Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Altruism is not dead. (alternate title = DePaul Winter Quarter 2009 vs. my Christianity)

So I signed up for this class on Ethnographic documentary making. Its one night a week at Depaul. I love documentaries, on everything. If you know me, then at some point in our relationship I have talked to you about some documentary I watched and as I spoke to you with fervent interest and intense inner rumination, I bet your eyes glazed over and you drifted away. Anyway, I thought it would be cool to make one of my own and I can think of several cultures in Chicago that I specifically have access to that most of the population does not. Its not actually that others dont have the access to these cultures or groups of people, but that they dont think they do and are hindered by fear and ignorance.

I love documentaries because I love to learn and I am a very visual person. I learn by seeing, I am moved or excited by visual stimulus. If I see something, i will never forget it but tell me something and it falls out of my head when something shiny catches my eye. I love the insider view and the intellectual layers of the documentary movie, and the implicit art and critical thought that has to go into the editing. I love that the person who made the documentary usually wants to teach us something, and that they have to go out and work for it. Its not scripted, technically, and those people arent actors in the Hollywood sense. We all act, but to act in the course of real life or to accept a role and follow a script is two completely different things. We had to come up with 2 cultures or people groups in Chicago that we want to film. I didnt need a week, I knew before I signed up for the class what I wanted to learn more about and what I wanted to teach people through my documentary.

First, I want to do a documentary on the homeless. All of us are like three careful steps from homelessness. Lose your job, cant find another, no one to help you = potentially homeless. The world is cruel,I have seen it countless times with my own two. The men and women I have met through out life have shown me this. Yes, sometimes its the choices you make and I am aware of that. I am not interested in a victim mentality ever. I dont want to identify people as a victim, I dont want to patronize a victim, I dont want to blame a victim....Nothing. What I want to do is show everyone, this can happen to anyone. If people can embrace that fact, I believe :
1. They would be way more grateful and appreciative of what they have and that GOD has blessed them unduly and undeservingly.
2. They would be more apt to share these blessings, to pour them out and pay out what has been merely loaned to them by God for His glory (not our personal gain or acheivement, but as a way to love others.)

The second idea was to follow up with the prostitutes I met while doing outreach on Madison in front of the Rockwell garden housing projects like 2 years ago. The housing project there has since been torn down and apparently that particular stretch of the street is in the last stages of gentrification so the women have moved west about a mile or so. I was interested how they interact with one another and especially their pimps. Particularly, the tiny not scary ones that ride bicycles. Seriously, this has bothered me for like two years. There was this one pimp in my mind I remember. The women would never talk to us or accept any offering of food or clothing if the pimps were around so we had to learn who was a pimp quickly. This one seriously rode a little kid's bike and was like 100 lbs soaking wet. What is he doing? So many questions, so little answers. Anywho, also I see the other pimps and some were like old men with fuzzy canes and white suits that were embroidered with multiple offensive words, but in pretty raised cursive letters and glitter. Maybe not the prostitutes then, but the pimps I was interested in for this project. I dont know. Im still working this second idea out.

But the point of this post was the talk about this idea that my professor threw up onto my life yesterday. Yes you read that correctly, he PUKED THIS WRETCHED IDEA INTO MY LIFE. I am someone who accepts things, and I make them personal (I had this conversation with two of my friends last night, G and Emery. They were like "Stop internalizing everything." Um, read my last post). So what my Professor said was "Altruism doesnt exist. Helping the homeless isnt about them or love or any of that sh*%, its about you.You feeling better about yourself for helping people. Its all about what you are getting out of it." Then he paused, and thought and I was like whatever, thats not true but when he went on is when he GOT me: "Unless, of course, it pains you. If it pains you, then ......that's different. But you know what, no, because if it pains you, then you are CHOOSING pain and then you are getting what you want anyway so it is not altruistic." The thing is, It pains me. It all but kills me to work with the homeless like I have. I stopped doing outreach purposefully in September. I see the men all the time but I had to disengage because of the pain and brokenness and how right now, I cant do that. I cant devote my life to working and loving them and still pay attention to school and work. But that will be my life, in some facet. That the Lord will use me to love and serve the poor and potentially homeless, in Chicago. I have know that since a very young age. Praise God for revealing my purpose, some people travel all through life wondering, but I have always known (maybe not embraced it, but always known). So the statement was personal. When he looked at me and thought and then said that about being pained instead of feeling good, I felt like he saw me. Just a part, but a deep part.

Now my professor, alot of professors, at DePaul are not typical college professor. This particular one swore so many times and in such creative ways that I wrote some of them in my notes. He told us he stole the shoes he was wearing, used to be a crack dealer and admits to using intravenous drugs for most of his life. He swears and talks casually about gaining people's trust, then learning about their lives and vulnerabilities and then freely and consciously exploiting these for the use of his film and career. He speaks flippantly about pretending to care about people he is filming and then using them. Other students in the class warmed up and began to speak as casually and callously as him. My heart was heavy and during our 15 minute break in the 4 hour class, I listened to worship music and prayed for endurance and peace and other things. He said such horrible crap, his mouth just opened and these irreverant, harsh, mean things came pouring out with a smile and sometimes I just laughed and shook my head. Eventually, he caught on that I was not laughing WITH him.I cant decide if this is an act he is putting on, or if in fact this is who he is. He appreciates my presence and told me I am a live wire, but I cant help but be interested in how this quarter will play out for me. I am not one to keep my thoughts and beliefs to myself and this is an emotionally charged environment as we delve into conflict and how to "exploit" that.

I cant drop this class, or I wont graduate on time. and honestly, if I had to pick a class to drop it would be my 'Sex and Gender in the City" class. We are doing a case study of the SEX and the city tv show and learning about sex markets in every neighborhood of Chicago. People in that class are just sick, talking openly about sick crap that makes me want to punch them. THAT is a requirement for my major, not to punch people for being proud sluts but taking a class on sex and gender issues.

Um, Maranatha. Quick.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

From Wikipedia:
Maranatha - As understood here ("O Lord, come!"), it is a prayer for the early return of Christ.