It’s almost summer! I wanted to write again earlier, but immediately after my finals ended and before returning to work this week, I attended a weeklong retreat at a camp six hours north of home. This is my first time ever being outdoors, and the first time in the last ten years I’ve visited a place that’s not a city. This must be what the world looks like!
The camp is located at Saranac Lake, which has a beautiful beach, calm waters, and air so fresh that you can see all the stars at night. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that outside of movies!
Because the location is so close to Canada, all the trees are pine trees. Somehow though, my allergies seriously acted up. I’ve been really lucky this year because I’ve been living in Manhattan in the spring and any allergies only kick in a bit when I visit my parents in the suburbs once a month. At Saranac Lake though, I couldn’t stop sniffing and it hasn’t stopped after I got back.
Luckily, we had log cabins to live in with showers and everything. I’m glad we didn’t have to camp in tents because that would have been bad! The weather was rather cold at night, though it got warmer in the afternoons. I had to change my clothes based on the time of the day because the weather changed so much. The bad – I didn’t pack that much – most of my clothes are urban style and definitely unsuitable for camping. I don’t even own a pair of sneakers! The good – the air was really dry so I didn’t sweat and could make rounds with my clothes.
I attended this retreat through my campus fellowship, so we spent a lot of hours each day in classrooms and assembly. Our days began at 8AM and ended at 10PM. There was just about no cell phone service so we had very little to distract us.
Every afternoon we had three hours of free time though! I went sailing and canoeing for the first time in my life! But I was too chicken to try the kayaking and paddle boarding. It’s not because I can’t swim – I’m actually pretty adept at the backstroke – but I was scared of the freezing water. I witnessed several of my daredevil friends falling in! AHH!
My study sessions were about engaging the world through my faith. The first exercise we did was searching for something in the forest that represents what the world is like in our eyes. I chose these little flowers.
Don’t let the photo fool you, but those flowers combined are about the size of the tip of my thumb – I have small hands. Everyone asked me where I managed to find them, but actually they were right at our feet, just too small for anyone to notice. The flowers really show just how small each person is compared to the world, but yet, we are still here which means there must be a reason for our existence.
So why do we exist? Why do we live?
In order to answer that question, we studied the different philosophical worldviews that people live by:
- Naturalism: Life exists because cells are divided and joined.
- Materialism: Life is only about achievement and material success.
- Hedonism: Life is for pleasure so do whatever you want to be happy.
- Humanism: Life is for us to be good people because we are human.
- Existentialism: Life exists and it’s up to each individual to find meaning.
- Eastern: Life is a cycle and needs to be balanced, so for every good there will be bad.
I’ve never studied the world so deeply before! Before I became a Christian, I lived a materialistic and humanistic worldview along with my parents. They taught me to believe only in myself and that all my success is brought by my own hard work. They also taught me to be a good person so that I will find other good people to be friends with.
However after I started being exposed to faith, I found loopholes in my old worldviews. I received a good college education, I had a good job, and was attending graduate school at my dream school. But what was going to happen after I got my master’s degree? The technology field is always going to be moving forward so how much did I need to move with it to be considered successful? I also didn’t think I should do “too much” because I was told that there was no need for a girl to when she can find a man to cover the rest. The loophole in my materialistic worldview was that it had no explanation for what my individual success meant and how it can relate to a spouse’s.
For example, I consider success to be a having a job where I can use my talents and get paid to live comfortably (six figures in New York). But other people may not consider a job in technology to be successful. They may also consider me unsuccessful if I’m not a wife with three children.
Meanwhile, I also tried my best to be a good person. The loophole got bigger and bigger as I got older and needed to judge for myself who are the other “good people” I was searching for. I was told that I was naive and foolish for having a big heart. I was also told that men who sexually harassed me were not “bad people” because it’s by nature that men treat women that way “as long as it wasn’t rape”. The loophole in my humanistic worldview was that there was absolutely no explanation for what decides good and bad people – not counting criminals.
For example, I am not okay with letting a guy who is not my boyfriend touch me, while I know a number of people who think it’s perfectly normal and called me sick and childish. Does that make the guy a good person or bad person? Does that make those girls good people or bad people?
If you’ve faced similar questions in your life, how did you answer them?