The Splinter in Our Neighbor’s Eye and the Log in Our Own

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Journal Entry 5: September 8th.

Morocco is full of challenges. Where ever I turn, there is a sight, sound or sensual experience that causes my mind to flood with curiosity and discovery. Thus far, the call to prayer that is heard five times daily has been the most existential moment of my visit. What is it like to live in a place where your faith is so engrained in your culture that the streets echo with proclamations that “Allah is God”. It is such a surreal moment realizing that here I am, an American Christian from Seattle, Washington, becoming the one that is perceived as out of place. Strangely, I feel as if my cultural boundaries and stereotypes are not only falling, but being destroyed. As we walk through the city of Meknes, we are greeted with “hello”, “welcome”, and the occasional “howdy”. It is so different when you can smile at a passerby and receive a response in a country that many think of as hostel. When I told some family members that I would be traveling to Morocco they claimed that they were concerned for my safety. “Isn’t that a dangerous place?” they would ask me. Within the few days that I have been in this Muslim country, no stereotype that I have been fed has been confirmed. It is true that men dominate the public scene yet there is no stretch of street that the most diverse collection of women cannot be seen. Either in Western style or full jellaba and scarves, the women who are stereotypically absent are no less than powerfully present.

I would say that I am out of place  in this Islamic culture, but when I share in a greeting and see the relationships between the Moroccan people, new perceptions are developing in my mind. The moving moments come when you can look into the eyes of a veiled woman and realize that there is so much complexity hidden under her physical appearance. Witnessing people walking with a hand on the other’s arm as if to say, “I am invested in your company” is such a refreshing sight. This is a new frontier in both my educational and emotional journey. I see how the realm of relationship is extended beyond what I have ever seen in the West. Essentially, theres is so much more to a human being than understanding on a communicative level. I feel as if in these few days, I have connected deeply with this culture by simply witnessing and becoming immersed within it.

It is a difficult task to attempt to explain the feelings that are constantly evoked when I witness the realities of this beautiful culture. As I have written in the front of my journal, “Half the fun of travel is the esthetic of lostness”. At this point, I would add to this thought by saying that discovery comes only when you lose not only yourself, but your presumptions and attempt to rediscover your mental, emotional, and spiritual equilibrium. Exploring a foreign culture is also about exploring yourself through personal and comparative analysis. Mernissi makes the point within Scheherazade Goes West that the challenge of crossing boundaries allows one to discover more about yourself through others. This ultimate goal is what we must strive for. When I return to America, how am I to aptly describe my challenging experience to those who have not experienced the conflict between stereotype and reality? I am still learning how to process everything that is happening around me, but I  have observed the reality of Islamic culture that opposes much of what I have been fed in the Western world.  I have realized that we have become blind to our own lives, enslaved by our own culture in viewing the Islamic world as beneath us. It the the splinter in our neighbor’s eye versus the log in our own.

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