Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Something worthwhile at YouTube

Youtube, as James adverts (somewhere, can't find the link), can be quite a time drain.

Just for example, have you been following the antics of Chad Vader, Day Shift Manager? Hilarious.

But then, thanks to Jeff, I found the following video. It features a father and son. The father is known as 'The Strongest Dad in the World'. Here is the text from the video on YouTube:
Strongest Dad in the World [From Sports Illustrated, By Rick Reilly] Eighty-five times he's pushed his disabled son, Rick, 26.2 miles in marathons. Eight times he's not only pushed him 26.2 miles in a wheelchair but also towed him 2.4 miles in a dinghy while swimming and pedaled him 112 miles in a seat on the handlebars--all in the same day.

The film is moving -- and with the editing and music, may even verge on the mawkish. But there is something here, too, which is so good it should not be missed.

Here is a father who, in love, does not let his son's disability be a liability but incorporates it into who he is. His running is not a running away from, but a running into: he is not running away from the failures, disappointments and imperfections of his life, but takes them up, bringing them into what his life might be.

His son (or so I imagine) does not feel shame about his condition, or as if he holds his father (or others) back, but is included and valued as part of the whole process. In the love of the father, the son is allowed not only to be who he is, but even becomes more than he is.*

The love of the father profoundly reflects, I think, the love of the Father: God. It is a challenge and an encouragement for us all.

Or, to put it another way, quite often in society we are keenly concerned to ensure that everyone 'pulls their load' or 'pays their own way'. There is certainly a realm in which expecting everyone to contribute in some way is appropriate, but this can also make any handicap, disability, or even imperfection a source of shame. And of course, none of us are perfect.

It seems to me, instead, that each of us is meant to be the son for the father, and the father for the son, where there is no shame in lack or imperfection (since we are all imperfect), no shame in relying on others or letting others rely on us. This must certainly be an upshot of Paul's teaching in 1 Corinthians that the church is a body made up of many members (with Christ as the head): that at some deep level, we as humans are intended by God to be connected relationally in a body-with-difference, and in the love that holds us together (as sinews and tendons, etc., hold the body together), we are able to be not just who we are, but become more than we are as individuals, and live out God's intention and call for us as people.

And in that, I think, is not only a lesson for the church, but also for society: who we are as humans is most fulfilled not in splendid isolation and freedom from commitments, but in loving relations and freedom to be committed in the right way.**

* If this sounds unclear (or just fuzzy-headed), let me unpack it this way: the risk would be that the child would simply feel shame (be given shame) by his parents for his condition: he can't lead what some would term a 'normal' life. He couldn't even be who he is. In the event -- again, I am imagining here, based on the video -- the son has not just his life, lived without shame, with relative freedom and ability, but he is given more than just his life, as he becomes part of a larger project with his father, and the two grow closer together in love. His imperfections are not just tolerated without shame, but are incorporated in love, opening up new possibilities not just for son but for Father too. They are each able to become more than they are in the embracing love of son and father.

** It might be asked why society (in general) might listen to a perspective founded on the Christian story. Perhaps a fair question. I am constitutionally averse to giving reasons in general, as if this weren't a point which flowed from a distinctly Christian perspective. (On the other hand, I'm altogether happy to give ad hoc reasons which might appeal to people other than Christians -- it's certainly not as if we can't talk, and even do so quite fruitfully.) So maybe they won't listen. But it seems worth asking why societies which are mostly Christian (or make more-or-less tenuous claims to be 'Christian nations') might not listen, and why they so often look like the opposite of this. And while we are interrogating, we might also ask ourselves why even our churches at times look so little like this -- and if we won't listen to Scripture and points made on its basis, then who will?

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Blogger PdB said...

It's very touching. And immensely noble.

It seems to me that the father involves his son in these activities because of, rather than despite, his disabilities. His son was born into a culture that judges the value of a human life based on the "quality" of that life, and this man, through his sense of paternal love and protection, defiantly reminds us that we are all made in the image of God.

Another parallel to our heavenly Father might be that Satan accuses us of being worthless as bearers of God's image. But our Father reaches out to us, and because of our weakness, He offers us His life.

Thanks for sharing the video. A person who doesn't want to "tap into their emotions" might embrace the "mawkish" label, but I don't think evoking strong emotion is enough to warrant that. There is a hard reality behind this situation that, while not addressed, cannot be forgotten.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007 6:39:00 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

Hi Pamela,

My point was that the disabilities weren't the defining characteristic (because or in spite of) at all: it was the relationship of father and son. The disabilities are real, but are taken up and comprehended, placed in something larger.

I stand by my statement that the video 'may even verge on the mawkish'. No one who knows me would accuse me of being unwilling to 'tap into my emotions', so I won't be dismissed so easily -- obviously it was finding the story so moving in the first place that prompted my sharing the video and my thoughts about it. My point is that the story is deeply moving(good, beautiful, wonderful, theologically rich) in its own right: it just does (as you say) '[evoke] strong emotion'. To cut the video in the way it was, adding an emotionally charged soundtrack is an amplification of something that speaks perfectly loudly and clearly for itself. It tells me how to feel, when the story on its own gives rise perfectly well to an emotional response -- and may even allow space for reflection.

Thursday, February 01, 2007 1:15:00 AM  

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