Wednesday, February 4, 2009

What's Beyond These Hills?

I went on a retreat this weekend with my housemates and the volunteer corps board. The whole thing was a lot of fun. It marked my first time in Delaware and my first trip to the beach in a year(!) However it was a little too cold to hang out on the beach, which was a disappointment, as I'm borderline obsessed with the ocean.

While there are a lot of things I could say about the retreat, I have some thoughts about a reflection activity we did on Saturday night. Noah and Deanna very thoughtfully created it and led it. They asked the members of the board to bring a story, a song that affected them, or an "artifact" about a time in their life when they were at a crossroads. A time when they had to make decisions about their future. When they had been where we are now.

And for our part we brought something about how we feel right now. Rachel brought a passage from a book that inspired her to change the world. Personally I think Rachel has been saving the world since she was a toddler, but this book was important in her journey.

But interestingly the other 4 of us brought songs. Mine was Rufus Wainwright's "I Don't Know What it is." Deanna, Noah, and Jen brought songs by Wilco, Neil Young, and Ani Defranco. And while these 4 artists couldn't be more dissimilar musically and in their genres, the songs all have parallel messages. One song says "the world owes us nothing and we owe earth other the world." Perfect. All of the messages were truly very similar. While we are an intentional community, its still amazing to see how closely our attitudes about where we are in life sometimes line up.

Here are lyrics from two of the songs we shared:
"If you feel like singing a song
And you want other people to sing along,
Just sing what you feel,
Don't let anyone say it's wrong" -Wilco

"I don't know what it is
But you got to do it
I don't know where to go
But you got to be there
I don't know where to fall
But I know that its comfortable where
I don't know where it is"-Rufus Wainwright

I have to say that I am making some of this post from this point on intentionally vague. I think this night of sharing and reflection is a little bit "What happens in Vegas..." The reason it was so powerful is that people were willing to dig deep and share. The board really reached into their history and found moments where they made changes or metaphorically (or literally) came to the edge of a cliff. So with out violating anyone's privacy or naming names (sorry housemates) I want to talk about some thoughts I left this activity with.

One man talked about several choices he has made in his life. He never knew exactly where he wanted to go, and to a certain extent things lined up and fell onto his lap. However the thing that stuck with me is that while he is happy with his life, he said "you may not know what you want until you are 70 and the choices are made." Somehow, instead of that making life feel futile, it seems liberating. The right choice is not always clear. And maybe the path is only illuminated when you are literally standing at the end of it.

For others, good things came to them later in life. So if the first path doesn't turn out the way you imagined, try again. My personal favorite decision making process: one man decided to go swimming instead of getting in his car to drive to California to begin law school. And now he's very happily a doctor.

For one woman, her personal desire to be a teacher lined up with what society expected of her: be a teacher. Alternately, another was willing to put everything on the line protesting the Vietnam War. Hold strong to what you believe. Really truly.

To end this post and the night, a woman told a story. A little girl from the South has never been outside of her small town. She sits on the porch with her grandfather and asks him, "What's beyond these hills?" Every time he tells her, "Open doors."

So where do we go from here? Halfway done with our volunteer year, what is next? How do I make these choices?

What's beyond these hills? Open doors.

1 comment:

Clay said...

I appreciate your thoughts. I feel like after you complete your year, you'll be in much the same position as I will be in May. It's a scary thought (at least I'm a little scared), but I find comfort in the fact that at least there are doors for me to open.