Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Place in Society Often Determines Our Thinking

In a bulletin for priests a retired priest reminisces on his life and two classmates. One classmate lived in a neighboring diocese and was involved in farming until his retirement. He was a leader in the movement for farmers and seeing the breakdown of farm life, sadness entered his life.

The other classmate was a rector of a technical school and involved in education for many years until retirement. Both of these men from their time in the seminary were close friends. During the military control of the government, they both spent short periods of time in prison.

Up to his middle fifties, the educator often visited his priest farmer friend in the country. One of them was living with the upper middle class and the other with the poor farmers. The way they looked at life began to change. In the beginning, their views of  society were similar but with the passage of time, they began to diverge in the way they saw the political world and they began to clash. One evening while eating they quarreled and the friendship ended.

They both were zealous in their way of life,no one can say who was right or wrong.The way of life they lived separated them from one another. It was no special problem they had but only the way they looked at life made conversation difficult for both of them and they didn't meet anymore. They both had heart problems and died at the age 72, both died within a year of each other.

Their many years of close friendship and prayers were not able to keep them in their friendship. A sign that the way we live is going to influence the way we see life and make judgments. Karl Marx, said something similar in his writing:  "It is not our thoughts that change us but the places where we live changes us." Another saying the priest quotes: "Employer and worker have little to talk about."

One bishop who went from Seoul to the country changed greatly. Living with the poor made him see things differently and take an interest in their issues. Once asked what made him change he answered that it was the people with whom he talked and ate that changed him.

We learn a great deal from our studies and what we read but these thoughts usually stay in our heads and hearts. To have these thoughts take flesh in our action is another big step which is not often made. We fool ourselves into thinking that these high values and ideals, make us different which can be another  form of pride. 

In his later years the writer's meeting with people has diminished and it is now mostly theory that he is living with. The kind of encounter present is not the deep kind, it's a business kind of contact not  dialogue about joys and suffering. He lives among many but alone.

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