Photo credit: Haroon Sheikh

Searching in the wrong place?

It has been a few months since my search for an academic program has acquired an urgency. I have been looking for something suited to my needs, interests and temperament but I haven’t been able to find a single program that combines education, arts and peacebuilding in a manner that strikes a balance between the reflective and the experiential.

I don’t want to write another dissertation. I want my work to make its way out into the world, where it can have a life beyond a library shelf. I’d love a program that would allow me to share what I learn — through newspaper articles, art exhibitions, community events, summer camps, school workshops, cafe nights, evenings around bonfires, and all sorts of fun imaginative spaces.

I have little inclination to pursue a mode of learning essentially premised on accumulating and critiquing bits of knowledge generated by other people without any substantial time devoted to self-enquiry. After all these years of going to school, college and university, I am poised at a place where real conversations seem more exciting than reading lists.

I love reading, and authors in faraway places have contributed much to my life. However, what has really stayed with me are those moments when something I was reading illuminated an experience I had had but not quite understood or been able to articulate. And moments when an idea in a book suddenly transformed how I had interpreted my own experience of something.

When I look back, it appears that my deepest learning has been connected with experiences wherein I was moved beyond measure — wherein the excitement was not intellectual alone. It was emotional, spiritual, visceral. Some of these experiences have occurred during the course of programs with rigorous reading and writing requirements. Most haven’t.

In the last week or so, it seems like I have been searching in the wrong place. Perhaps I should be looking up ashrams, retreat centers, art studios, intentional communities.

Being a professor is not part of my dream.

My joy comes from travel, from deep friendships, from working with children, from periods of silence and connecting with nature.

My dream is to learn, practice, share — nonviolent communication, restorative justice, peacebuilding and conflict transformation, healthy cooking and eating practices, living mindfully.

I long for a day when I don’t feel compelled to justify my choices, when my mind is so free that the only thing it knows is compassion.

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