It started with Montaigne.
When we were sophomores in college, my friend Ross read and recommended to me our first essay by Michel de Montaigne, “On experience.” I would read a number more of Montaigne’s essays in my fabulous personal essay class at Carnegie Mellon — led by Hilary Masters, whose generous donation to the Children’s Village will build a library collection for the orphans! — but that essay that Ross pointed me to has had a greater impact on me that any of the others.
“On experience” is one of Montaigne’s longer, if not longest, essays, and it took me about a month to read. I remember being frustrated by Montaigne’s philosophy. In “On experience,” Montaigne discusses his kidney stones. Montaigne argued that his life wouldn’t be life at all unless he continued to his average level of activity and eating fine French foods and wines, and that he didn’t care that such behavior would worsen his kidney condition. I couldn’t imagine that good cheese really outweighed the pain of passing a kidney stone (and, if you know me well, you know I love a good cheese). If I’d known anything about Buddhism at the time, I’d probably have thought that Montaigne simply needed a lesson in moderation, but back then I just thought his ideas were idiotic.
Idiotic but one paragraph, that is: for but a few sentences, Montaigne explains the uselessness of worry. He wrote that some people worried incessantly about their next kidney stone, but he never did. If he worried and the kidney stone came, then he’d have the unpleasantness of the kidney stone coupled with all that time he’d spent worrying (which is also unpleasant). If he worried and the kidney stone never came, then what was the point in worrying?
I’m thinking about “On experience” today because I left the United States “yesterday” (days get confusing between time zones) and my inability to worry a proper amount has had its impact. Like Montaigne suggested, I haven’t really been worrying about leaving. I packed within the hour before heading to the airport (and as a result left important items, like a timepiece, at home… whoops!). I didn’t really consider that I’d be leaving my friends for a year until I waved “goodbye” to two MATCH visitors, Dane and Ian, on Monday. I didn’t really consider that I’d be leaving my family for a year until I was driving with my parents to Dulles Airport. While not thinking too much about the future allowed me to have a relaxing and very enjoyable summer, I probably could have done with packing at least half a day ahead.
So now, here I am, at the airport in Doha, Qatar, and writing up my first blog entry of this year abroad. While I’m still adjusting to the idea that I won’t be in America for upwards of 10 months, I’m unbelievably excited. In the next couple of days, I’ll see friends from Delhi and from college and I’ll visit the orphanage I worked at last time I was India. In a week, I’ll be in Shillong, where I’ll meet my “family” for the next 8-9 months. It is a tremendous joy that I have this opportunity to help start a very special place for children in the Unitarian Khasi community.
And, this is my long-winded way of saying, “Hello, welcome to my long-winded blog!” In the future, I promise it will be more full of photographs than ramblings 🙂 In that vein, I’m off to learn how to use this “Flickr” website I’ve heard so many good things about. Again, welcome!