Jabbok Dawn

Tumbling in the Sand



“The more radical a person is, the more fully he or she enters into reality so that, knowing it better, he or she can better transform it. This individual is not afraid to confront, to listen, to see the world unveiled. This person is not afraid to meet the people or to enter into dialogue with them. This person does not consider himself or herself the proprietor of history or all people, or the liberator of the oppressed; but he or she does commit himself or herself, within history, to fight at their side.”  -Paulo Freire

The other day, I was asked, in an accusatory tone—as if it were a horrible thing—what I meant by radical.

I am not unaware of the current usage of the word that tends to be used to describe people interested in destroying others or people who have become so idealized in their thinking that they don’t seem to have much of a grasp of the real. I am aware that radical has become synonymous with revolutionary and terrorist.

But, it’s not what I tend to think of when I think of the word radical.  Instead,  the image of roots grows into my mind.  The smell of dirt drifts in my memories.   I can’t help it – I’m a plant person,  and so when I think of radical,  I think of root (after all, it’s the origin of the word!) and so I think basic, grounded, originary …

Certainly,  to be rooted in something is a little revolutionary.  To desire to be fully grounded in reality is something that is so revolutionary that I think it has the potential of changing the world.

I confess, I’m not there yet.  I keep working at it, but I’m a dreamer that sometimes lets my idealism get in the way of seeing the truth of things.  And sometimes I am enough of a liar to convince myself what is true isn’t true at all.  And sometimes I’m too afraid to encounter the world unveiled.

But, I want to work at it.  I want to live honestly and vulnerably in this world.  I want to be willing to encounter the dirt and the root of things.  I want to be marked and changed by the truth so that I can participate with others in the healing of the world.

And, so, I guess, that’s what I mean by the word “radical.”

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