I am living in the village of Supsa along the Supsa River just 10km from the Black Sea. It is a small village, and, as is not surprising, internet access here is slow and limited, when it exists at all. Even at the internet cafe in town there is about a 50-50 chance that the internet will work, and when it does, I feel bad taking up one of the spots to write a long blog entry. But I have now found a series of places and steps I can take to write these entries, put them online, and eventually post them without inconveniencing the thirteen-year-old boys who need the internet cafe computers to play Counter Strike and Grand Theft Auto for hours on end.
For this entry, I would like to just give a sketch of what life here in Georgia is like. No matter how I try to write it (this is about the fifth draft of this post), words seem woefully inadequate to convey my experience here. As I have thought about the inadequacy of words to describe experience, I have also been considering whether our senses can even convey the full breadth of an experience. Is all there is what we see, hear, smell, taste, and feel? Or is every experienced colored by something deeper, something connecting our spirit to the world around us in an intangible manner that we can neither perceive nor describe? As I am sitting here after a long day of working teaching and harvesting grapes to begin to make wine, it is hard for me to believe that all there was to the experience was what I saw, felt, and heard. These thoughts are perhaps best encapsulated in a poem by Vladimir Solovyov, the great Russian symbolist thinker, and is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I will save you the work of Google translate and give you the English, as translated by Robert Bridges:
Dear friend, seest thou not
that whatever we look on here
Is but an image, shadows only
of a beauty hid from our eyes?
Dear friend, hear’st thou not
this jarring tumult of life
Is but a far discordant echo
of heavn’s triumphant harmonies?
Dear friend, know’st thou not
that the only truth in the world
Is what one heart telleth another
in speechless greetings of love?
This is a good translation of the poem (though the language is a bit outdated) with one exception. Bridges here translates the Russian word meaning to sense as to know. A major tenet of the Symbolist movement in Russia that Solovyov helped pioneer was that truth was more something to be sensed and experienced than something to be known, and so the use of “know’st” is an unfortunate departure from the original. I suppose “sense’st” would be a rather silly word, and so I can forgive him this oversight. What I’m getting at in this aside is that I can offer a sketch of life here, but cannot convey the true significance of the experience. I cannot put into words what one heart, the heart of this place and this people, wordlessly says to my own.
I have never been in a place where I have felt so welcomed and embraced so quickly and unquestioningly. Georgians are famous for and pride themselves on their hospitality, and I’m sure as I reveal more stories about my time here it will become apparent why that is the case. Supsa is a small village of only about 1000-2000 people, and as there is a large disparity in Georgia between the socioeconomic status of most people living in the cities (especially Tbilisi) and those living in the villages, most people here do not have a lot of material wealth; but still they are willing to share what they have, to welcome others into their homes, and to always give what they can.