Well, the most incredible semester of my life has come to a close. Actually, I should say best semester so far…let’s see what you can throw at me next year King’s. In many ways I very much wish already that I could go back and start it all over again right now, picking up on things I missed, strengthening my Spanish further, doing things I regret not doing, reliving the difficult moments of tough love learning and the moments of laughter. At the same time I am glad it is finished and have been ready for it to finish for some weeks so that the next stage in my life may begin with the new knowledge and experience from this semester that I now cannot unlearn. I am ready to be returning home to see friends and family but also to approach a life at home that consists of perhaps subtle, perhaps not so subtle, changes in attitude and orientation. I have said it before, but at LASP “learning” is defined as a “change in behaviour” and I am ready to prove, to myself more than anyone, that I have “learned” something.
And that in large part is what is sitting at the back of my mind making me uncomfortable, a gnawing presence of having gained the desire and knowledge to do something or to change something, call it ACTing if you will, but being unable in my current context to carry out that desire satisfactorily. We have talked a lot about the importance of this idea of “praxis” as opposed to “practice” this semester: learning through acting and doing, rather than learning first and using that knowledge to act later. This has been our irony, the contradiction that we have acknowledged as part of our time at LASP in Central America. We stress praxis but the reality is that in this context we are so helpless and even damaging when we try to “do” something. Its something that has been a frustrating but also humbling part of my time here that my classmates and I have all felt. Yet it has also been a crucial part of the learning because I now see that my greatest ability to effect change at home or abroad, at least for now, is from home, a context I understand best and can function most confidently in.
However, for me this has resulted in finding myself more often than not thinking about the past, comparing things I experience here to my home context, and thinking about the future. In short, I often find myself neither here nor there but dreaming of things that could be. And on that note, I am now beginning three weeks of independent travel as a sort of denoument to my time here before I transition back to being home, and perhaps you like me are wondering “why”? Why when I am ready to “act”, to initiate “praxis”, or when, please God, that I may see change somewhere that I am a part of be it ever so small? But sitting here in a small town internet cafe on Panama’s Carribean coast one thing my last host mother always said to me in her Portuguese Brazilian accent comes back to me:”Hay tiempo para todo debajo el cielo” which perhaps you guessed is the Spanish reading of the line from Ecclesiastes “There is a time for everything under heaven”. So despite all the hustle and bustle of my thoughts and this world more than a vacation or a suspension of time between two periods of my life this time for me will hopefully be a reflection on what I have seen and see, but more than that a time well lived with the friends, families, and the people I meet here in Central America. If I can learn to live presently in the moments of rest and of enjoyment now then I hope I will have learned well a lesson that I feel is so elusive for people of my age and societal context and the one piece I have still struggled with so much this semester. It is that if I can learn to focus fuller on the present I will be that much more prepared to be effective at doing change when it is the time under heaven to create change than of only and constantly thinking about it for the future.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.