The Holy City

How often do we ignore the issues facing others when we only think of ourselves? Why do we do this to others and to ourselves? The city of Jerusalem has been claimed by both Israeli’s and Palestinians the capital of each nation; however, it is not internationally recognized in any nations favor. The old city and the Dome of The Rock are both cultural UNESCO world heritage sites and as a practicing muslim, I cannot wait to visit. Visiting this city is a pilgrimage to Jews, christians, and Muslims and visiting the sites important to the faith are great; but I am much more interested in meeting the people and hearing what they have to say. Whether people believe East and West Jerusalem should belong to separate nations per the pre -1967 borders, or Jerusalem should be a city under one state, or a city under international control, its important to understand its cultural, historical and religious significance. Many who study the region in a contemporary mind want to attribute the problems of Jerusalem with regards 1948; however, we also forget that this city has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and recaptured 44 times. The city is like the world in the way that it wasn’t made for one person or a particular group, but for us all. It will not fall.

“Both…And”

As 2017 draws to a close, I thought I’d share the biggest thing it’s taught me:There are more answers than yes and no.

Okay, I already knew this, but 2017 has reaffirmed it.

2017 was the year I wanted to finally figure out exactly what I thought about everything in the world. This was going to be the year of “deep dives”.

I think there’s a lot of pressure to have an established worldview that can be applied flawlessly to any and all situations. I don’t have one. And, probably because college was sold to me as a magical time when a switch would flip, I feel like I should. So, all year, I’ve been working on pulling together something coherent.

I do know that such a thing probably doesn’t exist. I do know, that humans are wired to prefer cohesion and straight lines, but that the world is complex. I want one anyway.

Yet, after a year of thinking and assessing, it’s become obvious I don’t have a single worldview. My opinion changes case by case( ask me about the NFL today and again on Sunday and I’ll give completely different answers). That’s really frustrating to me. I like to achieve my goals and the inconsistency of my feelings makes me uncomfortable.I have spent a year trying to identify what my thoughts are around any given issue, what informs those thoughts and their implications.I’ve examined why I hold conflicting opinions and attempted to distinguish which is more reasonable, more universally applicable. It’s been exhausting. And I didn’t find the switch.

I now believe that I will never hold entirely complementary views. Our world is so boiled down to talking points, three minute videos,1000 word op-ed’s and loud noises that we forget how incapable those things are of capturing the true complexity of this beautiful mess of a  world we’ve been given. This year I have had the pleasure of learning more about myself and the world I walk in, recognizing and appreciating my inconsistencies. The pressure for everything we think and are to fit neatly in boxes we can check on some form is  tragic because it inhibits our ability to recognize that this is a “both..and” world. Complicated things are…complicated. They’re overwhelming. They may even take more than a year to figure out. But, they’re also exhilarating and worth muddling through.

I guess I’m really just rediscovering the essential truth of myself.My life is one of contradictions and gray spaces, I’ve never fit neatly in a checked box. I am, at my core, a “both..and” person. We probably all are. I’m going to let myself be that.

 

Refinement of Moral Decision/Ethical Decision Making

Recently, I have begun to really consider how I think about ethical or moral decisions, and what traditions/ideas influence me.

When pressed in the past, my personal system for decisions and ethical beliefs went along the lines of something like this:
1. The moral decisions I make are based on the golden rule.
2. My values and ideals are influenced by my faith and communities I am a part of.
3. My ideas on actual practical ideas relating to a moral problem or question are based on a moral collective I construct, usually consisting of my various mentors, religious teachers, and close friendships.

It dawned on me that I am not really answering the question. This system I am describing is merely a descriptor of how I gather my ethical ideas, but not the actual basis for them. Further, I would argue it is impossible to truly and reliably measure the moral goodness of an action, as it depends on what one truly believes is good. That being said, I think the majority of humanity would agree certain ideas or experiences are better or worse than others. But, at the same time, it’s also hard to define absolutes.

Upon reflection, I think my actual values follow this personal construct:
1. My actions toward other beings reflect my actions towards God. That I do unto others, I do unto Christ..and consequently I do unto myself, for Christ lives within me. Therefore, my beliefs require that my actions affirm and respect the humanity and divinity in others and myself. If my actions reliably make me more selfless, and empathetic, then such actions are arguably beneficial.
2. My values of faith and respect of humanity come first when different values are in conflict in regards to ethics surrounding other human beings. My values of faith and respect of humanity require me to consider the values of others in these scenarios.
3. My values of personal identity, personal security, love, loyalty, family, faith, and diversity come first when different values are in conflict in regards to ethics surrounding myself. These values are based on experiences and metrics that I define as goodness in my personal life – and these ethical values are occasionally upheld by empirical data, emotional conscience, or historical and/or personal reasoning for such metrics. Such historical reasoning come from art or spiritual literature and texts. When necessary, I can affirm my own values in a discussion of values and perspectives, respecting my own humanity by knowing that I have something to offer to the table. All my decisions spring forth from reflections on these values and the different texts and constructed information connected to these values and metrics.

Maybe this is how I relate to ethics and morality. I believe there is no perfect system to face an ethical dilemma as most ethical systems fail specific cases. These cases are usually solved by other ethical systems – much like most computer algorithms fail corner-case examples that are better solved by other algorithms. I guess that’s why I value diversity.

An Open Letter to the Spencer Family

To the Spencer Family,

Today you lost a father, a husband and a friend. Michael Spencer, or to me Mr. Spencer, was a warrior. It was people like him that made me fall in love with the church. I don’t know why things like this have to happen to great people like Mr. Spencer and the Spencer family, but today my church and his family lost a warrior. I can’t imagine what your family is feeling today and will feel for the next few months and years. I went home for Thanksgiving just a few weeks ago and I had an awesome worship experience at church. As I was headed to the car, Mr. Spencer stopped me, gave me a hug and then told me how proud he was of everything I was doing. I replied “I’m trying” and he said “no you’re doing.” That’s the last conversation I will ever have with Mr. Spencer. He did what he usually did for me, he gave me uplift. Thanksgiving 2017.

I can’t pretend that Mr. Spencer and I were super close, we met my senior year of high school. I remember his family joining the church and him giving his everything to the church. I remember helping him learn the sound system and when I left for college he always making a point to let me know how proud he was of me. It feels surreal to lose a friend like Mr. Spencer so my heart hurts to think about how you, his family, feels. I said a prayer this morning that God would meet every need in your family and I don’t know how that happens, but I trust in God and his plan. Mr. Spencer leaves a legacy of love and a spirit of doing anything that God asked him to do. In our church, he met a need and was faithful. Individuals like Michael Spencer make the church work. I’m praying for your family and that God give you strength. Your husband, your father, and your friend lived a life full of love for God, that will never be forgotten.

I share with you the agony of your grief,
   The anguish of your heart finds echo in my own.
   I know I cannot enter all you feel
   Nor bear with you the burden of your pain;
I can but offer what my love does give:
   The strength of caring,
   The warmth of one who seeks to understand
   The silent storm-swept barrenness of so great a loss.
This I do in quiet ways,
   That on your lonely path
   You may not walk alone.

– Howard Thurman

With Love,

Devin Harvin

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I got a little bit excited just typing out that title and thinking about my father’s impeccable Andy Williams impersonation. According to the massive evergreen in Quincy Market, the holiday season has officially arrived. But, as the daily devotion in my inbox and my daunting finals schedule have reminded me, it’s not quite Christmas yet. And I’m going to keep ignoring the second of those reminders.

Sunday kicked off my absolute favorite season, liturgically referred to as Advent, but even outside its religious context, the month of December seems to fill everyone with excitement and anticipation. I love this time of year because everything seems to sparkle; from Christmas lights on the street to the first flakes of falling snow (although even in Boston we’re still waiting on that winter weather). In December, the whole world seems to get glitzed up for one last celebration of life before we kick off the next trip around the sun. It’s a time for forgiveness, reflection and hope for what’s to come next. As a senior, that last bit is really resonating with me this year. In just a few more weeks I’ll have new classes, new opportunities, and a new internship with the International Institute of New England helping to resettle refugees. I love how December makes everything feel so special.

I started thinking about how can be a little more like December. I was thinking of an amazing woman I’ve met this year and why I (and just about everyone else) love being around her. A friend described it perfectly: “Some people just have this amazing ability to make everyone feel special.” My goal for this season is to practice that myself. If I have something nice to say, I’ll say it. If someone needs a friend, I’ll be there. If thanks are due, I’ll give them. Hopefully, I can be a part of what makes this time of the year so wonderful.

International Students

Yesterday I was reflecting on the ways Marsh Chapel welcomes international students as I was talking to a student conducting interviews for her class. Her first contact with Marsh Chapel was through Global Dinner Club. As I reflected on my time here, I remembered first meeting Brother Larry through the FY101 (First Year 101) class–we met in Robinson chapel every week to debrief and we went on field trips in Boston. That was when I first felt welcomed to the community as an international student, and I am thankful that Brother Larry led the class. Throughout my sophomore year, I went to a few Sunday services and events like Global Stress Relief Day. I always saw Marsh Chapel as a warm, welcoming place for all students. I hope I can attend Global Dinner Club and Shabbat dinners before I graduate to interact with those in the community I don’t usually meet and to learn more about their culture and belief system. I aspire to contribute to making others feel as welcome as I did when I first arrived at BU.

Love.

I recently went to a poetry slam this past week, and one of the student poets decided to focus on love throughout her work. Me, being the hopeless and movie type love believer became immediately drawn into her words. One of the lines that stuck with me was, “love is all the moments that don’t make it into the poetry.” I thought about people in my life, but the overwhelming  person I connected that moment to most was God. All the little moments that I forget to say thank you for and his unwavering love for me regardless. I don’t think I can ever love like that, I really believe it’s an unachievable goal. To love like Jesus, is to consistently be self-less. I’ve set the goal of thanking God more for the little things. Going home I was obviously very grateful to be surrounded by family and friends. It was a necessary break. I don’t feel refreshed or renewed, but committed to finishing. I think it’s interesting to think of this time of your life as suffering, when we are so blessed everyday. How can you understand those two opposing ideas and feel both everyday? That is a constant mood. I am struggling to keep my faith but I also understand what a blessing it is to be in this moment right now.

Reflecting on BILI

Tuesday night I attended my first Boston Interfaith Leadership Initiative meeting. I was really moved by each section of the evening.

Sometimes being in college can be oddly stifling. There will be periods, usually around midterms, when the aura of the campus feels dark and drab. There will be waves of complaints and jabs made at the University, especially on social media. There is an absurd number of students who hate on our institution and criticize the validity of testing (i.e. exams and papers). An old saying my mom always told me was, “misery loves company.” I hear this in my head whenever I am surrounded by this kind of negative energy. It can be hard to remain headstrong in a community that feels ungrateful and angry when I am someone who feels so blessed to be here.

Which is why I can’t say enough good things about my experience at BILI. I feel so lucky to be a part of a cohort of young people who are all passionate about using their educational position as a launching point for making a difference. I felt rejuvenated and reinvigorated after the meeting. It reminded me that there are still people who want to actively tackle issues rather than passively complain. I was impressed by everyone’s contributions to our discussions and moved throughout the evening to think deeply about what I want to do with my career.

I was especially struck by two individuals who identified as interfaith because they felt called to more than one religion. This was something I had never heard before and something I am interested in pursuing more in my personal spiritual journey.

Secondly, I was intrigued by the term “social entrepreneurship,” which I had never heard before. The idea being that social/cultural change can be achieved through traditional entrepreneurship techniques and models. This got me thinking back to Soren’s suggestion that I ponder a “non-traditional vocational identity.” In light of my recent interests in business oriented and administrative work with the Miller Center, this concept struck a chord in me. I have felt confused and lost about what I want “to do” after I graduate. Now I wonder if what I want to do is on the path I am already on.

All in all, BILI left me wondering and questioning my purpose and passions in this life. When someone or something has the power to inspire such thought, I am greatly humbled. So I want to extend thanks to Soren, Marsh Chapel, and the Miller Center for giving me so many opportunities for growth in such a short amount of time. I have been consistently pleased about weeks past and excited about weeks to come this semester thanks to the aforementioned.

 

 

Thoughts

Time seems to be flying by as we approach December. As I am writing my personal statements for grad schools applications, I reflect on what I have done my whole life and what I aspire to do. I have great expectations for the next semester and beyond and am thankful for my parents, teachers and friends that have supported me. I still find it hard to manage my time and to walk out of my comfort zone and engage more. These are some things I strive to work on.

Something that has been bothering me this last week are the sexual harassment accusations against a professor at BU and at my high school back in China. I was close to my high school teacher and was both disappointed and enraged when I heard about the news. I am still coming to terms with understanding these events and what could be done to prevent them from happening to other people.

FEAR

Birth. Family. Brotherhood. Pain. Suffering. Struggle. Life.

Who is our god when we our born? Our sustainer, provider, guide, that which we fear, that we which we respect, and that which we love. Our first god is our parent(s)/guardian(s). Is this blasphemy or comfort? We cannot see god, so when we are young all that is used to describe god is what we see in our parents. They make sure we have what we need and at certain times more, but are never hesitant to discipline us for our own good. that makes us fearful, but respectful of them.

In life we suffer, we struggle, and we must go through pain. Throughout most of it we are given hope when we see our parents. If they’ve lived through much worse, why can’t we overcome our obstacles when they are guiding us through them. They see us as a blessing, but the true blessing is the love a parent/guardian has for their child. They do not have to be a great example for us, they choose to be this. Later on in life we basically become them in some way.

Regardless of the punishment, pain, fear, anger and the rollercoaster of emotions I’ve gone through in the relationship with my parents, I’m thankful, I’m loving, and I’m happy that they’ve been there to lead me away from the wrong path. Everything I do is for them. Whatever I achieve is something that we achieve together because I could not have done it without them. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them.

I hope I can be as good as they’ve been to me to the next generation.