Dialogue and Adventurousness

For Pomona students, summer demands adventure. The specificity of this claim – namely, that this addresses not all students, but Pomona-esque students alone – is deliberate. For your pleasure, the deliberation: Despite the earnestness of our wide-eyed, edge-of-our-seats classroom etiquette, we are, above all, autodidacts. We strive to learn, to improve ourselves through learning, constantly. To put it another way, the classroom is not enough for us. Nowhere close. Eager, inventive, skeptical, curious, observant, sensitive; we hunger for knowledge and are never sated. In fact, to advance the metaphor, we only seem to further whet our appetites.

Waiting for the train into Los Angeles.
Waiting for the train into Los Angeles.

Adventure, in this way, offers us a chiasmus: the relief of restlessness and the restlessness of relief. Difficult and/or unique circumstances, conversations, and conflicts relieve our never-ending drive to enrich ourselves, but this is only temporary. We (Pomona students, autodidacts everywhere) cannot get enough of the difficulty and uniqueness of the world. Indeed, we discover – or, rather, search for – educational opportunities in the rarest, richest of places, be it a downtown, hole-in-the-wall café, a mountaintop nature-made for existential debate, or a speeding MetroLink train on its way back from Los Angeles. The latter example was the site of my own Pomona-esque adventure.

After deciding to investigate a dim sum joint in Chinatown, two friends and I plopped onto an evening train headed back to Claremont, stuffed, content, and sun-coppered. With full stomachs and empty reserves, sleep beckoned us all. However, it eluded us. Something intrigued our ears, caused them to perk up: a conversation nearby, a stern father speaking to a silent son, a passion of words. Memory, of course, is a fickle companion, but I will do my best to transcribe what was said. Hopefully, it will seize your attention as it did ours. The adventurous will hear this one way; the unadventurous, the docile another.

“Now son, hear me, there is order and there is chaos. God creates order out of chaos. They are opposites – order is good, chaos is bad. This is the order. Man loves and respects and obeys God, while woman loves and respects and obeys man. This is how marriage functions. This is what gives us order, and, like I said, without order there is nothing but chaos.”

Instinctively, reactively, this is a ludicrous perspective. It is backward, antiquated, unjust, and a stinging insult to equality and the efforts of feminism. Bright Pomona kids like we are, these statements – these troubling “words of wisdom” – provoked a fair share of snickering, but more than this as well. It dawned on us: this is a worldview that someone actually espouses, it is not laughable. It may be misguided and poorly conceived, but it is not laughable. When something is laughable, one could argue, it is discardable. It can be dismissed, treated lightly, or, to appropriate an apt idiom, “laughed off.” Problems aren’t fixed by snickering; rather, they are remedied through civil discourse, intellectual ambition, and unwavering, unfaltering perseverance. As Pomona students, we knew this and, resultantly, treated the father’s words as a legitimate opinion. We had a dialogue about them. Questions flowed: What are the implications and reverberations of this proto-Christian perspective? How does such a perspective come into being? What can we do to redefine “order” with gender equality in mind? And, lastly and most provocatively, would we prefer “chaos”?

This, I think, is the heart, the crux, the substance of our adventurousness: a dialogic, as opposed to monologic, approach to the heterogeneity and turbulence of the outside-the-campus-bubble world. When confronted with an obstacle – say, a brick wall – we do not look for an easy way around it. We measure the height and length of the wall; we examine the texture of the bricks; we test the durability of the mortar. Then, and only then, do we determine a course of action – maybe we travel around the wall, maybe over it, but, in all likelihood, we will burst right through it. Solutions, as Pomona teaches us, are not obtained through stubbornness or close-mindedness; they are obtained through a love of adventure – that is, a willingness to open ourselves up, to encounter new experiences, to truly listen to others.