Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pivotal Road Trips

From time to time, I invite others to share their gleaning experiences her at thegleanse. Meet my fellow Women Writing for (a) Change colleague Tammi Sharpe, self-proclaimed Outside Agitator. I agree in the warmest way possible.  She is also brave, bold, and brilliant!

Tammi Sharpe
            I'm sure people are asking "is she having a mid-life crisis?" Trust me if I was I would have bought the Maserati and be driving along the wine routes of Chile rather than moving to Birmingham, Al diving into the history of the U.S. Civil War and Civil Rights Movement.  I find it all quite a logical career progression. I'm on an extended road trip delving into history books and exploring historic battlefields, monuments and museums, looking for lessons from the U.S. Civil War on how communities reconcile after war and confront related human rights atrocities e.g. slavery. I've attached myself to a first-rate museum as a Human Rights Fellow testing my interest in a possible career move.  It is all related to promoting human rights, which has been a central piece of my entire career and an interest since college.
            Did I mention it is all self-financed? I've moved from a two-bedroom apartment into a studio that essentially resembles a dorm room with just the basics: a bed, a desk and a bookshelf.  Fancy cheeses and wines no longer fit within my budget.  Fortunately, the wine market is such that I can still afford a nice wine.  My taste for whiskey and scotch has also been downgraded from Johnny Walker Blue to Jack Daniels, appropriate for an American who has moved South, no?  I am however, missing my cheese.... but cheese aside, I feel like I'm reconnecting to me when I was twenty.

It is because I am Beat, that is, I believe in beatitude and that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son to it... Who knows, but that the universe is one vast sea of compassion actually, the veritable holy honey, beneath all this show of personality and cruelty?(Kerouac at a Bandeis Forum 1958)
             I had dropped out of college at this point overwhelmed by the options of majors and not really clear what I wanted to do in life.  I had been working in restaurants and traveling for a year. The critical journey was a road trip via train and bus through the U.S. I was reading On the Road Again by Jack Kerouac and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.  Through these two books I discovered my curiosity about the links between human nature, political theory and human rights.

Within the next generation I believe that the world's leaders will discover that infant conditioning and narco-hypnosis are more efficient, as instruments of government, than clubs and prisons, and that the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging them and kicking them into obedience. (Huxley's letter to George Orwell in 1949)
             I soon returned to university after this trip and my career has since evolved exposing me to the realities of civil war and political oppression.  While the horrors of refugees' experience will never allow me to be na├»ve about the foibles and the dark side of human nature, I remain an optimist like Kerouac.  At the same time I appreciate Huxley's concerns over government manipulation and am becoming more and more troubled about the "elite's" influence in the U.S.  I am not yet where I desire to be-- to write my own follow-up thoughts to those of Kerouac and Huxley-- but I'm moving in that direction.
            This current road trip is providing the time to more thoroughly reflect on my interests and my experiences to date. In some ways the curiosities and enthusiasm of my twenties that were overshadowed by the mundane tasks (e.g. meetings, report writing) that exist in the bureaucracies are now back in the forefront of my daily activities. Gradually I'm also finding the words that draw on my experiences and my current research to speak out on social political issues.  So while this road trip was not initiated with any sense of recapturing my youth, it is allowing me to realign my intellectual passions and my career in a way that draws on my twenties. But I now have a new goal to earn the title of being an "outside agitator" like the activists of the Civil Rights Movement. 
For more on my current road trip please see my blog in particular you might like my post "Perpetual Outsider"

1 comment:

  1. Can I create a fancy cheese and fine wine fund to help your creative juices flow and you stay renewed in the important work you are doing at the BCRI?