Some of you know that I’ve written on ‘slow ethics’. Most of you know that I don’t do ‘slow’ well.
A woman on a mission, it might be said, with high expectations and too little patience. Taking not enough time to enjoy the sunshine, listen to birdsong or to appreciate the serenity of her surroundings. Taking also too little time to ask and to listen and to hear the stories of the people around her.
But it seems I am on a treatment programme of sorts here, a programme that befits a sabbatical and that enables me to do ‘slow’, to savour the experiences, to take every opportunity to engage and to learn as much as possible from this rich cross-cultural experience.
This second week at Tuskegee University began with news of a massacre in Las Vegas. The week ended with a Convocation, a celebration of student achievement, that went on despite the best efforts of Hurricane Nate. The Convocation was on the other side of the campus and I set off through the wind and driving rain to get there in good time. Within seconds my yellow umbrella was blown inside out and my waterproof jacket proved not to be.
But how worth it was the Convocation? There were about 400 students on the ‘honor roll’ receiving achievement awards from faculties of: nursing and allied health, agriculture, architecture, business and IT, arts and education. And the ‘storm’ was very much present. Not as Hurricane Nate but as the central metaphor in the keynote address from Rev Wendy R Coleman – a keynote ‘speaker’ who sings like no other and who had students and parents in the palm of her hand as she talked of the value of life event ‘storms’ and their aftermath.
At every turn, I have been reminded this week of the very special historical, social and ethical identity of Tuskegee University and the pride, generosity and commitment of all I have met here.
So what has ‘practising slow’ helped me to appreciate?
I am learning of the Bioethics Center’s outreach work that prepares disadvantaged local teenagers to get into college, hearing stories of care-giving by generations of African-American women, being exposed to questions regarding racial bias in debates about gun control, reading recommended poetry and learning a little of the rich history of the surrounding area – from Native Americans to the American Revolution and to the American Civil Rights Movement.
You don’t need to be here long to appreciate why Tuskegee bioethics has a broader remit and is characterised by ideas of service, remembrance, non-complacency and social justice (see http://tuskegeebioethics.org/about/history/).
Understanding African-American perspectives on bioethics will take longer.
Too that end, I will continue to practise ‘slow’.
Until next week…
P.S – If you have time to read poetry this week the excellent recommendation I was given was to the work of Langton Hughes (https://www.poemhunter.com/langston-hughes/) . If you don’t know ‘Entirely’ by Louis MacNeice you might like to check this out too as, for me, it is in keeping with ‘slow’ – https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/22601/entirely