There have been moments in my life that have impressed themselves in my mind, nestled themselves under my skin, woven themselves into the fabric of who I am as if to say that these are the moments that make up me.
There was the time that I stood before my parents and their friends and admitted that I was the one that had stolen chewing gum from the handbag of a friendly and undeserving visitor, the shame still hanging in the air. Or the time that I tasted what it was like to love for the first time and realised that this person would have a space in my brain labelled "Only for you" for the rest of my existence.
Moments where joy was my language and anticipation my song, where I clothed myself in a cloak of despair so heavy it made my shoulders round and my head droop. Moments of greatness, sorrow, regret and stillness and how I chose to see the world in that place…these are the moments that make up me.
The GT2013 Model
I am on the cusp of a remoulding. Of encountering more moments that will change the shape of who I am and how I live. I think it is fair to say that these moment are interlaced with life all of the time -passing a stranger who smiles, witnessing brokenness in action, waltzing with fear and then refusing to dance any more- if only we would allow ourselves to feel it.
The luxury here in our beautiful and privileged lives is that we have the capacity and capability to avoid alteration if we just can't be bothered with coming undone. But in a few weeks, I am travelling to Kolkata, India where I will be forced to feel feelings of force. The heat, the taste, the smell, the eyes on my blonde hair, the bodies crammed against mine in overcrowded trains, and I am both desperately excited and painfully scared.
I am excited to be foreign, to be the minority and to experience otherness. I am excited to meet with the richness and resilience of the human spirit and bask in its presence. I am excited to dance with children, hold hands with women and connect in a way that surpasses language and understanding.
We are going, already humbled by the stories and hard work of the women that occupy the Red Light District, Sonagachi, Kolkata. A lot of whom who are sold into the industry against their will and are used to service the sexual needs of others, until they are no longer desirable. Most of us know nothing of those sorts of moments, of such powerlessness and degradation, of such disregard for our humanity.
The pain of pruning
And that is why I am scared. I am scared of being overcome by feelings of hate for the cyclic nature of sex as a commodity and the part that I play in that. I'm scared of observing injustices and of being powerless to intervene, hands tied by cultural norms. I am scared of my fiery nature erupting and jeopardising the safety of others. I am scared of being seen as less because I am a woman, of not having a voice and an aptitude to help.
I have always been an advocate for those who are oppressed. There is moment after moment in my mind that I can recall stepping in without even realising I had moved, to stop whatever injustice was occurring. Severe words shared with the school bully when I was five because he was being mean to a boy who wore glasses, lassoing my bag into another when they were nasty to my sister, mediating between an aggressive Asian man and a lonely, white racist in the supermarket.
These are all times in which I was empowered to stand with someone and feel their pain enough to get involved.
But what happens when I see a young girl being sexually mistreated and have no way to reach into her world and pluck her out of it? The realness of that terrifies me. What happens when I get to leave India and return to New Zealand, land of the long white cloud, abounding in human rights and protections, knowing the faces of beautiful women who aren't allowed that same luxury exist? What happens if these moments, pollute me and I am never the same?
Consolation price clichés
I have begun to wrestle with these very real fears and my arms are already tired and my feet haven't even left the ground. I guess, I was hoping for an answer, hoping for some sort of cliché that I could pack deep into my heart and take with me, some sort of consolation price…"Yes Gemma, life can be shit but what doesn't kill you makes you stronger". What a bonus!
But I am beginning to realise the complexity of such places and that perhaps my role is not to save the day but to let the moments move me, to look into the eyes of the defiled and smile, to listen to the sounds of the broken and lament with them, to seek out the colour, life and vibrancy and revel in it.
And I will write this across my heart "forgiveness flounders because I exclude the enemy from the community of humans and myself from the community of sinners" (Miroslav Volf) and know that in light of everything that humans have suffered, one is no better than the other.
And this is my hope... that my heart is fragmented by what I see so that I am propelled towards difference, that I learn to embrace powerlessness and give myself over to trust, that my hearing turns inwards so that I let the Spirit of God show me that He is alive in every corner of darkness.
And this is my resolution, not to rush to blanket answers that suffocate the question and instead, learn to sit with people in their suffering and find the courage to be quiet… that is until I write my next article upon my return.
First published September 16, 2013
Gemma Taylor despite constant scorn and painful jokes is proudly from the Waikato; although she is presently living in Auckland with her fingers in many pies. She is inspired by truth, creativity and connection. Gemma writes for buoyancy and hopes to one day live wholly by the ideas that she writes of.
Gemma Taylor previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/gemma-taylor.html