04 December 2007

Life is pain. Love is pain.

These are the things I've learned in college.
These are the lessons imprinted on me.
This is the lens through which I now look.

Relationships of any kind (here I mean casual acquaintance, good friendship or romantic) involve trust, honesty and love. The depth of the relationship is determined by how much of each is employed. Trust involves opening up, being vulnerable. Honesty includes being honest with oneself. And love, love is something I know not how to define. It is what comes both before and after the other two. It is what binds two people together.

It hurts to lie to somebody. Most of all, perhaps, oneself. It is painful to hurt someone, and, of course, to be hurt. The test of love is not to love without hurting. We are human, and that is impossible. The test is instead to love, and be loved through the pain.

Love cannot possibly be achieved unless it has first been tested. Love is nothing without the hardship that must accompany it. To be free from the pain of life is to be without love. In my opinion, that is much more painful.

27 November 2007

writing on writing

'With writing we have second chances.' -- Everything is Illuminated, by Jonathan Safran Foer

I don't write anymore. And for a student who originally attended college thinking to become a writer, that's disappointing and even depressing.

I will now define what it means for me to write. Writing is more than words on a page. Writing is discourse with oneself and any who read. This post can only barely be considered writing.

I've tried to figure out why I don't really write. I think it is because I've had to write too much. Too many papers that I've bullshitted my way though, pages of drivel for a meaningless grade. I don't want to write like that. I want to write something meaningful. It doesn't have to be fiction as I once thought my calling was. It doesn't have to be long. Only worthwhile.

So I write this as a plea to myself and to any who read. I need a muse. I need inspiration. I need to be out of school. Out of the pressure of writing what I don't care about. I want to care about something, but apathy is way to strong.

I've found many things about myself this semester. Some terribly frightening and some refreshing. I've figured out that the biggest lesson I've learned thus far at university is how to pass by doing as little as possible. Good. That should get me far. I've learned that I'm altogether too cynical. I need to begin to see the love in the world and stop focusing on the despair. I think my major plays a strong part in my cynicism, but it doesn't have to be this way.

Graduation is coming. All to fast, but also it is just so far away. I'm hoping to pass my classes. I wonder if my hope will be actualized. I couldn't be happier to get out of school, but being a 'real person' is pretty daunting. I've no idea what I will be doing in six months. So many things come into play. I must get a job to pay for living. My parents will not be taking care of me as they have since I was born. I've never been independent financially. I have to decide on which side of the mountains to reside. (Nice consonance, no?)

I think that getting out of school will greatly improve my writing. I will no longer be required to write papers that hold no interest to me. I will perhaps have less time than I now do, but I should also have less distraction.

The last question is this: do I even want to write? Why do I cling to that? And in answer I have only the feeling of feebleness and inadequacy when I cannot write. I want to be able to pour myself into my school work, but I cannot. I want to fill the blank pages of Word documents. But my mind does not acquiesce to my desires. Circular, dribbling puddles of words form. I have the ability to construct sentences, but nothing means anything to me anymore.

The only thing that makes sense anymore is music. And even that, not consistently. People confuse me, both generally and specifically. Time, culture, even God (especially) is not a bit clear. Everything is clouded, smudged, distorted. I don't know who I am, and I feel that only writing can free me. Yet I cannot write.


27 October 2007

Intelligence and Knowledge

Can one gain intelligence? I've heard that going to college makes you smarter. I think that's sort of a crap thing to say. Knowledge can be gained for sure. One can learn facts, cram them in. One can recite trivial information for days on end. But it is one's intelligence (unlearned) that allows one to use that information. Students should be taught how to tap that intelligence. Should be taught how to think and not what to think. What good is trivia to a person unless there is a place to use it?

I know very well how to summarize a book. I know how to summarize a book in many ways, one for each professor who desires it. This means I have not learned much about the books, only how to write for someone. I do not know how to read for myself, write for myself.

What I have gained at university is the ability to learn just enough of how each professor teaches in order to pass each test. The ability to write just well enough to pass each class. I've learned everything but the subject at hand. I've learned how to read people and learned what to expect from them and what they expect from me.

In my opinion, that is important. Oscar Wilde said that one must remember that no learning takes place in a classroom. I agree with him. However, in light of that, I think that schools, universities in particular, should open up the possibilities to the students. Allow students to use their minds. Tap into the intelligence that each posses. Allow it to be put to good use.

I feel that so many institutions are going about it the wrong way. They shove ideas at the students, forcing only certain viewpoints. The students learn facts and figures, but nothing important to life outside of school. We need to be presented with ideas, not facts. Ideas are things that impact us forever. Ideas are things we can make our own. Facts are only good on paper.

I know that I like to learn. But I also know that I hate learning what most people wish to teach. I guess I'd rather learn on my own. But if it was left up to me, my intelligence would dissolve in a pool of acidic apathy.

The biggest thing I've learned in school is how to pass by learning as little as possible.

11 October 2007

A Hidden Beach

I dreamt I climbed where no others could climb (though they greatly desired to). The climb was arduous, up many dark, sharp rocks. Upon completing the climb, I found an ocean. Dusk was falling and the water was dark but glistening, the foam glowed as it sloshed about. I waded out into the water, torn that the others could not come, that I could not help them, and reveling in the freedom to be alone. I sat in the surf and let it wash over me, nearly to my nose. I let it tug at me. It was warm and refreshing and smelled pleasantly of salt. It healed the wounds I'd gathered from the climb and washed away the guilt I had of leaving my friends. I sat, but I could not for long. I could hear them calling me back. Wishing me too climb back down the treacherous rocks to join them on their way elsewhere. I woke up then.

I am still torn. I have no secret beach, no elusive hiding place. I rarely recall any dreams. I've never even been to the ocean. I have no idea how surf feels against my skin, how the salt smell makes everything clearer. But I felt it in the dream. I feel it now, the tug of my hindered and unrealized desires. My will versus the individual and collective wills of everyone around me. I do not know what to make of it.

23 September 2007


I went to a special service the other night. A U2charist. Clever. It was pretty cool. The band had surely practiced very much. And the service was centered around awareness and charity. Which is nice. However, one of my friends mentioned something that made me think. Surely we are called to help the poor. However, we are called to poverty ourselves. We are called to give up all we have for others. But we don't. We make ourselves feel good by donating money, used clothing, cans of food. But it doesn't affect us at all. We are aloof.

I've been there and I'm still aloof. I still sit here at school and buzz around eBay. I frequently purchase movies and music. In fact, since being around extreme poverty I seem more willing to spend money needlessly. I am not poor. No semblance there.

We seem to think that the world is ours, that it should be perfectly tailored to suit our every need. I should be healthy, happy, comfortable, fed and surely drunk also! But where did I get the notion that my life should be comfortable? There is no indication that it should be. Life doesn't go my way and it is not my place to even desire it to be so. The Bible is filled with tales and assurances that life is hard, especially that of a Christian, if I dare to call myself one.

When will I begin to live what I know to be true?

17 August 2007

A Lost Hope

I heard about it while I was in Africa. I had to put it out of my mind. I had to think on more immediate things. Now my senior year at Colorado Christian University approaches and the only feeling I have is of resentment. I feel that I and so many others have been cheated out of a great thing and we are powerless to get it back.

I talk of the recent dismissal of Professor Andrew Paquin (now Syed).

When I returned from Africa (as a side note, I traveled there under the mantle of The 10/10 Project, which was begun and is directed by the aforementioned professor), I signed the online petition, joined the Facebook group, and ranted quietly in my head that I was so far away and two months late. For the following month (July) I simply got on with my increasingly boring summer and tried not to be too apprehensive about my final year.

Then, four days ago, an article appeared in the Rocky Mountain News. I was sent the link that very day and rejoiced that the story made the news. More people were being informed. Then, suddenly, the internet was awash with blogs and comments about the issue (When I say awash, one must still know where to look). Even Christianity Today blogged. Andrew himself even wrote a response.

I am grateful for the comments posted as sincere opinions and documented defenses. I see that all sides of the issue are presented and very few are being pushy or disrespectful. I feel that this is Professors Paquin's best defense; his loyal (though not brainwashed!) former students and others who see his dismissal as unjust.

Though I think that there is now no hope of Andrew Paquin's return to CCU, I have some small hope that such publicity will allow the administration to understand the mistake that has been made, and rectify some thinking to prevent it from happening in the future. I'm only sorry that it did not happen sooner.

25 July 2007

Faith and Theodicy

A rather important lesson of faith that I learned in Kenya:

I don't have much, they certainly do.

That's what it boils down too. Culture. Distance. Lifestyle. I have everything I need. If my job doesn't provide me with enough money and to spare, I have my parents to fall back on. I take my easy life for granted.

But most people around the world do not live like that. They must depend fully on God for every need. They have such faith and such faithfulness in the little things. They don't get bored by repetition, but menial tasks. Each is vitally important and well-worth doing.

I wish I could find something like that.

In another breath I'd like to express some confusion about the paradoxes of proximity contrast. That sounds like quite a nice sentence but it means nothing yet. What I mean is that I've never really had a problem with theodicy, the problem of evil. That is to say, I know evil exists and I understand that God does as well, but I never had the problem of faith so many others express.

Until I traveled to Kenya.

Now, I've been to some very poor parts of the world. The Tarahumara of Mexico are still quite the poorest people I've encountered, but it was the contrast that struck me in Kenya. We stayed in the city. We stayed with basically middle-class Christian families. We visited the 10/10 Project's partners in the slums with several Kenyan students from the church. I was shocked that some of them had never before been to the slums. The slums that make up at least half of the population of Nairobi and are located only a few miles from these people's homes. I realized then that ignorance is not a strictly American pastime. America simply takes it to a higher level. We're dumb on purpose. Others are simply uninformed. That's how I interpret it.

So with this contrast and my extended knowledge of the subject matter and hand (namely poverty, through classes) I found that I did have a small problem with the whole theodicy thing. Then I referred back to my initial point about faith. And I realized that, again, it is I who am the problem.

God doesn't have problems. Only answers.

12 May 2007

Musing as the time draws nigh...

There is so much stuff about Africa. Stories about Africa from travelers, missionaries, scientists, businessmen, doctors, soldiers and celebrities. Stories from Americans and from people who once lived in Africa and people who live there now. I hear them all. I'm inundated.

How can a place be both forgotten and so popular? Can it really be considered popular? But how else to consider it in light of all the concern, the coverage. Is the coverage the right sort? So many questions.

The fact is, Africa is in. Which is generally a good thing. People are being shown that there is a problem. People are realizing that they can help. But how much can so many (still relatively) ignorant people do?

I consider myself pretty well-informed. As a Global Studies major, I feel I've gotten a pretty rounded education. I feel I've learned how to stay in tune with current events. But I don't know anything. Seriously, not a single thing.

I've never been to Africa. My heart resides in Mexico. Deep in the canyons of the Sierra Madre, with the Tarahumara. I have no idea what will happen when I go to Africa. How much room is in my heart? How many specific faces can I keep in my memory?

I only know this: that I desire very much to go to Africa, and that I will always return to Mexico.

26 April 2007

Attitude Collision

So it's been established that apathy is the disease of this generation, this country, and sure, the human race. Apathy recently entered a conversation which contrasted cynicism with hopefulness. I've already written my bit about apathy, I wish now to turn to cynicism.

I usually pride myself in my optimism, but there are days when that optimism is certainly overshadowed by the oppressiveness of the hellish realities of this world. This week has been one of those days. Yes, the entire week really. People claim finals week is the worst. I submit that the week before finals is roughly ten times more hellish. So this week I've been wallowing in my terrible attitude influenced by lack of sleep, poor food quality, piles of papers to write and many random engagements with which to engage. I've had some fun, sure. I've taken a chilly dip in the pond. I've experienced the elation of passing another CLEP. I've finished all the work in two of my classes, etc. But there are times when that fun is overshadowed. This week, most of the time.

Earlier today I was taking a break from the rigors of writing two papers simultaneously. Some friends and I went out to dinner. We had a grand spread of delectable burgers and the like. Of course all I could think about was the name of the restaurant and the Rolling Stones song from which it came. We were surprised by something though. Something in the midst of hell week broke through my cynicism and renewed hope for the human race. An elderly gentleman a few tables away paid for our entire meal. His reason, he said was not only because we asked him to join us but because we had the courage to bless our food in public. It was a blow to my attitude to be sure. Right when I wanted to shed all ties with this daft idea of Christianity which I was finding so petty, when I was wondering what I was doing and why, when I was despairing at the apathy in the world, at the lives lost because of that apathy, hope sprang anew. Humans are not a damned race. There is still good left. It just needs to be occasionally sought out. So I finish my last paper with hopefulness rather than distain. I wish to go out into the world and see things freshly.

...Like the Cote d'Ivoire flag hanging outside of Bennigans. Talk about a mistake. I'm pretty sure the sign says "Irish-American food." Nothing in there about Africa. Green stripe first, mate. (I told 'em that. )

25 April 2007


Apathy. It has been officially classified as the deadliest ailment to compassion, action, motivation, and excellence. It is the antithesis of compassion, and also the antithesis of hate. For to hate, one must care, and to love one must care. Apathy does not care. The future doesn't matter, nor does the past. And what is the present but what is immediate?

I am a carrier of this 'disease' of apathy. Lately I've found some pretty strong antidotes for it such as learning specifics about the layers of politics, society and humanity. Through learning, I can feel. And when I feel, the apathy fades a bit. When I feel, I can search for action. I can break out of my self-pity and embrace a higher calling, if I may use such a term. I can feel compassion for those who are oppressed. I can hate a variety of situations in the world. When apathy is not keeping me willfully ignorant, I can see and feel and act.

Apathy is often closely related to self-pity. I've found that one of the things I do most is whinge. It seems that I can't help but complain about the next paper I to write, or the fact that my fridge is disastrously empty. I have to constantly put things back into perspective. I have to realize that I am here for a purpose. I am here to learn. That includes writing papers and taking tests. Apparently it also includes being so unfortunate as to not have much food. However, I'm not poor. I have opportunities that so many people in the world do not have. I am able to go to school and endure all aspects of it, whereas some do not have such an opportunity. Who knows if he actually was the first to say this, but Bono has been quoted saying "Perspective is the cure for depression." And it's true. As I whinge and moan about my petty woes, I try to think about others less fortunate than I. It is sobering to be sure. It makes me realize my situation in the large scheme of things. I cease feeling sorry for myself nearly immediately.

Throwing off apathy includes seeing situations in perspective. So I'd modify Bono's quote. Perspective is the cure of apathy as well. I now seek to cure, or at least alleviate this deadly ailment in others. I wish to bring perspective and action into the minds and lives of those around me. In order to spread this 'cure' of perspective, I wish to encourage worthwhile discussions. I want to encourage others to think and challenge myself to think with them.

I am by no means cured of apathy. I must continue to strive to stave it off. Part of this cure is finding other reasons to do things than simply because I can. This makes things more challenging and stimulating. It is often very hard for me to put effort into anything. But by implementing this new philosophy, I am able to keep apathy far from me.

Recently the topic of cynicism was brought up for discussion. It is often considered a bad thing. I rather disagree. I believe that seeing many things through a cynic's eye helps them come into perspective. It just shouldn't dishearten one. It needs to be tempered. Cynicism is not the enemy. Again, it is apathy. For a cynic cares, no mater how sarcastically this care may be voiced. And apathy simply does not care.

This concludes my brief observation of apathy, the real killer among the youth of this country. For because of apathy, ignorance, and inaction, the world is affected. Or perhaps it is not affected, and that is undesirable. We need to cast off this blinding apathy and become active in the world.

12 April 2007

No Good Answer

Again I was asked. Asked why I want to go to Africa and what I hope to get out of it. Again I had no real answers. I agree with the others. I want to experience other cultures. I want to learn about the projects and the people. I want to meet people and begin relationships. I want to serve God as best I can. But is that all? Is that enough? Too much?

Again I wrestle with my selfish motivations. Do I want to go to feel better about myself? Do I want to go in order to stay away from my parents? Do I want to go in order to know someone more? These and other selfish motivations bombard me. If any of these is the main reason, I should quit now. I should spend my summer working at my adventure park. I should think about meaningless things.

So again I have no answers to the questions. I only have my heart.

I hope it is enough.

01 April 2007

Nostalgic for a Place I've Never Been

"How is it possible to feel nostalgia for a place I've never known?"

This is a line (roughly) from the movie Motorcycle Diaries. It struck me hard when I saw a segment last year. I feel nostalgic all the time for no apparent reason and no apparent place or time.

I often miss the days of my childhood. I was well cared for and naive about the world. I grew up on a rural farm with more animals than friends. It was a good youth. I often wish to be twelve again. Or eight.

Most of the time, especially in March, I miss Mexico. Four of the five times I've been there were in March. So when the smell of warm earth reaches me, or the feel of the spring sun on my back I think of walking the dusty paths of the Barranca del Cubre. I think of working long hours in the hot sun just to help someone. I think of sleeping out under myriad stars on a crisp cold night. I think of waking up with shards of frost clinging to my sleeping bag. It is enough to bring tears to my eyes.

Other times I simply feel nostalgic for nothing that I can pinpoint. I feel lonely and neglected and I feel that I'm missing something important.

As I prepare to go to Kenya, my one thought is how I want to stay longer. I've never even been there and I already miss it. I already dread returning home. I already know I will go back. How is it that such a feeling can be so strong? How can feelings of unmistakable nostalgia rule my thoughts?

Again, I ask myself if it is just selfishness. Do I simply want to be somewhere, anywhere that is not here? Why is it that I miss Mexico when I'm in the US and never my mum when I'm at school or in another country? What is it in me that yearns to travel with no constraints?

People think they know me, they say "you're young, things will change in time." They may be right, but it doesn't change the fact that I feel this now. School is a prison for me. Instead of filling my mind with useful information, it fills me with dread and even repulsion. I feel so restrained.

Writing is my only outlet while incarcerated. And writing is something I don't do very much of lately. With written words I can convey so much more than speaking. My fingers are more closely connected to my brain than my mouth. From my pen (read keys) flow my thoughts in perfect syntax. Or so I like to think.

But what does it matter that I write, or that perhaps I can do so well? What does it mean that I want to spend my life in travel and writing? That's not a career. Don't say journalism. I might glare, you don't want that.

So with absolutely no trepidation whatsoever, I prepare to take a jaunt across the pond to a poverty stricken country. I am fully prepared to think not once of Silt or of CCU. I'm also quite sure that I will selfishly hate my existence when I return three weeks later. I am nostalgic for a place I've never been.

Just like Che.

19 March 2007

This Is My Life

May 12, 2006

Sudanese Orphan Refugee Camp, Chad, Africa

Dr. Hannah Taylor, Doctors without Borders

These children bless me every day. However, they also frighten me. In my fifty-two years I have not gone through what these children have endured in three years; in a day. I look upon Anai Kayra and his sister Nyanath. They are so old for their years. The boy is only twelve and he is as any American twelve year old, but his face bears the scars of a beating he received for no other reason than his ethnicity. His eyes burn with a hatred and a pain that no boy should ever feel.

Nyanath has been numbed. At fifteen, she has already lost all meaning in life. She has been demeaned to the lowest sense; seen as less than human. But even her name has great meaning for those of us who wish to look harder. Nyanath means "daughter of human." By that name she should be able to live as a human, not outcast from her own land with so many others. The Janjaweed do what they do with great purpose. It is very systematic. The rapes are to put fear into the population. It demeans the victims even within their own society. With this method, the Sudanese government is breaking the people of Darfur apart in a much more efficient manner than simply killing them.

My heart hurts for these children; my children; God's children. So few people care. So few even know. I wish that everyone could come here to Chad and see the devastation in the eyes of the children.

One man came to Africa on holiday. I'm not sure how he ended up in Chad, or in this camp, but he was sobered by the news of the genocide in Darfur. I was aghast that he'd never heard about it before. I thought for sure American news would cover it. I see reporters nearly every day. But he had heard nothing, whether from the lack of news or his failure to keep up with news. He made a very naive observation that angered me very much. He said "These kids are no different than American kids." To which I heartily agreed. "See? They play soccer and hopscotch just like my nephew. There is nothing wrong here if the kids are happy." I was infuriated. Yes, they play, but all one has to do is look into their eyes to see that they've been through so much.

There is a problem here. More people need to come and understand. I hope this personal tale from a young boy will help to open up the eyes of the great nations, if they can be called that anymore. It was hard to get Anai to put into words his feelings. He wants to shove them away even though they will not leave. They stay with him.

All of the kids here have nightmares. Never do they have good dreams of past memories or a bright future reunited with their families. It is nightmares every night. I can hear them whimper through the thin walls. I can hear them cry out and thrash. But they seldom talk about it. They seldom cry.

Africans are often admired for their stoicism. Perhaps it is not really an admirable quality. I certainly find that Americans are much to open emotionally, but when a boy doesn't cry for his dead sister, I think there is a problem. Violence has desensitized them all. I think it has desensitized the entire world. Even when new reports about Sudan make it onto television, the sentiment from viewers is mostly apathy. Sudan is a long way from America. Americans are fine as long as they have comfort and entertainment.

I've lived in various parts of Africa for almost thirty years now. Whenever I return to America, I feel the sense of apathy. Americans have compassion, but they don't know how to direct it. And they soon forget. With my work, I can never forget. The children are only a few feet away; the conflict, only a few miles.

What I hope this story will convey is a feeling of compassion that will awaken a drive for action.

I will tell you how I found Anai Kayra and I will tell you his story.


As a relief doctor for Doctors without Borders, I came to Chad to work in the refugee camps early in 2004. I tended children shredded by shrapnel from grenades, men shot in the back, women mutilated with machetes. On March 19, 2004 I and five other doctors and aid workers were driving along an unpaved road to the site of one of the most recent raids by the Janjaweed. We reached a small village still smoldering from the fires that had leveled it. The burned homes made obscene black rings in the white sand. We found bodies, but very few were alive. We found an old woman mourning a young boy and invited her to come along in the van.

I was walking around the outskirts when I found Nyanath. She was lying face down in the sand and at first I thought she was dead. But then I saw her fingers twitch. I turned her over and found her very much alive and very terrified. Hastily I assured her that I meant her no harm and gently carried her back to the van. She said nothing the entire time. We drove through the village, looking for any more survivors. We found only one more young girl.

As we drove away from the village, on a road of our own making, we spotted another body. The doctor next to me saw him first, and called for the van to stop. I looked through the window as he touched the boy. The boy looked burned, but in fact was not, he was only covered from head to toe in his own caked blood. He was carried to the van and we drove back tot he camp.

It was I who stitched the gashes in Anai's head. It was I who cleansed the blood from his body and I who poured water into the mouths of the brother and sister and covered them in a mosquito net. I did not then know that they were related. Anai did not recognize his sister at first either.

I will now let him tell you his own story.


This is My Life

By Anai Kayra as told to Dr. Hannah Taylor

Before, there was happiness. Now there is none. It is empty. Only anger and sadness exist. Where once was color, only grey and brown remain. When once we smiled, now we weep. We all bear the scars. We keep them hidden; hidden inside us, the ones that are invisible. They come only at night. They haunt our dreams and steal our sleep.

I remember that night. I was only ten then, though now I am twelve. Mother and sisters had gone to collect sticks for the fire. Father was already dead. They had killed him months earlier. I sat by the cattle and waited. I waited a long time, too long. Then there were noises outside of camp and the women returned. Each face was terrified or blank. Each woman was silent, but some had tears making holes in their cheeks. Mother was holding tightly to little Abok's hand and Abok was holding tightly to Nyanath. Mother was bleeding from the head and tears mixed with the blood and dripped from her chin. I ran to them.

"They are coming," Mother murmured hoarsely, her eyes bright with panic.

"They are coming!" A woman cried. Then it began. They came. It was just getting dark and they lit up the sky with fire. A small boy from the village was trampled by the horses. Our thatch houses caught fire and sent blinding smoke into the air. I could see nothing. I was separated from Mother and sisters. I could hear the shouts of the horsemen. They kept saying things about how we were slaves and they owned this land and we had to leave or die. Then they began to shoot people. Most of the men were already gone at this point, so it was the mothers and the children they shot. They shot at me, too. I ran to the cattle. I had to keep them away from the horsemen. They were our only source of life. But a horseman cut me off. I screamed nonsense at him, pleading with him to spare the cattle. He shot all the cattle right in front of me. He called me a slave and began to beat me with his gun. I fell over. I was bleeding, but I was so scared and angry that I got back up and ran before the horses could stamp on me.

I ran until my legs collapsed. I was slimy all over with my own blood and the soot that stuck to it. The cooling night sand seemed to swallow me up. For a while I forgot about the pain, fear and anger.

When I woke up, the sun was beating down, caking the blood to my body. I could see the village not far off, flattened and still smoking. I could not get up, my skin was tight with dried blood and my body ached. Nor could I make any sound from my parched throat.

I was only ten. And my whole family was lost to me; my whole village reduced a pile of dusty ash on sun-baked sand.

They ask us to remember the past, before, when we lived at home with happiness. It is so much harder to remember than that night. It is hard to remember tending the cattle while father taught me how to make a bow. It is hard to remember the look on Abok's face when the calves licked her hand with their rough tongues. It is hard to remember the smell of Mother's cooking. But I can remember. It is just hard. Much harder than the terrified screams of women. The frightening sounds of galloping hooves in the sand. The rough yells of the men. The zing and splat as bullets found their targets. I hear it every night. I cannot forget. It cannot be erased.

I found my sister Nyanath again. She escaped death in the village also, and we came to the camp and found each other. She was different. I did not recognize her at first. I was told that the horsemen had raped her. I did not at first know what it meant. Nyanath said it meant she would never be married.

I could not cry for her. Not then and not now. I can only be angry for her, because she will not be angry. She only sits and stares. I have to feed her or she would not even eat. She never told me how exactly she escaped. Only that she did. And that Abok did not.

The thought of my little sister in the hands of the horsemen terrifies me even now. I hope very much that she died before they did to her what they did to Nyanath. No one should have to go through that. Especially not my sister of seven.

Some days I wish to find a gun and kill all those who took my family from me. Who took the families of all those in this camp. Who took the land we have lived on all our lives. But of course I do not. I know that killing them will only make the others more angry and they will kill us all. I fear they will kill us all anyway and we can do nothing to stop it.

I've been here two years and there is no end to the line of people who come out of our land. No end to the count of those dead. No end to the helplessness. We have nothing.

There are some who help us. Like Dr. Taylor who is a friend. But there are not enough. I want my home back. And no one can give me that.

Will it ever end?

18 March 2007

Selfish Motives?

I'm going to Kenya in May. It seems like the right thing to do. I haven't left the country yet this year. But recently the question was asked "why do you want to go to Kenya?" and you know what? I cannot answer that question for the life of me. I have some good answers, but no great ones. My answers are such as these: "I feel God's call to missions," which is true by the way, but not specific, "I need to leave the country," random, also true, selfish? Here's another "I want not to stay at home with my parents all summer long," even more selfish, and also true. How about "I don't feel like a real person unless I am traveling and helping people and not getting paid."? Does that work? Because that's the closest I've come to the answer.

I am not a whole person here at school. I do not want to be here. In my head, I know that it is a necessary point in time. That it is most excellent to further my knowledge of many things. However, I'm a person of action. I hate to sit around and learn about problems elsewhere. In fact, sitting around learning about things makes me the most apathetic person I know. But when I'm away, when I'm out there, helping people, digging holes, building things, just talking to people that I can learn from, people from different cultures, that is where I feel like a real person. That is where I belong.

So is it selfish that I want to go to Kenya in order to feel like I matter? Seems like it. This brings up my everlasting question: is any decision ever unselfish? Or are there just less selfish choices? I feel that as a human being everything is tinged with selfishness. I cannot think like God, and I cannot disengage myself from my own body. So the answer is this to me: yes, my reason for going is tainted with selfishness, perhaps even afloat with it, but I'm striving to turn that selfish motivation into action to help others. Does that count?

16 March 2007

Hunger Artists

'Someone who doesn't feel it cannot be made to understand it.'

A man's meager life is outlined in Franz Kafka's 'A Hunger Artist.' This man fasts for the entertainment of others. Money is made from his month-long fasting. In the end the artist says this: 'Someone who doesn't feel it [hunger] cannot be made to understand it.' Kafka's theme of hunger for amusement parallels with global hunger and gives it a unique perspective. How can the West be made to understand-- to feel the pain that millions upon millions of people feel every day-- the pain of an empty belly?

I don't suggest that all those who have food should stop eating so they can feel how others feel. That is daft. Fasting is a good thing. It serves to put some things into perspective. However, even a day or a few days of fasting does not allow one to feel the true and desperate hunger that so many endure. We always have the option to be fed. I don't think that it is good or even necessary to make a person understand by making them feel the exact pain of another. But there must be some way to raise awareness and interest in this very real situation.

I have always struggled when people callously say: 'Eat your food, there're starving kids in China.' Sure, it's true that people are starving, but what changes if I don't eat? Wouldn't it be better if I left some and sent it along to those poor kids? But no, the wasted food (mounds of it, to be sure) is not sent to those who need it, not even to those who are close at hand. It is instead thrown out to rot. Better to say: 'Look at the food that you are blessed with: there are many who have nothing.' This adds perspective, and while it doesn't much help anyone, it brings the realization that we have things that others don't: the uncomfortable realization of injustice.

I will call these starving souls 'hunger artists' in light of Kafka's work. Unlike Kafka's character they do not fast because they wish to. They do so because they are born into their situation and have no choice. Yet, they are like the hunger artist. The artist is used and neglected, exploited for the entertainment of others. What else do you call the desensitizing documentaries? Entertainment; just another way to placate affluent Americans. In many ways such documentaries bring a sense of realization and awareness of issues, but very few people act on such realization.

The end result of the hunger artist is death. As Kafka's character is neglected, those in the world who are different are pushed aside and neglected. This ignoring, this ignorance, causes death. Instead of striving for understanding, we shove this truth away. We are more comfortable with our ignorant, limited perspective. We want only to be entertained, not challenged.

The key to understanding is perspective. Sure, life is bad everywhere, but instead of whinging about the things that we experience, we should try to help those who are enduring far worse. Instead of coveting those who have more wealth than us, we need to use our own resources for the betterment of others. With perspective, complaining and coveting are reduced to a sort of satisfaction.

I have lately begun nurturing a growing hatred of injustice -- that some people have enough to throw away whilst others have nothing to swallow at all. I do not hate the people who do not understand. I only wish to make them aware, to share my dawning perspective and my passion. Like Kafka, I want to bring some form of understanding. So my mission is this: striving to understand the hunger artist in any way I can.