Balancing Community and Solitude


Summit Semester James KeppelerDay 37. They have noticed my presence. Consequently, I am depleted at the close of day. I am not accustomed to it. So many. They are everywhere. There’s no escape from them. Such comfort, and such fatigue. Such fatigue. The days end with anvils on my eyelids and shadows to show. The days end with swirls of thought. With torrents fatigue. With inundations of uncertainty. So much unaccustomed use of energy. They are everywhere. They aren’t consumers of anything but energy. It is siphoned from my mind on a schedule, a daily schedule. They are everywhere.

Being at Summit Semester has been a thoroughly enlightening experience both intellectually and personally. Socially, I am typically more introverted than extroverted. I enjoy having time to myself in silence to rejuvenate. Large group interactions tire me. Consequently, in an average social environment there are only a few people with whom I connect and eventually open up. This has not been the case at Snow Wolf Lodge this fall.

There are rarely instances when I can find time to sit and recharge myself for an extended period of time. I had one such instance on the Summit outing to Ouray on October 4. Despite the fact that the view on the proclaimed “Million Dollar Highway” is naturally relaxing, neither the highway nor the “million dollars” aided much in recharging. This usually happens in a more introspective manner. On the first half of the drive (before my emergence as a millionaire), I had time to enter within myself, utilizing my music, and sort myself out.

There are a lot of students at Semester with whom I have become more or less “effectively connected” to; namely all of them. This is why the time I had on that drive was so key.

Unfortunately, as I previously mentioned there are rarely instances of prolonged silence when there is not studying, eating, or sleeping to be done. This creates quite a dilemma for someone such as myself. Although I thoroughly enjoy having this many people to interact so well with, most days leave me in a state of fatigue that is not completely cured by 8 hours of sleep.

The environment at Summit is an excellent environment that encourages learning, thinking, asking, and the creation of Christian community. This kind of constant mental movement causes the fatigue I previously mentioned. Thankfully, we are not left to recover solely on our own time. I have found a great appreciation for the weekly solitude time allotted to us. In this time we are given an hour-and-a-half to find a place and sit. Most any place works. The idea is to sit in silence and in thought. I have personally found this time to be immensely beneficial to my own mental well-being. I spend this time reflecting on the previous week, praying, sitting in silence, and writing my thoughts. This should not give the impression that there are times when my mind isn’t distracted. Sometimes I pick up sticks and break them and throw them on the ground. Sometimes I braid grass. Sometimes I even walk in circles or even (heaven forbid) fall asleep. The end result though, is always a state of restored mental well-being.

This is not to say that my interaction with my fellow countrymen and countrywomen has been detrimental to my mental well-being. On the contrary, it has been equally as beneficial. After every outing, every conversation, and every day I have found myself not only closer to my fellow friends but I have left said affairs with a better understanding of myself as well. Recently, I had the privilege of being a part of a long conversation with a few of my fellow Romans in which I realized that there are more citizens here than I previously thought, with whom I share very similar characteristics. This realization has allowed me, through my compatriots, to better understand myself as the Emperor of Excitement, the Pharaoh of Phun, the King of Kool, the Duke of Delight, The Kaiser of Komedy, the Earl of Enjoyment, the Czar of Czeal, the Colonel of Conviviality, and the Liaison of Lies.

Ultimately, the titanic benefits of the community at Summit greatly outweigh the mental fatigue that eventually follows. The closeness and effectiveness of the community here at Summit is among the greatest benefits of being a learner at this mountainous institution. I welcome the cerebral weariness. I thank the Lord for the limbic lethargy for it is only the mark of the blessings I have-we all have-at Snow Wolf Lodge.

James Keppeler comes to Summit Semester from Wisconsin. Currently a student at the University of North Dakota, James has been pursuing a wide range of courses. While at Summit Semester, James is looking forward to continuing to expand his understanding of Christian Thought and sharpen his own critical thinking skills. When he has some free time, you’ll find James enjoying either the piano or listening to good music.