Joseph D’Ambola

A Biography

Our shovels broke through the Dominican earth as they rhythmically played the ground like droning notes in a Spiritual. We had been working since the sun broke through, and anxiously awaited the dusk to relieve us from the scorching heat. Five of us were American; five were from the Dominican Republic. Our task: build, for the missionary, a new house, that his influence may grow. By day, we worked tirelessly; pick axes shredding ground and shovels clearing the wreckage so more could be dug up. The days were long and taxing — our bodies ached and our thoughts failed us. When the sun gave way, we stumbled down the hill to meet with the women of our expedition for dinner under on the patio. All the village and their kids came to eat with us — the mysterious “Gringos” who spent their days singing songs and digging ditches. Inevitably, the easy joking and singing fades into stories of triumph and defeat, love and loss, faith and doubt, and what is the meaning of it all. Because of their quick Spanish speaking, I only heard every other word, but in the softness in their eyes I felt their kindness. In the quiver of their voice I felt their pain. In the whiteness of their clinched fists their anger shot through me. It was in these nights of stories and laughter, friendship and exhaustion, that I found new course in life. These ordinary, everyday, common people sat told proverbs and parables of grand ideas of the world, God, and philosophy, but they never spent a night pouring over Plato in the library. They never had a professor, or a class, or any instrument for their knowledge. All they had was the world — their world; a world where the chickens must be raised and fed or the children wont be, where communities must be work together. This is a world where real life is survival. But even in this commonplace, philosophy and theology and the meaning of things still courses like ice through veins. How then could I avoid it? How could I in the soundness of my mind and the clearness my conscience grow comfortable in my state of life and neglect what itches in the pit of every man’s soul? Therefore, from thence onward, I have found within myself, a desperation to never be cease learning and teaching what is good, what is of God, and what makes getting out of bed for an eight A.M. class worth it. In this trip to the Dominican Republic, If found within my self a love of philosophy and theology and cannot help but look at everything through this lens, as my friends in the Dominican do. The earnestness of their lives and the resoluteness of their pursuit of truth demands action by those fortunate enough to experience it. Thus my paper is steeped in what is the nature of things — the philosophy of the commonplace. It’s a look at why things are the way they are, because this is the question I want to know of everything. It is my hope that within the words pressed upon the readers heart will echo what is so radiant in mine.