26 April 2007

Attitude Collision

So it's been established that apathy is the disease of this generation, this country, and sure, the human race. Apathy recently entered a conversation which contrasted cynicism with hopefulness. I've already written my bit about apathy, I wish now to turn to cynicism.

I usually pride myself in my optimism, but there are days when that optimism is certainly overshadowed by the oppressiveness of the hellish realities of this world. This week has been one of those days. Yes, the entire week really. People claim finals week is the worst. I submit that the week before finals is roughly ten times more hellish. So this week I've been wallowing in my terrible attitude influenced by lack of sleep, poor food quality, piles of papers to write and many random engagements with which to engage. I've had some fun, sure. I've taken a chilly dip in the pond. I've experienced the elation of passing another CLEP. I've finished all the work in two of my classes, etc. But there are times when that fun is overshadowed. This week, most of the time.

Earlier today I was taking a break from the rigors of writing two papers simultaneously. Some friends and I went out to dinner. We had a grand spread of delectable burgers and the like. Of course all I could think about was the name of the restaurant and the Rolling Stones song from which it came. We were surprised by something though. Something in the midst of hell week broke through my cynicism and renewed hope for the human race. An elderly gentleman a few tables away paid for our entire meal. His reason, he said was not only because we asked him to join us but because we had the courage to bless our food in public. It was a blow to my attitude to be sure. Right when I wanted to shed all ties with this daft idea of Christianity which I was finding so petty, when I was wondering what I was doing and why, when I was despairing at the apathy in the world, at the lives lost because of that apathy, hope sprang anew. Humans are not a damned race. There is still good left. It just needs to be occasionally sought out. So I finish my last paper with hopefulness rather than distain. I wish to go out into the world and see things freshly.

...Like the Cote d'Ivoire flag hanging outside of Bennigans. Talk about a mistake. I'm pretty sure the sign says "Irish-American food." Nothing in there about Africa. Green stripe first, mate. (I told 'em that. )

25 April 2007


Apathy. It has been officially classified as the deadliest ailment to compassion, action, motivation, and excellence. It is the antithesis of compassion, and also the antithesis of hate. For to hate, one must care, and to love one must care. Apathy does not care. The future doesn't matter, nor does the past. And what is the present but what is immediate?

I am a carrier of this 'disease' of apathy. Lately I've found some pretty strong antidotes for it such as learning specifics about the layers of politics, society and humanity. Through learning, I can feel. And when I feel, the apathy fades a bit. When I feel, I can search for action. I can break out of my self-pity and embrace a higher calling, if I may use such a term. I can feel compassion for those who are oppressed. I can hate a variety of situations in the world. When apathy is not keeping me willfully ignorant, I can see and feel and act.

Apathy is often closely related to self-pity. I've found that one of the things I do most is whinge. It seems that I can't help but complain about the next paper I to write, or the fact that my fridge is disastrously empty. I have to constantly put things back into perspective. I have to realize that I am here for a purpose. I am here to learn. That includes writing papers and taking tests. Apparently it also includes being so unfortunate as to not have much food. However, I'm not poor. I have opportunities that so many people in the world do not have. I am able to go to school and endure all aspects of it, whereas some do not have such an opportunity. Who knows if he actually was the first to say this, but Bono has been quoted saying "Perspective is the cure for depression." And it's true. As I whinge and moan about my petty woes, I try to think about others less fortunate than I. It is sobering to be sure. It makes me realize my situation in the large scheme of things. I cease feeling sorry for myself nearly immediately.

Throwing off apathy includes seeing situations in perspective. So I'd modify Bono's quote. Perspective is the cure of apathy as well. I now seek to cure, or at least alleviate this deadly ailment in others. I wish to bring perspective and action into the minds and lives of those around me. In order to spread this 'cure' of perspective, I wish to encourage worthwhile discussions. I want to encourage others to think and challenge myself to think with them.

I am by no means cured of apathy. I must continue to strive to stave it off. Part of this cure is finding other reasons to do things than simply because I can. This makes things more challenging and stimulating. It is often very hard for me to put effort into anything. But by implementing this new philosophy, I am able to keep apathy far from me.

Recently the topic of cynicism was brought up for discussion. It is often considered a bad thing. I rather disagree. I believe that seeing many things through a cynic's eye helps them come into perspective. It just shouldn't dishearten one. It needs to be tempered. Cynicism is not the enemy. Again, it is apathy. For a cynic cares, no mater how sarcastically this care may be voiced. And apathy simply does not care.

This concludes my brief observation of apathy, the real killer among the youth of this country. For because of apathy, ignorance, and inaction, the world is affected. Or perhaps it is not affected, and that is undesirable. We need to cast off this blinding apathy and become active in the world.

12 April 2007

No Good Answer

Again I was asked. Asked why I want to go to Africa and what I hope to get out of it. Again I had no real answers. I agree with the others. I want to experience other cultures. I want to learn about the projects and the people. I want to meet people and begin relationships. I want to serve God as best I can. But is that all? Is that enough? Too much?

Again I wrestle with my selfish motivations. Do I want to go to feel better about myself? Do I want to go in order to stay away from my parents? Do I want to go in order to know someone more? These and other selfish motivations bombard me. If any of these is the main reason, I should quit now. I should spend my summer working at my adventure park. I should think about meaningless things.

So again I have no answers to the questions. I only have my heart.

I hope it is enough.

01 April 2007

Nostalgic for a Place I've Never Been

"How is it possible to feel nostalgia for a place I've never known?"

This is a line (roughly) from the movie Motorcycle Diaries. It struck me hard when I saw a segment last year. I feel nostalgic all the time for no apparent reason and no apparent place or time.

I often miss the days of my childhood. I was well cared for and naive about the world. I grew up on a rural farm with more animals than friends. It was a good youth. I often wish to be twelve again. Or eight.

Most of the time, especially in March, I miss Mexico. Four of the five times I've been there were in March. So when the smell of warm earth reaches me, or the feel of the spring sun on my back I think of walking the dusty paths of the Barranca del Cubre. I think of working long hours in the hot sun just to help someone. I think of sleeping out under myriad stars on a crisp cold night. I think of waking up with shards of frost clinging to my sleeping bag. It is enough to bring tears to my eyes.

Other times I simply feel nostalgic for nothing that I can pinpoint. I feel lonely and neglected and I feel that I'm missing something important.

As I prepare to go to Kenya, my one thought is how I want to stay longer. I've never even been there and I already miss it. I already dread returning home. I already know I will go back. How is it that such a feeling can be so strong? How can feelings of unmistakable nostalgia rule my thoughts?

Again, I ask myself if it is just selfishness. Do I simply want to be somewhere, anywhere that is not here? Why is it that I miss Mexico when I'm in the US and never my mum when I'm at school or in another country? What is it in me that yearns to travel with no constraints?

People think they know me, they say "you're young, things will change in time." They may be right, but it doesn't change the fact that I feel this now. School is a prison for me. Instead of filling my mind with useful information, it fills me with dread and even repulsion. I feel so restrained.

Writing is my only outlet while incarcerated. And writing is something I don't do very much of lately. With written words I can convey so much more than speaking. My fingers are more closely connected to my brain than my mouth. From my pen (read keys) flow my thoughts in perfect syntax. Or so I like to think.

But what does it matter that I write, or that perhaps I can do so well? What does it mean that I want to spend my life in travel and writing? That's not a career. Don't say journalism. I might glare, you don't want that.

So with absolutely no trepidation whatsoever, I prepare to take a jaunt across the pond to a poverty stricken country. I am fully prepared to think not once of Silt or of CCU. I'm also quite sure that I will selfishly hate my existence when I return three weeks later. I am nostalgic for a place I've never been.

Just like Che.