Reflections on Fall and Things Yet Unknown

I was driving home early on Friday morning a couple weeks ago. Stopping at a traffic light I leaned forward to look up at the moon, but only found myself staring at the black night sky between an intrusively bright street lamp and the pale glow of the moon. It was nice to look at nothing. There were no stars, no satellites, no anything. Just nothing. Like anyone with a ‘theological’ background I began to make something out of the nothing up there in the sky between the moon and the street lamp.

What I settled on was the value of the human; the inherent dignity of a person. It is found in the darkness between the streetlight and the light of the moon. It is in the liminality of no answers and seeking answers. It is suffering and celebration all at once in the lightless space that we find ourselves in communion with one another through difference and shared concerns and joys of life’s experiences. Without the space between the light of all that we are perceiving, where else do we have to explore things yet unseen and hidden by the darkness together?

It is nearing the end of the fall semester. Supposedly winter is coming, but there is little indication of its arrival. There is very little indication of anything certain that the future is bringing. Nothing known and yet all things being known are becoming known with each passing moment. The content of the next chapter in Chemistry before the exam is becoming known with each passing moment. The stories of race in America as told through the voice of poets throughout the ages is becoming known throughout each moment. And then there is everything in between the two, all becoming known in its own moment.

fall-autumn-red-season   There is a short story called the Fall of Freddie the Leaf by Leo Bascaglia. Our college choir director, Dr. Albert Hughes, read it to us every autumn as the leaves were turning brilliant hues or red, orange, and yellow. You can read the story here https://achievebalance.com/spirit/theleaf.htm, but spoiler alert: There is a synopsis is below.

The story is one of life, love, curiosity, and knowing. Freddie the leaf lives a full life of growth, learning from a mentor, falling in love, growing old, and eventually he falls silently to the ground to give himself back to the tree and new leaves in the Spring. These are the things of life. These are the things the future holds in its grasp of uncertainty. How well will that exam really go? Will my roommate want to live with me next semester? What am I actually going to pick for my major? Is there a job out there for me? What is this thing they call college debt and how will it impact my ability to be happy? Will I fall in love? Will I find a mentor to confide in and from whom I can learn and grow? When will I see life change in dramatic ways?

In the dark space between the street light and the moon, I find these kinds of questions for myself. I can seek them out and begin to choose what some of those answers are going to be. That’s the beautiful thing about not knowing what the future has in store for us. We get the chance to make it what we want through our furious curiosity and absolute determination to pursue dreams and pursue them in each of their own moments that we create for them. Most purely and simply, the space between two lights, where only the empty darkness fills the expanse is the chance to dream. Before any of us know it, we will be making those dreams happen, making life come flowing from the darkness, to then begin to explore more expanses of darkness and what other unknowns we might create in our futures.

Rev. Kevin Crawford
Assistant Chaplain, Office of Spiritual & Religious Life

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Journeys of Reconciliation

Reconciliation

Journeys of Reconciliation is a hallmark program of Emory’s Office of Spiritual & Religious Life!  For more than 30 years, we’ve offered students, faculty, staff and alumni a trans-formative experience of domestic and international travel to communities with a history of conflict.  In these communities, we explore the root causes of conflict, listen to the joyous and tragic stories of people and organizations that work for peace and justice, and learn how to be agents of justice and peace. In May, we will travel to South Africa and explore race, memorials and reconciliation.  Learn more and apply here: Journey to South Africa.

Reconciliation is a political term and a religious term – regularly debated and widely criticized.  Fundamentally, reconciliation is about “right relationship” – a relationship hoped for even when it is not fully realized.  Reconciliation cannot be realized alone.  It requires multiple parties, whole communities, and a commitment to mutuality.

Twenty-four hour news networks and our own social media feeds indicate that today’s polarized environment values strong opinions and powerful voices.  The cacophony of loud voices trying to be heard over others plays itself out in society – Charlottesville, police shootings, healthcare policy, and the list goes on.

Journeys of Reconciliation take us into communities to be transformed by stories of struggle, oppression, liberation, and healing.  Journeys is an opportunity to participate in the story of the world through listening.  Journeys is not a “mission trip” –  we do not seek to offer reconciliation to the communities we visit.  Rather, we enter communities with a spirit of courageous inquiry and respectful curiosity – to hear the stories of a difficult history, painful and life-giving truth telling, and visions of a hope-filled future.  In our listening, we offer opportunities for healing to those we meet as we learn about the world, humanity, and ourselves.  Having listened to the stories of South Africa, we imagine how we contribute to inclusive and justice communities at Emory and beyond.

Journey to South Africa Video

Rev. Lisa Garvin
Associate Dean of the Chapel and Religious Life