Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Novelist Sue Monk Kidd on Empathy and Seeing World from Bottom Up: Echoes of Pope Francis on Center and Peripheries

I am convinced of one thing: the great changes in history were realized when reality was seen not from the center but rather from the periphery. It is a hermeneutical question: reality is understood only if it is looked at from the periphery, and not when our viewpoint is equidistant from everything.

As I noted yesterday, Francis stresses that in order to see the social universe in which we live clearly, we need to "move around" and see it from various vantage points--and above all, from the vantage point of those on the peripheries, whose marginal perspective affords them views of social realities that are apt to be much more informed and accurate than those emanating from the center. As Colleen Baker insists, Francis's insight is about expanding our ability to understand the world as others encounter it, and it's about entering into interpersonal relationships that bring us into contact with the other--in particular, with the ignored or overlooked other.

And now this morning, I read novelist Sue Monk Kidd telling New York Times reporter Felicia R. Lee about the Grimké sisters, who worked for the abolition of slavery and for women's rights:

It was through fighting for the rights of others that these women discovered they were oppressed. Empathy is the most mysterious transaction that the human soul can have and it’s accessible to all of us, but we have to give ourselves the opportunity to identify, to plunge ourselves in a story where we see the world from the bottom up or through another’s eyes or heart.

Which sounds to me not far at all from what Pope Francis observed in his late-Novemeber colloquy with Catholic religious superiors that I've cited above . . . . 

No comments: