Five: Imagination

I watched this video on Monday morning. I had entered office feeling quite free, after sending to Boss on Saturday my first draft of a 91-page closing submissions.

(Of course, freedom is quite the illusion – I stayed back with Boss until 4.30AM on Tuesday morning to amend the subs. But I don’t want to focus on work angst; this post is not about that. Besides, I am reasonably sure that I am going for Option 1, so work angst is more a barrier than a bolster for discernment.)

Like all such material, the video had visceral imagery: teenagers holding guns, street violence, slum life, etc. And for the first time in a long while since becoming conscious to these issues, I felt intimidated.

Transitional justice, IHL, human rights abuses – these issues are so big. I come from an upper class Singaporean complete family, I have never been punched, I am an evergreen virgin, I don’t know any criminals. Am I ready to confront poverty, war, rape, and crimes against humanity? Who am I to get involved in these matters so beyond my life experiences? Who am I to reach out to these people when I have no inkling what they have gone through?

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

– Marianne Williamson

It has been a long time since I have looked up this quote. Post-SOW, I had dismissed my reliance on such ‘be-great’ inspirations in my (not-that-effective) conditioning against pride. Even now, I cringe at the jarring juxtaposition in being “brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous” in the face of “teenagers holding guns, street violence, slum life, etc”.

But perhaps I can allow myself to think that I should not fear being inadequate, that despite my vast inexperience and shelteredness, I can try. (Because if the privileged like me don’t, who will? Who can?) I can listen and learn, and then maybe, I can serve. I can reveal God’s light to these neighbours. I can still let God’s light be revealed through these neighbours.

Last week, I spoke with a man whom I described later as someone who “glow[ed]”. He is married now, but he had stayed in a French monastery for a year to discern a potential religious vocation. And when he shared about touching God in the silence there, I could see that encounter shine through all his other life experiences.

In the course of our chat, he had framed a test: where would I be more reasonably certain of finding God? (the “Probable Call Test“)

The imaginative exercises that I engaged in last week yielded consistent results. When I imagined about teaching, I imagined that I would be content. Maybe I would even be fulfilled. But there would not be magis. Whereas when I imagined about international law, there would be both a great sense of this being me and this being beyond me. And there would also be fear.

Option 1A is such a great unknown. And as I told the Shining Man, I am quite afraid that I am just being seduced by the romance of how bohemian 1A is. But the counterpoint is that being bohemian is actually a principal consideration.

In that context, F pointed out that feeling intimidated means that the decision is becoming real to me. But I know that I have hardly reached the point “when [I am] prepared to sacrifice nearly everything even after knowing all the downsides of the choice [I am] making” (the “True Calling Test“). Like all True Calling Tests, I will only pass it when I actually take that leap of faith.

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About Mel

I dreamt I was a whale. https://melvynfoo.wordpress.com/about-mel/