Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
As we approach the last week of class I am filled with so many different emotions. Excitement about seeing my family and friends at home again; stress over the amount of things to complete in the next few days; amazed at how quick it all went. And, so very saddened by the fact that my 19 new friends, who have now become like family, are in a matter of days no longer going to be sitting next to me in class and living right down the hall from me.
When I began this course I did not know what to expect. I did not know how it would affect me and I did not know whether I would be the same or different when it was done. As it comes to an end I can honestly say that this was the greatest experience I have ever had in my life. I will forever be grateful to my amazing husband for supporting me and encouraging me to go, for my family for raising me to be open to new adventures, for my bosses at work for allowing me to take time off, to the Rotary Club for selecting me, and to the amazing participants in this program for changing my perspective on life and making me a better person.
One thing I hope we all take away from this program is confidence and courage, in ourselves and in each other. The world is filled with so many horrible, sad, and unthinkable things. We have learned about, discussed, and seen many of them first hand. Sometimes the atrocities of life can be overwhelming and can for a moment (or two) make us feel helpless. But, then we remember all the wonderful, beautiful things in life. We think about the wealth of knowledge and experience that has surrounded us for the past three months and what a gift it has been for us to get to know one another. And we remember, it is okay that the world is complicated. We remember that there are always going to be things, and practices and laws and behaviors and policies that we will never be able to justify or truly understand. And we remember that it is our choice how we will allow all the good, the bad, and the complexities of life to impact us.
Many times over the past 2 and a half months I have found myself pondering back and forth over many different things. Last week in Cambodia, while again pondering, I came across a passage in a book that I thought was very relevant to this course. It is from the book Perseverance by Margaret Wheatley, which was introduced to me and my other classmates by one of our extremely wise fellows. The passage is titled “Dwelling in Uncertainty” and it reads as follows:
“Some people despair about the darkening direction of the world today. Others are excited by the possibilities of creativity and new ways of living they see emerging out of the darkness. Rather than thinking one perspective is preferable to the other, let’s notice that both are somewhat dangerous. Either position, optimism or pessimism, keeps us from fully engaging with the complexity of this time. If we see only troubles, or only opportunities, in both cases we are blinded by our need for certainty, our need to know what’s going on, to figure things out so we can be useful. Certainty is a very effective way of defending ourselves from the irresolvable nature of life. If we’re certain, we don’t have to immerse ourselves in the strange puzzling paradoxes that always characterize a time of upheaval: the potential for new beginnings born from the loss of treasured pasts; the grief of dreams dying with the exhilaration of what now might be; the impotence and rage of failed ideals and the power of new aspirations; the horrors inflicted on so many innocents that call us to greater compassion. The challenge is to refuse to characterize ourselves. We don’t have to take sides or define ourselves as either optimists or pessimists. Much better to dwell in uncertainty, hold the paradoxes, live in the complexities and contradictions without needing them to resolve. This is what uncertainty feels like and it’s a very healthy place to dwell.”
To all the members of the Rotary Peace Fellows Class 16 who are reading this blog I want to say thank you. Thank you for coming into my life and leaving such a lasting impression. And remember, it only takes the courage and strength of one person to make a difference, and there is no better day to start than today.
Erin Boyle, USA
Rotary Peace Fellow