viva la revolucion.
i just finished watching “the motorcycle diaries” for the second time, and it floored me as much as my first viewing. for those of you who may not be familiar with the film, it is based on the diary kept by ernesto “che” guevara while on a trip through south america in the 1950’s that led to his decision to become a revolutionist. che and his friend travelled from their upper class residence in argentina all the way to a leper colony in peru, and while on their journey they were exposed to the harsh realities of life for the majority of south americans at that time.
you may or may not know that i have been to south america threes times: twice to bolivia, and once to peru. while there, i worked with various organizations within the anglican church for several weeks at a time. each of these trips became monumental life-changing experiences for me. it was incredible to see in the film that what i knew of my travels was not so different from what el che experienced fifty years earlier. the poverty, the division among neighbors, it’s all so very real even to this day.
now, i’m not here to tell you that you need to go on a mission trip to experience these things. but i think what these excursions taught me was a view of the world that expanded beyond the things that i knew; my middle class home, in a country that (tries) to run the world, where anything i need is attainable, and my wants and needs are too easily blurred. but what really hit me tonight as i watched this movie was how much i’ve forgotten those things that i had learned in south america, as if my world-view has shrunk back to what it was before, perhaps even farther. my last trip in bolivia, i left the orphanage i was staying at for a day and climbed 5000 feet to the top of an ancient volcano that shot up from the back of the sity. i was sunburned at the foot of this mountain, and i was nearly frostbitten at the top. i hurt everywhere by the time i reached the summit, but i looked at the view, and in the most sereotypical of moments, i found myself in awe of G-D’s creation, and my own insignificance in it all. here i was, 20,000 feet above sea level, looking down on a city of over 800,000 people. i had hiked through sand and grass, until i was among campesions who spoke little or no spanish. i can point to this moment as the single most incredible thing i have done.
yet i think back on my life since that last mission trip, and i realize how i gradually came to forget what G-D taught me in those days. what HE showed me about the state of my own life, and the state of our society, how it lives and breathes and what it finds important. i’ll confess this to you right now, with shame hanging over my head, I HAVE FALLEN BACK INTO THE OLD WAYS. i have become entranced by the wares of our materialistic, imperialistic society. i ahve been wooed again by the mentality that places one man above another, and how we most do what we can to climb the heap and succeed, to achieve more than those around us. it reminds me of a prayer that we say in the anglican church every sunday: “most merciful G-D, we confess that we have sinned against you; in thought, word, and deed. we have not loved YOU with our whole hearts. WE HAVE NOT LOVED OUR NEIGHBORS AS OURSLEVES. we are truly sorry, and we humbly repent. for the sake of YOUR son, jesus christ, have mercy on us and forgive us.” recently, this prayer has made me realize how little i was loving my neghbors. and for someone who purports to having a “world view”, that goes beyond the girls that live next door. it goes beyond to everyone. absolutely everyone. in spanish, “everyone” translates to ‘todo el mundo”, which means literally “all the world”. in the film, when guevara and his friend granado begin their internship at the peruvian leprosy colony, they immediately disregard the barriers that are placed between the doctors and nurses and the sick. the response is humbling; the lepers embrace the young men more closely than they had those who had been taking care of them before, because guevara and granado looked on them as fellow human beings, and not as subjects to be held at an arm’s length. THIS is the kind of relationship we need to have with our neighbors. too often we view those who we try to benefit as projects, almost like donations that we can claim on our spiritual tax returns, rather than felsh-and-blood people that are our equals. imagine the changes that would happen if we treated our neighbors in this way! and one doesn’t have to travel to south america or asia or africa to make a difference. look down the street! look at your local homeless shelter! look at the poor communities across the railroad tracks! look at the next generation of children who sit fatherless in schools that don’t have the support to make a difference in their young lives! what are we doing for them, and HOW are we doing it?
i am so disappointed in myself in how i have treated this part of the greatest commandment that christ gave us. “love your neighbor as yourself”. even when placed in a positions as i was to work among my neighbors in peru and bolivia, i was selfish and deceitful, treating it too much as a vacation, and not as my manifestation of the love of christ in my life. and i look at my life since those trips, how poorly i’ve treated those around me, how conceited i’ve been in leeching what i need from people, and not being the best example of love to them. i have let down the person that matters the most, my lord and my G-D. yet HE continues to break my heart. HE shows me those around me thats HE loves. HE encourages me to love them as HE loves them. unconditionally.
it is my prayer that i don’t lose sight of this beautiful world view. that i remember my neighbors, far and near, and love them as much as or more than i love myself. that i destroy myself in order to rebuild in HIS likeness. an unconditional love for something that is more important than myself. this is our revolution, this is our call. there is nothing more important on this earth than love.