Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Day 2: Questioning is a Form of Liberation

Another day, another new opportunities to expand one's intellectual horizons. Based on my experiences from the previous day, I was greatly excited for another day of class. Just from one day I had been captivated by the professor and his teaching methods.
For the morning session, we once again began uniquely compared to traditional classes. We started once more with a bit of Qi-gong, which was directed by Mr. John Gilmore, a very passionate and spiritual man. The exercise revolved around the concept of Love. According to Mr. Gilmore, Love is like a free flowing river, that possess various tributaries and deviations. After awakening our minds and relaxing our muscles, we were ready to learn. The subject of todays class revolved around religion. In order to assist us in better understanding the various perspectives and ideology associated with religion, we were joined by Mr. Charles Howard, who had been a student of Andy and whom had been inspired to pursue his studies by him. In order to begin the topic off, Andy asked Mr. Howard, what the most impacting experience of social injustice because of religion he had ever experienced was. His response took us back to when he was in eighth grade. He told us how at a young age his mother had passed away and his father was very close to death. As a result he was primarily raised by his twenty-two year old sister. During the summer, he was sent to two basketball camps. The first was a Christian camp where, because he was a quiet and gentle person, he was harassed and bullied throughout his entire time there. This story really made me feel sympathy for him and the extent that some people will go, not knowing the harm they are inflicting upon another individual. Moreover, he told us how, during the middle of the program, a very tall and older student at the camp walked up to him and told him "that the actions of the other campers did not reflect the values of the Christianity". Next he described his experiences of attending a Jewish camp in which he felt invited and the common Judaist principle of "welcoming the alien" as he was the only African American there. Mr. Gilmore then told us his own story, in which he grew up in a Baptist family, and was inspired by his mother acting upon the teaching of the bible rather than just reading it. However, after taking a class in sociology, we was made aware to the poverty and the struggles that face the world and impact it in a larger way. As a result, he began to delve into Daoism, which was unique as very few African American followed that form of spiritual path. After getting into a motorcycle accident, he began to shift over to Evangelism. However, he also saw a correlation between Evangelism and Daoism and thus described himself as an inter-spiritual person.
After this, we began to further deepen our knowledge surrounding the two readings we had to do before the beginning of the session. We analyzed the quote "When Adam delved and Eve spanned, who then was the gentleman". This topic aroused a variety of speculation which really motivated the class to become more involved and interactive. A few of the primary manifestations of this quote that were discussed were gender roles and how that translates over to gender labor, as well as the belief that "God did not intend the existence of a class structure." In addition, we also explored the two ends of the spectrum for religion, either one that consists of a hierarchy, or one that is based on an egalitarian society. This caused Andy to propose a thought question, "Which structure do you prefer, hierarchy or equality." As presented there were pros and cons to each structure and was based more on personal perspective and opinion rather than a clear concise answer. As a bit of a transition period, we were given an brief overview of an aspect of Judaism by one of the TA's which revolved around "The Book of Ruth". It consisted of common critical themes such as gleaning and social structures. To further arouse our minds, Andy and Mr. Howard then posed the question, "what is religion". This caused a frenzy of eager responders each possessing their own beliefs based on their own experiences. Many responded common answers such as personal beliefs, but more in-depth some described it as a purpose in life or as a tool either for guidance or social justice. To further expand the conversation, we were asked to define "Spirituality, Faith and Secularism". For spirituality and faith, most described it as an interpretation of religion. A incredible thing that Mr. Howard did, however, was that he made the lesson more applicable to the class by incorporating the song "Don't stop the music" by Rhianna, which is very different from the approach countless teachers take. Further on, we began talking about many common flaws that surround religion such as its ability to shut conversations off immediately and hate that it can produce.
After that we broke for lunch, and my roommate and I took advantage to grab a quick bite and get ahead on the readings that had been assigned for us that were due at the end of the week. Post-Lunch however, I experienced true inspiration. The lesson was a continuation of what we had discussed in the previous session, but revolved more around the social implications of being of a certain faith. A key point that was brought up was the fact that the U.S is very diverse in terms of religion and that around 95% of all citizens believe in some form of higher being or deity. However, society generalizes people based on their religion, race or personal beliefs. As a result we began to analyze which approach, whether violent or passive would be more effective. Again, both Mr. Howard and Andy combined modern elements to enhance our understanding by comparing the approaches of Malcom X and Martin Luther King Jr. to the perspectives of Magneto and Professor X, two fictional characters from the mega-franchise X Men. One of the last bits of details that Mr. Howard left with us was that "Love is more effective and more rationale than anger.
In the evening, it was once again back to class. The reason for this was that Andy had invited a group of Untouchables, a social class in India, to come and give us a presentation. While it was optional, I felt that it would be a truly unique experience and decided to attend. As the session progressed I was blown completely away at the revelation of the struggles and injustices many face in India. As the society is based on the Hindu beliefs, there are four main caste levels. Brahmon are considered to be the very highest as they are thought to embody the Gods on earth and are the only ones who are able to receive an education. Khsatriyas manifest the warrior class of society, Vashya represent the business men. The Shundra are the serving class. However, below them is the group, Hinduism for a long time refused to acknowledge the existence of, the Dalits or rather, the Untouchables. They all spoke with fervent passion as to the inhumanities their people faced in India. Woman are consistently abused and discriminated upon. The Dalits are considered irrelevant, yet do all the manual work around cities in India. Much of this caste system as we were informed, revolves around one's last name. It surprised how little coverage or knowledge of these inhumanities are actually known by society. We often go every day worrying about our own personal struggles while so many injustices are committed in India on a daily basis. I was truly inspired by the session and do not regret attending. It was incredibly eye opening and impacting to say the least. My views of how I see the world definitely have changed and it surprises me how atrocities such as this continue to occur without any ramifications whatsoever.
After another long but truly inspirational day, I was exhausted. I highly doubt I will be able to continue viewing the world in the same perspective. I feel that everyday I am here I learn something new that completely revolutionizes my personal beliefs and ideologies. I greatly look forward to each coming day and seeing what the next has to show me.   

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