I have already spent a good deal of time talking about all the new things I get to learn here in LP. I have shared my excitement before at the thought of filling my head with all kinds of information. But there’s another matter, that of unlearning, that is fast becoming my default line of thought. On the opposite spectrum of educational outcomes, this one takes what’s in my head—my preferences, habits, assumptions, dreams, definitions of success, thoughts about justice and privilege— and empties it. To be honest I can’t say that this is a process that I’m 100% excited about; it’s more like a cocktail of excitement, reluctance, uncertainty, hope, and skepticism. While professionally, I’m thrilled about what opportunities may lie ahead for me as a result of this experience, personally I’ve become increasingly disturbed at the consequences of leaving here unchanged—even living here unchanged. Unlearning has become an imperative.
The other night, I got nervous at the thought of who I might be when I came home if I let Laos change me, and then my eyes started to sting when I honestly asked myself, “What if I’m too selfish to change?” What if I can’t let go of the things that I think that I need? What if, within months of going back to the US, I forget about my coworker who eats one piece of beef jerkey and some sticky rice for each meal? What if I continue to build a library of books I don’t finish (and many I don’t start) and I forget about the boy I met a couple weeks ago who regularly travels an hour from his village to use the library in town? What if I buy or rent a house that doesn’t really allow for being hospitable when the there’s a people group here who has a mandate of hospitality toward other members of its group whether they know them or not? What if the desire to gain things for myself, things that aren’t wrong and everybody else has, is too strong? What if I stop dreaming about the ways my talents could benefit others and I only think about how I can use them to benefit myself? Can I really fall out of love with all that I currently “need?”
I have some unlearning to do. But I wonder, can I really do it?