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Learning to Dance

June 6, 2013

I am in Prague for an organization that works on Holocaust remembrance. Though I’ve had a wonderful time here and a great many laughs the nature of the visit is sombre and the conversations have often been deep and philosophical, especially after a couple Czech beers (I haven’t tried the absinthe yet).

The human condition, our capacity for love, forgiveness, and compassion is debated alongside the existence of our darker sides. Yes, but I’d never do that is what we tell ourselves when we see entire societies turn on their neighbors. Then there are the everyday heroes among us who shelter those in need from whatever storm may be approaching.

As an AP reporter interviewed our conductor this morning, I joined the reported wife for coffee. The reporter was Czech born but not raised here, she was British. They lived in Thailand. Our conversation started, like so many with strangers do, superficially. She gave me restaurant suggestions and told me where she liked to walk in the city. I told her about what I’d seen so far and gave her a little insight into what I though her husband was learning about our institution.

As we got to know each other a bit more, conversation turned to concentration camps and regimes. I learned the story of her husband’s father’s socialism, his disappearance and their escape from Czechoslovakia with the help of the CIA. She told me her husband remembers running through corn fields to get away, but that his younger sister only remembers that she had to leave behind a favorite doll.

Talking more, I learned my companion, now in her early 70s, had been in the British diplomatic service, but was dismissed when she wed. In Thailand she began an art gallery supporting local Buddhist artists and later an organization that provided training and opportunities for journalists limited by Communist media restrictions.

I told her about my efforts to recreate my life, which seem so insignificant compared to her and her husband’s experiences. She was supportive and enlightening and a little bit cheeky about my finding joy in being the one on my last journey to jump into the undignified tourist activities alongside the more noble pursuits.

We talked about who we’ve been and who we want to be. She cheered the constant evolution of the individual and the fact that we need never stop evolving, but that in every action and communication we need to keep the who we want to be in mind and act in a way that’s true to that. It’s all it takes.

As we said goodbye for the morning (I shall see them again tonight  at the concert and hopefully again in my future), she suggested read Michael Mayne’s exploration of spirituality, Learning to Dance. Checking Amazon, I discovered Mayne was the head of religious programs for BBC. I also found this quote which maybe my new life philosophy:

“And perhaps we are most human, most what we are called to be, when we have one foot on the shore of that we know, and one foot in the mysterious, unknown ocean. This is where the poet and the painter stand, together with the best scientists and the wisest theologians: exploring, probing, digging deeper; and sometimes breaking through to a fresh realisation of truth. Art, science and theology meet and flower at the boundary of the known and the hidden”

I want the hidden in my life to be known already, but I love that unknown ocean and I want to keep exploring, probing, and digging deeper.

Now, completely inspired, I really am off for the day, but not before downloading this book.


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