Monday, November 16, 2009

Urban Studies Journey: Part VII

This is the last and final installment of my Urban Studies Journey. For those of you, the few and the proud, that have read all (or some) of these extremely and unnecessarily long diatribes, congratulations! You've reached the end. This one was a bit more about the practical skills I learned while doing WIC, so I have taken out the requirement parts and simply posted the overall conclusion. So, here's to the end of this particular segment of twentysomething, and to the possibility of some new topics up here, more frequently. :)

If I learned anything about myself this semester it was that I am prone to emotional, wordy, and frequent verbal expressions of whatever matter I am pondering at the moment. As a result my habit of processing thoughts and experiences is often quite lengthy and, due to my highly emotional nature, usually more bumpy than the norm. Therefore it is safe to say that my journey through urban studies is far from complete – in fact I would maintain that WIC, the Urban Studies Program, and perhaps even writing this essay, was the beginning of the journey of a lifetime. But I have spent enough time contemplating the questions, thoughts, and experiences that were planted before WIC, took root last semester and of which I am only now just beginning to see the shoots that I can attempt to articulate the shady figure of the dispositions being cultivated within me.

I would like to think, still recognizing how little I know and how far I have left on my journey to travel, that I am slowly but surely cultivating a disposition towards social justice as encouraged by Wolterstorff. My experiences in the Urban Studies Program have provoked me to think about my consumption patterns, to examine the consequences of those patterns and basically every other aspect of my lifestyle. I’ve developed a fragile but present framework within which to think about uncomfortable urban issues like those of race and wealth. Most importantly I have become uncomfortable with the status quo; I am uncomfortable with being content. It is not possible for me to enter into a life in the city, knowing what I know and having seen what I have seen, and seek the things my culture asks me to seek, things I professed as my life goals less than a year ago and things I secretly am still reluctant to sacrifice. The Urban Studies Program has changed me and my ability to be satisfied with my life as “business as usual.”

In August I plan on living downtown while I attend Loyola Graduate School. *edit: Obviously, this did not happen. Keep reading* Living in the city after graduation was always a dream of mine, though a more distant dream prior to my semester at 4746 Malden. But my post-WIC vision of a “life in the city” is almost unrecognizable from the twenty-something Lincoln Park lifestyle I had so recently cherished and held as my own. Now I am conscious of the implications of the neighborhood in which I choose to live. The fear of becoming an accursed gentrifier is perpetually in the back of my mind. In part due to WIC but mostly as a result of Environmental Politics I am mindful of the choices I can make to live a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle and what changes that will entail. Most importantly, when I think about my relationship with Chicago next year I am striving to approach it with the attitude that the city is dynamic. It is neither about what she has to offer me nor what I have to offer her or her people. I am striving to approach that relationship with humility, prayer, thoughtfulness and the ever-present grain of salt. Because, after all, no relationship is perfect and I anxiously anticipate those continual reminders that I am still a “tension dweller.” *In posting this, of course I reread it. And it caused me to think that I have no idea if I am succeeding in this goal or not. Hmmm, next topic?*

Though I spent most of the semester in a state of discomfort – about my ethnicity (or what felt like a lack thereof), my socioeconomic status, my right to observe or participate in urban issues – I’ve begun to be more comfortable with being uncomfortable. That is to say, I’ve come to accept the fact that from this point forward I consistently be living in the tension: in the tension of questions unanswered, issues unresolved, solutions unaccounted for, and the uncertainty of “how then shall we live.” It would be impossible to pick the most significant lesson I learned, the most challenging or worthwhile experience, or even the most burning question the Urban Studies Program has bequeathed to me. There is one piece of knowledge that I have gained, skill I hope to refine, and disposition I will actively continue to cultivate that stands above all others. That is that the life of a Christ-follower is one of dwelling in the tension. But even more importantly that acceptance of my role as a tension dweller is the first step in the journey to seeking a life beyond the obvious – a life that is consistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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