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This is a guest post by Cameran Rowe, who submitted the following essay as an assignment in Dr. Chris Patti’s course at Appalachian State University.

when things fall apart - door

Life seems to be a never ending story we convince ourselves of and as I blink back into consciousness I remember this is life, and my life is merely a reflection of that which surrounds me. The challenge for me has been to find a new way of looking at this reflection when things begin to fall apart for me. I’ve learned from Pema Chödrön, Things will fall apart in all of our lives at some point, and things will fall apart again. Such a painfully beautiful element of existence that inevitably leads to healing when we allow ourselves time to experience the moments that surround us. These moments that make up our personal mythology.

Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen. (Chödrön, 9).

I’ve only recently opened the door to studying mythology, but opening this door only reveals an endless hallway filled with many more doors. Somehow, I believe this ‘hallway’ extends as far as human history does. Each door seems to be personally carved and no two doors are alike; however, each door appears to have a universal reflection. As I walk I become startled to find a door with my name carved into it twice. The first attempt reads ‘Cameron Rowe’ and carved recklessly beneath it is ‘Cameran Rowe.’ What a difference an ‘O’ or and ‘A’ can make on a personality. I’ve only recently learned that I have spelled my name wrong my entire life due to a fluke accident in preschool, so I can only chuckle at this accuracy.

I smile as I open “My” door into a stark room ready to be renovated by personal mythology. In my bewilderment, I selfishly think this is my chance to show the world who I am, again… My knee-jerk reaction was to plaster the walls with my story, but this feels uncomfortably vain. In a rush I paint a wall black in despair. As if I had one of those cartoon lightbulbs over my head, I realize the best stories I know are of the everyday heroes that have enhanced my life. I can decorate these walls with the Bric-à-Brac that I have found along my journey, and I can decorate these walls with more meaningful stories of those I love. Hell, I can even paint these walls black if I desire. How very trickster of me!

I recall seeing many Bedouins during my years in the Middle East, and as a young man I remember thinking how horrible it must be to live with hundreds of goats in an unforgiving terrain. A Bedouin is essentially a Sheppard who lives with their flock in the dessert. I thought in ignorance, “Who could possess such madness?” It wasn’t until my second deployment that I had the fortune of sitting with a local Bedouin, drinking that familiar stifling hot chai tea under the desert sun.

I spoke extremely broken Arabic, only enough to show my respects, and to my surprise the man spoke better English than most in my unit. A dialogue started to unfold, and I learned his father sent him to a prestigious college in the United States. Following tradition, his own son was studying at Brown University. I couldn’t help but ask why would any millionaire choose to live this grueling lifestyle? The simple truth was there all along, because he loved it. He loved each animal he was responsible for, and any income he made went towards increasing his herd size. He was the Shepard of over 100 goats at this time, and we mourned together as he just lost a significant amount of his herd earlier this year.

I could see my reflection in his glinting eyes, and I felt like I became part of this man in this moment of suffering. I understood a little of his own mythology so to say, but I most importantly learned how tenacious he was when dealing with loss and suffering. I could see how our doors in that endless hallway reflected and changed one another through our interaction. I was partly in his shoes and he was partly in my boots for at least this passing moment in time, and I like to believe a remnant of this feeling will always be alive within me.

While we were sitting again he taught me some of my favorite phrases in his native language. Mashallah (M-Shahh-laa) which stands for God Willing, and Habibi which is somewhat of a ‘pet’ name for a good friend. I was Kareem’s Habibi just as much as he was my Habibi in this moment. For nearly a year I must have muttered Mashallah at any opportunity to wish for a positive outcome, and I like to think this mantra has changed my life for the better. When our conversation ended I wished Kareem good fortune and protection over his flock, God Willing of course.

Transitioning from the military has honestly been one of the most difficult things I have been through in life. I left hundreds of close relationships that I worked endlessly to cultivate, and I vaguely understood what it was like to lose part of my own flock. I never did see Kareem again other than from a distance doing exactly what he loved in life, and I never felt so empowered to take steps in my own life to do the same. That is partly how ended up in school. I now knew I had something to cherish and put in my mythological room.

Behind the door marked Cameron Rowe Cameran Rowe, you will find that some walls are painted black, some walls are still empty, and some walls have ‘Mashallah’ painted broadly for ritual purposes. How I look at these walls defines my personal mythology, and how you look at my walls may be completely different from my perspective. I cherish this idea as this is how mythology works. It’s the hidden spaces of meaning that tie separate cultures into a Gordian knot. Do what you love even when things fall apart, and the most important aspect to remember while visiting my mythological door is that when you are inside of the room you will always be my Habibi, God willing of course.

Cameran Rowe is a writer with a specific interest in mythic structures represented in society. He served eight years in the military with two peacekeeping deployments (Iraq, 2009; Jordan, 2014). He lives in the quaint mountains of Boone, North Carolina, where he recently completed a BS in Communication Studies at Appalachian State University.

Dr. Chris J. Patti (PhD) is an Assistant Professor of Communication at Appalachian State University, nestled in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. As an ethnographic writer, his research highlights intimate, relational processes at the heart of human experience through listening to and richly representing stories of love, loss, and transformation. He has published several peer-reviewed articles and chapters on the theme of suffering and compassion. His other passions are rock climbing, longboard surfing, and intentionally doing nothing with his mindfulness meditation club Zen & the Art of Applied Communication. Follow them on Twitter:
You can email Dr. Chris Patti at patticj [at] appstate [dot] edu.