Contemplating compromise, and bringing ‘indifference’ to life

Contemplating compromise, and bringing ‘indifference’ to life

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Do you ever overhear something, talk to someone, or find yourself in a situation that challenges a certainty that you once held? Having written and spoken at length about uncompromising freedom throughout September and October, imagine my surprise when I found myself contemplating compromise in the months of November and December.

I’ve shared with friends my uncompromising reaction to a financiers suggestion that we might have to compromise on expecting parent-carers to pay school fees based on their income (interestingly no parents we’ve spoken to since seem to have a problem with it).I’ve been equally confident in my “no” to several requests from local parents to start a school for their primary-school-aged children. Rachel and I’ve always maintained that establishing a new culture – where South African’s learn how to live together rather than grow apart – would require us to start as young as possible, probably with one or two classes of 3 year olds. But, as I write this, I’m less certain about uncompromising and intrigued by indifference…

East verses the West

The thought of compromise first reared its head after watching the documentary The History of Christianity, how the Church originates in the Middle East, and – after splitting over the divine nature of Jesus in the 5th Century – begins to establish itself in the Far East in what was, “…the greatest empire in the greatest period of Chinese civilisation…” (Palmer 2018):

“…proud of its roots [it was] also able to mix and move among the Chinese with great ease”

Palmer 2018

This was long before Christianity began to make inroads into central and Northern Europe in 7th-Century. But unlike Western Christianity, Eastern Christianity didn’t have the backing of a Roman Emperor (from 313 AD), which meant Eastern Christians had to learn persuasion, negotiation and compromise as they encountered the world’s greatest intellectual centres.

“…the kind of Christianity they [Eastern Christians] developed was a church of dialogue, not conquest…it was a church of merchants, not of the military, and that is a huge difference, because merchants like to arrive at a compromise”

Palmer 2018

Committed to inter-culturalism

All of which makes me think, if I’m as committed to inter-cultural spaces as I say I am – where the mutual exchange of ideas and respect for the ‘other’ leads to deeper understanding and the kind of relationships where ‘no one is left unchanged because everyone learns from one another and grows together’ (Spring 2016) – then some thing/s may have to ‘give’. Right?I remain convinced that we should not compromise on the inter-cultural dimension of our vision for education; how else will we see an equal and integrated society, unless our children learn how to live together, rather than apart. Everything we’ve read about the skills our children require to re-imagine a different future says these develop best in the most diverse contexts. And that within diverse contexts, quality education can be realised as children, with others, develop the knowledge, understanding and skills to fulfil their potential.

How about ‘indifference’?

I’ve been inspired, encouraged and challenged by so much of what I’ve read and experienced in the last 12 months. Just recently I was reading how 16th-Century Jesuits created the worlds most extensive and high-quality education network, ‘one teacher at a time, one student at a time, one year at a time, one school at a time’ (Lowney 2005:243), something that resonates with my closing comments in the film that launched gamechangers in 2016.

A close friend introduced me to the richness of Ignatius Loyola – the founder of the Jesuits – some time ago. The more I explore Ignatian Spirituality the more I see how its practices lead to a deeper ‘self-awareness, ingenuity, love, and heroism’ all of which freed the Jesuits to be accommodating, adaptable, agile, creative, flexible (31ff) + ‘indifferent’ – which, I now realise, is what I actually mean when I say that I find myself contemplating compromise these days:

‘Indifference leads people to root out provincialism, prejudices, aversion to risk, and the attitude that “we’ve always done it this way”…. freeing themselves from inordinate attachments that could inhibit risk taking or innovation, they become poised to pounce imaginatively in new opportunities. And looking at the future with optimism, they become more likely to find those opportunities & solutions’

Lowney, p.281

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