The Transylvania Joem: A Young Peace Corps Volunteer in Romania


I Don’t Believe in A ‘Right Path’ (but i do believe in footnotes)
October 7, 2008, 10:08 pm
Filed under: Peace Corps Romania | Tags: , , , , ,

Capsuno lives with a gazda (host-family) on a long and narrow plot of farm in southern Romania. It’s an astonishingly beautiful and simple place that drapes into a small valley where the land beyond feels unexplored.(1)

Capsuno’s site is the rustic ‘Peace Corps Experience,’ that one imagines. Living with a gazda ensures that Capsuno has at least a handful of cross-cultural experience each day. She also helps with various farm chores (she’s developed scythe-skills). Capsuno’s farm has no washing machine or Internet– there’s no indoor toilet.

This is vastly different from my little mining town. I live alone in a two room apartment. I work out at newly built gym a few times a week. I can buy exotic foods like Greek feta and cottage cheese at frequency in my nearby supermarket.(2) I have a washing machine and Internet, and my indigo-furnished bathroom is nicer than where I last lived in America.

What really surprised me on my visit to Capsuno’s site, was my realization that Capsuno and I are having the same epiphanies about ourselves and the world despite our stunningly different situations. In the weeks before, we both separately developed a mantra like this: ‘It’s okay for this experience to be hard–accept that it’s going to be. We’re far away from home, and it’s supposed to be a shock to all notions of comfort and stability. However, we willing chose to pursue something difficult, so allow it to be.’

One evening, we sat on the cement steps leading into the farm house and discussed this. I suddenly realized– for the first time in my life– that developing spiritual wisdom is the result of the soul’s constitution/need rather than one’s environment (dictated by choices). More simply put: answers can be found in any of the infinite situations you may find yourself on earth–all that matters is that you continually pose questions. This is something that has always worried me–that I’ll have crossed to the wrong side of the street when some life altering epiphany goes wandering by. I’ve spent a lot of moments the last few years wondering whether or not I was in the right place. Now, I suddenly see that it’s not the exact experience that matters as much as what I seek. To that effect, all I should really worry about is whether I’m happy. I know now if I seek true happiness wisdom will accompany.

Here’s an example: I was recently typing to my Fort-Collins friend, Takks; he was recounting a rafting trip he took this summer. He was pushed beyond his limits, broken apart a bit, and told he wasn’t strong enough. It was exactly the sort of thing that Takks was seeking to strengthen himself. I didn’t say so at the time, but it sounded terrifying to me.(3) To my personality and spirit that sort of experience would feel counter-intuitive. But, to Takks, it was exactly right, and it’s been completely positive for him.

So, it seems that the best thing I can do is pursue my own personal happiness with all my heart. Unfortunately, I feel it’s been hard to identify what makes me happy, but it has become easier once I devoted focus to it. When I was 20 I had no real idea what I liked or enjoyed, but the past few years my needs/loves have become exponentially clearer.(4) However, at times, it’s still been difficult for me to tell whether I’m happy or sad.

This raises an interesting question that Capsuno answered for me that night. I revealed to her that, at times, I felt I wasn’t as happy as i ‘should be,’ because I wasn’t breaking into giggles like the Dali Llama (supposedly) does. Capsuno said something to the effect of “you’re not the Dali Llama–stop making the effects of happiness a cause.” It knocked the wind out of my brain because it was so simple and obvious.

Since then, I’ve realized I’m happy when things seem ‘right’ and complete in the world. I’m unhappy when I grind against the way things are flowing, and often when I do that things get ridiculously inconvenient/angsty/uncomfortable for a bit. Understanding this helped me realize that I’m happy about 99.5% of the time.(5)

When things are ‘right,’ I’ve also noticed that coincidences occur with regularity. I used to feel that coincidences were ‘sign-posts,’ to your path–if you had a big coincidence it meant you were in exactly the right place. However, since I’m less assured there is an absolute right place, I think coincidences are simply manifestations of the rightness and flow of things. When a coincidence happens, it means you’re well enough in touch with life and love and happiness for things to come together with ‘coincidence’. Rather than meaning one is on the right path, it just means one’s right with things.

I’ve had ridiculous coincidences occur here with a new kitten and an old winter-coat. Capsuno had one with three Beatles songs. Natters with a puppy named ‘Layla,’ and DP with her California driver’s license renewal form.(6) I’m sure there more among other volunteers. Does that mean all of us were fated to be in Peace Corps Romania, and thus it’s our right path?(7) This idea is so intimidating to me–what happens if you merge off the path? How hard is it to get back on? Life is so full of crazy spontaneous emotion that I can’t imagine anyone staying on a solid path 100% of the time–no one is capable of infallibly acting in concordance to the soul. Thus, I feel there’s got to be some flexibility or personal growth and the pursuit of truth would be impossible.
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(1)As the land slopes down into the slight valley, it fades away from the little commune where Capsuno lives. The larger town of Balș to the south-east isn’t quite visible and there are the slightest shadows of foothills to the north. Hence, there’s a feeling of emptiness spreading fast out and away. Maybe the personality of Bobicești contributes–the world on the horizon seems like an inaccessible dream from the quiet, and simple, and habituated ways of a farming community. This is mere speculation, on my behalf, and there might not be a single person in Bobicești that feels the same.

(2)It’s a ‘warehouse’ supermarket, so items will disappear and reappear from time to time, and their availability is based on demand. The first month, I bought every package/container of feta or cottage cheese whenever they showed up on the shelves. As a result of my rampant consumerism (I’d like to believe), those items have been well-stocked with reliable consistency since. I’m still waiting for peanut butter to make an appearance…

(3)Still haven’t told Takks this.

(4)The funny thing: at 20 I had the next ten years of my life well planned. Now, at 24, exponentially happier and self-aware, I have no idea what will happen to me a score of months from now.

(5)And realizing that made me 0.1% happier.

(6)Some argue that coincidences are simply manifestations of cause and effect. However, when they occur to me or others, I instantly and undoubtedly know what they are, but I can’t rationalize why. It’s like recognizing someone’s voice–I could hardly begin to explain what enables me to do that.

(7)I don’t think my life is important enough for fate. That said, my life becomes more important as I relinquish the insignificance of it to my own control.

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