“Wisdom is the ability to work within realms of heaviness and lightness with equal amounts of ease.”
In our culture we emphasize problems. There is a ”war on terror”, “war on drugs”, and a “war on obesity”. Declaring war is not working. We still have terror, drugs and obesity. In fact, all three of these things are escalating at alarming rates.
Another solution? Education. In the book “Three Cups of Tea” we hear the story of Greg Mortenson who began building schools in remote regions of Pakistan. In the beginning he did it to fulfill a promise he had made to the people of the village Korphe. While mountain-climbing, he became lost and separated from his group. The people of a nearby village took him in until he was healthy and strong again.
When he saw that the children of the village had to sit outdoors and scratch in the dirt with sticks to learn their letters and numbers, he said, “I will build you a school.” It took much hardship and sacrifice, but eventually he built the school. Then he built more schools, all over Pakistan, and then Afghanistan.
Later, he realized his mission had evolved into something greater than just fulfilling a promise to some people in a village who had helped him. It turned out that by building safe, secular schools where children could learn…in an environment without a political agenda, he was actually promoting peace. Following this path led him to create a non-profit organization (the Central Asian Institute), change millions of people’s lives (many of them from war-torn regions) and improve quality of life in hundreds of communities.
How Mortenson found his path was that he discovered terrorism is not fueled only by individuals, but fueled by systems. He found that the systems that were successful in recruiting young people to embrace terrorism and engage in terrorist acts were systems that leveraged ignorance and poverty.
In the areas that Greg Mortenson builds schools, young people are less likely to enroll in madrassas…or schools run by terrorist organizations. When a young person enrolls in a madrassa, their family is given a sum of money, and they immediately become indoctrinated into the dogma of the terrorist regime running the school. Then they are taught to use weapons and kill. It is a system that works because until Greg Mortenson came along and started building schools, there was no alternative.
Now we know the best way to eclipse the growth of terrorist systems is to promote education and self-sufficiency in the regions at risk. Leaders in the regions where Greg worked building schools also asked him to eventually set up trade centers where graduates of the schools could learn how to start businesses. In this way, they helped people to earn more money and educated their children so they don’t have to turn to the alternative.
What inspired Greg to follow this path into the unknown…and risk physical danger and financial insecurity? He had a mission and he was awake enough to tune into it. Getting lost while climbing the mountain was the incident that woke him up.
Martin Sage explains it this way, “Without an intervention, we crawl into successively smaller and smaller holes. When we work with other people who can push us to do things we wouldn’t normally do, our lives expand.”
Getting lost on the mountain was the intervention Greg needed to identify and then follow a life path that forced him to continually expand his life vision.
In the book’s final paragraph he has this thought: “Mortenson had always doubted that the entire life a person led could flash before him in the moment before death. There didn’t seem to be enough time. But in the second it took to look into Sadhar Khan’s dark eyes, and then through them, as he contemplated the vow he was being asked to take, Mortenson saw the rest of the life he had yet to live unreel before him….There would be new languages to learn, new customs to blunder through before they could be mastered. There were months of absences from his family and dangers he couldn’t yet imagine, which loomed over his route like thunderheads. He saw this life rising before him as clearly as he’d seen the summit of Kilimanjaro as a boy, as brilliantly as the peerless pyramid of K2 still haunted his dreams.”
What intervention do you need in order for you to stop simply travelling and find your path?