San Martin de los Andes:
It has long been a personal struggle of mine the amount of significance that I attach to seemingly unimportant events. I walk by a blue fire hydrant and suddenly become convinced that there is no set order to the universe, that my wife is going to leave me and that our friends have sold our cat and moved to another country without telling us. At the same time, sometimes it really is these small things that really do carry the world in general, the behavior of people, and why I like the weird stuff I enjoy so much (i.e. wearing one rock with a hole in it at all times). Without rambling anymore, I think that balancing the tension between over and under analyzing events in my life is a significant part of what I’m up to lately. One such important (?) event occurred today.
This afternoon, I decided to get money to do our laundry. This is always more of a task in Argentina than the average person in the states would believe. Quite frequently, every ATM in a given city will run out of cash and begin dispensing, instead, pleasant apologies. I had already encountered two such machines and was waiting in a twenty minute long line to try my luck with the last remaining ATM in San Martin when the lady in front of me told me to go ahead of her in the queue for, seemingly, no reason at all. After declining several times, I finally relented and moved ahead of her. We began discussing the shortcomings of the argentine banking system and I learned that she was from Buenos Aires which led to a discussion on how much we both liked it there which is to say not very much at all). The conversation meandered and I clumsily tried to piece together a sentence to swat down a compliment about my Spanish, but discovered that my Spanish was too bad to deny that my Spanish was good. Sitting on some stairs in an idyllic town in the Andes, I found myself marveling at the openness of the people here. It wasn’t just this woman either. I realized that, in just a couple of days, I had met more people than I could count who had showed me this kind of openness, engaging a stranger as a person and as a pleasant part of their day rather than a distraction from life. In part, this is the reason I came to South America. The idea of this kind of mentality is very attractive to me; I find I truly love the concepts of relationship and community and it seemed when I left for this trip and still seems now that these ideas are alive and strong down here. Furthermore they seem to extend not only to life-long relationships and the community of town or country, but also to relationships with strangers that they may only know for the twenty minutes it takes to wait for an ATM and to a community that includes those from countries that they may never even see. At peril of sounding like a smoked-out cheeto junkie, “it was deep”.
Back to the point and also staying on the topic of smoked-out cheeto junkies, the insignificant event that really got me thinking about the nature of Life, The Universe, And Everything happened a few hours later while sitting in a coffee shop. I was contemplating nothing more than whether or not to use the bathroom for the fifth time today and risk ridicule from Sharon, when a song by Jack Johnson started playing in the café. Within the familiar hippie, beach-bum rhythm and lyrics, Jack asked me, “In the true sense of the word, are we using what we’ve learned?”. From a pragmatic, theological, or philosophical paradigm, I think that this question is one of the most important to answer. I’m always learning stuff. The world is a constant flood of information washing over us and no matter how much I’m able to soak up as it rolls over me, I question its usefulness if it doesn’t affect who I am or the things I do and think. Have the things I’ve learned about relationship and community ever affected the way I treat the people I encounter each day? Perhaps a bit cheesy or trite but it got me thinking about if I have really been interested in people at all for the last few years or simply the idea of people and the concept of how they form community between each other. Each year, I find that my social circle shrinks to exclude people that I don’t think that I’ll know for very long or people that (it sounds even uglier typing it than thinking it) people that have different ideas than me or have different ways of thinking than I do. Framed as such, it’s pretty easy for me to see that I’ve put myself in a position where the kind of closeness with others and the kind of community that I’ve so enjoyed thinking about have been an impossibility for me. Que triste. Nevertheless, I think that finally recognizing this puts me in good position to finally work through it, and that’s a good thing in my book (which of course is a book all about me *smile*).
Anyway, for those of you kind enough to be praying for me, that is what’s rolling around in my head as of the now. As for those of you who are kind enough to read my tedious blog…that is what’s rolling around in my head as of the now. As always, I hope my ideas find y’all well and that you’re all working on some generally difficult ideas as well. Shoot me an e-mail or comment here and I’d love to pray for you whenever I get word of what you’re up to. Until then, I’ll keep you all in my heart and mind so try not to get fat…I’d hate to have a heart attack or stroke down here.