A Commitment to Engage with the World: Alumni Spotlight with Patrick Martin

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By Candace Walworth PhD, Peace Studies Department Chair

“Take care in crafting genuine questions, following where they lead you, irrespective of any preconceived notions of an idealized destination.”

These words from Patrick Martin, ’17, offered as advice for prospective students, could also serve as Pat’s own guidelines for living.

When he began his undergraduate studies at Naropa, one of Pat’s “genuine questions” was how to become a more integrated person, “a person who could manifest good thoughts and turn them into good action on a regular basis.”  This led him into Peace Studies and a senior thesis on the emerging interdisciplinary field of contemplative media studies. Since graduating last May, Pat continues to ask questions and seek answers as he crafts a far-reaching and heartfelt life.

When I heard that Pat had organized and facilitated a Socratic Café in Boulder following graduation, I was delighted to learn that some of the themes in Pat’s thesis (aesthetics, perception, and phenomenology) had resurfaced as Café topics. According to Pat, the inspiration for Café emerged when he was living in Portland, Oregon, where he and a group of friends facilitated public philosophy discussion groups three to four times a month around the city “for the pure joy of philosophizing.”

Since graduation, Pat has also worked as a senior field organizer managing an Amnesty International street canvassing team in the Denver area. With the help of his leadership, Denver emerged as one of the top street-fundraising Amnesty offices in the country.

Before hitting the streets for canvassing, Pat led mindfulness meditation and breathing exercises which he says had a positive impact on the workers and the work. In the future, he hopes to introduce other contemplative practices in the workplace, particularly a form of loving-kindness meditation.

“More than anything, I think the authenticity I developed as a Naropa student has contributed to my recent accomplishments as a leader. When thought and action are congruent, fearlessness emerges.”

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Pat and colleagues at Amnesty International’s General Meeting and Lobby Day in Washington, D.C. The Colorado delegation met with the staff of Senators Bennet and Gardner and representatives Polis and DeGette, urging them to maintain the U.S. Humanitarian Aid budget, pass resolutions condemning atrocities against the Rohingya in Myanmar and support the creation of a “Human Rights Defender Day.”

In the fall, Pat is headed to the University of San Diego’s Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies to begin work toward a Master of Science in Conflict Management and Resolution. His graduate studies are motivated in part by a desire to understand “ideologies that justify environmental destruction” and to ameliorate “resource-based conflicts that degrade both local human life and endanger our collective, sustained existence.”

For his Peace Studies Internship, Pat worked in the Office of Representative Jared Polis. He credits the Peace Studies program with “satisfying my broad range of interests while providing a practical focus for participation in the world at large.”

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Representative Jared Polis (front left), Pat (front right) during his Peace Studies Internship.

Participation in the world is definitely key for Pat; in addition to his philosophical bent and commitment to social and environmental justice, Pat is passionate about the outdoors. Prior to his arrival at Naropa, Pat worked as an outdoor guide on many rivers in the Pacific Northwest, including the Rogue River in Oregon and the Lower Salmon River in Idaho.  He was a divemaster in the Similan and Surin Islands of Thailand and off the Kona Coast on the Big Island of Hawaii.  Pat has also snowboarded Alpine Meadows near Lake Tahoe and climbed in Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite. When hiking, he prefers long walks on empty beaches; as a surfer, he favors empty waves and cruising on a longboard.

The arts —in all guises—provide Pat with spiritual nourishment. He has a particular leaning toward the culinary arts; Pacific Rim cuisine—fish tacos with guacamole and pineapple salsa—is one of his favorites. Finally, nature photography is one of Pat’s “secret recipes,” particularly landscape photography, such as the work of Sebastião Salgado.

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In reflecting on the direction and breadth of his life’s path, Pat emphasized the importance of discernment in choosing what kinds of advice you solicit and accept. He also feels that what we are able to discover as part of our life’s work—”the real learning that takes place”—is largely determined by our level of commitment.

I asked him to say more about commitment since so many of us—Naropa faculty and current and prospective students—are gifted with an abundance of interests and passions that at times seems confusing or overwhelming. How do we find balance, engaging our mutual love for breadth and depth?

According to Pat, there are times in life where certain things demand our attention, whether that be people, activities, courses of study, spiritual practices or the outdoors.

“It’s important to recognize what is demanding your attention at this moment. Maybe there is no one thing right now and that’s great. There is a tendency to want to professionalize every interest we have—to want to become a professional guide, photographer, chef, artist, etc.

He advises to be wary of such professionalization. “Do what you are truly called to do, not what you think you should do; and the level of commitment and engagement will work itself out. The intensity of interest usually doesn’t last forever, and that’s okay. If it does, marry it or make it your vocation. All in all, commit to fun, while you can.”

True to his own advice, a few months after graduation, Pat married Jamaica Humphrey (INTD 2017) in Rocky Mountain National Park, beginning yet another chapter in the commitment to engage.

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