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LOVE Archives - St. Stephen's University

A Truer Kind of Love

By | 2017, Europe | One Comment

The past couple of weeks in Austria, Slovakia, and Germany have left me grateful for the opportunity to gain a new understanding of WWII as I interact with material remains of its history. A few days ago, we visited a bunker which had been constructed for Hitler’s use, and was never completed. It has now been transformed into a museum called Dokumentationszentrum Obersalzberg, which focuses on Hitler’s regime and rise to power. Much of the information offered at the museum spoke in detail about how Hitler was able to gain such widespread support for his ideology.

For one, National Socialism made a habit of using propaganda to influence the masses. What really put the nail in the coffin, though, was a concept called ‘volksgemeinschaft’. ‘Volksgemeinschaft’ spoke of a shared “language, history [and] blood” passed on from one Germanic generation to another. This identity, according to Hitler, was superior to all others, and needed to be preserved. This vein of thinking insisted that ‘others’ who did not share this identity be excluded or eliminated in order to preserve and protect its purity.

The call to exclusion, however, was hidden behind the hope and promise of unity. In one speech, Hitler addressed himself to German workers, promising a united people free from the separation of class. His regime proposed programs that made vehicles and vacations accessible to lower income families, for example. The problem with the unity that Hitler offered, besides the glaring issue of violent exclusion and genocide, was that it was a unity that insisted on sameness.

It was interesting for me to connect some of the teachings we have learned in class on difference to what had played out in this dark moment in history. On the surface, playing off differences between people, offering a “we’re all the same in the end,” is a great way to avoid conflict and live in harmony. The reality, however, is that this mindset can actually be quite harmful. Rather than building bridges, this way of interaction does not acknowledge the reality of differences – and sometimes big ones – between people. Yet differences make up our identities. They are, in some ways, who we are. Rather than ignoring them, we can, and must, embrace differences, remembering that they create space for authenticity, dialogue, beauty, and a truer kind of love for one another.

A Transformative Kind of Love

By | 2014, Europe | No Comments

I am a seasoned traveler when it comes to group trips. This is my third with SSU alone! What I have learned through these experiences is that traveling with others is hard. Not the kind of hard that you get over in a couple days, but the kind of hard that constantly batters you day after day. With that being said, I love it. The other day I was enjoying a cold beer in the shade provided by the looming shadow of our bus in our campground in Rome. At the same time I was listening to my favourite podcast, Mental Illness Happy Hour, and I was struck by this quote, “In a lot of ways, I think the most profound love is the love that you express towards somebody that you don’t want to love…or that it’s difficult to love. You know, the person that annoys you. To have compassion for the person that has really damaged you, to have any kind of compassion, that to me is the most potent, powerful love and can be so transformative…” — Paul Gilmartin, Mental Illness Happy Hour, episode 40. I have discovered this beautiful nugget of wisdom to be so incredibly true on this trip thus far. As we all become increasingly travel weary, we are beginning to tire of each other’s company and become frustrated by small actions and personality differences. Through this common challenge, I think that we should all strive to achieve this kind of love. I can really only speak for myself, but I intend to try to love my fellow travellers better, even if it means simply giving someone a hug when I don’t feel that I have the energy to. I want to experience the transformation that is possible through this challenging kind of love.   imageThis  little man shows how I have been feeling for part of the trip, especially in regards to loving people, but I am hopeful I can find my way back!   K.

A road leads a visitor gently in.

By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

A recurring thought and a prayer that has been on my mind and heart has been of city walls.  I’ve seen all manner of self protection and governance, from the walls and Papal power of Avignon and Rome to the Medici dynasty and walls of Florence.  From the trenches and tunnels of Vimy Ridge to the high house and bunker of Adolf Hitler at Eagle’s Nest.  All of these methods are used to keep beauty and life in, and safe; to keep “others” out.
We each experience things in our lives that we believe no one could understand or appreciate.  We build walls and trenches to keep our hearts safe.  The more in depth, the thicker and higher our walls get.  But the beauty of our lives still deserves to be seen and heard.  If we let visitors in, though the line might be long and trying, they will see beauty beyond compare.   
This applies, too, to a bus full of people that call themselves community.  
I see high walls in people, fortified with standing armies.  
I am no exception.  
Yet I pray for true community, when the walls come crashing down and the treasure of life and the tombs of experience are opened, when all of that wonder seeps through the cracks and holes in the walls, and, like so many of the cities I have seen, a road leads a visitor gently in, and is not stopped for fear of an imaginary foe. 
When this is shared, and the “others” allowed in to see and experience wonder, it is called LOVE.  And that relationship is called community.

Rachel