Friday, August 03, 2007

Stubbed Toe Wisdom

I know that a big shift is coming. Bedtime came and went tonight, as my circadian rhythms fell to the way-side. My heart is beating faster, my mind is racing ahead - clear, like a a runner's high - while my body skeptically follows. Tonight, like several others over the last few years (the night of the move to Middlebury, the night before the semester in Senegal, the hours before walking across a stage with diploma in hand), I will remain awake.

Upstairs sit three suitcases. One contains clothes. The second, years supplies of all things hygienic: toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorant... The third, books and articles on the shifting winds of China's social entrepreneurs. (Oh! and a copy of Finding Nemo, for good measure). These suitcases will accompany me to Chengdu, China, and provide protection for spots of trouble along the journey. When the weather gets spotty, one will lend a jacket. When my mouth acts similarly, the second will help out with bit of floss. When my mind does the same, the third suitcase will hopefully come to the rescue with brilliant insights on microfinance, the wisdom of local metis, and the delicate intricacies of international multi-lateral relationships.


In reality, I know that one can't pack suitcases of local wisdom. What I've learned in classrooms has certainly shaped my ability to receive new information from the surrounding world, but neither the world nor the classroom belong in a book or in a suitcase, as neither is a static experience. Visceral, deep, surprising knowledge is the stuff the world is made of, and certainly the best tonic for "spotty mind". Perhaps, instead, book-filled suitcase #3 might lend real mind-renewing powers by covertly nudging me back into the lively streets of China. An inconvenient suitcase location and a quick stub of the toe can do wonders for growing wisdom.

Thus, As I exit my house in t-minus two hours (not to return for 365 days), I'll remind myself of the significant weight of each of these three pieces of luggage. Warm clothes for winter, clean soaps for my body, and a lead-filled case of books that will impart more and more wisdom as it is opened less and less.