I find myself in the thick of another work week. You are looking at me sardonically. You are trying to figure out why this is note worthy at all, and why I'd even mention it.
Well, I mention it because, despite the matter of fact tone and the lack of any indicating punctuation - I was complaining. This week is paticularily bad because last week I was on vacation; spending hours in the lake and enjoying beer-thirty every time the clock struck the half hour. I love my family camp. It is too far away to be convenient, usually too crowded to be comfortable and yet I love it unconditionally. There are not many things in my life that get that kind of affection from me. The point of my digression: this week has been taking its time.
One very nice thing about being there is the chance to catch up on some of the reading that throughout the year I put off and convince myself I don't have the time to finish. This year's book to finish was one recommended to me way back in the winter by a friend, with confirmation that it was their favourite book ever. John Steinbeck's East of Eden.
Whenever someone tells me something is their favourite, before putting it in my hands, I always find that there is this great pressure to find it as great as they do. I feel almost obligated to like it, and then in revolt of being forced to like something, I enjoy it less than if I had just approached it with an open mind. However, this is an exception to the standard rules of my twisted brain. Although I won't say it is my favourite book, or one of my favourites - it is certainly one of the best I've ever read. It is really that good.
The book's theme can be loosely be summed up in a word, 'timshel' which in the book is said to translate to 'thou mayest' in English. The word is introduced in the book after a discussion on the proper translation of the story of Cain and Abel from the bible. It is concluded that what God said to Cain was "Thou mayest conquer over sin", in regards to the conflict of good and evil. Now I don't want to sound like I'm going off on some religious tangent, I am not religious. However, I do feel like one can walk away from this message with more than just some holy revelation. The concept of timshel as a basic Human 'attribute' is amazing. Thou mayest.
The book follows the life of a man named Adam, and further in the life of his son's Cal and Aron (who not coincidently mirror Cain and Abel). Throughout the story, you observe this delicate balancing act of good and evil that is occuring through the actions of the characters. Great feats of evil always seem to be counteracted by some equally good outcome, and vice versa. It is written superbly, such that in a way you don't really realize it is happening until late in the book. I won't spoil it, read it.
Let me get to the point. The moral as I took it is that in our lives, we have the power to make it what we want. Thou mayest achieve whatever you want. There is a character in the novel called Tom Hamilton, who Steinbeck implies is on the edge of achieveing greatness in his life. Tom's life is filled with moments of great courage and great cowardice, the latter as deep as the former is high.
I don't know if it is selfish of me as a reader, or simply that I am just human, but I wanted to relate to this character so completely. I did relate to it completely. I can't claim to be on the edge of greatness, but I don't know who out there doesn't feel that their life is this balance of choices - with the options in essence being a flip of a coin between cowardice and courage. Which path do you choose? Short answer; you have the choice to make your life whatever you want it to be.
I suppose the biggest criticism to this would be if you told me that there are factors out of peoples hands. That where someone ends up in the world is ultimately based on the cards they are dealt from the beginning. This is a fair point, and I agree that some people's places in life are out of their hands in the most general sense. However, this is not what I meant, not really.
How you should view my interpretation is in a much more 'spiritual' sense, spiritual used loosely. I mean to say that it is 100% your choice in how an event effects you. You have the power to choose how you treat others, or to decide whether that traffic jam in front of you really is the worst thing that has ever happened. Although these small personal choices probably won't get you a mansion and yacht on their own, I do believe they add up in a different way.
One doesn't have to be stoic and immune to emotion to make these choices either. All you need to do is approach everything a little more rationally - how important is this really? Is it in my best interests to take every bad occurence that occurs as a reflection of my luck and who I am? IS treating a stranger like dirt truly necessary? In some way, everything in your life is partially your choice.
Is that not freeing? I'm in love with the concept.
To anyone that cared about the last post regarding Africa, I'll most likely be going at the start of January. I emailed someone a description of what I would be doing earlier today, so I'll just put it down again here:
The location of the study is the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in the volcanic mountain regions of Uganada. While there I will be working with the endemic golden monkey species.
The monkeys have never been properly studied to a great extent, and although the gorillas in the park are protected, the monkeys are still poached to some degree illegally. Snare traps, local domesticated animals and illegal harvesting of their forest habitat's bamboo (a food source) are all threats to the monkey's continued survival.
Since these monkeys are only found in this small region, and their population sizes and ranges are so small, an effort is being made to study them and observe their behaviour before it is too late. The hope is that by providing the Uganda goverment information about the monkeys, they will use them as a target for tourism and conservation - thus protecting their numbers more actively and effectively.
The organization I'll be working with is still in its fledgling states, as it is only a year and a bit old - so I get to come in on the ground floor to help acclimatize these monkeys to people and conduct preliminary studies and observations.
I am also required to help teach conservation to the local children by spending a day a week in the classrooms teaching. Very exciting.
Again, thanks for reading,