Reading too much will do strange things to your head. Or it will to my head. (I should stick to my experience and not put any of this on you.) For instance, one of the books I was assigned this semester was For the Life of the World by an Eastern Orthodox priest named Alexander Schmemann. Great book. You don’t know nothin’ about the church liturgy until you’ve read this. And maybe you don’t want to know about church liturgy, but maybe a small part of you does. You’re liturgy-curious, and that’s ok.
Anyway, this guy’s name got in my head. Also, the tune from Peter Gabriel’s “Biko.” So I go around singing “Schmeeeemann, Shmemann Schmemaaaaaaaann, Schmemann.” That’s horrible! Alexander Schmemann was a great and passionate presbyter. Peter Gabriel is a wonderfully talented musician. Most of all, Stephen Biko was a courageous martyr for the freedom of the people of South Africa. Where do I get the nerve? What makes me think I can come in here and mash up everything they’ve done?
As it turns out, it may be a symptom of my being a white dude. See, I was reading this book today, And the Wolf Shall Dwell with the Lamb by this Episcopal priest named Eric Law. Not to spoil it for my classmates — who clearly have nothing better to do than to read this drivel — but one of Law’s points is that some cultures assume that everyone in that culture has power, like anyone can just jump right in there and start doing stuff. The perceived differential in power is not great, regardless of the reality of that differential. Western European and North American culture is one of those where folks tend to think there’s not a big gap between the people making the decisions and, well, me.
But do I really think that way? I pondered this as I rode my bike home from the coffee shop. As I questioned the degree to which I internalized the narrative of a “low power differential” a large delivery truck pulled to the side of the street about 150 yards ahead of me. The truck was — I was shocked to find — stopping! IN THE BIKE LANE! I was in the bike lane! Riding a bike! As I veered out into the car lane (in which there were a total of zero cars) I gave a glaring look towards the cab of the truck.
That’s some white boy bike riding right there, my friend. I perceive that I have some sort of right to participate in a discussion about the proper use of lanes with a truck weighing between somewhere around 15 tons. Now I’m currently pushing 230, and the bike adds a few more, but my perception is clearly out of line with reality. Any attempt on my part to negotiate use of the lane with the truck — mobile or immobile — is going to end with me losing. The truck gets to do what it wants. Where do I get the nerve?