Insights from a Jesuit

My sister alerted me to a recent Terry Gross interview with a Jesuit priest named Greg Boyle, Fresh Air from November 13, and said it was worth my time.  It was.  Then, as his new book “Barking To the Choir” is currently hitting the stands, Krista Tippett broadcast her chat with him.   I wrote to thank my sister, with cuttings from the transcript of Krista’s talk with Boyle, which I will provide here.

He covers some different ground with Krista Tippett, I’m reading the transcript, this just jumped out at me (and what a potent phrase that is below, which I emphasize for ye):

Ms. Tippett: One of the realizations you’ve said you made out of that is that peacemaking requires conflict. And while there’s lots of violence between gangs, there’s not conflict that you can define, like you can with a war.

Fr. Boyle: Yeah, it’s difficult, because I’m sort of the dissenting voice, I think, in the country at the moment, when it comes to this thing. And sometimes people will say to you, “Well, how can you be against peacemaking?” Well, obviously, I’m not against peacemaking. But I’m old-fashioned: I think peacemaking requires conflict, and it’s important to say that there is no conflict in gang violence. There’s violence, but there’s no conflict, so it’s not about anything.

So you want to understand what language is gang violence speaking? That’s important to me:

It’s about a lethal absence of hope.  It’s about kids who can’t imagine a future for themselves. It’s about kids who weren’t seeking anything when they joined a gang. It’s about the fact that they’re always fleeing something — always, without exception. So it shifts the way you see things.

Somebody, Bertrand Russell or somebody, said, “If you want to change the world, change the metaphor.” And that’s kind of how we want to, I think we need to proceed, in something like this. So if you think it’s the Middle East, you’re quite mistaken. If you think it’s Northern Ireland, wrong again. It’s about kids who’ve ceased to care. So you want to infuse young people with hope, when it seems that hope is foreign.

(as I wrote to my sister about this next clip)  WOW.  from the same interview with Krista Tippett:

So recently, I gave a talk, a training, an all-day training to 600 social workers, a training on gangs. I had two homies with me, and one of them was a guy named José. And he got up — he’s in his late 20s, and he now works in a substance abuse part of our team, a man in recovery and been a heroin addict and gang member and tattooed. And he gets up, and he says, very offhandedly, “You know, I guess you could say that my mom and me, we didn’t get along so good. I guess I was six when she looked at me, and she said, ‘Why don’t you just kill yourself? You’re such a burden to me.’”

Well, the whole audience did what you just did. They gasped. And then he said, “It’s sounds way worser in Spanish,” he said.

[laughter]

And everybody did what you just did. And then he said, “You know, I guess I was nine when my mom drove me down to the deepest part of Baja California, and she walked me up to an orphanage, and she said, ‘I found this kid.’” And then he said, “I was there 90 days, until my grandmother could get out of her where she had dumped me, and she came and rescued me.”

And then he tells the audience, “My mom beat me every single day. In fact, I had to wear three T-shirts to school every day.” And then he kind of loses the battle with his own tears a little bit, and he says, “I wore three T-shirts well into my adult years, because I was ashamed of my wounds. I didn’t want anybody to see them. But now my wounds are my friends. I welcome my wounds. I run my fingers over my wounds.”

And then he looks at this crowd, and he says, “How can I help the wounded if I don’t welcome my own wounds?” And awe came upon everyone, because we’re so inclined to kind of judge this kid who went to prison and is tattooed and is a gang member and homeless and a heroin addict, and the list goes on. But he was never seeking anything when he ended up in those places. He was always fleeing the story I just told you.

D.U. never had this, too bad he didn’t learn the last part:

Our motto, still, on our T-shirts is: “Nothing Stops a Bullet Like a Job,” but that does about 80 percent of what needs to be done. There’s still the other 20 percent, which is relational, and it’s about healing. And it’s about what psychologists would call “attachment repair,” because gang members come to us with this disorganized attachment. Mom was frightening, or frightened. And you can’t really soothe yourself if you’ve never been calmed down by that significant person in your life. And it’s never too late to kind of gain this, so they repair this attachment, and they learn some resilience.

Nice ending, she asks him to read the 14th century Rumi poem from his latest book.  Krista does a great job with these interviews:

Fr. Boyle: Yeah, I don’t know why I put it in my book.

[laughter]

And so now I’m living my nightmare of my interview with Krista Tippett.

[laughter]

Now proven myself shallow and uninteresting.

Anyway, it’s called “With That Moon Language.”

“Admit something: Everyone you see, you say to them, ‘Love me.’

Of course you do not do this out loud,
otherwise someone would call the cops.
Still, though, think about this,
this great pull in us to connect.

Why not become the one who lives with a full moon in each eye
that is always saying,
with that sweet moon language,
what every other eye in this world
is dying to hear?”

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