What Cortina Was To Me: Querencia

Cortina is a loom, a framework holding loose threads together to weave into a fabric. In Cortina, I met different people bringing stories and ideas from around the world and around their hearts.  Cortina guided the shuttle that helped make those threads cross: service trips, time at Metro tutoring, conversations in the NZ at hours that can charitably be described as irresponsible. It flung my friends and I to protests and into the gritty reality, into contact with the real and the pure, into vulnerability.  We learned the stories of our neighbors, our sisters, and our selves.  Each invitation and opportunity helped make the fabric we work together stronger, seamless.  Each conversation, hug, tear — the words and punctuation of a story we are still writing.  They’re the rhythm to our perplexing dance.

My physical time in cortina is over now, but it is an indelible tattoo on my life.  Cortina was normalizing for me: it taught me that these strange ideas weren’t so strange.  That people are sacred, that love is the most powerful force in the universe, that stories are all that matter.  In the wildly tumultuous years of college, the warm embraces of friends’ words and arms made the journey down new roads holy and exhilarating. That doesn’t mean our journeys weren’t and aren’t scary.  But we know we don’t walk them alone.

In the end, Cortina’s lasting impact is the human fabric it helps weave.  My best friends came from those years, as did my first love.  Those people are sacred beyond words and are the true pages on which our stories are written. They are friends for life, friends who all tell each other “I love you” and mean it. In the time since Creighton, they are what gets me through the hardest challenge I’ve ever faced, depression. In this time, it is they who challenge me to do ordinary things extraordinarily.

The way we choose to make the threads of our lives cross shapes how we will go through life. The ties created there are sacred, unbreakable, and everlasting.  Those ties, paraphrasing the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, help us to see what is essential with the eyes of our hearts.  Those ties, to use a favorite phrase of Jon Cortina, help us put little feet to the gospel.

Buen Camino.

One word to describe my Cortina experience: Querencia.(the word querencia means a place from which one’s strength of character is drawn, a place in which we know exactly who we are, and from which we speak our deepest beliefs.)

-Tim Nendick, A Cortinian in 2009-2010, A Cortina RA from 2010-2012

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Stories of Renewal: Mind

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2

Our world moves quickly. And we get stuck in patterns, in ruts, mental or otherwise, that do not serve us well. We end up serving the cause of efficiency, or success, or an organization–and our mind begins to form to the values and desires of the world we are engrossed in. Sometimes these are healthy causes, healthy motivations, but often not, and often they aren’t created for the flourishing of humanity. Our minds are being formed in that way all the time whether we are aware of it or not, hence the need to ‘be transformed by the renewing of our minds.’ The very form of our mind needs to be changed. Here are some stories about how peoples’ minds were renewed over break.

“I am a person whose personality lies at the anxious/worrisome end of the spectrum. Being so, I find renewal and relaxation through reassurance. I spend time doing things that allow me to reconfirm my passion for, or decision to pursue, different activities, beliefs and schoolwork. As a result, I spent this winter break recharging at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo (my workplace for the past 8 years). I am fortunate enough that my current work is my passion. At the zoo, I was able to recharge and reconcile the discrepancies of my thoughts and feelings. I addressed the doubt that I, and surely others, experience as we sit in classes that we absolutely hate but are told we’re supposed to enjoy. I woke up at 6:00 AM, 5 days a week including holidays, to sift through wood chips on my hands and knees looking for fecals and to scrub remnants of the previous day’s dinner off enclosure walls. Like all other past experiences at the zoo, I absolutely loved it! It was another chance to calm my anxiousness and renew myself for the upcoming semester.”
-Dominic Dongilli, Cortinian

“When I left Creighton for winter break I had no idea that I would end up having a “change-of-mind.” Last semester was the busiest 4 months of my life. Not only was I taking 19 credits, but I also had 2 jobs, was the co-president of a student organization, and was involved in multiple other activities. Needless to say, I did not allow myself very much quiet time, alone time, nor reflection about the person I was, the things I was doing, and the people I was surrounding myself with. It wasn’t until I had these past 4 weeks of no commitments that I was able to step back and evaluate my situation.

Giving myself the ability to take a breather over break has been more beneficial than I could ever explain. It has allowed me to reflect on my relationships, both at home and at school, that I really value and cherish; it has opened my eyes to those relationships that I have that are really unhealthy and that I need to either work on or distance myself from; and it has helped me realize that I have a lot of people at school who I really want to get to know better. When I am around a lot of people and don’t allow myself sufficient alone time, it is hard for me to separate the friendships that bring out the best in me from those that bring out the worst. Because when I am around certain people, I can unwillingly change into someone I don’t want to be. But by stepping back, I have had a change of mind, and now everything seems so much clearer; I know who I am, where I am going, and who I want to be. This change of mind has definitely been for the better.”
-Haley Warren, Cortinian

“Over the course of this winter break, I’ve experienced something I hadn’t known in a very long time: nothing was due.  Though I am far from spending all of my time during the semester working, there is always the knowledge that there is something I should be working on, particularly this past semester with graduate application deadlines all at the end of the calendar year.  That was all essentially complete before Christmas though, allowing me to enjoy time with my family and then something very different: true free time.  And in that period I discovered something about myself—I don’t know what to do with true free time.  While I enjoy getting the chance to read, watch TV, etc., it doesn’t provide the same level of satisfaction I find in the classroom, the research lab, with my friends at school and in the Cortina Community.  The break has afforded me the possibility of a mental renewal, a ‘hard reset’ on my own thoughts, to let me face the new semester with a fresh mind.  I’m glad I had the break, but now it is time to start again, and I’m excited to do so.”
-John Otto, Cortina RA

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Truthfulness or Truthiness?

How do we do the HARD work of seeking justice? How do we tell stories justly in the pursuit of justice? Sam Graham-Felsen has some ideas (From Good.is):

Apple’s overseas labor practices are deplorable. America and Pakistan would both be better off if we were to build more schools there and drop fewer bombs from drones. Joseph Kony is a ruthless murderer. These things should move us. But truthiness in defense of emotional impact is no virtue. It creates a profound backlash that deepens our collective apathy: just look at the I-told-you-so glee with which Twitterers (including myself) are beating down Daisey and Russell. Perhaps this is our way of rechanneling the guilt and hopelessness we feel over the very issues they’re exposing.

Nothing is more depoliticizing than being lied to, and a close second is being condescended to. An exaggeration, oversimplification, or lie is not a persuasion tool; it’s a form of coercion. It’s a way of treating adults like children—of taking away our power to make up our minds independently. When people feel forced, they don’t want to comply; they want to rebel.
We need more people to care about sweatshops and girls’ education and human rights, and we need to tell more riveting stories that bring these urgent issues to light. But we can’t take shortcuts. We have to do the hard, draining, time-consuming work of revealing the extraordinary with facts. We need more books like Katherine Boo’s Beyond the Beautiful Forevers—a deeply researched portrait of the people living in one of Mumbai’s worst slums—which has been widely praised as novel-like. Or radio segments like the hundreds of factually sound but surprising and often deeply affecting episodes This American Life has produced.

Of course, fiction can inspire action too: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and The Jungle altered the course of American history. But labels matter. If Daisey had advertised his live monologue as a semi-fictional account, would the same number of people have purchased tickets and been so moved?

When we’re stirred by something that turns out not to be true, it feels a little like unrequited love—we want it to be so, but it refuses to be so. And each time our hopes are dashed, we’re less likely to risk falling in love again.

Read the whole article here.

In other words, don’t let these #hashtags apply to you.

Thoughts?