In yesterday’s DM I shared news from the streets of Nepal about the impact of coronavirus there and how the Shanti community is responding to the crisis. Marianne Grosspietsch continues her report:
Our Junior Manager Bijendra met a man in very worn clothes, carrying card board pieces. When he asked, what the man wanted them for, he was told: “I go to Shanti every day, and they give me food. I collect the cardboard, so that they may use it for making briquets for cooking.”
He shared this with the other poor people who came for food, asking them to also collect cardboard. And from then on, even children came to contribute in their own way. Their activity reduces the garbage piles too – what a wonderful double effect. Gas and kerosene have become very expensive, because the border to India is locked. We want to preserve nature and avoid chopping trees for fire wood. The cardboard also creates jobs for our mentally challenged patients, who tear the pieces, soak them in water and press the briquets.
Corona may make us having to accept changes in our lifestyle here in the West, yet people in other parts of the world suffer from hunger, from lack of drinking water, from want of basic medicines…. how much reason do we have to show our gratefulness by not complaining but rather by supporting the needy.
I find in this report from the streets of Nepal another example of how creativity and art hold the key to justice and compassion. The Via transformative is born of the via creativa which in turn is born of the via negativa (including suffering) and the via positiva (the love of life). So much of the work of Shanti—as of all the work of healing, justice-making and compassion–is art work.
It is taking disparate pieces and re-arranging them; it is looking at what is and imagining what is not yet; it is facing the impossible and forging the possible—which is the difference between despair and hope.
As Aquinas reminds us, despair is about the impossible; hope is about the possible. A place like Shanti brings the possible alive, hope alive. As all art does.
We once had in our master’s program a Catholic Sister from the East Coast. I began my class on psychology and spirituality by inviting students to draw a picture of their soul—and hers was clearly dark and troubled.
Inviting her in to talk, I learned that she was an artist but her art was destroyed when her convent burned down. On being assigned to hand out mail in her institution, she found herself deeply depressed and on medications. Her mother superior told me she sent her to our program because “therapy was not working.” Through our program, including art as meditation classes, she threw off her meds and became alive again.
For more about Shanti see https://shanti-leprahilfe.de/en/association. Donations are welcomed.
See Matthew Fox, Creativity: Where the Divine and the Human Meet.
Banner image: “Jogendra, the painter, has painted the buildings in Tilganga with bright hues together with his wife, Reika, and other Shanti painters. And that despite hands impaired by leprosy!” Photo from the Shanti Leprahilfe website
Queries for Contemplation
Do you agree that “corona may accept changes in our lifestyle in the West”? How might that manifest itself?
Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet
Because creativity is the key to both our genius and beauty as a species but also to our capacity for evil, we need to teach creativity and to teach ways of steering this God-like power in directions that promote love of life (biophilia) and not love of death (necrophilia). Pushing well beyond the bounds of conventional Christian doctrine, Fox’s focus on creativity attempts nothing less than to shape a new ethic.
“Matt Fox is a pilgrim who seeks a path into the church of tomorrow. Countless numbers will be happy to follow his lead.” –Bishop John Shelby Spong, author, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, Living in Sin