An excerpt from Schuyler Pals’ blog: Travels With Pals (Gordon University, Massachusetts)
The clock rests at 3:05; I do not know how long ago it came to pause in that position. It is not a particularly interesting clock. Bare wooden boards, without ornate garnishes, hides on pastel yellow walls. Waiters carry loads up and down narrow winding staircases, conversations blend into disharmonic melodies, and friends sit in a distant room playing and singing together in English, French, and Arabic. Life’s buzzes to cacophonic intensity, and the clock holds at 3:05.
Time is not infinite. It stretches neither to an eternal beginning, nor an eternal end. Time is a commodity. It is measured and weighed—sectioned off and filled till it brims over with work, play, and self-improvement. Humanity constantly loses time, wastes time, or kills time. What if time were a living entity? An ouroboros reflecting in upon itself and infinitely reproducing more time. Our ordered arrangement of time would break down, for an infinite commodity cannot be arranged in coldly defined spaces.
In this state, time seamlessly morphs into the propensity for relationship. Fruitlessly we, time’s murderers, attempt to force the organic force into a strictly held framework. Events must run like clockwork, because that ensures the best use of our time, and isn’t using time wisely the highest status of self-reliance and maturity? Still, our individualistic self-reliance misses the point. Just because we can live in a modicum amount of self-sufficiency does not mean we exist outside of a nexus of relationships.
Three weeks remain in Best Semester’s Middle East Studies Program. Only a couple of months ago our travel to Morocco and Istanbul seemed eras ahead of us. Now I am sitting in the hallway of our hotel in Istanbul trying to compress months into a succinct blog; it is a surrealist’s dream. New epiphanies will strike me for years to come from the richness of the experience.
I am a fairly well travelled person, but have not spent extensive amounts of time in one place abroad or studied another culture so in depth. God has been peeling back my layers and making me uncomfortable from this experience. Taking a mirror to myself, through interacting and loving Middle Eastern people and culture.
If I have learned anything from this semester, it is that contrary to Kantian ideals of the free and independent individual, we live in a nexus of relationship. One, which only ever expands, letting in more people and more relationships to live—in all its forms—the further you get away from the center. No one lives in complete isolation. No matter how reclusive a person becomes, they are a part of the main.
Western civilization’s propensity to compartmentalize sets us up to separate relationship. This destruction of relationship came to light to me when we met with a Moroccan to talk about their testimony. In it, we spoke only of conversion. The total departure from Islam to Christianity, but to talk in this terms automatically sets us up against the other. It makes Islam against Christianity and vice versa.