I went into the slums because I wanted to live deliberately, to front what for me is one of the most disturbing essential facts of life, the drastically increasing gap between the rich and the poor. I wanted to see if I could learn what they had to teach me, and not, when I kneel before God in prayer, discover that religion and spirituality had nothing to speak into this reality. I am no longer satisfied to live the unexamined life that accepts inequality blindly, nor do I wish to practise resignation, except as a method of deferring to the teaching authority of those that will guide me. I am no longer satisfied, nor have ever been, with what feels to be a shallow level of superficial concession of religion and culture in general to this problem of exploitation and injustice. I want them to meet it head on, not just in theology or social gospel but in flesh and blood, not just by me in this temporary immersion, but by all people in body and spirit and mind. I go into the slums, as an act of deliberate decision to force all the Western training and tools and religious thought to confront this problem head-on, and to see if in actuality we are able to equip ourselves for true social mobility. I wish to put that expertise and training at the service of the slums and the people there, to test these tools in the context of poverty and informality, and to see where their arrogance and self-ascribed authority needs reshaping and refinement by reality.
I want to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, but especially not just those aspects of life brought to me simply and freely, but drive the comfortable life into the niche where it belongs, and experience the grand scale of life as it exists today, and, if it proves to mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; if it be sublime, to know it by experience, and give a true testimony of it as best I can when I emerge. For most people, it seems to me, have far too hastily concluded that the chief end of man is to glorify God with a false sense of security and comfort, without any authenticity or concern for their fellow neighbor, and enjoy him forever while being completely isolated from the beautiful and somewhat terrifying complexity and multiplicity of the world he has created.
I go to learn, I go to ask what the good news of Jesus Christ means in this new context, one so close geographically but so far socioeconomically. I seek reconciliation.
Remixed from Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden”, Ch. 2
(I move in the next day, on the 9th).