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From The Irony of American History

Although Reinhold Niebuhr his book The Irony of American History, I think it speaks to each person’s and each collective’s history.

As I read this and his autobiography, I wondered what it means to be a refugee, to seek refuge, and be an immigrant. My family traces its roots in Canada to the mid 1600’s and Kathy traces her’s to the latter part of the 1700’s. On both sides of our family, our ancestors could not expect what was to come for them and us.

Parker Palmer and Allan Watts speak of faith, which allows each of us to step into the future, without understanding what that brings. My ancestors, coming from France, did not know the risks and opportunities that lay ahead. They had faith in what was to come, without knowing what was to come.

What is to come in my life is emerging through the lives of each person that follows. Thich Nhat Hanh writes we are an amalgam of our ancestors. We are individuals that emerge within a collective that is both present and absent in our daily lives. Who we are is a result of product of virtue and love we receive from others. Who we are is not accomplished alone. It is an act of compassion and faith; an act of forgiveness that we will do what is proper.

Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope.
Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith.
Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love.
No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness.

About ivonprefontaine

I completed a PhD at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA. Previously, I taught for 20 years and taught for 15 years in a wonderful hybrid school. My dissertation topic and research were how certain teachers experience becoming who teachers. In teaching and leanring, I am a boundary-crosser who understands moving ahead is a leap of faith. Teaching is a calling and vocation to express who I am as a person. Currently, I am waiting and listening to what calls me next. I am an educator, phenomenologist, scholar, boundary-crosser, published poet, author, parent, grandparent, and spouse.

11 responses »

  1. Much to be learned from Reinhold Niebuhr, especially for those looking for religious answers. Thanks for your thought provoking post.

  2. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:

    • I think Reinhold Neibuhr would agree with you. What he was pointing out was we cannot know what is to come. That is on a different plane, influenced by things beyond our control. I agree that we can only exist in one time and place, the present. It is here we make the greatest impact on the world and people. How we come to live is a question that can be explored.

  3. THANKS FOR POSTING. I’LL STICK WITH MY “OLD TIME RELIGION” WHERE THE FUTURE–BOTH PERSONAL AND CORPORATE–IS DETERMINED BY HOW ONE TREATS PEOPLE TODAY—WITH GOD’S HELP—NOT JUST A GIVE UP ON LIFE UNTIL SOME FUTURE TENSE–WHICH IS WHAT I SEEM TO BE HEARING HERE. Sorry about the caps–not only do I forget myself, but get too excited for philosophical discussion, generally? Forgive me? Nearly all so-called liberals won’t, according to their media masters! (?) You, however, I trust are of more open-minded, less hateful, stuff! Thanks for letting me spout.

    • I responded yesterday, but, with more time to reflect, I wanted to add to what I wrote.

      We each conserve and progress (liberal if you will) in our own particular ways. What we conserve from our past and the traditions within which we live form a foundation and (in)form us on how we can move forward (progress).

      We do not have to agree. What is often lacking is civility in our conversations. We carciature others as if they were one thing only. Fortunately, humans are more complex than our steretypes.

      Something I conserved is how Abrahamic tradition underpins welcoming the other, the stranger and sharing with them. It is another aspect of our humanity and humanness.

      Take care Jonathan and thank you.

  4. I live smack on the border of Mexico, so I think about immigration a lot. I have witnessed people stopped, ha duffed and taken into custody. I have seen the terror or confusion or resignation in their faces. I have seen busoads of people being transported to … I do not know where.
    The windows on these busses are tinted so I cannot see in.But when able, I stop, get out of my car, and give the prisoners the peace sign. A small act to show care and concern. I hope they see, know, have any tiny understanding at all how my heart breaks


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