At The Same Time

“A mix of surprising embarrassment [is] laughing and crying at the same time.”

At the same time.  We laugh and cry at the same time. How? Not really relevant. It happens all the time. Joy and sorrow do coexist. Confusion and understanding live under the same roof. Contradictions govern our world. More often than not, they dictate our actions. In fact, contradictions and oppositions are the very basis of reconciliation.

According to the World English Dictionary, reconciliation has five definitions:

“1. to make (oneself or another) no longer opposed; cause to acquiesce in something unpleasant: she reconciled herself to poverty

2. to become friendly with (someone) after estrangement or to re-establish friendly relations between (two or more people)

3. to settle (a quarrel or difference)

4. to make (two apparently conflicting things) compatible or consistent with each other

5. to reconsecrate (a desecrated church, etc)”

Definition number four has an especially tall order to it.  Reconciliation is more than just bringing two conflicting parties to the same table; it is making them actually like each other. Unfortunately, there is no true standard for reconciliation, in definition or in practice. “As is the case with any new concept, there is no standard definition that all scholars and practitioners rely on,” (Hauss).  Which is problematic in a culture that is paralyzed by dependency and yet reliant on “reconciliation”.

Of the thirty surveys I have reviewed, which asked illiterate villagers if they believed reconciliation was possible, every single one answered yes.  Are they truly this optimistic, or does this reflect the careless way that this powerful word has been thrown around?  If reconciliation is truly about making the incompatible compatible, than defining the process and making it understandable in simple English terms for even illiterate people to understand is incredibly difficult.

If uniting my night-owl tendencies with the life of an early bird that I am required to live here is so difficult, how on earth can an entire country successfully learn to make genocide survivors live next door to the convicted murderers?  If individuals can’t figure out the daily contradiction of opposing emotions existing together, how can entire nations make incompatible cultures compatible with their neighbors’?

Contradictions do not make sense, but they require adherence. I don’t understand it but I have to abide by it. This is where the opposition of reconstruction (via reconciliation) and dependency really come into play.

The most common message of “reconciliation” (vague as that is to me, let alone a rural villager) teaches personal responsibility and moving away from expecting the Muzungu to do everything. But it is immediately followed up with a question directed at me: “How can you teach us to not rely on you for everything?”

Wait, what?! “I can’t, that’s the whole point!”

But this bizarre contradiction requires compliance. The workshop leader explains the necessity of teaching reconciliation based on the foundation of God as stemming from an inherent human need to rely on a superior being for decision-making. (This explains the dependency paralysis.)

Regardless of whether or not I understand the dependency issue, I must accept its prevalence. And perhaps marvel at the ingenious method in accepting the deep-running need for a superior guidance counselor and uniting that with teachings of a spiritual being who can direct the human heart towards a reunion with those who have caused pain.

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