountering the humanity of another?  These questions should drive our interactions with other people, but we shortchange ourselves in so many ways.

We shortchange ourselves by expecting others to serve us.  We shortchange ourselves by over-estimating our capabilities.  We shortchange ourselves in thinking that we can respond all on our own.  We shortchange ourselves by resorting to tactics of manipulation.  We shortchange ourselves by forgetting to ask the question.  We shortchange ourselves by excusing our need to respond, suggesting instead that the response belongs to someone else… namely anyone but ourselves.

But most importantly, we shortchange ourselves by forgetting that we have eyes to see, ears to hear, and hands to touch.

Because if we take the time to see, to really see who is in front of us, we find that we are response-able.  What would the world look like if we attempted to practice our humanity by seeing the humanity of others?


4 responses

  1. Rhea

    I think that one of the big things that we tend to forget is that together, we are the body of Christ…meaning that we are interconnected. What impacts you will in some way, shape, or form impact me. If I stub the big toe on my right foot, very likely my hands, which are FAR away from that big toe will immediately react by covering my foot as I quickly jerk my foot up. It’s not just those that we are closest too (physically, emotionally, spiritually) that impact us…even Rwandan orphans halfway around the world can, and do (or at least ‘should’) impact my daily life.

    18 May 2010 at 2:32 pm

  2. handmaid leah

    you end with this: “What would the world look like if we attempted to practice our humanity by seeing the humanity of others?”

    As an Orthodox Christian the statement should read: “What would the world look like if we attempted to practice our Faith by seeing the image of Christ in others?”
    What we do is motivated by Christ-like love for others and we are responsible for that…
    Salt & light, light and love –

    19 May 2010 at 9:20 am

    • Hello Leah!

      Welcome to my blog. I definitely agree that Orthodox Christians have a particular form of humanity to practice relative to seeing the image of Christ in everyone. I started my thoughts by discussing “Who are the Poor?” several weeks back. https://practicinghuman.wordpress.com/2010/04/17/who-are-the-poor/

      While I know that Brooke Fraser sings the next line, “Faith without deeds is dead” I did not intend for this post to be tied to my series about the Church’s response to poverty.

      Additionally, I am an Orthodox Christian, but my blog explores many topics (culture, education, engineering, and theology). In particularly, as an academic, I am interested in the idea of “human obligations” rather than “moral obligations.” https://practicinghuman.wordpress.com/2010/05/11/human-obligations/

      19 May 2010 at 4:37 pm

      • handmaid leah

        thank you and its good to visit.

        20 May 2010 at 9:54 am

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