Mark reminds me of love. When I was young, I learned about things that are good to do, and I thought I was good because I did them. But no I realize, that when you’re young a lot of times you lack the proper context for certain things. Faith needs doubt, love needs a decision, etc. And I didn’t really have enemies, or I didn’t know of them. So I thought I always loved my enemies.
Now, today I still walk around thinking I have no enemies. But I forgot that you can have enemies even if you yourself are not at odds with people. Anyone can set themselves up as your enemy whether you want to engage in a relationship of enmity with them or not. So I was reminded of this over the past few years when thinking of my time as a graduate student and my first advisor (whom I left). I’m reminded of him because he continues to academically harass (by this I mean find papers that I’ve published and then publish papers that discredit them or write a letter to the editor of the journal/mag to say how what I wrote was wrong or I cheated or stole). So I had to give another reply to a second paper he had written now about another article of mine from my thesis. It gets tiresome, but the lesson finally clicked for me. I have an enemy. This is where love is tested. If there really isn’t a decision to be made (check out the faith section above) have you really ever truly loved? If you haven’t been at the point where you don’t want to be in a relationship with this person because it’s hard work and there’s opposition every step of the way and you’re unsure, have you really ever decided to love (I’m not referring to the emotion here).
And so I was reminded of what I profess (which means nothing) and decide to incarnate it. In fact it’s been on my heart for a number of years of what I could do. So I sent an email to this person to initiate contact and asked if I could help set up interviews for him in DC with program managers to talk about grant money over which they presided (this is a legal meeting that serves to inform the professor/applicant about which avenue is best to apply for money and to help the program manager assigned the write reviewers to the application of the professor/applicant). We’ll see what he says. I know what I expect, but it doesn’t matter. I know the man, and I feel bad for him. But I don’t want to just feel bad for him I want to love him. So counter to people and friends who pray for his downfall (no joke) and would rather love him back to life. I want his life to be more than just vindictively trying to hurt most of his former students (meaning they left him or were kicked out without graduating under him). I want the place he goes to at night to be more than a house. I want him to find a greater joy in life than just he told me. “Do you know what gives me the greatest joy in life? It’s when I get in front of a group of people and say something they don’t know and they scurry to write it down.” I want him to understand there is more at home than what I’ve heard. “What is there at home for me? Nothing. All I have to do is give my wife a movie once a month and go shopping for food and she’s happy. After that I’m done.” I really do. And sympathy doesn’t cut it. I, too, know what it’s like to be in a place where you feel like you have no friend or the kids in school don’t like you (or maybe I don’t). But I hate that he’s grown up and it hasn’t changed for him. He’s done a lot of awful things which I haven’t disclosed, things that have messed up people for life, academically, professionally and psychologically. I’ve forgotten that I have an enemy. And I’ve remembered to show love. We’ll see what happens. I’m reminded of MLK’s words.
To our most bitter opponents we say: “We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws, because non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. Throw us in jail, and we shall still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities at the midnight hour and beat us and leave us half dead, and we shall still love you. But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall win freedom, but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process and our victory will be a double victory."
There is so much truth to be unraveled in those words on so many levels that currently the only thing I can say to that is this: I love those words. Still they’re just words. But if I want them to be Words, I incarnate them.