Gearing up for the Global Health Corps Midyear Retreat here in Jinja, Uganda, my eyes pour over the readings doled out prior to engaging in what promises to be a welcomed barrage of opportunities for personal and professional introspection, debate and discovery. Inspiration will inevitably abound, and the second half of our year here in Uganda, or Rwanda, or Burundi will take on a new light and new meaning, a meaning that will drive us forward in ways we didn’t think possible until this very week. An excerpt from Marshall Ganz’s exploration of public narrative assigned by our beloved Still Harbor partners particularly stands out to me tonight:
“When we tell our own story, we teach the values that our choices reveal, not as abstract principals, but as our lived experience. We reveal the kind of person we are to the extent that we let others identify with us. The more specific our stories, the more powerfully we can communicate our values or what moral philosopher Charles Taylor calls our ‘moral sources.’
Some of us think that our personal story doesn’t matter, that others wont be interested or that we shouldn’t be talking about ourselves so much. On the contrary, if we do public work we have a responsibility to give a public account of ourselves – where we came from, why we do what we do, and where we think we are going…we don’t really have a choice about whether to have a Story of Self or not. If we don’t author our story, others will – and they may tell our story in ways that we may not like.”
My own personal public narrative has declined in recent months. This blog was once well maintained and, to my surprise, quite well read, to the point where wordpress.com was inundating my inbox with proclamations about the explosiveness of my blogging readership statistics. One of my resolutions for 2015 was to maintain a steady stream of unfolding consciousness and relay the information that seeps into and out of my mind’s eye to those who seem to care, for one reason or another, about what it is that I have to say. And Marshall Ganz’s words particularly resonate with me in relation to this personal goal.
I have always regarded as a personal mantra a beautifully crafted line from Richard Linklater’s finest film (I’ll watch Boyhood tomorrow night and perhaps I will retract that statement):
“I would say that life understood is life lived. But, the paradoxes bug me, and I can learn to love and make love to the paradoxes that bug me, and on really romantic evenings of Self, I go salsa dancing with my confusion.”
I make every effort to understand life, to search for truth within myself and in the stories and experiences of those around me. I encounter manifestations of reality that baffle me and broaden my perspective, and within my own inner-vision I see shades of life and light that blind my previous perceptions and propel me into a new realm of understanding altogether. The more we learn, the more perplexed we can become. The unknown unknowns beg to become known unknowns that eventually transcend into acquired knowledge that opens our eyes (all of three of them) to an endless sea of perception-bending ‘a-HA’ moments.
I learn, and I listen, but I also talk, and talk, and talk some more and those that know me well know that I can go on forever if you don’t shut me up. The length of these blog posts is a true testament to that. I love to convey my own personal narratives, because I do believe that a life understood IS life lived, and that in order to understand our own lives and our own stories, we have to view them through the eyes and hear them through the ears of those around us. I take as absolute truth that all human beings, all life, all matter, all of existence is inextricably connected, and through that connection, our personal narratives take on new meaning and new significance. Working in Uganda in maternal health care, living in a small village on the banks of the River Nile, operating daily from a physical space that is out of my comfort zone and an emotional, mental and spiritual place that is more up my alley than any I have experienced to date, to me, is something that must be shared, and I would be doing these experiences that have found their way into my life a disservice by keeping them all to myself.
Communicating our Stories of Self allows each and every one of us to spiral deeply into the universal lattice that connects us all on a profound level, and teaches us that we have an infinite amount of knowledge and perspective to gain from every experience that we, or those around us, happen to manifest. In order to contextualize, internalize and externalize the values that we inculcate by sheer virtue of engaging in the lives that we currently live, we must share those experiences. I dedicate 2015 to the pursuit of sharing as much as I possibly can. And if any of you reading can identify with any part of it, then the deep web of connection that I accept as an absolute will begin to take shape more firmly in your eyes, and in that process of mutual understanding, you and I will become more strongly linked to one another.
And we can learn together, and share together, and grow together, and on particularly romantic evenings of Self, we will go salsa dancing with our confusion, and bask in a field of gratitude for the intricacies of this beautifully bewildering life.
Happy 2015, The Year of YOU. Don’t be afraid to be confused (and confusing). If life isn’t weird, you’re not doing it right.
*This blog post is brought to you by Kaminanda’s beautiful album, Gateways of Consciousness.