A few weeks ago I listened to a fascinating interview TWOTP had with Jean Vanier. In the introduction they ask him about the small communities he started all over the world and if he thought they brought about change in the larger story. His answer has been with me for the last four weeks. In his response he refutes the language or construct of “changing the world” and even labels it as dangerous. I transcribed his answer. He said,
“What can these little communities do … and the danger if they think they are going to change the world, they will be in a power game … they should live and reveal that it is good to be human beings where we are not fighting each other that we can celebrate life we can learn to forgive each other it is to become a sign. If community is there to change the world you get caught up in the same thing … whereas communities that live something together and to reveal that it is good to be people of peace.”
What struck me is his comment that changing the world is part of the “power game”. When we live our lives with the main objective to change the world, then we usually don’t. We become so enamoured with our own “potential” or “vision” or “dream” that we become unbearable. We become corrupted and pre-occupied with an ideal of changing the world. This ideal makes us feel powerful but in pursuing it directly we miss out on being the change we want to see. We become powerful in our own minds but powerless to the people and circumstances right in front of us. I become misguided by an abstraction, an impersonal power game of changing the world. Who is the world I want to change? Do they have names, and stories and does this “world” include us or me?
As I’m pondering this I am rethinking that amazing parable Jesus told about the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25. That the sheep who got commended for “doing it to the least of these” didn’t even realise they did it. When did we see you naked? They saw and did something about it without framing it as changing the world. Their seeing and doing became a sign of being present to the actuality in front of them. They weren’t abstracting. It is here where Jean Vanier uses words like forgiving each other, living as a sign, and to “live something together”. What do you think, can we have a primary ideal of “changing the world” without being part of the “power games?”