From the Pearl of the Khmer to the Pearl of Africa
from my final mass email to people back home: "This summer has left me with many questions, but it has taught me that humanity is really connected inways beyond my understanding. The religious, cultural, national and ethnicborders that we have constructed are just that: constructions. They are helpful perhaps in providing some order in the world, but they have come tohinder our ability to see that what happens in Cambodia and what happens in the United States is deeply related. And consequently, this means that each of us holds tremendous power with our actions and lack of actions to influence the lives of people all over the world...Finally, the greatest challenge for me in the final days here has been to attempt to tell the Cambodian people and the Maryknoll people how much they have given and taught me. I am finding such a task to be impossible. Yet, Sister Len, who has such wisdom, told me that when people want to thank her or pay her back, she just tells them to 'move it forward.' By 'move it forward,' she means using our lives, our energies, even if only in small ways, to work towards a better world. We are not called to be the next Gandhi or saints, but there are real ways in which each of us can help one another, cross boundaries and work for a better tomorrow...In all of these things and so many other ways,we attempt to see the world through the eyes of another, especially those that are poor and marginalized in our times. We may never have a world without poverty, without suffering, without violence; but we can create a better world. We can move it forward. The great ancient Greek tragic poet, Aeschlyus wrote so prophetically that we must work to 'tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.' As I leave Cambodia, I am struck by these words because they seem to ring so true in our times. We must work to make gentle the life of this world for all who are broken, poor, suffering and alone. In the end, I do believe that in attempting to see the world through such lens, we find that our destiny is deeply linked with our brothers and sisters all over the world."
from one of my last journal entries - "The truth I have uncovered as I have written again and again, is that we are all connected, and yet we are living in a way that is killing and abusing ourselves. This world in Cambodia is the same world as back home. Until we begin to accept that and all that follows from it, we will continue to live in ignorance, poverty and loneliness. But I do believe we can change and I go forth from here desiring to be a part of such real change."
from my final journal entry in Phnom Penh - "I want so badly to have closure, to package this experience in some way, to leave on a good foot. And yet I know I must resist this temptation. For this experience will continue on even after I am gone, teaching me more and pushing me more. I have to learn to live the questions, the uncertainty. And finally, it is so important to realize that this experience is not about me. When I leave, people here will still be poor, still be suffering, still be trying, stillbe so human. I cannot forget that now or tomorrow. This experience is beyond me, and to forget that is to make a great egocentrical mistake. All I can do is to live it, to allow myself to be shaped by the moments, the people, the stories. And really that is what we are all called to do: live everything even when it hurts."
from the London airport - "I hate living the questions, and yet I know I must. I feel torn, on the margins, without a real home or true community. As Len would say, I am a sojourner, called to find meaning in the journey, onthe margins. I just do not want to lose all that I felt and experienced in Cambodia, yet I know I must find ways to build a new existence that sums together all my past experiences, realities. It will be painful, but the challenge now is to emerge as a person, shaped by not limited to my experiences. The more I grow up and try to be real, the more difficult this becomes...In many ways, this experience has been about facing myself, in terms of both my weaknesses and strengths, my fears and my powers. In otherways, this experience has been about facing humanity in terms of the capacities for both good and evil that battle in the human heart. Yet still in other ways, this experience has been about facing a world of brokenness, harsh realities and great potential for good."
Well, onward to the pearl of Africa. I will write again in a few days from the equator. Cheers.