Sunday, September 25, 2011


6 good months post-Peru, I realized more fully than I did upon my arrival: this isn't a displacement that can be ignored. I don't think I ever wanted to ignore it, really, but it's a natural impulse for me, i.e., I was in the States, so it's time to look at the State-side reality. I could talk about Peru, I could be critical of the US culture and the Peruvian one, and I could certainly tell stories. I could show off my Spanish, I could talk about how amazing the experience was, how nice some things about home are. For anybody who hadn't lived abroad, I bet I was convincing. Even for people who had lived somewhere else for a good period of time, I believe I did a good job. I definitely managed to keep myself at bay.

A single weekend undid it all. A retreat with a center on prayer, fellowship, and preparation for a wonderful formation experience going through 3 years allowed that small voice of truth to play its message at full volume from within because of the silence and prayerful mood without. I couldn't tell you what all was being said--it was so muddled, garbled, being expelled all at once, that all I could tell was that my attempts to make all things "okay" was disastrous.

I'm here about a quarter through the semester of graduate school, and I truly love it. It's an experience of learning through being drained, of relearning discipline I hadn't needed, and discovering some that I never had. Tackling these classes, this coursework, without a skeptical eye and eager to gather all the information my teachers posit as valuable, can be draining. Some days I find myself not feeling the "earnest scholar" mode rising to the surface of my mindset, but I am doing my best to be studious, devoted to community, and to prayer. It's a balancing act, to be sure, and I'm sure I'll not be perfect. I'm already not perfect: I should be asleep now. But at the same time, I wanted to make tangible somewhere and somehow a feeling that's been nagging at me. I miss Catholic U. I miss Oregon. I miss Lima. I miss the Andes. I miss people from all of those locations. In turn, I will miss this place upon leaving, perhaps even during vacations, and I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I'll miss these people and the attitude of the community.

I was reminded to thank God for both what I have and what I don't have. One of the hardest things for me to do is to thank God for not feeling absolutely blissful. I really like feeling good; heck, who doesn't? Perhaps now after a few ground-breaking moves around the world (mostly the US, but hey) I can settle and be content with contending with that realization that I'm not going to find wholeness in any one physical place. Andean instrumental music is a long series of love songs for my mind, Spanish and open markets and shockingly genuine people bring smiles and watery eyes, greenery and rolling hills and fresh smell of spring are vehicles to sublimity, old friends and the feeling of home are hard to beat, the grandeur of the National Shrine and closeness to friends and brothers tugs at my heart, and the crisp smell of a cold Fall night, music that at least weekly brings me to tears because of its beauty and its majesty...

No one place will make me happy, forever, without end. Many great gifts come from travel: new people, new cultures, new foods, deeper understanding of where one comes from, to name a few. One of the greatest gifts that I have received from traveling, though, is the gift of restlessness. The gift of restlessness awakens in a person the difficult fact that happiness is fleeting, pleasures only please so far, and no one place on Earth can fulfill the newly-aware heart's yearning, be it sighing slightly or tearing one apart from the inside. To be sure, this can lead to any number of not-so-great things, like addictions, thrill-seeking, superficial relationships to avoid missing people, being too busy to breathe. But none of these responses stem from a genuine dialogue with the heart: most try to stifle it, to stuff it with the "food" of experience, fleeting pleasures and aesthetic delight until it, being full to bursting, cannot utter a word of protest. This generally fails miserably, or people have to keep it going til they die. Depression seems to me to be a seeing that something is wrong or off and obsessing over the fact that it's not right. Is it wrong to get depressed? Eh, I wouldn't say that. It's sometimes part of the process, but if one hopes to get through it, dialogue is necessary.

If one is content to sit with the discomfort, listen to it, wrestle with it, dive into it, then one has the opportunity to discover perhaps a small taste of what allowed Paul to consider loss as gain, the martyrs to be willing to die, even what gave and gives joy to the saints and allows the greatest poets to capture the mystery of each moment. One might find the opportunity to find a stable resting place not of this world. I wouldn't say I'm there, but I'm grateful for the continued opportunity to plunge deeper into the mystery. I'm truly grateful at this moment for not having all things being hunky dorey, and I'm just as grateful if not more for the ability to see the possibility of grace acting in it. I pray for the ability to cooperate with it.

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