Friday, November 27, 2009

In the Beginning...

As my departure date grows nearer, it is natural to become more reflective and to share some thoughts about becoming an Amizade volunteer especially with those of you I have befriended through Bend, Oregon, Daily Photo. Most important to me is to admit that I am not a particularly compassionate person nor do I deserve to be viewed as an exemplary person living on some moral high ground since I am going on this trip. In fact I have lived a particularly selfish existence. I have made some paltry financial contributions to community service organizations and have done some community service, but for the most part, I struggle to find even a modicum of genuine positive feeling toward the poor, the sick, or the oppressed. In my heart I have cared about my survival and that's about it. And I don't feel guilty about it either. I may have presented myself throughout my life as a liberal humanist, but in truth, even though intellectually I espouse an ethically elevated community-minded position, it has been, to some degree, hypocritical. Actually I have felt strangely alienated from like-minded contemporaries and have looked on with suspicion at the alleged purity of their actions, believing that an aura of good will has more to do with creating an identity or job and to perpetuate the illusion of the "caring individual" to spouses or friends.Yet the detritus of this behavior is that actually much kindness is done even if it isn't selfless or altogether heartfelt.

Many years ago when reading Goethe's, Faust, I was struck by the incredibly brilliant scene in the study, where Faust re -translates the opening of the New Testament, the Book of John. "In the beginning there was the Word." He finds the Word imprecise and changes it to first to Mind, then Spirit, and finally settles on Act. The emphasis is placed on what is done and neither the feeling nor the idea of Why is central to creation. In that regard, I am not feeling moved nor have any lofty ideals today about a world community. I just plan to help out. I changed my children's diapers and wiped them up. I can't say I loved it. Only, I was always there for them and they sensed my relentless presence.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

First posting

After reading the renowned travel writer Pico Iyer's essay "Why We Travel" in the journal provided to Amizade volunteers, I realized that the best ideas about journeys have already been expressed more eloquently than I could ever imagine. Therefore it is my desire to share with you my feelings and thoughts on this adventure in a tone neither with pretense nor agenda and as simply and as uniquely me as possible.

Quite frankly, and I suppose with good reason as the departure date grows nearer, I feel particularly anxious. The scope of my trip, even for a seasoned traveler, is massive, although it is boringly simple when compared to journeys of those before me who embarked on sailing vessels across unknown seas to unknown lands. Nonetheless, even though so many before me, certainly younger, more fit, and genetically more confident, have undertaken similar challenges, it is I, who at his own pace with his own unique handicaps, who has chosen to use some of my remaining days to see the world in this manner. Tonight I am feeling devoid of lofty ideals about service and bettering myself. I know these thoughts and many more will come. For now, I am in preparation mode, deciding on proper equipment, organizing my itinerary, and putting my stateside affairs in order. That's it. Somehow if I do this part right, the path will be easier. Then again it has been well established that the unpredictable generally appears as the most formidable opponent on the battlefield and so I suppose it will be the same for me.