That’s a great question, yet one that I dislike answering in person. I find it difficult to come up with a brief answer on the spot that fully expresses “why” accurately and comprehensively. If I speak at length on the subject, I usually find myself quickly digressing and, again, end up dissatisfied with my own answer.
Truth is, as I’ve included in my response several times, my answer isn’t simple. I don’t have a quick “college is a racket” or “I don’t have the money to stay in school” answer. My decision to drop out has been the result of much introspection, evaluation of values, goals and purpose, input from persons whom I love and trust (some suggesting I stay, some suggesting it may be best not to do so), and reflection upon where I feel I’ve seen the hand of God very much at work.
Every once in a while, when asked what my reason for leaving is, I hear instead someone accusing me of doing something foolish rather than someone looking to understand my motivations (the chances that I’m speaking of you are slim- rest easy). That’s fine. The fact that this might offend or upset me makes myself more aware that I may be a bit prideful. Maybe more than a bit. Anyway, in their eyes, I am doing something foolish. A column in this morning’s Jackson Citizen Patriot states, “All of the data says the same thing: getting a college degree is about raising your standard of living over a 40-year career.” The fact is, raising my standard of living over a 40-year career isn’t high on my list of priorities, let alone on it to begin with. I’ve lived in a trailer without heat, a canvas tent in the woods and a camper without electricity at different points in my life, and I didn’t feel like I was particularly suffering. Each were wonderful experiences that I look back upon with fondness. It’s funny thinking about times in my life when I felt “displeased” by my surroundings or “trapped” in a sense and the conditions I was living in. I’m a fairly flexible person and don’t require much. I understand that I’m young, but won’t always be and I understand that I don’t have a family to provide for, yet may someday. Matt. 6:31-34.
I also know that my main focus in finishing my degree at this point in time wouldn’t be in order to better prepare myself to live in the way that I think God wants me to live. My aim moreso would be attaining a degree in order to gain the security of being able to more easily find employment and esteem in the eyes of others. I don’t think that those are good enough reasons. I don’t want my story to be one of pursuit of security, comfort and man’s approval, although I absolutely get caught up in those from time to time.
Where Am I Going?
Life is something unfolding, something to be experienced. At the beginning of March, I’ll be flying to Puerto Rico and staying at Juana Diaz’s Campamento del Caribe for a period of time yet to be determined. My uncle is the executive director of the camp. I’m really looking forward to seeing him and his family there.
I don’t know how indicative of the camp as a whole these pictures are, but they were my favorites of those that I looked at:
After that, I’ll most likely be heading back to the U.S. Chances are good that I’ll first head back to Yosemite National Park or possibly to Mt. Rainier National Park. After some time there, I’m thinking of joining the Americorps (much like the U.S.’ domestic Peace Corps) for a year, and I also think living in a L’Arche community for some time would be beneficial as well. Of course, this is all tentative and absolutely subject to change. There are plenty of other things, groups, and endeavors that I’d like to get involved with or pursue, but there’s no sense in trying to live that far into the future.
What do I want to do or plan on doing? Live simply and holistically. Appreciate and be grateful. Use what I’ve been given responsibly. Gain understanding. Cultivate something beautiful. Be open to leading. Love. Things like that. When I think of persons whom I most admire and respect, I see gentle people living in uncommon ways. People who look others in their eyes and listen and take time to be thankful and breathe and care.
Erich Fromm says, “One cannot be deeply responsive to the world without being saddened very often.” I think he’s right. But this pain and sadness and sacrifice is something that God can work through so powerfully. A humble, broken, and contrite spirit is fertile ground for making a difference upon the world.
I hope that this answers some of the questions that some of you have posed. If there’s anything I should elaborate on or any more questions, don’t hesitate to let me know.
Listen/ W.S. Merwin
Listen with the night falling we are saying thank you we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings we are running out of the glass rooms with our mouths full of food to look at the sky and say thank you we are standing by the water thanking it smiling by the windows looking out in our directions back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging after funerals we are saying thank you after the news of the dead whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you over telephones we are saying thank you in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators remembering wars and the police at the door and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you in the banks we are saying thank you in the faces of the officials and the rich and of all who will never change we go on saying thank you thank you with the animals dying around us our lost feelings we are saying thank you with the forests falling faster than the minutes of our lives we are saying thank you with the words going out like cells of a brain with the cities growing over us we are saying thank you faster and faster with nobody listening we are saying thank you we are saying thank you and waving dark though it is
Thoughts with some reservations. Get them out- and then aim for clarity and centeredness.
-I’m sitting in a Panera Bread in Grand Rapids, MI. There are some very classy people in here. I mean- fantastic scarves and overcoats and it all seems so European chic. But it also seems so cold. Some people have recently remarked- my thoughts are interrupted by, judging from the looks of it, a wonderful elderly couple. Back to what I was saying, I’ve heard more than one person talking about the “coldness” of people and interactions here in Michigan, especially certain parts. I hadn’t ever really given that any thought, but- after hearing it- I can see it. With awareness… perception changes. But not everyone here is cold. Not at all.
-I finished my first semester at Spring Arbor. It was good. Someone asked me last week if I regretted coming here.
Nope. I don’t. Not at all.
I haven’t enjoyed all of my time there. In fact, I’d say most of the time I haven’t necessarily enjoyed. This is due mostly to 1.) the atmosphere and 2.) the concept.
I’ve always found myself more apt to truly pursue the meaningful in settings that aren’t necessarily considered “Christian”. I don’t want to get into the nuances of that statement. The effect that the setting oftentimes has on me is very sterilizing- I tend to forget things because they’re taken for granted. It’s difficult at times.
And the concept- I’ll just use an M. Scott Peck quote to summarize my thoughts- “To be organized and efficient, to live wisely, we must daily delay gratification and keep an eye on the future; yet to live joyously we must also possess the capacity, when it is not destructive, to live in the present and act spontaneously. (Road Less Travelled, p, 64)” The struggle is in the balance. Which is true for e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.
Facets of this experience have pushed me and stretched me in several key areas, and I’ve met people that I’m so thankful to know. I see so much room for improvement in my own life and, in all honesty, though I’m constantly pining for the mountains or “freedom”, I’m looking forward to the challenges… opportunities… that lie ahead.
-I saw Kenneth Thomas last night. He did well. He definitely didn’t stick to melodic progressive trance or house which is unfortunate in my eyes, but it was a fun evening. He did drop Hot Mouth/Chris James- “Totally Worth It” though- which I was so down with… It’s so far from his roots, but that bassline… yeah. Was really blessed with good company as well…
-I’ve got some Thomas Merton in front of me and a whole day to spend with him. And Adam Haslett. And M. Scott Peck. And God. Good deal…
-I pick Trevor up from the GR airport at midnight tonight. Really looking forward to that and his time here.
– I slept in my car last night. It was absolutely wonderful. It’s no fluke that I was so very much into “vandwelling” in High School. I wonder how my old inspiration Two Knives Katie and her dog Mutt are doing…
Anyway-I hope that one day travelling aimlessly but absolutely meaningfully by vehicle will somehow not be as morally repulsive from a resource management perspective as it is to me right now. Waking up and driving off, not knowing where I’m going but fully taking in the warmth of the glowing sunrise, sleeping bag on my lap, pillow at my back. It was so nice… Someday…
-Listened to Michael Moore speaking on “Democracy Now” this morning. He absolutely killed it. So much of the reaction from notable recent events has been that of calls for treatment of symptoms- gun control law and reform, better contingency plans for chaotic happenings, etc. These are absolutely on topic and debateably useful, but so much is left unsaid about treating the root causes of many of the maladies that cause such happenings throughout the world. “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society” J. Krishnamurti. It was nice to hear someone taking a look at the whole rather than isolated events and actions- absolutely a sociological perspective. Totally off topic, but I’m going to bring it up anyway- “Want to stop terrorism? Stop participating in it.” Noam Chomsky. Anyway- I’ve read some of Moore’s books and while I’m not his biggest advocate, I really appreciated his perspective this morning.
-As of about a week ago, I have a kitten 🙂 Her name is Tazo and she’s wonderful. I think she looks like a little brown lynx. When I get back to Jackson I’ll have to put up a picture. She’s staying there now- a friend is visiting the house at intervals to take care of her.
“I have suddenly woken up to the fact that somebody needs to be teaching theology the way St. Augustine did and not the way textbooks in seminaries do. Someone should be able to find the Living God in scripture- and this is his word- and then lead others to find him there and all theology properly ends in contemplation and love and union with God- not ideas about Him and a set of rules about how to wear your hat.” -Thomas Merton, The Road to Joy (p.172)
This evening I made some hot chocolate.
Not that powdered stuff but Ghirardelli cocoa with organic turbinado sugar.
As I drank that hot chocolate, one thing kept flowing through my head and simultaneously pulling at that thing in my chest.
It didn’t have anything to do with that time I tried the Ahwahnee’s signature Firefall, hot chocolate after Christmas-caroling in West Michigan or even that of drinking Ovaltine out of sippy cups on our faux-grass carpet in Ohio.
I kept thinking about my Dad.
This is him. I think he’s the best.
He’s still in Bolivia and I miss him a ton.
This past year, at one point during my visit, my Dad and I were able to fly to Sucre for a few days. It was a gift for both of our birthdays since they’re relatively close together. Sucre is an old, stereotypical colonial city in Bolivia with white-washed walls, ornate government buildings and the typically massive catholic church. It’s kind of the capital, but not quite.
It was such a nice trip. The city was extremely peaceful. The students and the teachers were protesting and as a result, roadblocks had emptied the area of pretty much all traffic for the duration of our stay. Dad and I walked all over the place and enjoyed the different restaurants and cafes in the area. We spent a lot of time relaxing at our hostel and I got to do quite a bit of reading. It was great. We simply did whatever we felt like. Such a nice, relaxing break… It may not sound too exciting but, man, it was living…
I really enjoyed the time there. I really enjoyed the time with my Dad.
At one point we made it to Para Ti, a chocolate shop that is one of Sucre’s biggest draws. As we walked in and looked at the menu, an older man who I’m guessing was German sitting at one of the little booths told us in broken English something to the effect of: “I haven’t had real hot cocoa like this since the 1950s”.
We sat there and ordered some of these famous chocolate drinks and really took our time savoring them as well as the moment itself. That’s something that Dad has passed on to me. That of appreciating moments, atmosphere, ambience…
(Our Hostel’s Courtyard)
So that’s what I’m thinking about right now…
I’m so thankful for him. I miss him very much. I hope all is well in SC.
…makes 4687 miles seem like a lot less… 🙂