Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Turkish Observations

A few observations from Istanbul:
1. Istanbul is in serious competition for the Oscar for coolest city ever.
2. Some Turkish women are quite attractive and all Turkish men look like gangsters or Eurotrash D-bags.
3. It's appropriately ironic that the 'Blue' Mosque was specifically designed as a one-up to the mosque directly across from it. Not so ironically it succeeds in it's task.
4. To the chick in full burka who passed me on the street today, you have some sexy eyes. Just thought you'd like to know.
5. Turkish coffee is legit.
6. Every joint is a hooka joint.
7. Istanbul has reminded me of how good food can taste.
8. The Grand Bazaar is appropriately named; that motha is massive. It also managed to instill a sense of regret in me for not being rich, there was some seriously cool schwag in that place.
9. Turks tend to have "distinctive" noses and make me feel considerably less hairy.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sting shoulda known not to mess

With only a few hours left in Uganda I feel like I should be reflecting and having deep moments... I'm not. Mostly I'm just checking non existent emails, not caring too much about the U.S. loss to Japan (not sure if it's because Japan has been through so much lately and it's nice to see them happy, or if it's because it's women's soccer and, as much as I'm a feminist by African standards, I'm still a bit of a chauvinist), and downloading something to watch at the airport tonight. Deep emotional reflection hasn't made the cut yet.

Looking back on the last almost two years I see a lot of cool moments and "big" things that happened, yet for some reason it's like looking at another persons painting, it's cool and all but no connection. Life's strange like that... or maybe it's just me. Who knows, maybe the airport will yield something worth blogging about.

For those of you wanting something cool or deep, let me pilfer something from Frank Herbert:

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Little Monsters... every one of us

The Lord of the Flies was written by a dude who ran a boys boarding school, he based the story on the natures he saw and the basic question, what would these kids become if left to their own devices? After spending the better part of two years at a school full of boarders and day students I’m left believing The Lord of the Flies was a documentary built on a tragic reality – we are worse than animals.

I heard a commentator remark on there being a fundamental difference between someone who had committed a brutal atrocity and the rest of us. He had the self-righteous insight to state, “Most of us are incapable of committing such acts.” This struck me as a profoundly stupid statement, what exactly did he think the difference was between himself and Nazi death-camp guards or the civilians who clung to ignorance, the father who killed his own children in an attempt to avoid being hacked to death by the LRA, the child soldier who took up arms for the murderers of his family and rapers of his sisters rather than suffer the same fate he saw inflicted on his own, etc? The only difference I see is most people never find themselves in these situations. To think we are incapable of atrocities is to ignore the lessons taught us by those who prove themselves capable.

We are worse than animals, not because we commit greater atrocities, though sometimes we do, but because we believe in something better, and yet so often still do them. Though disgusted by hyenas eating the entrails of still struggling wildebeest, we don’t judge them, they act according to their nature, they don’t know any better – we do. We train ourselves, and our children, to live according to higher standards; nature doesn’t determine our ethics, something else does. An animal doesn’t contemplate good and evil, it’s only concerned with survival; it doesn’t contemplate self, it simply is.

Whether or not you place stock in the Eden story, we do possess knowledge of good and evil. In many ways it has been our downfall. Through it we are made aware of our own wickedness. This usually leads to lies, denials, greater atrocities, and blinded justifications.

What makes us different from animals is not just our capacity for wickedness, but our potential for good. To know the difference between good and evil is to be offered a choice. Most of us never suffer this question in any significant way, and those who do often fail. When we rise to the challenge and choose something beyond nature, we accomplish something beautiful. We begin to reflect the nature of the one who made us capable of the choice.

As annoying as it is, it doesn’t surprise me when kids steal my food, money, reading light, etc. break things, resort to violence, or lie with complete disregard. Most of the time most kids are animals. What surprises me, in a good way, is when they choose something better… especially when the threat of a beating isn’t held over their heads. Our knowledge of good, of the higher, makes us capable of so much more – even in those little creatures we call children. Though Good and evil can both be active, only evil can result from passive choices. To think our natures or cultures will protect us is foolish, history proves it's always been this way.

How then do we choose good?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

I'm kinda a big deal, except...

Every now and then I get a glimpse of it. Fleeting at best, it hints at a reality strong enough to erode most of the world I live in. I know God loves me, and I believe He cares about the simple things in my life, at least in part. But there are moments, moments where my perspective threatens to shift and reveal how inverted and disconnected I really am.

Like most Christians I pray about the simple things in my life: finances, direction, health, purpose, etc. I pray about them because I care about them, they threaten my emotions and grab my attention. The shudders pass through my system when, in the midst of my self-absorption and prayer, I look out and see someone with nothing. Seeing a grown man, wearing rags, hauling buckets of water to his mud hut, cooking roots on an open fire, and living off pennies a day makes me wonder how much God could actually care about my issues. Not that He doesn’t care about me, but what gives me the right to pray about the nuances of my life when others around me are locked in survival mode.

Bill Gates praying about business issues while infants wither from malnutrition seems like an absurd scenario. Yet on a smaller scale we practice the same action almost every time we open our mouths in prayer. I’m not sure our praying about our mostly irrelevant issues, while others suffer abuse, bothers God too much. Like a father, I think He’s happy to be included in every aspect of his children’s lives, even the silly ones. What likely does bother Him is our becoming so involved in our own petty issues we fail to care or become involved in the real issues of those around us. I think He hates the spiritual introversion that allows us to call for our father to look at our boo-boo when He is asking us to help triage in a war zone.

For some inhuman reason (I mean this in a good way) He does care about our boo-boos, the question is, do we care about the ones on the stretchers?