looking back over my time in paris, which i’ve already made known wasn’t my favorite, the biggest things that tend to stick out are the people i met. from trying to have conversations in spanish with an italian who didn’t speak english but did speak french and spanish to the cute coffee guy on the corner who kept my cup full while i wrote, it is the people who stick out to me. one of the best conversations that i had while i was in paris was at our janky hostel with a random canadian man named kelly.

i had briefly met kelly half-way through the trip. he sat down across from me while i was charging my phone and reading some john steinbeck. we were polite, but not overly chatty. he was from canada, one of my favorite professors was from canada and was “canadian as fuck”, he had been traveling for a month and had stopped off at a monastery for a while and stayed there, i’ve always wanted to experience a monastic retreat, etc. mostly just random stuff. then my phone was charged and i headed off on my way.

the next day as i was down in the common room charging my phone and reading he sat down across from me again. our entire conversation was sparked when he asked what i was was reading and why i chose that particular book. i was reading east of eden and i had chosen it for a few reasons: 1) it reminded me of a book that a friend back home would read, and i admire his literary choices, 2) i felt i needed to get more into the classics, and 3) the book had a lot of overarching religious themes and as a religion minor who wanted to go to seminary i figured that it would hold my interest.

i don’t get into religious discussions with many people, it’s just not my thing, but something almost nudged me forward when we started talking about my book and i never turned back. i was far more forward and honest with him than i am with most people, even people here in the HISA program, and i’m so glad i was. it turns out that he’s from just south of ontario and he’s a high school religion teacher there trying to get the kids interested in their catholic faith; funny how things work out sometimes eh?

we spent the next five hours discussing everything from my interest in seminary to his love for the new testament to how the catholic church has changed and evolved over the centuries to how the ottomans treated religious minorities in the provinces they conquered. as most of you know i’m by no means a catholic, in fact you could say that i’m at the complete other end of the christianity spectrum, but that just made our conversations even better.

we’d start talking about the trinity and then i’d throw in info about hinduism and how the whole idea of a “god head” seems quite similar to avatars which makes christianity sort of a weak form of monotheism in my mind and he would counter by giving metaphors about the holy spirit being the constant flow of love between the father and the son that spreads out into everything. it was quite fascinating the ways in which we each came at an issue.

one of the most interesting points was when we made our way to talking about the divinity of jesus christ. he obviously, being a huge fan of the new testament, was very staunch about the fact that jesus was the literal son of god. i, though, am still not exactly certain where i stand on the issue, it’s something that i still struggle with and question daily. i don’t think he was the literal son of god, and yet there was definitely something higher that he was able to connect to and tap into that the people around him didn’t quite understand. rather than lecture me about how i was wrong we were able to have a cohesive back and forth dialogue about it all without getting snippy or having it turn into an argument, as it does with so many people.

it was awesome to have this kind of connection with a random person who crossed my path. i crave these kinds of discussions with people of differing beliefs because i feel like they push me and challenge me with my own thoughts and convictions regarding religion. it’s weird, when i’m at home or up at heidelberg i have these kinds of talks on a pretty regular basis, but here at HISA i haven’t connected or wanted to connect with anyone on this kind of level, so i’ve been feeling like something was lacking. in my conversation with kelly i found the piece of the puzzle that i’ve been looking for for the past two months, and it felt so damn good.