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Friday, October 4, 2013

The "Grievable" Life

One of my favorite theoretical pieces is the first chapter of Judith Butler’s book, Undoing Gender. In this chapter, entitled “Beside Oneself: On the Limits of Sexual Autonomy”, Butler discusses the issue of a “griveable life” i.e. what kind of life should we mourn? I had time to think about her words a few days after the terrorist attack on Westgate mall, after the death toll kept rising, and the individuals became more faceless. I thought about her words after a Pakistani friend first told me of the terrorist attack, his words of comfort being, “Don’t worry, this happens all the time in my country and I’m still okay.” In truth, we are surrounded by so much terror and death, within and without our country, and as humans, we pick and choose the grievable lives, we mourn the ones that catch our attention, the emotive ones, the young ones, the ones that jar us to the reality that we are all headed to the grave. But who mourns for the un-grievable lives, in our case, the ones that are far beyond us, the kind that are “Oh I didn’t really know that person” or the “I’m not from that country, it’s all happening far away from me.” The indiscriminate shooting in America, the bombings in Nigeria and Pakistan, the chemical attack in Syria. How do we situate ourselves when we encounter “un-grievable” lives?

I don’t know the answer, and so I turn to Christ in moments like this. What Would Jesus Do in such a hurting world? Does he pick and choose between lives, the griveable and un-grievable ones? I think he grieves for us, all of us, he mourns for every life that is lost. He wept when Lazarus died. And if he promised to wipe away every tear from our eyes, then it can only mean that death was never in his plans, even though it would be my joy, one day, to be absent in the body so as to be present with my Lord.

Meanwhile, I pray that God would grant me the grace to see each life as he sees it, grievable or un-grievable, because if I am his hands and feet, then I also want to be a vessel of his sorrow.

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