"We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience." -John Dewey
I write to create a lifestyle that keeps me thinking and growing. A dark secret is this: I am a horrible reader. I try to gain wisdom and understanding from what I read, but I only start to grasp it through the physical act of writing.
This blog might not be about wisdom, per se, but it’s certainly about my own attempts to understand more about life. As an introvert (an observer first and foremost) I’m driven by the relentless questions in my mind. My essays are all fledgling attempts at answers. They might not mean much, ultimately, amidst all the complexity of life, but to keep trying is a kind of duty.
It’s a duty to my “real” personality: the expression of what’s at the border of the kind of person I am and the kind of person I want to be. I want my ideas to have value. I want my ideas to be the currency of my life — to trade ideas, not my precious time, for my subsistence.
And of course, how I go about crafting my thoughts has a lot to do with my personal life.
I went to college in my mid-teens and studied philosophy. You don’t attend college fresh out of middle school and integrate seamlessly with the social zeitgeist of the university. I may have stumbled into one house party my junior or senior year. I’ve never felt at home with the taste or culture of alcohol. I sat on a couch and just watched.
After college, for years I lived on organic farms and devoted myself to radical sharing and ecological living. I started learning trades like building maintenance and plumbing. I was engaged in “lifestyle activism,” a kind of non-preachy form of resistance to capitalism-run-amok. The idea is to lead by example; really, to show a better way without ever needing to get on a soapbox.
But then a junior senator from Chicago started making waves in the run-up to the 2008 presidential race. People were getting excited about the possibility of change on a grander scale. My love affair with lifestyle activism wavered.
I moved overseas in 2011. I went to China first. I taught English there.
Throughout this time I maintained only a few, deep friendships. Mostly with people of strikingly similar values and goals. The most durable of these friendships are alive today, sustained through postcards, emails and the occasional telephone call. I used to struggle with this. I’ve learned to appreciate the depth and to waste less heartache wishing I could befriend everyone around me.
After China, I moved to Taiwan. I finished my second graduate degree there, traveled and worked at a local newspaper. Taiwan gave me a lot to think about, including a culture of shocking, daily kindnesses, subtropical beaches filled with trash, and an Asian Jesus presiding over a Last Supper of baozi (steamed buns).
I have a picture from that church in the south of the island. The baby Jesus is holding a miniature earth with a crucifix protruding from the top. The only country depicted on that earth is China:
Stuff like that really tickles me.
Leaving Taiwan after four years was simple; it felt like a rite of passage. I moved to central Europe, but after the warmth and safety of Asian culture, Europe seemed an inhospitable place by contrast.
I tried moving back to the United States and saw family regularly for the first time in half a decade (they never did make it to Asia).
And then I moved to Nashville, Tennessee and found … my biological family. Unbeknownst to me, they had emigrated from Colombia to the United States a full 18 years prior. Less than a year after meeting them, we all traveled back to Colombia and the village where my mother and father grew up in close proximity. I met my biological father then (January 2017), and set out to resurrect and enhance my first fledgling attempts at fluency in Spanish.
It’s here in Nashville that I set out to craft a personal culture of creativity and a habit of thinking more deeply. To think with ink, and to explore other avenues of creation: a square-foot garden, the zero-waste lifestyle and making art from trash, independent film, the theater, and of course the chief draw of Music City.
I find I’m more concerned with Beauty than ever before. Through creativity, I learn to redefine and better court a sense of the beautiful (perhaps Robert Pirsig would call it Quality). Beauty, like finely wrought emotion and a pervasive sense of meaning, triggers the peak emotional experiences of my life. Like love, it’s something to live for.
CONTACT ME on Twitter if you’d like to talk, collaborate, or commiserate: @Samantha_Sprole