Saturday, April 28, 2007

Why Can't We Be Friends?

Today my dad and I got into one of many discussions we tend to have. Basically, it comes down to our mutual lack of understanding of how so many outspoken people can get away with saying such stupid things, and people can actual stand to listen to it... and many of them actual agree. Whether it be the right-wing "moral" upholders (who patronize high price call girl agencies while fighting prostitution on a global scale) or the hungry media scouring blogs in search of the "real" story of those impacted by the VT incident, they are all specimens of the human race that leave me feeling that there's little hope for our species. I'm with Tolkein. I just wish I could have been on that boat with Bibo, Frodo and the elves.

On the other hand, a slew of visitors from Indonesia have rekindled my joy in the human race. For a week they have, unexpectedly, been at the forefront of my everyday life, communicating with pure expression, music and mime mixed with fragmented, translated words. The first night I met them (all fifteen or so...) I ended up giving banjo lessons and exchanging dance steps. It was such a grand musical evening that I scrapped together my slim resources and gifted Sofie with a small gord banjo and Anneng with a full-sized banjo to take back to Java with them. We have a few more days left together, and I am so glad that this is so, altho I'm a bit terrified at their request for me to join in a musical collaboration for their puppetry presentation. Javanese music is entirely off the scale of any crooked KY fiddle tunes I've ever heard! I'm not sure I can even find these notes on my banjo... but I'll sure as heck try! I hope that Faerie Godmother will come up to stay on Judy Branch Tuesday evening so she can witness the beautiful Wayang puppetry performance. It is going to be something.

I'm also looking forward to bowling with them tomorrow and then Monday night when they get to meet my esteemed banjo mentor, Lee. He's always so good with entertaining folks, and I think he's excited about meeting visitors from so far away. I'll head over to his house tomorrow after bowling so we can practice up some tunes with him on fiddle & me backing him on banjo. So many good things to get into just in the next 48 hours. That restores a little faith in the human race.

Having all these folks come and stay with us in our little town reminds me of why I love to travel and meet people along the path. The most amazing people you could ever meet are those you meet unwittingly. We are from such varying religious and ethinc backgrounds, but we are all joined together in this shared experience, this common ground of being here now. I am going to miss these happenstance friends when they go back home, but I'm sure glad to be guardian of a long list of Javanese towns as destinations for the next big adventure. (MW, are you ready for our next trip? I'm voting for someplace more tropical... but it's your pick;)

I'm gettig ready to embark on my own exchange trip to small coal mining towns and whatnot in the Ukraine and Poland. I can only hope to make as deep connection with those I visit there as these visitors have made with me. And I wish I could take my first Ambassador to Poland with me.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Preparing for Departure

Preparing for departure is never easy. It can be exhilarating, exhausting and damn near impossible. Is anyone ever really ready to leave?

First off, there are so many things to be done. House needs cleaning, garden tending, laundry washing. How do you want to leave things when you go? And what to bring with you? And whom do you need to connect with before you go?

14 days until I get on a plane for Lvov. And really, all I want to do is get my garden planted, play music and just soak in springtime in the mountains. I love being disconnected from the rest of the world. No news, no TV to muddle the experience of being here now. I hope I can feel each moment in the Ukraine and Poland as intensely as I feel it here on Judy Branch.

When I come home I know that there will be many other kinds of departures to deal with. We are always leaving or being left behind.

One of the hardest things about living here is when entire mountains disappear. When I was driving to Berea last week, there was a roadblock. We were being stopped to witness a few men in backhoes systematically tear down trees on the mountainside. The mountain will be next. Living here, you become somewhat hardened to the death of mountains. You just don't have enough emotional energy to deal with it. Sitting there in my car, watching the dozer take down tree after tree that had just begun to sprout spring greens. Deep from within a sob came to surface, and before I knew it I was crying uncontrollably. For the life of me, I can't understand how any living being with a soul can actively participate in the murder of a mountain. I know all the complexities. The people behind the machines have to do those jobs to feed their family. There's a long chain of complicity. Still, I just don't understand humankind's capacity for cold-blooded murder, whether it is against each other, other living beings or entire ecosystems. It's things like this that have me convinced that I missed the boat. How can I be part of this species?

I tend to think too much and live too much in my head. Most of my life I have been terrified of my potential, as a human, to cause pain or harm to others. I have a tendency to want to protect others from myself, and I go through phases where I sort of quarantine myself away from the rest of the world... for their own good. It's not exactly a healthy way of approaching life or relationships. I have so much admiration for my friends who are outspoken and passionate and unafraid of the potential consequences of following their hearts. Maybe my heart has always been uncertain, or perhaps my brain just gets in the way. I am always trumped by this deep need to do what is best for everyone involved. I'd probably make a good mom, except that I really don't want to bring kids into this world.

I don't really expect many people read this blog. I don't try to get it out to the world. I only tell a few friends about it with little expectation that they'll actually read it. Mainly, this was something I set up to force myself to write on a regular basis, something other than grant proposals, reports or journal entries. I try to keep it to what is at the foremost on my mind, while keeping an intentional distance from my job. It seems that even in writing about things that I felt really only related to what was going on in my mind, I still manage to hurt or upset other people.

Someone recently made a comment about an entry I wrote after I learned some pretty devastating news about an old friend. I tried to keep it vague and not easy to identify, but that was under the assumption that my readership is primarily people from this life, not old high school friends. The person commenting used the word Schadenfreude, which means someone who takes pleasure in others' misery. Pretty harsh. It hurts to know that is how, after all these years, she thinks of me.

I hate that horrible things have happened to people I admire and respect. I hate that what I wrote could be taken as an insult when I meant it as homage. I don't enjoy knowing that others are experiencing unimaginable agony. It makes me feel sick. And that's why I wrote something down.

Out of respect for that friend, I will remove the entry and apologize for any pain it may have caused. I figured those old feelings were water under the bridge and that reflecting on them could do no harm. My bad.