I see the iOther as the cultural other, the safe encounter of the other. There is relationship and proximity to the iOther. I have experienced this proximity. It is the otherness that one experiences as you are stuck in an airport terminal with strangers for ten hours in the middle of a thunder storm. You may never see these people again. Yet, you are draw to invest in them. Your veneers disappear and you open up to them. You seem to be able to be more genuine to them than you have been to your girlfriend, your brother, your friends. These people no longer seem like strangers in that moment.
You cannot stop opening up to them. Why? The iOther is similar. The iOther is real enough to invest in a relationship with. They are also safe enough that the self is not really in danger of exposure. You can be with the iOther for only a moment. Then it disappears in to the cultural mass of complex relations and social protocol.
You go on with your life. You may remain silent of your encounter with the other. Perhaps you are ill equipped to discuss the encounter. It sounds silly in the scheme of things. Silence follows. That proximity to the other fades into the background. Your life swallows the other and you return to “normal.”
It is difficult to accept the silence. I tend to be more comfortable with the candy coated Jesus wielding the parables, challenging the rich, which we are most definitely not a part of. I delight in the Buddha Jesus as he dispenses peaceful wisdom like Kane from Kung Fu. I will embrace the mighty minority Jesus demanding justice for all oppressed and marginalized folks. Then there is the Disney like character of wise ancient Jesus with all the right things to say that deliver us to insight and best of all a happy ending. I tend to seek anything but the broken, bleeding, dying, human Jesus. I will seek anything but the other demanding to not be forgotten. The iOther can be turned off. The iOther is easily consumed. The iOther hides real relationship and allows us to remain unchanged and self-possessed. Up there on the cross forgiving his tormentors and blessing the thief, Jesus claims the other and demands for the other a place in our life. In doing so Jesus exposes the shallow truth of the iOther and its instant gratifying temptation.
Jesus embodies our responsibility to the other. Jesus lives for the other. Jesus dies for the other. Jesus is the other. Jesus is murdered as he seeks to protect the other. He offers his life to the other. In this the other is transformed. The other can not be denied in his face. Jesus wreaks the notion of distance and veneers. We cannot claim a relationship with Jesus absent of total responsibility to the other.
What can I say? Jesus is dying on the cross. This is not a cartoon fairy tail. Nothing I say is an adequate response or appropriate in this moment. I don the mourners cloak and mourner with the other unaware at this moment in the fabric of time, this cosmic altering phenomenon available in Jesus’ response to the other is right there in front of me. I cannot acheive a greater proxity to the other than I can in this moment as Jesus points out the hypocracy of my actions as I seek to embrace the iOther and ignore the other. The veneers are stripped away and proximity penetrates all empathy. I am silent and mystified, in awe, and confused.
No adjective, noun, verb, or expletive can describe what is at stake in this silence, in this pause. Silence is all I can offer. Silence is what the other desires. With tears in my eyes, jaws dropped, or lump in my throat I wait and the river flows. I wait for the proximity to vanish and we return to “normal.”
I am left speechless with the other staring me in the face. Between the sobbing and mocking the noise perhaps dies down as the other slowly leaves. I numb myself to the other. Silence moves towards the other, towards transformation.
Silence is the prerequisite for invoking and receiving proximity with the other. Without silence how may I discern and respond to the other and the needs of the other be revealed? Silence stifles the self-righteousness spawned from my bustling social activism and assuredness of possession of the truth. Silence shakes my foundation and forces me out of iOther and in to the other.