A reflection by Emmanuel Nuh Mbeh mhm
REALITY IS TURBULENT, GOSH!!!
When Aristotle sought to bring Plato from his famous lofty world of ideas down to reality in the famous peripatetic icon of the two great Greek philosophers, building on their master(s), Socrates and the Pre-Socratics, we who still live see more than meets the eye; that reality is turbulent; and to us who are human, everything seems alien no matter how acquainted or accustomed we are to the ups and downs of life.
Whether we move or stay still; whether we travel or stay put; whether we are rich or poor, black or white, consecrated or lay, Christian or non believer, male or female, younger or older, reality soon hits us as simply turbulent. It’s not only a glimpse of it that we get, but a good doze of it.
A few days before Christmas, a few weeks ago in Rustenburg, South Africa, with Dr JJ, we sat down to watch the Christmas drama, organised for and acted by the homeless of the area as part of their Christmas celebration in a religious community; they acted the birth of Christ, depicting their stark reality, visited by Bethlehem’s theo-drama. It reminded me of the plays that youth leaders used to act to portray life in universities on weekends. These homeless or street people lived in the famous Bree street (the equivalence of High Street or Red Light Street or something). They portrayed the pregnant Mary wheelbarrowed into Bree Street (Bethlehem) by a desperate Joseph; only that street and those who lived there pitied Mary and Joseph to welcome them; others were too busy and too occupied. You could sense real pity from street beggars or messed up lives in their poverty, drug and crime ridden ghetto.
One looks back into one’s family, village, city, Church, Country, Society and dares not pretend that reality is not turbulent in any form or guise.
Not when Bafmeng, Bamenda, Mamfe in Cameroon, Sudan, DRC, Israel, Palestine, Syria, Yemen, South Africa, Russia, India, USA, Italy, Ukraine, Germany, France, UK have developed, are developing socio-political upheavals.
Not when Pope Benedict had masterly articulated the double crisis of the environment and the individual – the undeniable moral and the cosmic pollution.
Not when memories of the two World Wars and holocausts and African’s own doze linger and threaten.
Not when Pope Francis and all his predecessors in the past two centuries decry and condemn all forms of brutality and inhumane treatment of fellow human beings and our common home.
The migrants’ numbers are one thing; the Brexit negotiations another; the political demonstrations and rampage are one thing and chronic and terminal diseases another; the emotional outbursts and spill-overs are one thing and the spiritual or occultic nightmares another; the diverse cultural complacencies are one thing and the techno-material and secular prevalences are another.
When the plane was high in the sky above the clouds, over 8000 feet and sailing in top and good gear from Rome to London, I relaxed. The sun was dazzling and ecstatically blinding, quite literally. But I knew it was momentarily. Then it went into seeming cruise mode. Then a sudden disturbing gallop as if it hit a pothole, and as if it was plunging. Yes, it was descending into reality even before the pilot cautioned; into London Heathrow. And it dawned deeply on me that Reality is turbulent; and inescapably so; and tragically aggravated by man, by woman, by bad choices, by humanity, by diabolic forces, by gravity.
That is why I am always reluctant and skeptical to dance or party or relax; because I am always cautious of impending disaster, sabotage, conflict, tragedy, misfortune, turmoil or turbulence. Saint Ignatius of Loyola knew it and cautioned that: in consolation, prepare for desolation and in desolation prepare for consolation.
From Rome to Cameroon, from South America to South Africa, from India to China, reality is turbulent; how prescriptive, descriptive and prophetic was Saint Paul in Romans 8:22ff, when he wrote that ‘the entire creation is groaning as with birth pangs, subjected to futility, awaiting redemption, made so by the Omnipotent one’. And, Romans 14:7ff, that ‘alive or dead we belong to the Lord’.
In turbulent violence, in poverty or riches, in joys or sorrows, in anxiety or peaceful calm as we all know and see too well, God is with us, born into our mess, into our turbulence. He lives to redeem us. Because he lives, I can face tomorrow… when I am down and my soul’s so weary, I wait in silence until He comes and sits awhile with me, to raise me up to stand on stormy seas and mountains. Lord, we need you every hour…. may your Birth, your Epiphany, your Baptism, your Ministry, your death and Resurrection guide us through this pilgrim land to eternity where there will be no turbulence or uncomfortable dazzling. Until then, sustain us when times are tumultuous or turbulent.