Have to be Loved to be Understood

May 2, 2012

I’ve heard that I haven’t posted in a while, so…here’s my post.

I’m currently reading Once Upon a Town by Bob Greene, and let me tell you…it gives me chills every time I pick it up. First, part of the introduction:

Once upon a time – not really so very long ago – something happened in this one little town that, especially on days like this one, now sounds just about impossible. Something happened, in the remote Nebraska sandhills, in a place few people today ever pass through….

…We’re always talking about what it is that we want the country to become, about how we can save ourselves as a people. We speak as if the elusive answer is out there in the mists, off in the indeterminate future, waiting to be magically discovered, like a new constellation, and plucked from the surrounding stars.

But maybe the answer is not somewhere out in the future distance; maybe the answer is one we already had, but somehow threw away. Maybe, as we as a nation try to make things better, the answer is hidden off somewhere, locked in storage, waiting to be retrieved.

The book tells the story of North Platte, Nebraska, and the Canteen that developed as a result of the large train depot where soldiers passed through during WWII. Soldiers would stop for 10 minutes at different depots, but North Platte was different. The people of the town (and surrounding towns) greeted every train with smiles, food, coffee, music, magazines, and gratitude. Every train. There were always people there to greet the soldiers. Soldiers – teenagers – who were traveling across the country to most likely die far away from homes. These people were always there to express their appreciation and to give them one last taste of America before beginning their journeys.

Who does that anymore? What kind of civilians do this for their soldiers? Yes, “it’s a different time,” especially since most people don’t travel by train. But is it really that different of a time? At least during WWII there was a very clear enemy and cause to die fighting for. But what now? And wouldn’t that mean that soldiers need civilian support more than ever?

As all of you know, I have plenty of qualms about the military, but this just sounds like the solution to bridging the gap between the civilian and military populations. I don’t have an idea of how we can implement something like this today, but I think we should all read this book and think about what kind of country we’re shaping for the future.

Not Enough Retribution or Decent Incentives

November 4, 2011

My mom and her partner were visiting last weekend (hi mom!), and I had an interesting discussion with them and my manpartner. I feel very blessed that they support me being with this military man, but it was a bit shocking to hear how much they supported the function of a military partnership. I have always felt that, while I support my manfriend, I owe nothing to the military, and they owe nothing to me. That’s what I believe is the benefit of not being married. If the military feels no obligation towards non-married partners, then why should we have any obligation towards them?

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In the Dunes of a Cave

August 8, 2011

A problem I’ve had with many religious people is their approach to morals. You may be surprised at this, but lots of people have judged me for not having religion. Many people have asked me what my religion/faith is. I tell them that I wasn’t born with religion, and that my parents never raised me as anything. They then look at me puzzled and say “Then where do you get your morals from?” or “How do you know how to be a good person?

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As Hard As I Try

January 8, 2010

Recently I commented on this post at Change.org about making divorce illegal in Oklahoma. This morning I was thinking about my mom and her somewhat recent denouncement of her faith. And in all of these thoughts, I have, once again, come to realize why I took a vow of celibacy, why I don’t think I want to marry, and ultimately why I find it so terribly and painfully urgent to encourage beauty and love in education. As I’ve quoted before from one of my favorite books Still Life with Woodpecker:

…yes, to make sexual love so secure and same and sanitary, so slick and frolicsome, so casual that it is not a manifestation of love at all, but a near anonymous, near autonomous, hedonistic scratching of a bunny itch, an itch far removed from any direct relation to the feverish enigmas of Life and Death, and a scratching programmed so that it would in no way interfere with the real purpose of human beings in a capitalistic, puritanical society, which is to produce goods and consume them?

Love and beauty are taken so lightly in this country (in this century, even), that marriage seems like the ultimate expression of love. And when people lose that lovin’ feeling, they end it like it was just a bad dream. With all the pressure to be married and to have children, people will settle for less because they think it’s the right thing to do.

It seems people do not value love and beauty like they value science and economics. Without appreciation for love and beauty, social structures and individual worth deteriorate. Maybe if we focused a little more on being human, the world may be in better shape. Though I guess that’s a rather large statement to say that love and beauty are human, instead of science and math and economics and politics and other whatnot.

I guess to be fair I’ll end on another quote from Woodpecker:

Humans are the most advanced of mammals – although a case could be made for dolphins – because they seldom grow up….Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature.

In conclusion, my thoughts are over the place. I just needed to say these few things. Maybe I need a nap.

Sisters of Avalon

September 30, 2009

For my International Studies in Human Rights course this week, I’m reading Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy. My copy has been used at least once before, and the margins are only somewhat stained with the former owner’s comments. His/her hot pink pen scribbles and underlines pieces I agree with, and I readily underline over her own markings. My comments sometimes overlap with hers, or they stand on their own. Other times I can only underline and put exclamation points by her notes.

This kind of dialogue can’t happen in a Kindle. While I may never meet this person, and as Billy Collins has so beautifully written, I have established a melancholy relationship with the previous reader, which makes my experience that much richer. The margins are fat and begging to be taken and deflowered. I’ve claimed them as my own. My dark blue ink collides with the previous person’s hot pink – an illustration and tribute to accessible knowledge. At the end of the book, Kevin Bales asks that the reader pass on the book to further the education. I am all too ready to give this book to someone else. Let the dialogue continue.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

September 28, 2009

In case you aren’t aware, the book The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind comes out tomorrow. It’s about a young man in Malawi during the famine who pulls together scraps to make a windmill for his family as a way to harness energy. Chad Farris writes a bit more on the book and the subject. I finished reading Three Cups of Tea a couple months ago, which I enjoyed, but I’m much more excited about this book. I believe this one will be more about development and sustainability starting from within the community. And that’s a beautiful thing.

I need to get back to work, but I’m just so excited for this book that I needed to post something.

We Saw the Operation

August 4, 2009

First things first: check out my new blog, Cooking with Class while in Class. I finally started a blog about cooking well on a college budget. I know it’s not unique, but I thought I’d give it a try.

In other news, I started reading Three Cups of Tea. I had read about it on other blogs about international development, and my brother and mother read it, so I thought I’d give it a try. And to be honest, I’m having trouble getting into it (I’m at the 8th chapter). The mountain climbing stuff is cool, but after around 20 pages of it, I wondered if the book was really about building schools. I understand that it’s for character and setting development, but it just seems to take too long. As the book continues, it seems to focus on Mortenson’s personal struggles, but I still don’t feel a connection with him. Mortenson’s character development, his struggles, his thoughts, and his ideas are not illustrated enough for me to care either way.

The community, however, intrigues me. Relin’s description of Korphe – while geographically different – reminds me of my time in Moqattam. The people are marginalized. I doubt the Zabbaleen have a decent education system. I definitely want to read to learn more about the people in Korphe, rather than read about Mortenson’s struggles and past. I’d like to think that someday, someone will be motivated enough to build a school for the Zabbaleen communities.

Perhaps I’m too jaded by my own experiences and reading development blogs to appreciate his story. I already know the general story and his obstacles, but maybe the way his story is told doesn’t grab me. Kudos to him for doing all this work to build schools in rural, ignored regions of Pakistan. But is his story worthy or interesting enough of a whole book?