As a short preface, it is good to note the origin of the phrase, "A little bit of knowledge is dangerous." On two separate occasions, my mom said it about a neighbor that has just enough gardening and landscaping knowledge to be dangerous. First, it is good to note that too much fertilizer can actually kill off most of the grass in your lawn. Second, keep in mind to not burn leaves too close to a tree, otherwise the tree may also burn down (in general, don't burn leaves, but use the leaves as mulch for the plants through the winter/spring).
Now for a slightly more relevant topic for my time in India, a small bit of knowledge is dangerous when approaching the sort of question: "How to Change the World." Through MacLaurinCSF, the group of fellows and I were able to read Hunter's book, To Change the World, but we were left with an unsatisfied quench as it lacked the practical, 5-easy-step solution for world change. To change the world, Hunter wrote, is to "be faithfully present" as an individual and as a part of a greater institution. By being present and by observing, we are able to more fully understand situations. We would hopefully be able to discuss brewing thoughts more freely and objectively, develop intuition about situations that may require change, and act - act humbly, lovingly, and accordingly (by Hunter's standards, this faithfulness would also be implied through a Christian lens).
Applying the idea of "Changing the World" to my life does not sit easily with me. We have discussed it at length in my International Development class, which is where I learned how the topic has been scrutinized by people such as Ivan Illich when he gave the speech "To Hell with Good Intentions," found in this link. As a quick note, I disagree with Illich, because I think that intentions are important. By doing things down the street or across the world, the intentions (or thought and feelings that drive an action) are noticed by the recipient. I think it is more important to inspect the word "good" and what makes an intention "good" or "bad." However, groups of people vary in opinion of an subjective versus universal good or bad, so the resulting action and the voiced intent are all that can objectively be analyzed. (I do believe in an universal truth of good and bad, but human perception and subjectivity clouds the good and bad.) Indicators of a good or bad intention could be how someone projects of their aid to the rest of the world on the media and how she describes her experience. For example, the intentions of Indian media and aid after the Nepali earthquake was questioned to such an extreme that they created a twitter hashtag reading #GoHomeIndianMedia (you can real about it here). From a high level, their aid was admirable, but the intent of their actions came across as bad through person-to-person exchanges.
I believe between being respectful, observant, informed, and present in any scenario are necessary to make decisions on whether or not to move forward with most large-scale actions. As a quick tangent, I became more informed on large-scale actions and aspirations of the UN goals for world change through sustainable development. You should check out this site and check out the "goals" tab. With the majority of my time in India, I plan to work on UN Goal #3, Health. I am working on app development, biostatistics, and rural preventative healthcare education with a fantastic team in the MAYA Health organization. Now to question: would Ivan Illich say to Hell with my good intentions for my efforts as an international temporary person trying to "make a difference"? If you didn't check out Illich's article, he says "The idea that every American has something to give, and at all times may, can and should give it, explains why it occurred to students that they could help Mexican peasants "develop" by spending a few months in their villages." To be critical of my actions, I try to ask myself: 1) Would I do this in a different scenario? Would I try to find work that I enjoy and that could be life-giving? (Yes.) Would I take pictures with a group of children while I am in scrubs and say "Look at me!" or some other form of that? (I don't think so.) Are there laws in place that would not let me do this (patient confidentiality, etc)? Are there moral (gut/conscience) laws that are telling me that this isn't a good idea? So by being respectful, observant, informed, and present in the MAYA Health admin and rural environments, I hope to bring a hopeful, critical light to the possibility of good intentions.
A second area of concern with regards to "a little knowledge is dangerous" is true of social media. It displays the highlights of a person's day, week, or sometimes year, while hiding things that may be so much more real - fear of the future, loneliness, a depressed or melancholy state. Especially with recent graduation for many friends, I've had several conversations with friends about the the lack of presence of peers and the search for a fulfilling, full-time life (job?, marriage?, location?, hobbies?, etc). However, apart from the confidence in conversation, I would have thought everyone is overjoyed with life based on how we present our lives online.
With that being said, I would love to take a minute to let you know why life is not perfect here in India (and why that is okay). I miss my 1301 friends (great roommates and friends who would host brunch and puzzle/wine hang outs). I miss my family. I miss physically being in the presence of the Minnesota Nice people. I miss fall, Halloween, Target, and ovens. I miss eating dinner at 6pm. I miss walking around a city and not being stared at (Caucasian people make up less than 1% of the population in Bangalore). In Minnesota, mosquitos are only a nuisance; here they can be life threatening (I had a viral infection for 4 days). Here, I have been in three minor traffic accidents; I miss calm traffic and Sunday afternoon drives. I miss living where gender and socio-economic statuses did not predestine your life (note, not everyone has this mindset). I have made it a habit to carry extra granola bars and apples with me to give to the child beggars when they ask for food/money, but I often am posed with immense guilt of why I did not give more and what does it mean to have Western privilege. Here, not everything is perfect; but from only glancing at my few posted Facebook photos or reading previous blog posts, it may seem that way. However, on the other hand, there are many fantastic things about my stay in India. I am so thankful to be here. In any place an situation, is important to acknowledge the things that are challenging, realize the things that can't be changed, but working towards those things that can (typically, the first thing that I can change is my mentality ;) ).
Thanks for reading.
1. Art museums are the loudest quiet places I know.
2. Diwali, the festival of light, happens this Wednesday!! (Read about it here).
3. I went to two plays: Ila was about gender identity and Charge was about how the lack emphasis or thought of social change will impact our increasingly "Charged" (tech-based) world.