Although it may take me forever to pinpoint just where this hero’s journey began, the place I can most conclusively locate it was when I was on the Youth Council of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church. At the time, although I was certainly into something more like liberation theology than the complacent orthodoxy of most of my peers (and indeed that preached by the establishment of the religion itself), I was an eager and willing participant in this, my first serious foray into organizational responsibility. It did of course circle in no throwaway relation to the society and politics surrounding Camp Sumatanga, where the meetings were held and where the NAC held its summer camps – at which I had been both a repeat camper and a repeat counselor.
But we always discussed the circles – inner circles, outer circles, establishment. I recognized that I was on the very fringes of the inner circle, but even this placed me (at the most inclusive) somewhere in the “fifth” circle (where first is the centroid) of the society of the NAC youth, and of Camp Sumatanga. I enjoyed the experiences I had there, and the things I learned, and the friends I made. But I always recognized that there was just plain something wrong about those circles. And I could only talk honestly about that to a few people without being replied to with hurt and confusion. Inside jokes, experiences I couldn’t share in or wouldn’t be included in (and hardly just me), stories and legends that formed around individuals. I was out.
Maybe too by choice. I always kept my focus out of being a part of those circles, and rather on focusing on either what I had to do as a part of the youth council or simply on spreading liberation, deepening my challenges into my own spiritual beliefs and those of others, doing thankless good in the world. I wasn’t playing any of those political or social games, I was just trying to do what I believed was the right thing to do.
As I grew older, neared high school graduation, and learned more about how to deal both in my own life and as a leader in other organizations, I came to recognize that my time there was over, and I began to recognize that the problem there was two-fold. One of the problems had to do with piety and organized religion, and I think no further explanation needs to go in there. I recognize that time now as a key initial point of my eventual rejection of organized religion.
The other problem had to do with the way the thing in itself was organized. The implicit allowance of politics to seep in. Some people staying longer than others, and some personalities being lifted up and preserved and others being ignored and pushed out, even involuntarily. Maybe that is what the youth council needs, but it took that experience for me to recognize the problems produced therein.
In life, my chosen path as I see it now is to be a flattener of hierarchies and an exposer of truth – even a forcer of environments where, simply put, facts kill lies and plurality prevents dynasties. When those environments exist, I don’t have to take it upon myself to expose the truth or force in the rays of light from the other side of the fence. It happens already because there will be enough people to uphold that. What is key in any of those environments is for people to appreciate the open and free environment they are in so they can take their own hero’s journey, for the only real truth is the truth that one learns of his own accord. See it here:
No one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.
The same holds true for anything in our lives, anything worth knowing and holding dear, or worth fighting against, or worth protecting or changing or growing or leaving.
That is why I am doing my part for AIESEC in the United States. We have already tried, as generations before us have tried, to restore pluralism and real open dialogue within the stystem. But it took those failures for people to know something in their hearts, including even me, that we should have known all along: you don’t end dynasties by talking them out of the throne.
But I hope that talking is all we have left to do.