Bearing and Giving Witness: from Stephen D’Evelyn’s Journal

January 9. Today. in my work for the University and College Union at Bristol University,  I had to represent a Union member in a hard redundancy case. The meeting was arduous and long. It was uncomfortable and heated at points. It ended with our being forced into agreeing to a final meeting very soon, despite the case having been shown to be questionable.

It was  hard to take.  On the rainy walk homeward after this meeting,  it occurred to me that the question of worth, of doing good things, or rather of being good at ‘something’, could be made much more nuanced in the light of being as communication.

In my own case, I think I have started to see that my own worth comes through being me.  In some way maybe I am an icon, one of the images of the disabled God.  That may be part of it. But more broadly by being me I am doing. I am a ‘witness’, or better, I am ‘bearing witness’, and in the idiom we find further significance. ‘Bearing witness’, we hold it to give, we purvey, convey, display witness.

Witness is a gift and as anthropologists have shown and as we know is true for our own lives, a gift is a gift in being given and received and reciprocated, the generosity passed along in some way. So we might say that by bearing witness we have it to give. And in giving witness, being there to be seen, sharing our experience, just being together with others, we give being. This is what really counts.  I do not have to worry if I am good at something or worry that I do not feel I am good at anything in particular. I give goodness, or rather it goes through me–it is  passed along through me by my being. This is because being itself is good.


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