Youth Quest: Dreaming this World into Being
by Steven Encinas
Coming down off the mountain, a fire of passion and personal power radiated from their eyes and smiles. This brilliance was met by the morning sun that was simultaneously rising from the East. Both sources of light danced together in the magic of dawn, illuminating the desert stones and the hearts of all who were present. The vision questers of Sonoma Academy had crossed their threshold, bringing back to basecamp a personal wisdom that, at a certain level, only they could know.
On January 28th, nine students embarked on a personal odyssey into the desert wild of Death Valley. Along with their Rites of Passage guides and a Sonoma Academy faculty member, they set out on an adventure of discovery that promised to put their bodies, minds, spirits, and wills to the test. The nine day sojourn would mark the entry to the rest of their lives.
“Where do I stand? What do I believe?” These were the questions one student stated that she hoped to find clarity for during her quest. Such questions were common not only for these, but for all teenagers. Realistically, if they don’t capture that window of opportunity before they fly from the nest, it could be decades until teens finally land in a place that allows them to ask these questions again. More importantly, it could be a long time before they get to hear the answers. This ceremony was her chance to be in council with mentors and peers, and to sit in the reflective silence of solo.
Upon her return, before going back to her home and family, this same student was asked what she was bringing back with her. “Passion, wonder, adventure, and connection,” she answered. She then committed to continuing the expression of wonder, as well as the adventure of figuring it all out.
Not all came back so readily. Some were reluctant to step back over the threshold, afraid their old lives, old selves, and the world would creep back in to dull the sharpness of their newfound perception and extinguish the light they had worked so hard to find. They stated such fears as “losing the feeling”, or “not being able to do anything with it”
As adults we know this tendency to let our own sense of awe and wonder fade a bit. As we go to work, pay the bills, digest the nightly news (sometimes with the help of an antacid), we forget what’s really important- who we really are, and the life our soul really wants to live. Our culture tends to disregard the wisdom of youth, even as it tries desperately to cling to its own youthful image. We know a lot of “stuff”, and maybe that’s what dulls our vision at times, weighing us down in comfort and complacency.
“Knowledge is knowing stuff; wisdom is doing with the stuff you know,” said another student quester. And so it is. This is the challenge posed to us by our youth: “How will you live today- with courage, or complacency? How are you dreaming this world into being, and is it a dream in which you soar high like the eagles?”
As for their fears, two months after their return, that firelight- that wisdom from the mountain- was still visible in their eyes. Maybe it’s not cascading out quite as it was on the morning they made their way back into basecamp. Maybe it’s a little deeper inside, more a part of the self that they now take out into the world. We might see it come out in flashes and flickers in what they do, as they soar like eagles and dream our future into being.