Sunday, March 20, 2005

blood and interdependence

i gave blood again two weeks ago and had meant to post some reflections then...but it has still been on my mind, so here i go. i am relatively new to the whole blood-donor scene (is it a scene?....sounds a bit shady). i found it a refreshingly grounded celebration of commonality, mutual need, and the fruit of such things that might be called solidarity. i chatted with people as we waited to be called back and "screened." the gathering was a mix of old and young, a rainbow of shades, and all taking their time out to participate in this uncomfortable process (one older lady went white as a sheet after giving blood and staggered away from the chair only to be carried back minutes later to be watched over by concerned staff).

(there's more) Just while i was there i had conversations with a woman from Cameroon, an Asian lady, an Hispanic woman, and an African American gentleman (...and i'm an was like the UN!)

as i sat in the waiting area i happened to be reading some articles about kenosis - the greek work that means "self-emptying." it one of the words paul uses to describe the Jesus-way of engaging with humanity and with all of creation (particularly in Philippians). kenosis implies a loving deference to the needs of others marked by self-sacrifice. it's a word that captured my sense of belonging to humankind as i was jabbed with a needle and watched my blood pulse along a plastic tube. i felt like i belonged to all of you and all the people in the room with me. as a rule, i'm detached from my own biology, my own need for things like air and food and water. often unaware for days at a time about this 'claret' that is always churning through me. i'm even more easily removed from a real sense of how much i need other humans to share themselves with me. that's one side of it. i'm also unaware of how much i am needed...not because i am so special, but just because i am. as the little rubber pouch filled up with blood i was powerfully aware of this double-need - for others, and their need for me. it was, perhaps ironically, a very 'spiritual' moment. in a strange way, i came closer to my humanness and this made me more open to matters that are essentially spiritual - identity, belonging, solidarity, and interdependence. this is the kind of sacred and formative experience i hope for when i gather with my community of faith, but am less ready for "out there" in "the world."

interdependence is an awkward, uncomfortable, needy place to be and it can result in all kinds of mess. i'm newly aware of the miracle of the incarnation and what a profoundly divine thing it is to be part of the human family, a family that includes the blood-shedding Jesus of Palestine. i think giving blood will become an important spiritual disciple for me...perhaps even a sacrament.


Leanne said...

A bloody good post, mate.

brad said...

laura and i heard a local artist at the dame not long ago that started off this particular set with, "this is a song about my grandparents having sex." it went through part of his family story starting with his grandparents. it culminated in the chorus with the line, "oh, it feels so good to have your blood in my veins." towards the end of the song he broadened the meaning to include not just his family, but something like the human family. it was a powerful way to convey artistically what you experienced, geoff.

geoff said...

thanks leanne...but a member of the clergy like yourself should be careful about your language :)

brad, i remember this song...we were at The Dame. do you remember the band name?

ryan k said...

I tried to give blood about ten years ago. I nearly fainted when the fellow pricked my finger for the blood test. He watched my face drain of color and suggested that I go sit down. I asked if I could have a cookie and he said, No; those are for donors.
Great post, Geoff, but if this is going to become a sacrament, I might have to go church shopping.