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Narrative: Hope Paterson - "Opening My Eyes"

Opening My Eyes is a compelling entry that reveals rich insight into the power of learning. Hope's Our General Store is a weblog focused on Building a community- based food network on Prince Edward Island in Canada. Yet as I read more of the entries there, I find striking insight into the human experience...

The value of traveling to and experiencing other cultures is as much about what we are able to bring to this new and unfamiliar place as it is what that place offers to us. That is, if our sensibilities are open to the experience, so to speak, then the experience can help to open us. In Hope's entry, not only do we get some wonderful observations into the culture she is exploring, but we are also invited into her inner exploration inspired by the culture.

The experiences being described by Hope on her journies are, for me, fundamental and critical in understanding the deeper and more fufilling aspects of how people learn the things they value the most.

The primal motivation for Hope's journey, from what I read on her site, is mythological in scale:

I digress to get a little personal (need to so that I can explain my thoughts)...I had a difficult year last year. I lost my focus and my spirit seemed weighed down by my own expectations and disappointments. Apparantly I needed to go into this place, a lonely place of introspection, that would enable me to climb up higher.

Since Joseph Campbell's ideas have been renewed in my mind, I see a direct connection from Hope's I needed to go into this place, a lonely place of introspection, that would enable me to climb up higher and Campbell's comment that:

The beginning of a mythic world or a mythic tradition is a seizure - something that pulls you out of yourself, beyond yourself, beyond all traditional patterns.

This is myth living, and the living myth. There is a three-way connection here as well to Hope's dialogue with a wise man on the steps of Hempi:

"The more we take the less we become. As we give we let go and trust- this is when we can cross into the peaceful moment of now."

In giving hope to those who have lost everything Hope asks the question, "Do we as humans need this kind of circumstance [i.e. - the Tsunami tragedy] to realize what is important?" Campbell's answer to this question would probably be: "Two things pull people together: aspiration and terror." These kinds of events awakening the awe within and reconnect us with the experience of mystery that life is.

In Unexpected Places: What is the place of learning? I wrote, admittedly, a rambling entry attempted to bring a greater range of associations to the ideas of place, travel and mobility. It was freefalling exploration that, judging by the trackback there, was viewed by one individual as trite and long-winded. That's fine. In it I asked the question: "Where do we see everyday easy to access examples of creativity in motion?" Well, here in Opening My Eyes for example.

There is often a simplistic kind of connection made between travel and tourism. Tourism often invokes ideas about a holiday and along with that rest and relaxation. Another simplistic connection is often made between travel and business. Business travel invokes ideas about conducting trade and commerce in different countries. This is all well and good, but it also a pedestrian definition of travel and leads to trivial and dismissive sayings such as, "travel broadens the mind" - as if we broaden our mental capacities simply by going places. I have met many well-traveled people yet would not consider that, from what they describe of their own experiences, their minds have been broadened in any significant manner.

Yet in Opening My Eyes we see much more than a broadening of the mind. We are invited into a sense of transcendence. In comparing a previous visit to this current journey, Hope states:

To some travellers this backwards part of the country [India] is too off-putting or just too different a reality to relate to.

I was definitely more in this mode when I travelled the country years before. I saw the extreme differences in the environment as a barrier to really opening up. I was overwhelmed by what I saw.

When I left a month and a half ago I felt like this time would be different. I chose to attempt to really meet everyone I came into contact with. Whether they were an upper class businessman/woman, beggar on the street, shopkeeper, ticket collector, fellow train passenger, children playing on the beach, upscale socialite. Everyone had a story and a different energy. Because I was alone I found it easier to spend the time and make the choice to be open to listening.

She recognized that there was a barrier between what India might have to give and what she was prepared to receive. And she consciously challenged that barrier. This is an act of courage. This barrier is a form of intermediation that originates in the source culture. In other words, we tend to view unfamiliar cultures in comparison to our own. Of course, this is only natural, yet it also inhibits learning and prevents personal growth. But, as Campbell points out, barriers like these will often implode:

When the mask you wear [and we all wear them] cracks [ and they inevitably will], when you lose faith in it, you can have a regression into your psyche at any stage of life. When the whole society loses its imagery, it can be in what's called a wasteland situation [n.b. - "wasteland" is a reference to T.S. Eliot's poem "The Waste Land"].

I've come to the notion that a lifestyle built in the absence of myth is a style of living in the absence of life.

There is an intimate and inseparable connection here between learning and life. It is a connection that, through abstraction and classification, tends to get lost in educational methods since these methods typically avoid much to do with life values. But here in Opening My Eyes, we see learning aligned with travel while deeply meaningful and personal value is being created now, in the present moment.

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Hope - if you are rambling then please just keep on rambling:-) If there are criticisms about you style of writing, then ignore them. I will look forward to reading more about your experiences and I wish you the very best.

You are undertaking a journey that is quite unique and vibrant and it is kind of you to share it with us. We can all learn from what you are doing.

Best regards,

Rob - thank you for the kind words. The parallels in Hope's experiences and what Campbell is describes as pathways to bliss are dramatic, and her ability to share them with such clarity is unique.
Best regards,


I was so touched by your article. I am so happy that my 'rambles' (I am often critisized for my ongoing stream-of-consciousness writing style) could give people an insight of how much more we can involve ourselves in our travel-life experiences.
I feel like i am scratching the surface of so many more important discoveries; all of them are simple and natural.
I will continue to keep watching, wandering, learning and sharing.
The last week has given me even more energy to give back to those who do not have the opportunity that I do.

What a gift to Hope's words interpretded by you
Thank you
Rob (Hope's dad)

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