Monday, January 25, 2010

Peace and Freedom

First I would like to say that I am sorry for my last blog for being so long. I didn’t really realize how much I had written until it was posted. Hopefully you didn’t get bored while reading it.
I also want to apologize for my blogs for being all over the place. I am going to try to make my blogs flow somewhat better, so bear with me.

Last week one of the Canossian Sisters died in the village of Ariwara of whom I had seen 4 days previously when I had the chance to visit the town. The last image I had was of her sweeping. She worked up until the time of her death. She had spent 50 years in Congo! She lived a very full life which could be seen by the hundreds of people who turned up at the funeral. It was the most beautiful funeral I have ever attended. Mainly because I could see so much appreciation in the people’s faces for this woman of God. When all the people went outside for the burial the band had already set up and music was filtrating through the crowds. As I stood beneath the vanilla bean tree my eyes were drawn heavenward and I could see hawks soaring in the sky. They seemed so free and alive and it came to my mind that even the spirit of the dead lives on. They live on in nature: their spirit soaring high with the hawks, eagles, the wind swaying through the palm leaves and the setting and rising sun in its captivating glow. I am sure Sister Ester’s spirit is soaring with the hawks watching over the people here in Congo.

There is a spirit here in Africa. Nature speaks often. Time is of no essence. Simple is better. Life is precious. Peace is sought. I do not know where I stand here. I am an observer but I am slowly becoming captivated by this spirit of Africa.
A simple life where peace is found in the majesty of nature and one feels connected with people because they appreciate the importance of sharing in one another’s lives.
Having less is better. It makes life simple, and when life is simple there are less complications. And when there are less complications there is more peace. And when there is more peace there is more love.

As I am learning more about the culture here I am realizing how much I have taken for granted. For example, one of my students told me that I have so many pens because apparently I have come to class with a different pen on various occasions. I did not realize this and was surprised that she would even notice the pens that I brought to class. Also, Sr. Daniela shared with us that one of the young girls here told her how after school she would have to sell baked potatoes on the streets in order to save enough money to buy herself a pen. So for me having more than 1 pen I am seen as privileged. After this realization I have begun to think that I have many things that are extravagant and not needed. For example clothing, owning 2 volleyballs, having more than 1 headband (one girl in my class asked me if she could have my headband and I said no and then she preceded to say that I have 2…they pay very close attention to what I own), and then of course our VOICA house that has electricity, our own laptop, a guitar, running water and a gas stove (and just recently an oven too). Even though at times I feel guilty for having so much when these people have so little, I know that I can share what I have with these people. One time I walked to a field of grass by the church with my volleyball and saw some of the girls in my class and we started up a fun game. Then more people began to join the circle, young boys, little kids, older boys, and the young girls I teach. We played for 45 minutes until I had to go, but I left the ball with them telling them to return it when they were done. I am really happy that a simple sport ball can bring so much joy to the kids here.

I have been thinking about what it means to be “free.” I believe that when one begins to share and give of oneself to others “freedom” is found. This is something I have sought after in my life and I believe is very true. When I am giving to others I begin to stop thinking about myself and my own world, my own problems and selfish thoughts. It is not easy to always be giving to others all the time, but when you make the effort in whatever small way a feeling of freedom is found deep within. We are also able to give more of ourselves to others when we have less distractions and temptations that prevent us from giving. In North America there are many things that keep us entertained, that give us pleasure and paralyze us into self-absorbed and selfish people. When these barriers are stripped away, when our pride, our titles, our accomplishments and securities fade away, we will feel naked, strange, afraid since this feeling of having nothing is far from the reality of Western living. This feeling of having nothing can take a weight off one’s shoulder’s. There have been many people who have gone into the wilderness or remote places of the earth to get away from this weight of the world and to seek freedom and peace in their lives. One can find freedom when all alone in the majestic and powerful creation of God such as the mountains, I know I have. But I believe the truest “interior” freedom is found when we are able to give ourselves as a gift to others and there are no barriers such as our pride and selfishness holding us back. And most importantly from the words of St. John’s gospel, “the Truth will set us free.”
Thanks for reading; I hope I didn’t bore too many of you with my spiritual insights. I think it is good sometimes to share insights into life and the purpose of our lives. It is so easy to become stuck in our mediocre way of living where we soon become lost and confused in what our purpose in life truly is which results in unhappiness. To finish I would like to share a quote from the book Into the Wild, a story of a young guy who went into the wild searching for purpose in his life. This quote doesn’t really have to do with what I have been talking about but it does have to do with our need to make changes in our lives when we feel we are unhappy and have no peace or a sense of interior freedom.

“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basis core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” Chris McCandless

Peace and Love


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