Archive for March 2nd, 2006

Mississippi Revisited

Thursday, March 2nd, 2006 at about 6:38 pm

A lot of people talk about going through a kind of withdrawl after coming back from the Habitat trips. Being back in school, surrounded by people who aren’t seen as understanding the experience, understanding what goes on in Missisppi, it’s all seen as a bit overwhelming. I’m never really sure whether or not I get this, though. School did certainly seem particularly pointless and boring this week, and the people surprisingly… different. And young. After not being in school for a while I’m always alarmed at the size and age of so many of the kids I go to school with, who flood around me in the hallways. It makes me feel like I’m ready to be finished with it all.

But despite these feelings, I can’t help but feel like I’m a little dispassionate, somehow, about the whole thing — more than averagely desensitized and unaffected. Even when we’re in Mississippi, looking at abject poverty, a culture which perpetuates it, and human beings whose stubborn hope and optimism truly are amazing — I feel like I’m less moved than I should be, one way or the other. I feel sorrow and guilt and helplessness at the injustice, and inspired by the people, but not as much as I get the sense others do.

It’s hard to escape the trap of lamenting the middle-class American existential ennui that at some point probably plagues everyone — that vacuous suburban feeling, the numbness. But it’s nothing so extreme, I don’t think — just a steady decreasing of the extreams. I remember being 15 and just absolutely crazy, prone to wild mood swings and an intensity of feeling which has slowly been leaving me. I tend to think this is for the better, because often those shifts mean crippling (if temporary) depression. But I think it might be related to this apparent desensitization — my inability to be moved as strongly as is the apparent norm.

Many of the people who had gone on the trip got together yesterday to eat lunch and just talk about it, about the much-hyped readjustment and other things. And at the end of the meeting Mr. Sutton delivered bad news — Pastor Thomas, who was the pastor at one of the churches who had given us dinner one night and where half the group had gone to Sunday services last week, died of a heart attack two days ago. The man we had met, who had welcomed us and made quite an impression among those who had seen him preach (although I was not among them), suddenly is gone.

All I have is one image of him in my mind, welcoming us to dinner and laughing, swirling around in my head, and a sad uneasiness. Other than that… nothing. I only met him once, granted, but I feel like an appropriate reaction would be something more, although I don’t know what. Other people seemed to feel something — so why don’t I?

The last person I knew well who died was my grandfather, and that was when I was 10. I remember being sad, I remember a mixture of sadness and uneasiness at the funeral listening to my grandmother’s haunting crying, and I remember the last time I saw him. I think the whole thing sort of drifted by me; I think I was too young to really take it all in.

Maybe it’s because I’ve never intensely mourned the loss of someone close to me that I cannot comprehend it, that being so affected by death seems unnatural and difficult to me. I don’t know.

One day early in the week while we were in Mississippi Zak had a guitar and was playing these contemporary worship songs. He and some others, none of whom went to the same church but had this common bond of young Christian faith and who all knew the same songs, were just sitting and singing in the night. I lay back in my chair and listened and had an intense feeling I can barely describe — a longing. An acoustic guitar is a beautiful thing, and so can life be and so is the face of God, and it was nearly too much for me. I don’t know what I was longing for, but I got the sense that those singing had it.

So now I’m home, and wondering whether I’m desensitized, callous, or just a little lost. The ironic thing is that it’s because I feel so normal that I have convinced myself I’m not. Here are these supposedly monumental things that aren’t affecting me as much as I think they should. My hope is that they don’t all drift by me before I can figure out what’s going on.

Posted in General
by j. android