Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Reality Chef, Quantum Physics, and Holocaust Germany

 On ‘Dinner: Impossible’ chef Robert Irvine walks into a situation where he is expected to prepare a meal from scratch.  He’s given one hour, a few ingredients, and little to no help.  Yet somehow, episode after episode, he manages to create exquisite cuisine out of what seems like nothing.  Sometimes, this is how I feel in English class.

After two months of practice, I’ve pretty much got down how to teach English class with nothing more than a chalkboard and a used textbook.  Alright alright, I have a few other resources like the Internet, some other used textbooks, and five years of university training on how to be a teacher (albeit for music, but hey, minor detail).

So when someone brought up Mayan history today and mentioned the scientific advances they made, it came to me how much I have in terms of knowledge.  In the United States, I’m not viewed this way.  To adults, I’m 23 and just a ‘yuppie.’  To employers, I have no experience.  Even in the world of education where I’ve spent 18 years of my life, the most I can talk about is my undergraduate degree.  And yet somehow when I talk to people here, I’m an expert on everything.  I know world history, I know math, I know science, I know politics, I know religion, I know how to read, I know how to write, I speak (nearly) two languages – one of them being English.  English!  I speak English!  It’s as if the world is at my fingertips.  I know computers, I know technology, I know how to cook, and I even know what ‘quantum physics’ means.  (I said know, not understand).

The world has been designed in my favor.  Before I was even conceived, it was set up to work for me.  I speak a universal language.  My passport lets me go virtually anywhere I can dream of without question.  I’m white – and if you think that isn’t still a thing in today’s world, visit any third world country and take a look at the color of the skin you see.  The deck was stacked long before I came to play and I was dealt a loaded hand. 

Which puts me in a very awkward position.  I never asked for any of this.  I didn’t choose this.  I never said, “God, give me privilege.”  None of that ever happened.  But here I am in Mexico feeling guilty because of fate.  Dorothy Soelle, a German theologian once said, “I am responsible for the house I did not build but in which I live.”  As a Christian living in Holocaust-era Germany I doubt she was thinking about globalization, but she has a good point.  I am responsible for taking what I have and using it justly.  I am responsible for calling out those who unfairly stack the deck or take advantage of it.  Today I am responsible for being a celebrity chef. 

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