Living the Big Questions

a close up of a person's legs wearing rain boots with a reflection cast in the puddle on the ground, with an overlay of text that says

Living the Big Questions

 

This blog, updated weekly on Wednesdays through the summer, will offer reflections from current and former SU students at the intersection of faith, justice, and community. 

What does rest look like for me? Reframing and revolutionary

Posted by Campus Ministry on August 26, 2020 at 8:08 AM PDT

a picnic table with log benches sits beside a lake with trees in the distance

With more time at home and fewer social interactions, I have had a lot of time to rest these last three months especially. I have been asking myself: what does rest look like for me? How do I practice rest without guilt? While I have mentally acknowledged for several reasons that my rest is necessary (and maybe even more importantly, revolutionary), I still can’t quite let myself relax and take a break. There is still a thought in the back of my head saying I can’t quite stop and that there are other tasks that need to be done. I know this is heavily influenced by a capitalistic mindset that my worth is inherently tied to my productivity and output, but I am still fighting to embody this lesson.  Embody it in a way so that when I don’t have plans for the day my mood doesn’t diminish or my mind doesn’t start racing to think of activities to fill the time.

I just moved in with three roommates, and every day I answer the questions “how was your day?” or “what did you do today?” or “do you have any plans today/tomorrow?” All of which are valid and considerate, but I find it hard to answer “oh, you know, nothing much happening with me.” For the most part it’s true; I might have a couple work meetings and intentions of calling some friends and family, but other than that I am free to rest. As I write this, I am thinking that maybe it’s all about reframing. Reframing the “free” time as time to reconnect with myself, figure out what I want, discover what gives me joy. I am graduating this spring, and I have spent three years committed to one destination, with the possibility a few different routes, but now I wonder if I happened to come along a new destination. I used to think the two phrases “you have your whole life ahead of you” and “life is short” were opposing each other, but now I can see how they are complementary. Life is too short to not choose happiness, joy, and rest, but we also have our entire lives to continue figuring out what that means. What brings us happiness, joy, and rest will surely change because we change. I am still trying to know what rest feels like in my body, who I am when I’ve rested.

I am a moderately spiritual person, mostly intrigued and curious, and manifestation is very common within the spiritual/religious world. I have never connected with the word, and its meaning, but recently I was talking with a friend and she said, “pushing into existence.” That phrase really struck me, and while she said it because she couldn’t think of the word manifestation, it felt different. When I think of pushing something into existence, I become more of an active participant. Changes and opportunities happen because we have pushed them to happen, maybe by simply stating that potential reality, or maybe with some more effort like doing work and making decisions. So for these days, I am pushing into existence my rest, my revolutionary end to equating conventional productivity to my peace.

~ Erica Calloway, Class of 2021 Bachelor in Social Work

How do you define yourself? Digging deep to the core

Posted by Campus Ministry on August 19, 2020 at 8:08 AM PDT

a photo underwater of a rock formation in the shape of a heart        

      I heard someone say once that integrity is what you do when no one else is looking. In a similar vein, character is who you are when the going gets rough, as well as who you are when it is easy. In the times that we are living in, there are many rough goings when no one else is paying attention. The easiest thing to do is to take the path of least resistance, to live your life without paying attention to your values or the things that might be most important to you. Put simply, it is easiest right now to just survive. And believe me, I’ve done my fair share of just surviving. But I feel better when I am doing more, when I am living intentionally, in alignment with my deepest self. So the question then becomes, who is that deepest self?

       I sign off nearly all my emails with the closing “with hope.” This is because I generally wish that the request in the email be met, but it is also in regards to a realization I had last summer, when it struck me that I am a person with hope at my core. Through everything I’ve been through in my life, mostly ups and downs with mental health, I have developed a sense of hope and a firm belief that in the end, whenever that end is, everything will work out for the good. These are core beliefs that I wish to live by, and by which to define myself. But in the past few months, those beliefs have been called into question. 

     Other than taking the path of least resistance, the other easy path right now is to focus on the things going wrong in the world. There is quite the list if you think it over for even just a few minutes. These negatives can easily overwhelm us, make us think that there is too much bad to be fought, and that it would be easier to simply give up. I think this is where I have largely been living the past few months. Let me tell you, it is not a fun place to live. After reflection, the challenge that I am issuing to myself, and to you as well, should you choose to accept it, is to seek out those deep places in yourself that tell you who you are. Whether your core is hope or perseverance, love or love of justice, those deep values are what guide us, what shape us, and what call us to press in deeper into our lives. My hope for you, as well as myself, is that by digging deep into the core of who we are and living in that place, we will be more authentic, caring, and passionate individuals. 

 

~ Laurel Petrik, Class of 2021, BA in Political Science

How do I move through hard times?

Posted by Campus Ministry on August 12, 2020 at 8:08 AM PDT

a person walks in front of a wall covered in colorful graffiti which reads Courage

In the past year since graduation my life has been everything except what I expected it to be. I’ve experienced loss, health issues, job insecurity and more.  While living through this pandemic and civil unrest over the past few months, I have had the opportunity and time to reflect on what all of this means. Here are the lessons I’ve learned: 

  1. To be patient with myself and others. At the start of quarantine I was very focused on productivity, not realizing that this unexpected time off was actually necessary for my mental and physical health. It gave me time to process the loss of a loved one I experienced a few months prior and the time to focus on my physical health as I navigate health issues. Giving myself the space I needed, and being patient through it, was very much needed.
  2. What is meant for you will always be. This lesson is one that I remind myself of almost daily. It has been difficult to enter my field of work during a time when unemployment is at an all-time high. But I have realized that as one door closes, another one opens. I’ve learned to be more patient with myself and the process, continually seeking out opportunities for growth and learning without giving up, and trusting with hope that there is goodness ahead.
  3. Through reflection and courage we can live more justly. I have learned the importance of taking time to reflect and prioritize what is important. As a Black, Muslim, Woman I have been deeply impacted by the Black Lives Matter movement happening all across the country. I am inspired that 2 months after the killing of George Floyd nightly protests still continue in some cities. We are in challenging times, but I have faith that justice and institutionalized change will come from all of this, if we continue to act courageously for justice. 

I have reflected on this verse from the Quran countless times the past few months, “Verily indeed, with every hardship comes ease” (94:6). This verse gives me hope that things will get better, we will prevail. Change will come, and there will be light at the end of this dark tunnel, if we commit to reflection, courage, and hope. I pray that at the end of this we will be collectively standing on the right side of justice. I hope that the past few months has taught us to live with more compassion for one another. To love and look out for each other and to help each other heal. Although the times we are in seem dismal, we will survive, learn, grow and thrive. For the Quran also says Allah does not burden a soul beyond what it can bear, and for that I am certain that no matter the hardship ahead, I will make it, with patience, hope, and courage. 

 

~ Amina Ibrahim, Class of 2019, BA Communications and Media Studies.

Did our parents feel this hopeless? Keeping our eyes open in hard times

Posted by Campus Ministry on August 5, 2020 at 8:08 AM PDT

a close up of a blueberry bush, with many ripe berriesI recently asked a friend, in all seriousness: “Do you ever wonder if our parents felt this hopeless about everything when they were our age?”

We both knew what I was referring to when I said “everything”: police and state brutality against Black and Indigenous people, the climate crisis, hunger, homelessness and impending evictions, mass incarceration, rampant anti-Semitism and white nationalism and Islamophobia, colonization and imperialism, homophobia and transphobia and gender violence, a global pandemic!

This isn’t a complete list, and it doesn’t make me feel hopeful. If I’m being honest (and I usually am), it makes me feel utterly hopeless. It doesn’t help that I’m observing most of this through a newsfeed that supplies me with a constant stream of terror and suffering, or that an ongoing pandemic is causing me to be online more than in community with others.

You might expect me say here: “Turn off the phone! Close Twitter! Don’t check Instagram! You’ll feel better.” And while I do think boundaries and limits and care for our psyche are vital, I’m wary of the idea that, in the presence of suffering, we should look away to feel better. That the solution to collective pain is for the individual to check out. That it is the responsibility of the individual to feel better rather than the responsibility of the community to take better care of each other.

My challenge to myself lately has been to embody a spirit of paying attention in a “both/and” way. To pay attention to suffering and lament oppression and mourn injustice. And also to pay attention to evidence of joy, resilience, and movement towards justice and to practice radical imagination of a world where everyone flourishes. The danger of “either/or” is too great: without hope, we will only know suffering; without lament, we will leave those who suffer behind in cheap pursuit of inauthentic “hope.”

My faith teaches that God is in all things, including suffering, and that resurrection and renewal are always possible. In this overwhelming time, I want to see God in spaces of both desolation and hope, and I want to remember that I, too, can reside in this liminal space.

 

~Olivia DiGiorno, Class of 2021, BA in Political Science and Theology and Religious Studies