Thursday, August 19, 2010

Anacondas, Waterfalls, and Christ

by Clare Brauer-Rieke

When my family recently went on a two-week vacation to Brazil, I felt the tension of what it means for me to have this privilege. As a middle-class American in a globalizing world, doors are open to me that were not open to my predecessors and that are still not open to much of the world. These opportunities shape my experience of the world in significant ways.

Experience changes us. I've seen anacondas in encyclopedias or in pictures online; I assure you, it's an entirely different experience to be draped in one, even one as young as the snake in the photo. I can read about Iguassu Falls, the beautiful natural phenomenon consisting of 26 city blocks of cascading water; but to be there, to stand at the precipice, to feel the spray, to hear the roaring of the Devil's Throat - the waterfall through which 50% of the falls' water tumbles - is different.

The first two legs of our trip in Brazil were like this. We traveled through the savanna-like Pantanal region, where we saw snakes, birds, caiman, capybara, monkeys, crab-eating foxes, and more. We fished for piranha in the lake. Then we went to Iguassu. Our guide talked about the national park surrounding the falls and the forestation that cut the thriving rainforest to a tiny percentage of what it once was. He spoke, we listened.

Experience changes us, but for me, this has always been the struggle - how to I transform my experience into action?

The last leg of my family's journey was in Rio de Janiero, where the famous Christ the Redeemer statue is located. Whether from within the city, to see the figure high on the hill, or whether at the base of the statue itself, the presence is impressive. Standing and looking at him, I considered his tender gaze and open arms. Christ is, after all, perhaps the clearest example of what it means to take experience and turn it into action. He lived among us, became us, and was profoundly changed. Despite the terrible things he witnessed and experienced, it was love that overpowered all else. In his actions, he redeemed us.

Of course, I can't redeem anyone. But I have my own opportunity for loving action - like those in Christ's company, I can be a witness to what I've seen. I can be a witness to the beauty of Brazil and to the great work being done by Brazilian individuals and grassroots organizations to preserve and restore creation. I can share that story, and it's a start.

No comments: