In 1963, from the Birmingham Jail, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
We are one amidst many.
Today, January 12 marks the second anniversary of the Haiti earthquake. Arising from the chaos was the physical, emotional, and spiritual devastation of one of the poorest nations in the world.
It took an earthquake for the world to recognize the truth of the inescapable network of mutuality in which we live.
When cities collapsed and the heights brought low,
Haitians grasped for life, reached through daylight cracks.
If only our hands held more than empty air so to pull all from the wreckage.
Within this mutuality we recognize that hearts and minds are an entanglement of interwoven connections; we receive, interpret, and transmit expressions of the self to others and the world.
Still, we fail to recognize, embrace, and nurture this link between our hearts and minds because of our own ignorant presuppositions. We are fooled into believing that some are less than. We limit the emotive expressions of our heart and thus surround aortic walls with layers of brick and mortar that are seemingly resilient and nearly indestructible. We lose our sensitivities.
But, in the navigation of this complex world and our complex hearts, bridges between heart and mind, self and other, and new levels of consciousness prevail. We have discovered our humanness in relationship.
We are caught. And the world responded to the catastrophe--in fact, we are still responding.
Therefore, earthquakes become a metaphor for our activity as God’s created beings. Earthquakes--people, experience, and emotions that literally rock our world--force us to recognize the fear and uncertainty of our brick-lined hearts. The earthquake transforms, if not destroys, our disconnectedness in order to re-learn that humanity is about togetherness--this, the single garment of destiny.
The mistake, however, is to believe that we need earthquakes, suffering, and physical or natural violence to overcome our distance. To be sure, God did not cause the suffering of God’s people like some religious types prognosticated. Destruction is built with our own hands; we are implicitly guilty in systems of poverty and injustice that produce death.
Even though our society fails to recognize that we are all affected by any injustice, any act of violence against one’s mind, body, or spirit, any act against one’s humanness, there is hope upon which we can rely.
The earthquakes of our minds, hearts, and spirit become the metaphor that provokes the reality of mutuality and reminds us of the fragility of our existence.
Two years later, the rebuilding process continues; buildings reconstructed, roads repaved, crumbled gravel removed. I spent my summer of 2010 as a Communities of Shalom intern (The Theological School at Drew University) working with the community of Mizak near Jacmel. Together we organized, educated, and envisioned a future of peace, reconciliation, and hope. I cannot be what I am without them and my prayer is that they too cannot be what they are without me.
Before the earthquake, two organizations in Mizak, Haitian Artisans for Peace International (HAPI) and Living Media International (LMI), worked to create a systemic, sustainable economy for women and the people of Mizak through art, agriculture, and education. After the earthquake, these two groups of Haitians and North Americans continue in the task at hand but are also about the tedious work of rebuilding the emotion and physical lives of Haitians.
The work continues, and I’ve participated in my own small way by leading groups of teams to Mizak to focus on HIV/AIDS education and awareness, sexual health, and women’s and gender violence. This work is possible because we recognize the importance of mutuality; we have discovered something shared in our humanness and in this way we continue to build the Beloved community of God wherein injustice no longer reigns.
There remains a tenuous line between charity and systemic, sustainable change. We must not be interested in charity because the effects of the earthquake two years ago require more from us in relationship--and, much is still to be done. My only question remains; how long must the material poor of the world teach the Global North about our own humanity and connectedness?
Indeed, we have felt the reverberations that run deep, deep to our core. We cannot ignore these reverberations within the network of mutuality. Our mutuality is inescapable.
Joshua Clough is a 3rd Year Master of Divinity student in The Theological School at Drew University. A native of the Seattle area and graduate of Willamette University he enjoys running, the “great outdoors,” poetry, and writing.