Friday, November 7, 2008

wisdom in a little room

Today is a national holiday which means no work. No work means a morning of basketball followed by a lazy afternoon in my hammock. I love these days. I get to let off steam while connecting with my community of ballers and then I get to sit back and rejuvenate while connecting with myself and the thoughts in my head. It’s a chance to participate in a cherished routine, making my life here in this far off land more established, more mine.

While lying in my hammock my thoughts took to me a recent conversation I had with someone in a small room in Dukkor. I’m not sure exactly sure where the conversation had started, nor am I that clear on where it ended but the details of the middle bits are as clear and lucid as glass. While sitting in this little room in the heart of the city we began discussing what it meant to have survived a difficult childhood, followed by 14 years of civil war and the present stress of living in an exquisitely corrupt and confusing environment. He could have somehow gone numb or become jaded about life, but he had not. He had held strong and somehow managed to gift himself many things in a very difficult environment: freedom, time, independence, comfort, and knowledge, to name a few. His life, in that very moment was a much deserved bi-product of profound effort and a palpable longing for something more, even if that something remained organic and unrefined.

His longing was an interesting thing to try and understand because even though he had been blocked from so many opportunities in his life thus far, he had developed a sophisticated sense of the world. From what I could see, there were his memories from his time in exile and these memories were superimposed on top of memories from childhood. All these memories were juxtaposed to his longing and hope for something more. This complexity of experiences and feelings has taught him much. It has created a sort of wisdom not of his own: a sense of the world inherited from survival, something like intuition, giving him a sense of union with the world and the futility of life.

People squirm with the subject of suffering comes up. Although I don’t blame them, they need to know there is simply so much to learn from it. As we sat and discussed the maltreatment he endured as a child, the flashlights around the room were set up like small floating lanterns. His floor, walls and clothes were spotless and the energy in the room was neatly welcoming. He took pride in how he lived and what he had accomplished and it gave him an air of confidence that was exquisitely appealing. It made it feel like it was an honor to be in this simple room furnished with only a bed and a desk.

He glanced down then fixed his gaze back on me. “I have this weird feeling that I am meant to do more than I am doing right now, that I have a purpose in life that I have yet to figure out and although sometimes I worry that the war and the hard times have messed all this up, I have to keep looking, I have to keep my eyes open for that opportunity. What I mean is that think I am meant to do great things. I just need to figure out what they are.” A fleeting smile crossed his lips before his face settled back into its relaxed lines. From what I could tell he was slightly worried I might think he was bragging or sounding cocky, but that was not the point of his statement; he only hoped I could see that without having to explain. I could.

At that moment he moved his computer to the side, as if to make space for what he was about to say but then he said nothing. It felt so intimate, like he was about to say something that would change everything, but then, just like that, he shock his head as if to shake the thoughts out of his head, and the moment was lost. I didn’t want to push it so we moved on. We seemed to both be trying to make sense of it all but didn’t have the words to express what it was we were experiencing so rather than force it was sat back and appreciated the moment for what it was. It felt like a conversations with something larger than us and we were connected simply by our shared participation.

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