Learning Experiences

Hello late afternoon from NYC,

I am waiting to meet someone and have dinner and thought I should be productive rather than merely sit and surf or do nothing. It also makes time pass more rapidly. This week had been full of activity. My close friends and former colleagues came for a visit and it was wonderful to see them and have them meet people I care about here. Last Sunday, when they arrived, I had a cookout at the house and invited the Deckers and the Galáns. Unfortunately as I took my cousin to the airport the previous Wednesday, it seems I was being actually with bacterial pneumonia. I am still trying to beat it. The primary malady, at the moment, is a persistent and annoying cough. When everyone arrived last Sunday, I was not doing particularly well. In fact, I was fading pretty quickly. However, everyone stepped up and things turned out every nicely. The learning moment for me was to “let go” and allow others to take over. Things can go well without me being in charge. Rationally, I certainly realize such things, but “letting go” is not something that comes naturally to or easily for me. I already know some who really know me are rolling their eyes and probably responding “really??” (The rhetorically correct version). It was actually a wonderful evening and I was pretty laid back during it.

There was an interesting turn of events at one point during the week. Simon had a rather normal 13 year old learning moment. It was also a learning moment for his parents. One that many have gone through, but one that catches one off guard nonetheless. It reminded me of when I was a parish pastor working with confirmation students and some of the things they did won’t little understanding of consequence. Thanks to the generosity of some adults, the difficulty was minimized on one hand. The long-term consequences could, however, be really positive for a number of people. I am hoping so. More to come. I meant to draft not publish. Off to my meeting.

So it is early on Monday morning now ( actually about 2:00 a.m., but I went to bed early and now I am awake. Much like the initial part of this post. If I am going to be awake, I might as well be productive. Another learning experience of the day happened when I managed to get a parking ticket for being a bit over a line. I got the ticket when I got back to my car (it is the most expensive parking ticket I have ever gotten-$115.00). Welcome to NYC. I also decided to catch up with a student over there, so by the time I got back to Bloomsburg on Saturday morning. I was 3:00 a.m., and I was still up before 8:00. Sometimes I wish I could sleep more. Saturday, Nate, another former student from WI and a person in his 18th year in the USCG , came to visit. He drove his new Beemer up and yesterday we spent a couple hours out riding. It was enjoyable. Yesterday morning, I did my best to imitate a Dominican “desayuno” for him . . . . I did not finish writing again, but I probably will mow. The last two weeks, I have been fighting pneumonia, and while I think I am making progress it is pitifully slow. Last night was brutal as far as a fever and tonight (this morning) seems even more so. It is not quite 2:30 and this is the second time I have been up. Everything is in the washing machine and I am lying in the recliner in the study. I will actually be going to the laundromat this morning to wash my comforter too. Oh well.

This week has been let another level of experience growth. On Monday I went to see a Certified Nutritional Counselor. I found out that most of what I am doing is good, in fact, outstanding, but she added a couple things, as well as heightened in degree or extreme some of the things I am already doing. I am also on more vitamins or supplements. In some ways, ironically, I think I am healthier than I have ever been.

To return to the idea of experiences. I wonder if experience provides or instills wisdom in us as humans or it merely offers opportunities for wisdom to develop or grow? Or is it a combination of the two? For instance, what is occurring, or perhaps notoccurring, when a person continues to make decisions that seem contrary to common sense or doing the prudent thing? I would understand that free will is part of that process. It matters not the circumstance because generally there is a choice made somewhere along the line and there is a subsequent consequence. Where does the learning come in? Is wisdom a consequence? It it the by-product of reflection or something we all have and some merely fail to use it? It is sort of like a muscle and the more we use or employ it the stronger it becomes or the more it grows? I am pretty sure some have thoughts about this. You are welcome to write a response, or if you see me in person, on a semi-daily basis, perhaps we might chat in person. It sounds like garlic peeling conversation. This is one of those mornings, it is probably good that someone is close by. I feel like I am fading a bit, but perhaps it is a combination of humidity and still trying to kick this stupid pneumonia.

One of most favorite experiences is merely conversing with another person who makes me think. I mean really think, a conversation that pulls me out of my comfort zone and forces me to reconsider that which I have held as something fundamental or core to my understanding. I only know a couple people who seem to have that power or ability. It is interesting to me that generally he or she is a peer at least in terms of age. Then there is the one who continually amazes me. Perhaps not completely human? Certainly not typically human. I can already here the question, “what is typical?” I guess you will have to come up with your own definition. The point here is, I merely like thinks that force me to think or ponder. I think, as I passing the 3:00 a.m. time marker, that is part of the reason language is so important to me. Thinking and pondering require words . . . and to begin to understand another more completely, you need to be able to understand what he or she thinks. What I have learned in the past 6 months is culture affects our thought processes more than we might realize. What we take for granted or what we find suspect is heavily influenced by our cultural mores too. I think I have known this, but I am not experiencing it in a more complete way.

I, more than most, I believe look at my own country with a pretty decent balance of gratitude and concern. Both because of age and experience, I have found that reflecting on both our practices and course identity as a country is a good thing to do. I spoke of this experience with Nate over the weekend. One of the very few times I have gotten in someone’s face was when he (who had dual citizenship) was bashing the United States both unrealistically and quite vulgarly. Long story, short: I told him rather emphatically he should pack and go to his other country and quit receiving financial aid or attending American universities. I do realize the cost of the university is exorbitant, but people still attend, and I will say foolishly because they have swallowed lock, stock, and barrel the myth that it will fix everything or give one everything. Simply, not true. While I do not mind the questioning of the country or even a certain skepticism, what I do find difficult is when someone seems to have a fundamental disdain for the country, but is willing to use it’s opportunities. I guess that is how my patriotism now manifests itself. I have probably opened up all sorts of thoughts because of this. What I think I am tying to get at this moment is there is no Valhalla (except in Rasmussen Hall-those who understand this reference veritas vicit.). I am both more universalist in my faith and my acceptance of culture than I was when I walked the bluffs of Blair, Nebraska.

Again, it gets back to experience. I am grateful for every experience that has provided learning – that would be all of them. It would be my life. It is your life too. Embrace it! Experience it.

Thanks for reading.

Michael

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