Occasionally, when traveling abroad, I feel a deep unease about my role as ‘tourist.’ The pleasure-seeking heart of sight-seeing and experience-having can often seem superficial, shallowed by a stance of non-commitment to holy people, places, and moments. Passing through as an observer brings about a unique sense of loneliness – with further immersion into an unfamiliar life-world, deeper alienation follows.

Somewhere primal I sense a quiet, persistent responsibility – a promise – to care for the small wonders that find their way into my circle of experience. Opening myself up to the flow of the sublime in a place I can claim no ownership in – not in carrying forward its culture, not in contributing to its material or social fabric, not in sharing in its concerns and crises and celebrations – has been a somewhat violent process that steals any sense of purpose and belonging. Only the ego, detached and impenetrable, remains.

Perhaps this is too narrow a vision. There are larger circles – the human condition, patterns of community, justice, love – in which I can confidently place a kind of faithfulness. But are these dimensions meaningful without their ‘lower’ foundations? Whatever the answer, I find myself mourning for what is lost in abstraction, and wondering what makes up the living atoms, the indivisible relations, apart from which meaningful existence is all but impossible.

One thought on “Fidelity

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