“There are three stages in one’s spiritual development,” said the Master, “the carnal, the spiritual and the divine.” “What is the carnal stage?” asked the eager disciples. “That’s the stage when trees are seen as trees and mountains as mountains.” “And the spiritual?” “That’s when one looks more deeply into things—then trees are no longer trees and mountains, no longer mountains.” “And the divine?” “Ah, that’s Enlightenment,” said the Master with a chuckle, “when trees become trees again and mountains, mountains.”
~Anthony de Mello
An integral part of MCC’s mission is a commitment to create spaces for exchanges between the numerous local partners and communities that it accompanies. MCC does this because:
- it recognizes the good work that its partners are engaged in as a resource;
- it understands that often the best way of learning is by hearing from other practitioners engaged in similar work; and
- it believes in the possibilities of spontaneous and creative solutions arising out of invested and affected actors coming together and reading their own contexts.
As an important element of MCC-Colombia’s strategic vision, the Seed program plays a role in helping to carry out this commitment. One way the Seed program has been doing this is through what we call “Seed exchanges”, where Seed participants visit another Seed location to learn about the context and the work being done there. As part of these exchanges, we asked the Seed participants to acquiesce to two conditions: 1) that they invite someone from their base community or local partner to join them; and 2) that they travel by bus if possible.
Beyond the practical reasons mentioned at the onset about the value of “exchanges” between local actors, these additional conditions were suggested in order to foster our own critical thinking exercise. Another way of saying it is that these conditions were meant to lead us into a cycle of group reflection, action, and then more reflection, with regards to our own privilege. We recognize that the Seed experience can be challenging – that it is service and mission focused – but we push hard against the idea that Seed is a “sacrifice”. We do this because it simply isn’t true. The reality is that the Seed experience is a privilege. Recognizing this, we try to create an ethos in Seed that encourages the “extension” of our privilege to others, and in some cases the renunciation of our privilege, albeit symbolic. And so, Seeders were asked to include others in their privilege of traveling for pleasure.
In addition to being less expensive, we suggested traveling by land because it is an opportunity for Seeders to get to know better the complexities of Colombia. One traveling from Chocó to Medellin for example, gets to see the slow transition from a barely traversable gravel road through afro-descended and indigenous villages in difficult jungle-like terrain, up into the gentle and wealthy, primarily mestizo coffee region around Medellin on new four and five lane state of the art highways. What better way to see and learn about the beauties and contradictions of Colombia, than with a local friend that most surely will be interpreting things through different lenses, and will be in most case seeing it all for the first time.
On a few occasions we in Seed have been accused of making things complicated…ha, ha, ha… guilty as charged! The discipline of slowing down to look more deeply into things is one of the cornerstones of the Seed program. This is not to be confused with teaching others what to think. We suppose as Aristotle said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” Instead, we emphasize the how. And so learning to understand why the trees are trees and why the mountains are mountains is a form of being that we believe makes life richer, more meaningful, and that honors their Creator.
We hope you enjoy reading this round of reflections on our “Seed exchanges”!