Fair warning: I am going to talk a bit about spirituality here. If that turns you off, we will resume our normal broadcasting tomorrow.
For background. I was raised Catholic. I am, from my mother's side of the family, American Indian. And when I do participate in any kind of organized religion, it tends to be through the United Church of Christ, the church where my wife and I got married.
I am a fairly spiritual person, and my beliefs are probably an odd mixture of those three influences. I believe now that all religions are true, that they are songs sung to us by the Creator. That much like we are unable to hear every pitch of sound, we hear the song the Creator meant us to hear. The differences are just man trying to shape and understand the Creator's songs.
I also believe we all have a path. My mother died 14 years ago this month, an experience that I consider to be formative for me. Much of what I do, think and feel is through the lens of that loss. I miss her horribly.
When she died, I thought I saw my path clearly. Life was too short to postpone what we were meant to do. I was to go into archaeology, get the credentials to be able to teach, and become a role model and mentor for young Indian kids.
I still think that is true.
But what I no longer believe, and I did think this for a while, was that this whole State Department tangient was me taking myself off of my path, at least temporarily, in order to be with my wife. Because I knew if I stayed stateside while she was a diplomat, we would grow apart.
Now I think my path may lead back to teaching Indian kids, but it will be when I am older, and hopefully, wiser.
I am where I am meant to be right now. I am where the Creator wants me to be.
I have been slowly coming to this conclusion. This blog has played a role in my search. But it was actually an assignment for my Cultural Affairs Officer training this week that really brought this home for me.
We had to pick a piece of art and discuss how we would do programming around that piece of art.
I picked two pieces by Brian Jungen, an Indian artist whose work is currently on exhibit at the National Museum of the American Indian. I used his work to talk about how acculturation in America has not been uni-directional, with Indian people acculturating and non-Indians remaining unaffected by contact with my ancestors. I talked about how American Indian culture has affected American culture in profound ways, such as the influence of the Iroqouis Great Law of Peace on our ideas of liberty and democracy and indeed, the U.S. Constitution.
I thought we could use a discussion of that to talk in Estonia, where we have a mission goal of strengthening their peace and security, especially in light of the 30% Russian-speaking minority that causes Estonia concerns. They fear Russian uses that population to influence Estonian politics. Talking about our shared history of occupied vs occupiers and that we have gotten where we are not in spite of that history but precisely because of it might open up dialogues between the Estonians and the Russians living there.
I presented my idea and my classmates seemed to like it.
And I thought that it might be a hard thing for a non-Indian to present. So easy for a non-Indian to say that good has come of colonization/occupation but hard for an audience to believe. I think it is a different discussion when facilitated by the descendant of the occupied rather than the occupier.
It was then that I realized I am on my path. That this is the thing I can contribute. That I am not just a tag-a-log to my wife, who is so clearly meant to be a political officer. That my background has prepared me for precisely this, and that the Creator wants me here, or I wouldn't have gotten into the Service so easily when so many other with much better preparation than I (and probably lots more brains too) have failed.
I think I will end up teaching. Whether in college or in our communities, I don't know. But this path is the same path. It didn't divert me from there. It is leading me there.
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