Friday, November 30, 2012

Developmental Chaos Theory

    I am bathing in light, viscous and glorious as fresh honey, as I bike down a solitary dirt road. My skin tingles under the evening sun, enveloped by the smell of my own stale and sweat mixed with the heavy air of the coming rains. I feel like a god. Pedals whirr and puddles leap from my path. My breathing is calm and deep and full and I can see a storm looming over the hills but know that it will only come in the night. For now, the last bits of sunset burst from the open window that remains between the horizon and the slowly descending cumulous curtain. The rains may yet be a long way off, but the clouds are anxious, already tossing their splinters, their electric impatience, across their half of the deep-blue canvas still partitioned with the remaining daylight. Lighting spider-webs its way across the panorama, connecting the invisible dots of positives and negatives, jostling with the sun for prominence, brilliance in this bipolar sky. Its a silent climactic tumult and I feel like a deaf man watching some great battle. Only the sounds of the birds remind me that my ears are functioning just fine. The thunder is yet to come.

    Its for moments like these that my life as a Peace Corps volunteer is the best in the world. One could never say that this job is easy, or straightforward, or controllable, or in anyway following a predictable trajectory of development work and volunteer service. The reality is chaotic, a constant unfolding of days before you, sometimes with a calm and in slow transition between places and states, but other times its like un-calculated falling, tumbling from moment to moment, barely holding on but always (seemingly) turning up alright in the end.
    One thing I have realized about myself in Peace Corps is this: I thrive in two very different sets of conditions. The first condition is controlled--if I can plan things well and execute said plan, I tend to achieve a lot and feel useful and accomplished. The second is the exact opposite, the conditions in which plans have completely fallen apart. Between these two sets of conditions, there is a transition state where I tend to falter. Those moments when I try to hold onto the remnants of a slowly disintegrating plan, the desperate attempts to maintain even the facade of control while pushing forward with the stubborn determination of reaching whatever previously determined goal. I either require the order afforded by careful planning or the freedom and aimlessness that comes in the curiously comforting cocoon of disorder and madness.
    Lucky for me, Paraguay and life as a Peace Corps volunteer seems to cater to my disposition. There are times, rare and wonderful, where one can successfully carry out a plan. Its like the uncommon alignment of stars, a cosmic mishap that places everything just where it needs to be right when it needs to be there. Unfortunately (or fortunately), this is not par for the course. Instead, life-by-the-seat-of-my-pants is the operating paradigm I am most accustomed to at this point; the vague notion of direction and destination but with the flexibility to take any road no matter how arduous, or treacherous, or swallowed in untamed jungle it may be. Its chaos theory meets sustainable development. I am sure there are no scholarly articles about that quite yet.
    The best part about the madness, however, is that even though I hardly ever go where I think I am going, I always end up somewhere just as wonderful. Perhaps I don’t realize it at first, maybe that sort of perspective only comes with sufficient afterthought, but the best moments I have spent here in Paraguay have been completely unpredictable. I am over one-year into my service and never expected to be where I am right now. Who knows where I will be by the time this whole thing is over. That’s the journey though--embrace the chaos.

from Paraguay,
little hupo

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