Tonight at Kairos what would inspire a conversation about the joy of resistance, a communal dance around the meanings of joy v. happiness, and personal reflections of the weekend protest of the School of Americas, all began with the silly suggestion that, in fact, life is meaningful. In practice, we must order our experience if we hope to inspire meaning.
As an experiment, try to reconstruct for yourself a strand of meaning through the quotes that follow. I used them all in this order, yet the meaning is all yours to make. Enjoy!
Edmund Husserl: The Phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness
“Observe that noses were made to wear spectacles; and so we have spectacles. Legs were visibly instituted to be breeched, and we have breeches. Stones were formed to be quarried and to build castles; and my Lord has a very noble castle; the Greatest Baron in the province should have the best house; and as pigs were made to be eaten, we eat pork all year round; consequently, those who have asserted all is well talk nonsense; they ought to have said that all is for the best.”
Voltaire, Candide, Ch. 1
A lady of honor may be raped once, but it strengthens her virtue.
Voltaire, Candide, Ch. 2
On that day they will sing this song in the land of Judah:
“A strong city have we;
He sets up walls and ramparts to protect us.
Open up the gates to let in a nation that is just,
One that keeps faith.
A nation of firm purpose you keep in peace;
In peace, for its trust in you.”
“Trust in the Lord forever!
For the Lord is an eternal Rock.
He humbles those in high places,
And the lofty city he brings down;
He tumbles it to the ground,
Levels it with dust.
It is trampled underfoot by the needy,
By the footsteps of the poor.”
Matthew 7:21, 24-27
“Jesus said to his disciples: Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord” will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them
will be like a wise man
who built his house on rock.”
“Why am I going there now? Am I capable of that? Is that serious? It is not serious at all. It’s simply a fantasy to amuse myself, a plaything! Yes, maybe it’s a plaything.” Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, Ch. 1
Excerpt from paper delivered at Loyola University in late fall, 2008
Prisoners of Conscience
Each year protesters enter the base. Generally speaking, they are a small and insignificant number. Secondly, it is undemocratic. Frida Berrigan, who is currently researching Guantanamo in part of a nonviolent campaign, writes: “We write letters, we make phone calls, we change habits and what we buy, and sometimes we march.” She shows that nonviolence duly respects the law, while these protesters illegally trespass onto military reservation property. Doing so denigrates an otherwise peaceful movement. Third, Pope Leo writes, “no man may hope for eternal reward unless he follow in the bloodstained footprints of his Savior” (RN 18). Obviously this is figurative in meaning. There are many effective ways of influencing government and pressing decision makers who control WHINSEC, but going to prison is not one of them.
John XXIII writes: “There can be no peace between mankind unless each one builds up within himself the order wished by God” (PT 165). For my part, I believe the action symbolizes the very foundation of religious practice. The prisoner of conscience (POC) prepares consciously for her act of nonviolent civil disobedience. This process involves gathering of information, prayer, community support, and purification. In other words, only with peace in the person can the action be a sign of peace. Pope John taught that the very basis of honoring God, in private and public forum was derived from the “sincere dictates of his own conscience” (PT 14). Accordingly, the purposefulness of the POC arrives from within. No one can decide for her; this is the first basis. And secondly, the act must come “from a consciousness of [her] obligation” (PT 34). Her grasp of the duty as her own responsibility is the litmus test for the action’s sincerity. She could never be self-justified, even if her authority was “intrinsically related with the authority of God.” Her sense of authority must come from sharing in God’s authority (PT 49). So while she is endowed with reason, the “master of [her] own acts,” she will seem to interpret literally Pope Leo’s use of 2 Tim 2:12. Thus, she will adopt as literal the injunction of St. Paul to suffer with Christ as a way to be with him more fully in this world and to reign with him in the next.
In response, when a small number has significance, as the disciples did, it is not because of their own power. With their faith they understood what their eyes could not, and so a Church was made. Likewise, though it would be misunderstood as disorder since he entered the base in disguise, Fr. Bourgeois’ action brought visibility to the SOA. Secondly, “We do whatever we can,” Frida Berrigan said sarcastically, “to avoid actually putting our bodies in harms way.” She shows that true disorderly conduct is when we let fear deter us from heeding our conscience. St. Augustine said, “God commands the soul; the soul commands the body; and there is nothing more orderly than this.” Though it seems undemocratic to some, our nation’s founders framed the constitution not on the basis of consent but of the opposite, dissent. It is a common saying in the peace movement that breaking the law shows the highest respect for the law. Fittingly, Pope John wrote: “As authority rests chiefly in its moral force,” whatever law is immoral may dutifully be challenged. He cites Acts 5:20, “God has more right to be obeyed than men” (PT 50). Third, the literary interpretation of following Jesus reflects what we all know John Donne said so well, that faith exacts a heavy toll. If only we could be justified without risk to ourselves, but what difference would that make? None, for as Frederick Douglass said, “Power concedes nothing without demand.”
“I did not bow down to you [judge]. I bowed down to all the suffering of humanity.” Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, Ch. 24
 “If we persevere we shall also reign with him. But if we deny him he will deny us.” 2 Tim 2:12
 “Small is the number of people who see with their eyes and think with their minds”-Albert Einstein
 In his 1984 action he disguised himself as a ranking officer using clothes bought at a local surplus store and entered the base like a wolf in sheep’s clothing
 “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” –John Donne